Read any article about weight-loss tips or healthy living and you will undoubtedly find a line in it that knocks the so-called “fancy gym.”
It might say something like:
“You don’t need a fancy gym membership to get in shape.”
“Fancy gym memberships won’t take off the pounds.”
“Who needs to go to a fancy gym when staying active is as simple as lacing up your sneakers and hitting the road. ”
These statements are true, to a certain degree. No one needs the new iPhone, the NFL Sunday Ticket, the state-of-the-art laptop, or the leather sectional when the wool one was just fine. These upgrades might make your life more fun or more comfortable, but these are wants, not needs (although my husband might beg to differ about the NFL Sunday Ticket).
But where emotional and physical well-being are concerned, I have absolutely no problem with admitting that I am deeply in love with my “fancy gym.”
I have belonged to and visited other gyms. And while the experiences haven’t been terrible, these other establishments do not hold a candle to the environment, support, and facilities of Midtown. It’s the atmosphere of Midtown that has made it so much easier to attain my fitness goals.
At Midtown, if I have a question about how to work a machine, I can find a fitness attendant or personal trainer within seconds who is willing to drop everything to help me. They are highly visible. They are incredibly knowledgeable. And they have never, ever made me feel like my question was unimportant or silly, even when my question was, “Um, how do you start this Arc Trainer?” and the answer was, “See this large, green QuickStart button? Press it.”
At Midtown, I can work out, have lunch, take a tennis lesson, attend a yoga class, and get a massage, all without ever leaving the grounds. And on my way out, I can skip the Starbucks run by grabbing an iced coffee in the cafe. Considering my schedule is anything but flexible, having everything under one roof is very convenient.
At Midtown, my children are able to enjoy 4,000 square feet of Pure Kiddie Heaven in Kidtown, where they are enthusiastically greeted by name every time we arrive by the friendly, energetic, warm, and helpful associates who work there. My 21-month-old twins love the people who work in Kidtown so much that they yell the name of their favorite staff member the minute I push them through the door in the stroller. Where once they clung to me and cried, they now practically trip over their own feet to rush into the play area, leaving me in their Cheerio-laden dust. They love being there because the staff members take the time to make each experience a joy for them. And this makes my workouts all the more productive because I do not have to worry about them for one second.
At Midtown, the staff I’ve met ask me about my training. They’ve offered me tips to improve. They are genuinely interested in me and my progress. And the staff members I do not know personally are always supremely friendly and accommodating. Encouragement means everything when you’re training for a solo-sport event, like a marathon or half-marathon.
At Midtown, the facilities are always clean. There are towels on the racks at all times, the rugs and floors are grime-free, and the locker rooms and bathrooms are spotless, even during high-volume times. The club does not have the funky gym smell I immediately noticed in other clubs. Working out in a clean club makes a difference. It helps me enjoy my time there, and it encourages me to stay longer.
At Midtown, I have never had to wait for a treadmill. I’ve only ever had one instance where a machine wasn’t working. The treadmills and ellipticals are replaced every year, even if they’re in perfect working order, to ensure the best experience for the members using them.
At Midtown, the pool is an oasis, especially in the hot summer we’re experiencing in Rochester. I don’t belong to a country club, but I’d imagine the atmosphere is similar to the one in the outdoor pool area, minus the pretension.
I’m always with at least one of my young children, but that doesn’t stop me from looking longingly at the people reading on lounge chairs, or enjoying a glass of wine with friends under the umbrellas, and thinking, “Someday, that will be me. It may be 18 years from now, but one day, that will be me!”
At Midtown, the opportunities to make new friends and business contacts abound. From tennis socials to Sunshine Yoga on the Great Lawn to PowerNet meetings, for me, belonging to Midtown has been about gaining a new community of like-minded individuals. And it’s a community to which I feel lucky to belong.
And this is why you’ll never find me knocking my “fancy gym.”
How does your membership make a difference to your fitness goals?
This month’s “Ask the Trainer” post features Midtown personal trainer Dave Statt, whom I asked most of the questions I received from last month’s “Ask the Trainer” post.
Dave has been at Midtown for 19 years, and holds an M.S. in Exercise Physiology. He is a NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, and an NASM Certified Personal Trainer. His recent personal accomplishments include competing in the Musselman Triathlon and being a two-time finisher of the Adirondack Canoe Classic (AKA “The 90-Miler”).
Kristi: Tell me about your background and how you became interested in personal training.
Dave: I began lifting weights at age 12, and haven’t stopped since! I began college with the goal of becoming a Physical Education teacher, but I soon realized I loved training and science, so I switched my major to Exercise Physiology. My job is very fun. I enjoy helping clients develop a passion for exercise and achieving fitness goals.
Reader Question: “I am training to run a half-marathon in September, but don’t want to give up my regular yoga practice. What is a good balance? I try to go to 3-5 yoga classes a week.”
Dave: 3-5 yoga classes per week is too much. I would do two per week, and then do two full-body stretch sessions, which may include static and dynamic stretches that are running-specific. In general, yoga is a workout so you have to take that into account with all of the running so you don’t over-train.
Reader Question: “There was a discussion on Facebook awhile back about the ideal number of days to work out per week. Some people said they worked out 4 days, some 5, some all 7. What’s the right answer, and is it possible to work out too much?”
Dave: Frequency of workouts depends on many factors. The more intense you train, the more days off you need. It is a difficult question to answer. You have to listen to your body and if you’re feeling worn down, then take a day off. It also depends on what you are doing. I recommend strength-training 3x per week and cardio 4x per week, but you can do those on the same days as well. I would not train 7 days per week. Always take a day off.
Reader Question: “Which cardio machine at the club is best for burning fat and losing weight?”
Dave: Any cardio machine that uses a lot of muscle groups is most effective at challenging the heart and metabolic system. Here are the cardio machines that are best in terms of calorie expenditure in order from most effective to least effective:
1) Running on treadmill
2) Step mill
4) Cybex Elliptical
6) Precor Elliptical with upper body
7) Precor Elliptical without upper body
Reader Question: “If you could design a nutrition plan for a 40-something male who wants to lose about 50 pounds, what would it include?”
Dave: That is a difficult question to answer on a blog. You may want to meet with a nutritionist or trainer that can assess your current status to provide you with a thorough program.
Reader Question: “I’ve been reading a lot about sports drinks lately. Some research says they’re good for refueling after exercise, while others say water is best. What do you think?”
Dave: The best time to refuel for enhanced recovery is within 30 minutes of completing an intense workout. The fuel should be a 4-to-1 ratio of carbs to protein. Some drinks meet those requirement (e.g. some new products made by Gatorade, Endurox, and even chocolate milk). Water is best for hydration, but not for refueling. They are different. Always rehydrate. Sports drinks are not bad, but some are full of sugar and unneeded calories.
Thank you, Dave!
If you emailed me a question and don’t see it answered here, it will appear in next month’s “Ask the Trainer” post.
As for the rest of you, don’t be shy! If you have a question you would like one of the gods or goddesses of the Fitness department to answer, you can post your question as a comment to this post, or email it to me at email@example.com. If you email the question, I will ask it anonymously on your behalf, and post the question and answer (but not your name) on the next “Ask the Trainer” post. You do not need to be a member to ask a question.
What do you want to know?
As a young child, I spent a lot of time in my grandmother’s huge, in-ground pool. I was leaping off the diving board with an old-school, plastic swimming bubble strapped to my back around the age of five, and swimming bubble-free in the deep end around the age of six or seven. Uncoordinated and nonathletic on land, I was fearless and confident in the pool.
And this summer, I wanted to encourage my almost-four-year-old daughter to love swimming as much as I had. I had heard from many fellow club members that the preschooler swimming lessons were fantastic because they gave kids two solid, uninterrupted weeks of pool time with top-notch instructors. Unlike other swimming programs in the community that offer lessons once a week, the lessons at Midtown take place on four consecutive days each week, with the fifth day (Friday) set aside for makeup lessons or for further instruction if your child needs it. Each person that I talked to told me that her child had learned an incredible amount and had made significant improvements in swimming ability through the lessons.
The rave reviews sold me, and as soon as the Summer issue of Spirit came out, I paged through until I found the schedule, and signed up my daughter, who had been in pools often but who had never experienced any formal instruction.
On the first day, we met her instructor who was warm, welcoming, and very brave to take on the task of teaching preschoolers how to swim. Three-and-four-year-olds sometimes have the attention spans of gnats, and getting them to follow you is a bit like herding cats. I had no idea how my daughter would react to her instructor, to being in the water, or to being told what to do by someone she just met.
But now, a week after her lessons have ended, I can say unequivocally that the lessons were fantastic and a huge success.
Here’s what I loved:
The water temperature was always perfect. The instructors did not have to waste anytime coaxing the kids into the water because it was too cold. The kids got right in and were eager to get started. In addition, the depth of the Intermediate pool is exactly right for lessons. 2 feet, 6 inches is the perfect depth for a preschooler to move around comfortably, and without fear of the water level being too high for their bodies.
Fundamentals were first. One of the first things the kids worked on was their kicks. They would grasp the edge of the pool and when the instructor said “Splash me!”, they would kick like crazy. At the beginning of the lessons, my daughter would only kick with one leg, leaving the other firmly planted at the bottom of the pool for balance and security. By the end of the first week of lessons, she was a two-leg-kicking fool.
The lessons were fun and the kids were excited about participating.The noodles (used for floating while practicing kicks and arm movements) were a big hit, as were the boards. They did “Ring-Around-The-Rosey,” “London Bridges,” and jumping games.
There was no pressure to participate. If a child was unsure about a particular activity (for my daughter, it was jumping in by herself), then he or she didn’t need to do it. The instructors encouraged them, but did not force them or pressure them in any way.
The multiple-instructor format.I don’t think my daughter’s class was meant to have several different instructors during the course of the two weeks, but while some parents saw this as a negative, I saw it as a positive. Each instructor had her own style. While some were nurturing and sweet, others were more firm and direct in their instruction, and my daughter benefited from both of these styles.
One-on-one instruction.There were different points throughout the lessons where the instructor would give individualized attention to each child. With the other kids practicing their kicks or hanging on to the side, the instructor would take each child out into deeper water and help her float on her belly or her back, practice “scooping” the water with her hands, and near the end of the lessons, combine skills (bubbles, kicking, scooping) to “swim” on her own.
Here’s what my daughter can do now that she couldn’t do before:
My daughter won’t be tackling an Iron Man anytime soon. She will not jump into the pool on her own without holding onto my arms, although several kids in her class did this enthusiastically. She’s not quite a natural in the water and would still prefer to play than practice what she learned in her lessons.
But she’s three. And next year, when the summer rolls around, I’m signing her up for another round of lessons. I couldn’t be more happy with her first lesson experience at the club.
When my husband and I were married in 2001, I was about 25 pounds heavier than I am now. Not quite at my heaviest weight (that would come a few years later), I had been steadily piling on the pounds since college, when I spent time eschewing meat but not Doritos.
Apparently, I was not alone in eating my way through the first few years of marriage. An interesting NYT article details the results of a recent study of 12,000 married women and men ages 18 to mid-forties. It was discovered that compared with when they were single, married men’s BMI rose 1.5 percent above what they would normally gain through age, and women’s BMI rose 2 percent.
In another study, it was found that those who were married or living together were much more likely to be obese than those who were dating.
Reasons for the weight gain in the “happily coupled” make complete sense to me. Socializing with other couples is often done over meals. Cuddling on the couch lends itself to often-unhealthy snack foods. And perhaps most significant is the comfort factor. The days of working the bar or club scene, of preparing yourself for hours beforehand, and of agonizing over every bit of exposed flesh are over. You’ve snagged your partner for a lifetime, and you no longer have to worry about maintaining a perfect physical appearance at all times because Mister or Miss Right could be examining packages of organic peas in the freezer section of Wegmans when you made the mistake of running in for milk wearing sweat pants and a ratty t-shirt.
However, I’m not so sure the so-called “love chub” is a good thing. Of course it’s great to feel confident that your partner will love you no matter what you look like, and physical appearance certainly should not become the focus of a couple’s life together, but I also think maintaining health and fitness for yourself as well as for your partner is also quite important.
I have no delusions that I still look like the 25-year-old I was when my husband and I got married. I have had three children and my body, while slimmer than my 25-year-old one, is still different than the one I had in graduate school. I have many more gray hairs, wrinkles in places I’d rather forget, and I’m more susceptible to running injuries than I ever was before.
But I work out 5-6 days a week. I’m training for a half-marathon. I eat relatively healthfully, and while I won’t be beating Jillian Michaels in an arm-wrestling competition any time soon, I like to think that my overall health and fitness is pretty good. And while I do this primarily for myself, I know my husband appreciates it too.
What do you think about married/serious relationship weight gain? Is “love chub” important to lose, or do you think of it as a small price to pay for a committed relationship?
Do you work out with your spouse or partner? Is exercise and a healthy lifestyle something that’s a shared part of your relationship, or something that you mainly pursue on your own?
Two news stories about kids and nutrition have caught my eye recently.
The first article reported the findings of a Yale University study in which it was discovered that children found snack foods with pictures of popular cartoon characters on the front of the package tastier than the same foods packaged without the characters. Obviously, Shrek, Dora, and their pals have a powerful influence over kids that extends beyond their television choices, and the results of this study are hardly surprising. Unfortunately, most of these character images appear on junk food and not on healthier choices, making it difficult for parents to encourage good nutritional choices.
The second article told of a possible lawsuit against McDonald’s on behalf of a consumer-advocacy group. The group is charging that McDonald’s deceptively markets toys to children via its Happy Meals, which leads to kids nag their parents to take them to McDonald’s, where the food is less-than-healthy.
I’ve written here before about my strong dislike of the garbage food available to kids in restaurants and school cafeterias.
But I’m torn regarding my feelings about the study and the lawsuit. I believe that ultimately parents have the most influence over what their children do and don’t eat. Children cannot drive themselves to fast-food restaurants, and they can’t pay for their meals. Kelloggs, Nabisco, and other food-industry giants are in the business of marketing and selling their products. We make the choices over what we buy for ourselves and our families and what we don’t.
But I also find more than a little disturbing expensive marketing campaigns blitzing children with alluring messages that use their favorite characters to entice them to buy something that’s not good for them. Kids should be able to watch television or play a game on the Internet without being bombarded with food ads whose intent they don’t understand.
And do the majority of consumers know what’s really in their food, or understand how to read a food label? I haven’t been inside a McDonald’s in over 10 years because I know how unhealthy their food is, but even I was surprised (not to mention disgusted) to read this week that Chicken McNuggets (incidentally, the main course in one of only two ”healthier” Happy Meals that McDonald’s pledged to advertise to children younger than 12) actually contain an “anti-foaming agent” found in Silly Putty. Interestingly, Chicken McNuggets in the UK do not contain this delicious-sounding chemical.
Do you think it’s parents or the food industry (or both) who shoulder the responsibility for the childhood obesity epidemic and related health problem crisis we have in this country?
Is the pending lawsuit against McDonald’s a frivolous waste of court time, or is it an important step toward corporate accountability?
On June 12th, I ran “The Fast and the Furriest” 10K to benefit the Verona Street Animal Society in Rochester. I took more than three minutes off my time from the Lilac 10K back in May, and ended up with a PR (personal record) of 50:31.
The very next day, I could not run at all.
I had experienced a lingering pain along the inside of the upper thigh of my left leg for a week previous to the race. It never bothered me while I ran, but it would hurt after my runs. I finished the race and felt fine, but later that day the sharp pains would hit with virtually every step. Walking up stairs was exceptionally painful.
The next morning, I foolishly got up at 6am, laced up my sneakers, strapped on my ancient Shuffle and set out to run. I didn’t get very far before I had to stop. In the light drizzle of a cool Sunday morning – weather that would have been perfect for the seven-miler I was planning – I had to stop and limp back home instead.
The next morning, I headed to Midtown, tracked down the club’s unofficial trainer for runners, Bruce Hedlund, and asked for his advice and help. I was in full-on panic mode, terrified that I would lose to this injury my training progress, pace, and leg strength that I had been working so hard for during the last four months.
He talked me down from the ledge by assuring me that I had plenty of time before the half-marathon, and told me I should cross-train instead until I felt better. He set me up on the Arc Trainer (who knew there were cardio machines at the club besides treadmills?), and said he would introduce me to the magic of the foam roller later in the week when my injury wasn’t as acute.
Two days later, Bruce showed me a bunch of exercises similar to these that I could use to speed up my recovery. Bruce said the foam roller is the runner’s best friend, so if you run, I would highly recommend you check them out because the exercises helped me quite a bit.
After eight days of cross-training and no running, I did my first treadmill run on Tuesday and another yesterday. I am off pace and running shorter distances than my half-marathon training plan dictates, because I am hesitant to push myself this week.
But after wallowing in self-pity and experiencing daily panic attacks brought on by the belief that I would never run again and that my half-marathon dreams were over, I am running again.
I know that injuries are part of training. A marathoner friend recently told me that runners are always a single step ahead of an injury, and now I know that’s true. Training for the half-marathon has become a part-time job of sorts for me: I have to get my miles in, I have to do my intervals, I have to stay healthy. And with the relative insanity of balancing training along with my work, caring for three children under the age of four, and ensuring the health department doesn’t condemn my house for unsuitable living conditions, for a brief moment I thought that a break from the rigors of training would be welcome.
But it wasn’t. I hated each and every day I was off the road or the treadmill.
On Saturday night, I watched Spirit of the Marathon for the first time. Admittedly, watching this movie while injured was not the wisest choice I’ve ever made. I was a blubbering mess through most of it. But while I was sobbing quietly in the dark and hoping my sleeping husband wouldn’t hear me, I was watching some of the most incredible stories of perseverance and triumph over adversity I’ve ever seen.
Most of the runners profiled were “ordinary people.” While two were superstar professional athletes, the others in training for the Chicago Marathon included a 30-something single mother, a 26-year-old PhD student, and a 70-year-old man who ran his first marathon at age 65.
Each of them had a reason why they were training for the marathon. Whether it was to mark a return from a devastating injury, attempt to qualify for Boston, or simply to accomplish something many people just cannot do, the people profiled in this documentary would not be side-tracked by pain, personal circumstance, or the allure of a warm bed on a freezing cold morning when a 20-mile run is on tap.
I might not be training for a full marathon (yet), but I could completely identify with the runners in this film. And watching this movie made me really think about why it is I’m adding yet another “thing” (as my grandma calls my training) to an already very busy life.
I am running the Rochester Half-Marathon in September to prove to myself that I can do it and to show my children that with hard work, they can achieve anything they want to do.
I’ve set a goal. And I will achieve it.
(Of course, I may achieve it from the back of an ambulance because I have passed out from exhaustion at Mile 5, but either way, I’ll get there.)
“When you cross the finish line, it will change your life forever.”
-Dick Beardsley from “Spirit of the Marathon”
Today marks the debut of a regularly occurring feature called “Ask the Trainer.”
At some point, each of us has likely had a question about our training programs, our workouts, our injuries, or whether that glazed doughnut we ate at 11pm will add back on every calorie burned in that day’s spinning class.
The Midtown trainers have graciously made themselves available to answer your questions in person (of course), but also here on this blog.
The first trainer who was willing to submit himself to my line of questioning was Bruce Hedlund.
Bruce has 14 years of personal training experience and has run 17 marathons (including 10 Bostons). He has spent his entire career helping people get fit, stay fit, and strength-train:
Kristi: Tell me about your background.
Bruce: I started training when I was 16 years old. The owner of the gym where I worked out encouraged me to enter the field. I realized very early on that training was the only job I ever wanted. I graduated from SUNY Cortland with a B.S. in Exercise Science, and I am a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist. In addition to working as a trainer for Midtown, I am also the Strength and Conditioning Coach for the Rochester Americans, and for Penfield High School.
Kristi: My friends and I are always debating whether it’s best to work out in the morning or at night. Which is best?
Bruce: Some studies show that working out in the morning may boost your metabolism and expend more calories throughout the day; however, the best time to work out if when you have available time. If you’re not a morning person, it doesn’t make sense to exercise in the morning. The first step to creating a workout schedule is finding a time that you can consistently stick to.
Kristi: What’s the best way to firm up the abdomen and strengthen abdominal muscles following pregnancy and childbirth?
Bruce: I would recommend strengthening the deep abdominal muscles via plank (prone position) variations. Also, performing dead bugs and belly flatteners will help strengthen the deep abdominal muscles. Also, include lower back strengthening exercises such as: lower back extensions, side bridges and bridge variations.
Kristi: What’s the best way to treat shin splints?
Bruce: The Dixie cup ice massage! Fill a small bathroom cup with water and freeze it. Once the water is frozen, take out the cup and use it to massage your shins for 15 minutes each. Also, perform some strengthening exercises with a resistance band (or even a towel). However, while you are experiencing pain, reduce your activity, and take the time to ice, stretch, and strengthen.
Kristi: If a person has limited time to work out and wants to lose weight, should he/she spend more time on cardio or weights?
Bruce: Both! Shorten cardio time by performing intervals: After a three-minute easy warm-up, perform 20 seconds of a “hard” phase followed by an easy phase of 40 seconds. Perform 10 reps. This 13-minute workout will be a quick way to burn calories! For strength-training, include multi-joint exercises such as: dumbbell squats to shoulder presses, or reverse lunges to bicep curls. Include a “pulling” exercise, such as a lateral pull down or a free-motion lateral pull down, or a Technogym seated row.
Kristi: Do you advise eating or fasting before working out? According to several recent studies, if the goal is to burn fat, fasting is best. What do you think?
Bruce: I would recommend eating prior to exercise. They key is to eat something that doesn’t upset your stomach. Even 12 ounces of a sports drink (like Gatorade) would assist you in your workout. Another option is to eat a banana and half a bagel with peanut butter. You want to take in calories to give your body energy for the workout plus stay hydrated.
After exercising, you should refuel to help you recover from your workout. Try to eat something like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on wheat bread or drink a Myoplex recovery shake within 30 minutes after exercise.
Kristi: You’re in great shape, so tell me about your workouts.
Bruce: I work out six days a week. I strength-train 3x a week, and I run about 30-35 miles a week. For cardio workouts, I include jump rope intervals, hill repeats, metabolic circuits with medicine ball throws and tire flips, and long runs of 10 miles each.
Kristi: What do you like best about being a trainer?
Bruce: Watching my clients make progress and changing their lives!
Got a question you want a Midtown trainer to answer? You can post your question as a comment, or email it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you email the question, I will ask it anonymously on your behalf, and post the question and answer (but not your name) on the next “Ask the Trainer” post.
Let’s hear it. What do you want to know?
My great aunt is 81 years old. She mows her own lawn. She paints her house every other year. She hangs curtains (and installs the hardware), cooks huge Italian meals on a weekly basis and drives them to the lucky members of her family on both sides of the city, and can fix just about anything. She runs after my 19-month-old twins and my three-year-old, even when each is headed in a separate direction. She’s the picture of health, save for the occasional cold. My aunt seems to have more energy on her worst day than I have on my best.
She’s also about 10-15 pounds overweight.
Her very slim husband is 84. While still very vital, he has long lacked energy and strength. He has heart problems and high cholesterol. Even in his younger years, he preferred to stay at home and relax rather than follow my aunt on her many adventures.
My aunt is by far the more healthy of the two.
Recent research suggests that some of those who are overweight (33% of all Americans) might actually be considered healthy and fit. This article cites studies that have found that those with an “overweight” BMI (not to be confused with a BMI in the “obese” range) are less likely to have a whole slew of diseases, including lung cancer, osteoporosis, and anemia, when compared with those who have a “normal” BMI. In addition, a study in the journal Obesity, found that those with an “overweight” BMI have a lower mortality risk than any other weight group.
These studies have their critics, of course. Some doctors believe that over the years, being overweight will lead to other serious diseases, even if those carrying around extra pounds might appear fit and healthy now. In addition, when you gain weight, you can’t control what parts of your body absorb the fat, so, these doctors believe, while thigh fat might be beneficial in helping an individual avoid osteoporosis, abdominal fat leads to an increased risk for diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and some cancers.
Both sides agree that working out is vital to overall health, whether you’re overweight or not.
I do think it’s possible for those with an “overweight” BMI to be strong and fit. I have witnessed both men and women carrying some extra weight absolutely smoke me in the races in which I’ve run, and I’m currently running an 8:20 pace per mile. They may carry their weight around their mid-sections, but their legs are long and lean and fast.
In addition, I think there needs to be less focus on BMI and clothing size and more attention paid to activity levels, energy, and overall health and wellness. We live in a number- and physical-appearance-obsessed culture, and while everyone can’t slip into a size 2 pair of skinny jeans or look fabulous six weeks after giving birth, I do think it’s possible to be fit, healthy, and overweight, assuming exercise and eating well are priorities.
Do you think it’s possible to be both overweight and healthy, or do you feel it’s dangerous to endorse this concept, because it might discourage those carrying extra pounds from trying to lose weight?
The American Psychological Association’s 2009 “Stress in America” survey, whose results were released last fall, revealed that sources of stress for kids were the desire to do well in school, worry over their parents’ financial concerns, pressure over extracurricular activities, and their relationships with their parents.
One way kids can reduce their stress is to practice yoga. Long respected as a means to help adults unite mind, body, and spirit as well as improve their posture, energy levels, physical and emotional well-being, and overall happiness, yoga is now seen as a means by which children can experience the same benefits.
Randi Lattimore, Midtown’s Mind/Body Director and a seasoned yoga instructor agrees. ”Kids yoga is a fun, creative approach to yoga that can be very helpful for children whose bodies are still developing,” says Randi. “The use of animated poses and basic stretching promote strength, flexibility, coordination, and body awareness, while breathing and visualization techniques teach kids how to focus, relax, and develop self-control.”
This summer, Midtown is once again running Yoga Camp for Kids, and at the helm is Jennifer Hess, a certified instructor of children’s yoga. She uses yoga-inspired games and interactions to inspire children to think positive thoughts, manage stress, and listen to (and nurture) their bodies and minds.
“I teach breathing exercises like “Bunny Breath” to demonstrate that different breathing can influence how you feel. In “Bunny Breath,” I pass around a flower, and the kids take three quick breaths through their noses. This type of breath is very energizing, and we discuss when taking a “Bunny Breath” would be beneficial during their day, for example, just before a test when anxiety levels are high.”
In addition to breathing exercises, kids in yoga camp also learn a variety of poses, such as “Volcano Jumps” and “Donkey Kicks,” which can release energy, and traditional warrior poses to find internal strength. Animal poses are combined with those kids can create using their imaginations, so each class lends itself to a unique adventure.
It’s only a matter of time before kids turn into the highly stressed adults many of us have become. Childhood, however, should be as stress-free as possible.
If you have children or work with children, how do you help them manage stress? Do your kids take yoga? What positive changes have you noticed in them?
I used to order the Chicken Crispers meal at Chili’s on a regular basis.
Before we had children, my husband and I would eat out frequently. Chili’s was a favorite of ours, and given that my eating habits were once more like that of a five-year-old than the 20-something I was before I started running and eating more healthfully, chicken fingers were always a draw.
In case you’re not familiar with this “entree” at Chili’s, allow me to describe it for you: questionable chicken parts are liberally coated with bread crumbs and then deep-fried in hot oil and placed atop a heaping helping of seasoned French fries. Half an ear of corn accompanies the dish, but blech, corn is a vegetable, so I never touched it.
I stopped eating Chicken Crispers over seven years ago, but I’d like to think I wouldn’t have eaten them at all had I known exactly how many calories, how much fat, and how many carbs were in the meal. A few year’s back, while doing research for an article on unhealthy restaurant meals, I came across this article in Men’s Health, which listed the Chicken Crispers meal as one of the “20 Worst Foods in America.”
99 grams of fat
240 grams of carbs
(Incidentally, Men’s Health also named Chili’s “Pepper Pals Country-Fried Chicken Crispers with Ranch Dressing and Homestyle Fries” as their Worst Kids Meal of 2009: 1,110 calories, 82 grams of fat, and 56 grams of carbohydrates. To give you an idea of just how nutritionally unsound this meal is, the average preschooler needs between 1,200 and 1,600 calories a day. )
If I hadn’t been doing research, however, I never would have known exactly how unhealthy a meal I was actually eating. Of course, I had no delusions that my Chicken Crispers meal equated to an organic red leaf lettuce salad with sliced free-range, grass-fed chicken, but I can honestly say that if I had seen the nutritional information printed beside the meal on the Chili’s menu, I would have chosen something else.
And now, thanks to the new health reform law, it seems that we’ll actually have this information available to us when we dine out.
According to this article, chain restaurants with more than 20 outlets must print calorie counts on their menus, along with the recommended number of calories a person should take in each day. Vending machines will have calorie counts posted too.
Research done in test cities (New York and Seattle) has shown that menu labeling works in helping people make smarter choices when eating in restaurants. And that’s a good thing, considering the growing obesity problem we have in this country.
What do you think about menu labeling? Would it make you think twice before ordering a high-calorie meal, or do you think that any attempt to change health-related behavior in the U.S. is an impossibility?