Fitness

Swapping Strides for Strokes

Running, biking, and spinning are great forms of exercise, however, if you are getting weary of these workouts, you are in luck! As the weather is getting nicer, it is time to embrace the true hidden gem of exercise: swimming. Your initial motivation to jump into a freezing body of water may be low, but after reading just how amazing this sport is, you will hopefully think twice.

First, as summer is rearing its beautiful head, there is no better excuse to beat some summer heat than cooling off after a long workday. Second, you do not have to be an Olympic athlete to have a great workout. Swimming is advantageous to everyone from novice starters to aged professionals. Not only will practice help to strengthen every muscle in one’s body, it can also help you reduce stress and learn to control your breathing patterns. Although some adults are apprehensive or intimidated by swimming, it is never too late to learn.

Swimming has multiple physical health benefits. It boosts the cardiovascular system and keeps up a steady heart rate while loosening muscles in the upper and lower body at the same time. In addition, one’s arms and legs gain muscle while building endurance. The resistance of the water forces the body to produce a greater momentum, which, in turn, creates a more toned physique. Whether you decide to go long or short distance, swimming can help to develop flexibility, coordination, and better posture. The pool is also a great place to heal other physical ailments and injuries! Being in the water can relax sore joints and tendons as well as ease the pain of some diseases like arthritis. Because of this, diving into swimming especially as an adult could be a better workout move than running or jogging as it usually does not bring on further muscle or ligament issues.

Swimming is a hands-on exercise in that you can create times and workouts that can challenge you but also keep you engaged. By varying the intervals and stroke types, a heart pumping, calorie-burning session is a great way to blow off steam. However, a lighter, more relaxing swim can still burn off an immense amount of calories and assist in maintaining a healthy weight. Furthermore, swimming releases endorphins, which are chemicals in the body that help one emit naturally happy emotions. Not only are your muscles soothed after a workout, but also, your mental wellness is inadvertently improved.

Lastly, this form of exercise can be beneficial to the whole family. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention states that, “Water-based exercise can improve the health of mothers and their unborn children and has a positive effect on the mothers’ mental health. Parents of children with developmental disabilities find that recreational activities, such as swimming, improve family connections.” This is a workout that has positive long and short-term effects that help a myriad of people for its plentiful physical and emotional reliefs, and it should definitely be added to your summer bucket list!

Stress Management

Endless Eating

It is quite easy to get distracted by the stresses of life, and this can lead to a negative effect of being distracted in other areas of wellness. In today’s blog, this distraction is stress eating. Staying on track with dieting and exercise is sometimes thwarted by mindless eating during or after a long day. Although it is not always avoidable, stress eating can be curbed or modified.

CNN News recently found an article from Health.com titled, “Stress eating helps, when they’re these super foods.” The article goes on to highlight how, when tension rises at work, grabbing for the greens or more nutritious fiber options can make a large difference on one’s daily outlook.

Power foods such as cashews, seeds, and pistachios may be caloric, however, they contain many essentials. Pistachios promote circulatory healthiness by lowering blood pressure and the heart rate. CNN writer Lindsay Funston reports, “Flaxseed, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds are all great sources of magnesium (as are leafy greens, yogurt, nuts, and fish). Loading up on the mineral may help regulate emotions. “Magnesium has been shown to help alleviate depression, fatigue, and irritability.”

To hold the mid morning hunger at a minimum, try keeping the breakfast going with foods like oatmeal, yogurt, or blueberries. These foods are not only filling, but also they contain trusty nutrients and proteins that may help to reduce symptoms of stress. The probiotics in the yogurt target the brain chemicals that emit positive activity in the emotional region, the research suggests. To up the nutrition value, try eating Greek yogurt with blueberries, as Greek yogurt is fewer calories and more filling due to its higher protein content.

For better lunch snacking, try ditching the greasy cafeteria options and packing your own healthy and sustaining power foods instead. Such examples would include turkey, chicken, and salmon. Even if you are distracted, these high protein snacks will nourish and keep you focused on hourly tasks. For more veggie-friendly options, try munching on kale chips, Edamame beans, or celery.

To satisfy that sweet tooth and keep the energy up, other options the article suggests are milk and dark chocolate. Milk is loaded with Vitamin D, protein, and calcium, while dark chocolate works wonders on stress levels. Sass reports, “…the antioxidants in cocoa trigger the walls of your blood vessels to relax, lowering blood pressure and improving circulation. And finally, dark chocolate contains unique natural substances that create a sense of euphoria similar to the feeling of being in love!”

While stress eating can be inevitable, choosing smart foods can help boost your mental and physical wellness while keeping your stomach full.

If you want to read the entire article from CNN, follow the link here!

http://www.cnn.com/2015/04/13/health/superfoods-stress-relief/

Take Charge of Your Health

My Weight Loss Journey

I used to read the height and weight charts posted in my doctor’s office and think that I would never, ever be in an acceptable weight range for my height. I no longer have to wonder what it would feel like to be in “goal” range because I am almost there. Kristin Kipp has been encouraging me to document my story for the Wellness Blog; it is probably no surprise that today, I finally had the courage to do so. If you read to the end of my story, you’ll understand why.

It feels as though I have always struggled with my weight. I never lost the final 20 pounds after giving birth to my third daughter. I’m fortunate in that my husband has always loved and accepted me regardless of my size. In 2006 I was on a path to being the heaviest weight of my life; I received a cancer diagnosis that required a year of treatment and left me with severe anemia. I landed on the couch for almost two years and I gained 35 pounds. Although I probably had a really good excuse for the way my body looked in 2008, when my oldest daughter announced her engagement, I was not about to walk her down the aisle at the heaviest weight of my life. I managed to lose 25-30 pounds for the wedding and have been able to sustain that loss over the last five and a half years.

Despite the struggle of overcoming some of those excess pounds for my daughter’s wedding, my story really begins in 2013. Two years ago, I decided to complete a “bucket list” item of running a 5K. I did not tell anyone other than my daughter, Jen—not my husband, or family members, or close friends. I was not certain I would reach my goal and I did not want to be seen as a failure if I did not complete the training. But I also knew that if I told people, I would inevitably encounter naysayers—people who would tell me that running was not good for my knees, or my joints, or my back; or they would say things that were not particularly encouraging. I simply did not want to hear it. I checked with my doctor and he was thrilled that I took on this challenge.

Jen agreed to run my first race with me and I began to go to the gym to train a couple of times a week. Often at the gym, I would run into a colleague. Pretty soon, when Mo would spot me, she would just grab the treadmill next to me and get her run in while I was struggling along. Mo is an accomplished runner—she runs 10Ks, half marathons and has participated in Ragnar series. I began on the “30 seconds on/30 seconds off” running program so was pretty intimidated at first. Mo had a way of putting me at ease. She gave me a lot of tips that helped me finish my first race. As time passed, we became best friends. And I learned this: Magical things happen when you begin to take care of yourself. Mo was the first person to whom Jen and I sent a text when I crossed the finish line of my first race. Later that summer, I ran an 8K with my daughter, Katie. Two years later, I am thrilled to say that I am still running. I am not fast, but I’m out there trying. As Mo tells me every day, “You’re beating everyone on the couch.”

Over the course of these two years of running, I dropped a size and put on some muscle, but I did not lose a lot of weight. I learned that it is very easy to eat up extra calories that you burn in the gym. So if the goal is to drop weight, you have to be mindful of what you consume. In the winter of 2014, when Marquette had its campus Healthy Wage Challenge, I decided that it was time to drop the final 25-30 pounds. Unfortunately, my team didn’t do very well; I dropped only six pounds. So last summer, I decided that it was time to finish the job. By the fall, I knew I was close to having lost at least the 10% required to receive my money back from the spring challenge. I weighed with Kristin the day before my birthday in November and was ecstatic at the number. Today, I am down a total of 50 pounds from my highest weight in 2008 and am within four pounds of my final goal.

I have learned a number of things throughout this weight loss journey that I would like to share: the most important thing I learned is that there are no secrets. Weight loss takes time and patience. My doctor encouraged me to eat a more Mediterranean style diet—lean protein, fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and olive oil. Fats, sweets, and white sugar should only be eaten in moderation. I follow the principles of this diet, more or less, but not rigidly. (I am rarely rigid about anything.) For the most part, I try not to eat a lot of carbs, unless they are of the whole grain type. I eat breakfast every day. I found that chocolate was sabotaging my weight loss efforts during the week, so I gave it up for a week—and that lasted seven weeks. I made a lot of weight loss progress in those seven weeks and kicked a bad habit. In general, I now avoid chocolate during the week, except for an occasional treat. This was very hard at first, especially working in an office where we have it all the time. I had to think about the body I wanted and eat for that healthy body instead of consuming food that would not help me reach my goals.

I do not live in the gym. I work out because it helps my body look and feel better. Exercise helped me kick stress eating, too. I found some exercise that I like and that works for me. When I started running, IT WAS HARD. But it got easier and now I like it. I miss it if I am not out there. You don’t have to run. On days that I am too sore to run, I walk or I take a strength class. Do what works for you, but DO SOMETHING.

I gained some weight over the Christmas holiday and found it somewhat discouraging. I had to cut back and treat special occasions as “special” so I could get the weight off again. What I learned was that this journey will never be “over.” Taking care of myself is an everyday commitment. This is what it means to make a lifestyle change. It took me a year to get the weight off. I have to pay attention and take care of myself in order to keep it off.

I also learned that it is important to feel good in your clothes, no matter what your size. If you are wearing pants that are too tight, get some that fit. Don’t wait until you lose weight; those tight clothes are only hurting your self-esteem. When you lose weight, your “tight” pants will fit properly and feel good.

I noted at the beginning that I was hesitant to share my story because I was afraid I would gain the weight back. Kristin assured me that I have made the lifestyle changes to keep the weight off. Here is the reason I think she is right: for some time, my daughter, Jen, has been trying to get me to run a half marathon; (13.1 miles!) I have insisted this is something I would or could NEVER do—until last fall, when she sent me a link to a half marathon run/walk in Niagara Falls in June 2015. Niagara is a place I have always wanted to visit. She said she would take me if I would agree to run the half with her. We are signed up and have begun our 12 week training program. A half marathon doesn’t just “happen;” signing up has kept me in the gym over the winter. I have also been preparing myself mentally. I am slowly developing the confidence of knowing I can do this. The unconditional love of my immediate family has sustained me through these years of struggling with my weight. The love, support, encouragement, friendship and time in the gym with Jen and Mo have made all the difference in being able to say that I am running a half marathon in June. How do I know that I can do it? I beat cancer. I lost 50 pounds. I made the lifestyle change. I’VE GOT THIS.

–Sally Doyle

(Everyone needs support along a weight loss journey. If you feel you don’t have any, I would be happy to support you.  Email me: sally.doyle@marquette.edu)

Nutrition & Weight Management

Directing Your Days

A few weeks ago I wrote a post on finding balance. Part of finding balance is taking care of yourself, and this means taking the much needed time to plan, cook, and eat nutritious meals/snacks throughout your day. Planning is the hardest part, and it’s not something anyone can do for you, but here are a few tips to help you make planning and preparing healthy meals a bit easier.

  1. Look at your schedule for the week and note the days you are busy, or working longer, that are going to make it difficult to get home to cook a nutritious meal. We know we are going to encounter day’s like this so I recommend having some go-to meal choices that you can always throw in that are quick and easy (like egg and toast with some fruit and veggies), or make sure to make a crockpot meal that day, eat leftovers, or heat up a frozen dinner that you’ve made on another night (see below).
  2. Do your grocery shopping one time per week. This requires you to look at your schedule for the week, plan out your meals, and then make a list of what you need for meals and snacks, but by limiting your grocery shopping to one time per week and planning out your meals, you won’t be wasting time shopping an extra day, and you may save some money because you won’t be wasting food. The extra time that goes into planning will result in more nutritious meals and snacks as well.
  3. On the day that you grocery shop, come home and prep some of the food. For example, cut up all the broccoli and cauliflower heads you bought and put them in a container or a clean bag. You can do this with whole carrots, peppers, cucumbers, etc. You can go a step further and portion your veggies out for each lunch and snack you take to work.
  4. On at night that you have time to cook, or maybe one day over the weekend, prep and extra meal or two that you can freeze and have on the nights that you are busy. If you don’t have time to prep another meal, hard boil some eggs for a snack during the week or boil some chicken for another recipe that you are using that week for example.
  5. Pick a time of the day that works best for you to get your lunch and snacks together for the next day. This may be while you’re making dinner the night before, or it may be in the morning when you are getting your kids lunches ready for school.
  6. Although I prefer to save the environment by eliminating extra packaging, buying grab and go foods at the grocery store for easy take along snacks is an option. Foods like string cheese, individual yogurt containers, and fruit like apples, bananas, pears, and oranges make quick easy snacks. If you are environmentally friendly you can do what was suggested in item #3 and prep some of the food when you come home. This would mean portioning out yogurt or hummus into individual containers, cutting some cheese or portioning out some nuts and putting them in individual containers. Just beware of prepackaged snacks that are high in sugar or have trans-fat in them.
  7. If you’re stuck in a food rut and have some free time to devote to finding some new recipes, it might be worthwhile to search the internet and print some new recipes off. Try at least one new recipe a week and start making a recipe box of your favorites. This will help you add some variety to your current menu.

Planning nutritious meals and snacks takes time, but once you implement some of these practices into your daily life, it will become second nature. Plus eating well gives you energy for other daily tasks!

Take Charge of Your Health

A great deal of daily life involves being constantly in contact with others through technology. Although it is inevitable, this attachment to your work phone, email, and computer can cause damage to your ability to sleep, relax, and focus.

A way to take charge of your health this spring or summer would be to give yourself either one or a couple of days to get away from the omnipresent nagging of the smartphone and travel somewhere to truly clear your head. Whether it is taking a short drive down Wisconsin Avenue to Lake Michigan or going on a road trip out of town, visiting a place rich in nature and wildlife can calm both your mental and spiritual wellness, which, in turn, would bring peace to other areas in your life that you may not have expected.

So where could you go if you wanted to take a weekend getaway trip? A few locations highlighted by Midwest Living in Wisconsin that offer some peace would be Door County, Eagle River, Devil’s Lake State Park, Copper Falls State Park, or Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. These wonderful locations offer an enormous amount of fun and carefree physical activity such as hiking, kayaking, and swimming. Everyone needs a break, and after a long and enduring academic year, it may be a way to reconnect with your family and/or spouse.

The Huffington Post emphasizes that traveling can benefit your mental and physical wellness for various reasons. First, they mention that the stress hormone Cortisol is decreased in those men and women who decide to travel. In addition, both men and women who take trips regularly have a reduced risk of heart attacks, 32% for men and 50% for women.

Aside from health benefits, traveling helps to improve and deepen relationships. The Huffington Post reported that “86% of people who travel as a couple say romance is still alive in their relationship.” Along with helping out couples, the news outlet stated that more than half of the children studied believe that going on a trip brings a stronger relationship among the family.

Lastly, they share that getting out and going on an adventure can boost your daily outlook on life. By creating a physical distance from conflicts or challenges at work, you can give your mind a creative space to meditate on potential resolutions in a calm and productive way. This will contribute to less stress and symptoms of depression.

When it comes to taking care of your wellness, the motto, “work hard, play hard” is truly relevant. You must give your mental and physical being a breather when you feel that you are being consumed in technology or stress. Know your boundaries, and remember that taking a trip is just what the doctor ordered!

Juggling Act-Finding Balance

Exercising & Eating

One of the most basic yet difficult areas of life that we attempt to balance is the fusion of nutrition and fitness. As Spring draws nearer, now is an opportune time to zone in on how to create an effective plan that you can stick to for more than just a couple of weeks.

First, there is no better emotional and physical remedy than when you have a developed schedule for eating healthy and working out. When you work out, you feel rejuvenated, refreshed, and energized. This creates a motivation like none other to fill your body with water and foods of substance that will help maintain your endurance and stamina. Likewise, when you eat good, nutritious meals, your body not only feels stronger, but also it feeds on the positive chemicals that improve your physical and emotional wellness.

Learning how to use the two consistently contains a few variables that come into consideration. Timing is a huge proponent. Like any other area of your weekly schedule, it is essential to carve out time to create a plan for when you will be exercising and what you will be eating.

For nutrition, eating fruits and vegetables always seems like a great idea in theory. However, actually cutting up the food takes energy that is often spent somewhere else. Here is a helpful tip: try buying fruits and veggies at the grocery store, and when you get home, immediately take them out of the bags, wash them, and cut them up. Store them in Ziploc Baggies or containers to have for the week. It is the same satisfying feeling of washing your dish right after eating off of it. This immediate action keeps you from forgetting about doing this simple yet tedious task. In addition, portion control goes hand in hand quite literally with nutrition. When you are preparing your meals for the day, have tools within reach that can help to distribute a healthy amount of food. For example, have a tablespoon measure or an ice-cream scooper on the counter for items like nuts or grains. A deck of cards is about three ounces, or the ideal size of your intake of meat. Although they take a bit of time to get used to, using these tips will eventually become habitual and will balance right into your routine.

Similarly, fitness is all about timing. Do trial runs to see if you are more productive during a morning spin cycle or for an after work run. Sometimes you feel cranky after a long day at the office, or you know that doing a short yoga session is more stimulating than a morning cup of coffee. It is all right to be selfish with these needs, as they will help you find balance in all other areas of your life. Take advantage of a nutritious meal before and after your workouts as well. Do not try to skimp on calories or an early breakfast, because this will only do damage to your system. Finding balance is about a collaborative effort between the actions of the body and its contents.

Lifetime Fitness – How And Why One Employee Makes The Time

Every weekday morning in my house, the alarm clock goes off at 4:30 a.m. I lay in bed a few minutes and roll out by 4:40. I slip into my clothes that I place over the end of my bed the night before and head from Shorewood to the pool. I’m in the water with the Whitefish Bay Masters Swim Club at 5 a.m.

My wife thinks I am crazy… and about 50 percent of the time I agree with her, especially when the temps are below freezing and there’s no sign of daylight in the wee hours of the morning. But the simple fact is that Masters swimming has given me the opportunity to be an athlete again. It has allowed me to set some goals and work toward them with the support of a coach and other people who are just as crazy as me to get up early and jump in a pool!

For most of my life, I’ve been an active person. I played baseball and swam in high school, played hockey in my 20s and ran a marathon and half marathons in my 30s. But the wheels came off when I was in a car accident in 2010 and injured my back. My running, skiing and hockey playing were all over in a second. I had a 6, 4 and 1 year old and life was heating up… I had a million excuses why working out wouldn’t work into my life.

However, I realized that swimming worked wonders on my back problems; it did what no physical therapist was able to do. When I took a few days “off,” I would feel stiff… I realized I missed the water.

While swimming one day on my own at the Whitefish Bay pool, I learned about the Masters program there and a remarkable guy named Dave Clark, the former UWM men’s and women’s swim coach who was building a U.S. Masters Swimming program out of Whitefish Bay High School. I was a bit apprehensive at the early hours- what else besides sleeping is anyone doing at 5 a.m.?- but found I got used to it. With Dave’s encouragement, I found myself getting faster again. He gave me the confidence to compete in swim meets again for the first time in 30 years. I can never thank him enough for what he’s brought to my life.

In addition to the clear health benefits of swimming, joining Masters has provided me with two items of note:

  • I’ve set- and exceeded- clear goals for myself. This includes swimming 500,000 yards in one year (2012); 365 miles in 2014 (this amounts to 640,000 yards); completing a “go the distance” one-hour swim competition twice (I swam 3,900 yards in 2014 and 4,100 yards this past January); and completing a 1,650 yard event at this past weekend’s meet (my time was 23:37).
  •  I found myself part of a team again. It’s a team that has a pregnant woman, recent college graduates who swam for the likes of Notre Dame, Minnesota, and Columbia; triathletes; and men and older women in their 50s on up. It’s doctors, stay-at-home moms, physical therapists and accountants. We are all levels of swimmers; but just like the kids that we used to be, we keep striving for our personal best and cheer each other on in the process.

Last weekend, my wife and kids who are now 14, 12 and 7 came out to cheer for me at a swim meet. Of course, my older daughter (who is a competitive swimmer herself) critiqued my starts and dives, but I hope I’ve showed them that you can be an athlete for life. I hope my balanced lifestyle efforts will pay off long term so I can cheer for them when they are adult athletes.

Are you interested in Masters Swimming? Just drop me a note and I’ll fill you in on the rest…

 

Daniel DeWeerdt, Engagement Director, University Advancement, Marquette University

swimming



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