How “Forest Bathing” Can Improve Your Health (Really!)

Now thereโ€™s scientific evidence supporting eco-therapy. The Japanese practice of forest bathing is proven to lower heart rate and blood pressure, reduce stress hormone production, boost the immune system, and improve overall feelings of wellbeing.

The quote is from an article (link below) about a concept called “Forest Bathing”, or just spending time around trees. I ran across this post from the World Econimic Forum on Facebook, and thought this was very interesting. It provides some empirical evidence behind my urging to spend time in the woods (or just unplugging and going outside) as a cornerstone activity of healthy living.  

Click the link below to go to the WEF website and read more!

The science behind Forest Bathing

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Epic blog post for an epic hiking weekend- with vids, pics, and links to cool spots to explore in Western NC

One of the intents behind my blog is to make sure I impart how important it is to be out in nature as a part of a healthy lifestyle.  If you’ve read any of my other entries lately, you will know I’ve been looking for a job since early March.  It is not easy!  I have been applying my butt off, and I have two degrees (that I worked hard for) and tons of experience, but I am having trouble even getting an interview.  If you are lucky enough to have never lost your job, which has never happened to me prior to 2017, then it is actually hard to imagine just how difficult it can be.  I know I wasn’t expecting it to be this hard.  I was in kind of a dark place recently, mood-wise, which is VERY abnormal for me.  I am usually pretty friendly, optimistic, and outgoing.  But lately I have not been able to pull myself out of this funk.  It’s like drowning in quicksand.   Continue reading

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It’s Official!

I took my ACE (American Council on Ecercise) exam for Certified Personal Trainer today and I PASSED!  I’m actually waaaay more stoked about this now that I’ve completed it than I expected I’d be!  

I have so much more to learn and practice, but my mind is racing with ideas…  more to come on this venture in the future!  ๐Ÿ˜Š

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Life Expectancy in US versus Japan + Working With Seniors

I saw this video about health habits in Japan versus the US and their effects on our lifespan from Attn: Life, and thought I’d share it.  It’s pretty eye-opening.  Even though I know how diet and exercise alone can affect our lives as living organisms, when I see this kind of empirical evidence it’s still always a bit of a shocker… that something seemingly so simple can have such a profound impact. 

So the question is, why not eat a balanced diet (and you don’t have to be an extremist about it either, just pay attention to what you’re fueling your body with) and engage in some moderate, consistent exercise (like walking for 30 minutes, 5 days per week) if you can literally add YEARS to your life?  The main issue is obviously quite complex and there’s certainly no easy answer. But I think the more that those of us who feel compelled to gain this kind of knowledge can actively spread it, and do our small part to help make lives better for others, that each little drop in the proverbial bucket can add up to hopefully slow or reverse this trend in our society. Maybe that’s idealistic, but it’s worth a shot, right?

During my jobless hiatus, I’m working on getting my certification as a Personal Trainer.  I’m super excited, and it’s much more in depth than I thought (I feel like I’m studying for my MD!).  But, I LOVE the material and find it so fascinating how our bodies work. I always knew it was a delicate balance, but I am just amazed at what intricate yet straightforward, delicate yet strong machines our bodies are!  So what I’m thinking is that I’d really like to specialize in health and fitness for senior citizens. I feel like they are often an overlooked population for the fitness industry. Seniors, or just active post-retirement adults who aren’t quite at “senior” status yet, are a growing population in our country. Seniors are quite physically active nowadays, either with the normal activities of daily living or in pursuing other interests they never had time for when they were working.  Many have unique health needs I am sure they could use some help addressing with professional guidance. 

I think of my own parents who have some specific health issues that they must live with and, very much to their credit, they proactively strive to do research about how to eat healthy and stay active. But they don’t really have a resource they can reach out to (on a retirement income) for professional advice and tailored exercise program development. Consequently, they sometimes suffer from joint pain and injuries, and they either don’t understand or don’t know how to address the root causes of some of these problems. So they continue to suffer from these issues despite their best efforts, which can be frustrating for them. This is one of the reasons I’d love to work with seniors, and provide a service they can afford on a retirement budget.  I’d love to help seniors stay active and healthy and avoid injuries, to address the right problems to prevent pain and discomfort, to help them achieve their fitness goals, and to enjoy their golden years (something we should all be able to do!).   We’ll see where this pursuit takes me, but I think I’d be happy doing it and adding my little drop in the bucket. ๐Ÿ˜Š

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Foam Rolling 101- Updated With New Study Info!ย 

I finally bought a foam roller today. I have been trying to get back into exercising regularly to pull me out of my mental funk from being jobless.  And OMG, my freaking quads are so sore!! My quads are always the first to get sore and tend to be the most tender after working out for the first time in a while, or from just being sporadic with my fitness routine. I have never used a foam roller before, and decided to buy one when I was at the Target after waddling up and down the aisles and thinking I’d finally had enough of being a slave to DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness). You know, the kind that’s so bad you have to use the handicap rail just to use the bathroom?  Yeah. 

So, I tried it when I got home and literally almost cried. I used my whole body weight and essentially was in a plank position rolling forward so the roller went down the front of my thighs to my knees, and back up again. FYI, this method hurts. I then changed my stance and supported myself on one knee and did just one leg at a time. That was MUCH better, but still a little painful. I’m not sure what I was expecting but I honestly didn’t expect it to hurt that much.  I’ve been sore for a couple of days though, so if I had done this right after my workouts perhaps it wouldn’t have been so bad. But I sucked it up, and did a few more short rolls on my quads, and afterwards I DO feel less pain!  The spots I rolled actually loosened up quite a bit. And that will help a lot because we are going hiking tomorrow (Friday) in western North Carolina, and kayaking Saturday, followed my more hiking Sunday. And maybe more hiking Monday ๐Ÿ˜‰.  Definitely some exploring, if not hiking. 

I basically knew nothing about foam rolling and, much like all things in health and fitness, technique is VERY important to reduce the chances of injury or exacerbating existing inflammation or any other issues you may have. So I Googled some helpful articles and I thought I’d share them below for others who might be curious.  Check out these two from Runner’s World and Daily Burn that have some good tips for first time foam rollers. And even if you’ve done it in the past or use one regularly, it can’t hurt to do a little research to make sure you’re not doing something really wrong (like rolling your lower back, which is a big no no!). 

Do any of you guys out there use foam rollers?  If so, what has been your experience. Yay or nay?  If you haven’t tried them, I highly recommend it!

Happy rolling!

10 Foam Rolling Mistakes to Avoid
5 Foam Rolling Routines You Should be Doing

UPDATE

Hey out there!  I was reading in my ACE (American Council on Exercise) Personal Trainer Manual about mobility and stability training, and this popped up with some very interesting facts about the potential extra benefits of foam rolling. It is still a newer concept in the fitness world that requires more research, but the studies that have been done show some positive benefits in the populations that were tested. I’ll summarize, but the full outtake from my training manual is shown in a photo below as well, which includes the study citations if anyone wants to read them. 

  • Foam rolling has been shown to reduce arterial stiffness, improve arterial function, and improve vascular endothelial (lining of the blood vessels) functions in sedentary subjects. 
  • While traditional stretching methods increase range of motion, they have been shown in studies to simultaneously lead to force reduction, or weakness, in the area stretched. It’s a give and take… BUT, foam rolling has been shown to increase joint range of motion without reducing force (causing weakness) or rate of force development in the population studied, which was young adult males. 

More studies clearly need to be done in more varied populations, but so far there have been some clear benefits to adding foam rolling in your everyday fitness routine for general heath and range of motion. 

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Be kind to yourself

This is from a site I follow called Project Happiness. I’ve been going through a bit of a tough time lately, hence the major slack off in writing. I parted ways with Club Pilates in early March, and I was pretty sad about the whole thing. Since then I have been struggling to find another job. I’ve been kinda down lately. I’m trying to count my blessings every day, but it’s hard to not worry about finances and what we’re going to do if I can’t find something soon. And the stress has honestly affected my ability to keep pushing on my goals, and of course it takes a toll on everyone. I’m trying to use this situation as a motivator, and there are days I wake up feeling like there’s no point in trying… BUT!  That’s not me!  That’s not the way to deal with the tough things life throws at you. And I know this. I want to take the hard times and use the stress to forge myself into a stronger person, both inside and out. So here’s a little tidbit I found inspirational this morning. I hope you do to.  ๐Ÿ˜Š

Peace and love to you, and be kind to yourself!  You deserve it, you really do. 

“Your body believes everything you say to it. Make sure that’s a good thing- don’t let your mind bully your body!  

#WellnessWednesday: Wellness begins at a cellular level. In addition to giving your cells the proper nutritional and physical building blocks, being healthy requires us to be mindful of what we’re saying, thinking and feeling as well. Your body listens and reacts to everything that your mind says and negativity has been proven to bring down the human immune system. Today, activate ‘happy cells’ by embracing the positive. Deliberately focusing on good feeling thoughts allows your body’s cells to dance to their natural rhythm of wellbeing…”

Get these #ProjectHappiness tips in your inbox for free ๐Ÿ‘‰ http://bit.ly/1U4wTqx

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Blue Apron: An easy way to get wholesome, nutritious meals with less food waste and less trips to the store

We’ve been eating Blue Apron nearly every week for a year and a half. We’ve tried so many new foods, learned new cooking techniques, reduced our food waste and trips to the grocery store, and we enjoy spending quality time cooking and eating together at least 3 times a week because of using this food service. Their packaging is all 100% recyclable, the meals are wholesome and nutritious, and they have high standards for animal welfare and support small farms.
I highly recommend it! #blueapron #healthylifestyle #healthy #youarewhatyoueat

Check out this story about how they source their meat from sustainable and humane farms!

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Time to quit messing around and follow your dreams

It’s been a few days since I wrote anything because I’ve been going through a huge career change. I left my job in the biotech world to become the General Manager of the very first Club Pilates location in North Carolina!  This kind of came about in a serendipitous way and at a great time career-wise for me…  so I’m going for it!  I’m ready to make this Club Pilates location THRIVE, and bring the amazing health benefits of Pilates to the masses. More to come in a later blog, as I’m in the airport on my phone typing this right now.  Here are a few pics of my trip this week to GM training in Costa Mesa, California below. Sadly, it was raining a lot and very chilly.  I brought the NC winter weather with me apparently!


Has anyone tried Pilates before?  If so, did you do mat Pilates or use the reformer (big machine you lay on)?  What was your experience like?  Let me me know in the comments!  

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Seared Chicken & Couscous with Broccoli & Lemon Yogurt Sauce

Eating clean…  For some of us that’s much easier said than done.  I love healthy food, and like most people I also love some unhealthy food.  I wish I had the time, energy, or desire to pl01c053158725f87f0f5469f592257d111185aa561dan out all my healthy meals.  In the past I’ve had great success losing weight by diligently counting calories and portion sizes, and making sure I was getting the right macro-nutrient ratios every day.  But for me, that’s just not a sustainable way of life in the long term.  I like spending time doing other stuff too much to use it all up on meal planning!  I can easily turn obsessive about it, and feel stupidly guilty for indulging in extra carbs, to the point where I don’t like who I become when I focus on food so much.  However, it’s truly important to be conscious of how you are fueling your body, so I try to remedy my disdain for counting calories by just keeping nutrition in the forefront of my mind as much as possible.  I have no diet I go by, or any set method of determining my nutritional intake, at least not for the moment.  I do, however, take steps to keep my diet healthy by trying to include a delicious protein shake as a meal  once in a while, making sure I eat plenty of salads, avoiding / eliminating soda and sugary drinks, cooking dinner several times a week using fresh ingredients, and trying to keep portions sizes to a reasonable amount of food at meal time.  Does this make it harder to have the ideal body type I would prefer?  It might.  But to me enjoying life and time with loved ones, that I might otherwise not really get to enjoy because I was distracted by worry about my calorie intake, is far too important by comparison.  You only live once!  I believe it’s about balance in the end, to be the healthiest and HAPPIEST version of yourself you can be.  So, if counting calories makes you happy, that’s great!  If, as in my case, it is something you know is important but not something that brings you happiness unless kept in moderation, that’s OK too!  Do whatever makes you healthy AND happy!

So I’ll shut up and get to the recipe now, that IS why you clicked on this anyway, right?  ๐Ÿ™‚ Continue reading

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Good things are on the horizon, I can feel it!

This is something my Mom got me for my desk when I quit my old job and started a new career. It still inspires me every day. You never know what you can do unless you try. AMAZE YOURSELF. (and wish me luckโ€ฆ). To new beginnings and following your dreams!

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