Health & Wellness

  1. Bike To Work Day: 7 Easy Tips For Commuting On Your Bike

    Bike to Work Day. Person commuting to work on a bicycle. We’ve all seen the occasional cyclist commuting on our daily drive to work and have probably even thought about doing it yourself. Not only does bike commuting help the environment, but it also saves money (gas, wear and tear on your car, etc.) and is a great way to stay fit and burn a few extra calories.

    The month of May is National Bike Month, with the biggest day being Bike to Work Day. In 2017 that day will be recognized on Friday, May 19th.

    Bike to Work Day has been around for quite some time, having originated in 1956 by the League of American Bicyclists. Since its inception, a growing number of communities have embraced the event and used it as a way to promote the bicycle as a healthy and safe alternative for commuting to work.

    It must be working. . .the United States has seen a 62% growth in the number of bicycle commuters since 2000!

    So if you’re not among the growing bike commuters across the country, why not use Bike to Work Day as your reason to give it a shot! Even if you only commute a handful of times, it’s better than none at all. And who knows. . . once you give it a try you might fall in love with it!

    Here are 7 tips to help get you started on your bike commute to work:

    #1: Consider the Distance

    If you live only a few miles from work, it’s very conceivable to commute both ways by bike. However, if that distance is a bit longer, consider hitching a ride to work with a co-worker and bringing your bike along for the commute home. As you get used to the distance, you may find that you want to make it a 2 way commute.

    #2: Map Out Your Route Options

    You’ll definitely want to consider distance, traffic volume, road conditions and terrain on all of your bike route options. Some routes may be a bit longer, but if they are safer, it could be a better option. Test out your potential routes on the weekends and see which is the best fit for your commute. There are also bike route apps and websites that can be very useful in helping you find your best options.

    #3: Set a Frequency Goal

    For many first-time bike commuters, it’s a pretty lofty goal to commit to biking to work every day. To start, set an achievable goal of biking to work 2-3 times/week. After you can consistently do that, then definitely add to it!

    #4: Dress the Part

    Most bike commuters don’t like to wear their work clothes (unless they have a very short commute), so investing in comfortable bike clothes (bright colors, bike shorts, etc.) will be well worth it. Make sure your bike has reflectors or a flashing light if you’ll be biking in the early morning or evenings. And, it goes without saying, wear a helmet!

    #5: Don’t Forget Your Cell Phone

    A phone can come in very handy - and no, not for talking or texting while you’re riding – but in case you get a flat tire or have any other issues that may cause you to be late getting to work or returning home. A call to your boss explaining the situation will go a long way!

    #6: Clean Up!

    You might work up a bit of a sweat on your commute, so be sure to plan accordingly when it comes to cleaning yourself up before work. If you’re lucky enough to have a shower at work, great! If not, your co-workers will appreciate you having the appropriate supplies to freshen-up before your work day starts.

    #7: Get in Bike Shape

    It can be tough to just jump into a regular bike commute if you don’t have an appropriate level of fitness. I don’t think your employer would be too happy if you showed up to work worn out and useless for the rest of the day! Get out and ride your bike to develop a fitness base or, incorporate an indoor exercise bike into your fitness routine.

    Happy Biking!
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  2. Active Mother’s Day Ideas for 2017

    Mom and daughter canoeing on a lake for Mother's Day Thinking of the perfect Mother’s Day 2017?  Rather than gifts, Mother’s Day activities let you build memories with the special lady in your life.  Here’s our guide to the best Mother’s Day ideas for every level of fitness and adventure.

    Plant a Garden.

    This traditional activity remains popular each year.  Early May is the perfect time to clean up Mom’s garden beds.  In Northern climates, plant cold-hardy annuals or get a start on sowing summer vegetables.  Frost tolerant greens and veggies, such as snow peas, can be started as soon as you can work the soil.   Or spend the day planting herbs and planters that can be moved outdoors when the weather warms.

    Meal Prepping.

    We’re all trying to eat better, right?  Why not combine a Mother’s Day cookout with a healthy fridge of grab and go weekday meals.  The simple concept of meal prepping combines well with a Mother’s Day brunch or buffet.  Just focus on grilling plenty of protein and veggies.  You can even throw fruit on the grill (think pineapple or pears) to serve as dessert on Mother’s Day.  Later that week, Mom can use it to top her yogurt for breakfast.  You can find some easy inspiration here.

    Hike a Trail.

    Beautiful trails and state parks are within a short drive of nearly everyone. Spring is the perfect time to enjoy them as the leaves and flowers come back from winter.  While summer sun and insects won’t have reached their peak, you’ll want to remember sunscreen and insect repellent. Pack a picnic lunch for the trail or the picnic area that is probably near your vehicle. We love these Wisconsin hikes as a special Mother’s Day idea.

    Start Paddling.

    Beautiful May Day?  Ready for a little more adventure?  Paddling is a Mother’s Day activity that lets you and Mom experience the beauty of our rivers and lakes.  You can easily rent kayaks, canoes, and paddleboards at parks and private businesses. Need inspiration? Michigan locals and other Midwesterners can find suggestions for paddling trips in these links.

    Get your Bike Out.

    Whether you rent a bike or use this Mother’s Day 2017 excuse for a tune-up, early spring is the perfect time to enjoy a cycling adventure.  If you and Mom are up for adventure, head out to one of the Midwest’s local bike trails.  Stop along the way for a small-town lunch.   If a long ride is beyond your comfort zone, pedal to a local farmer’s market or florist. You’ll still enjoy the fresh air and time with your special person.

    Jump Around.

    Want to burn some serious calories while playing like a kid?  Trampoline parks are a fun Mother’s Day activity for any age.  You can find a park near you in almost any location. Bring your littlest companions along or just stick to the adults on this fun for all ages adventure.

    Wall Climbing.

    This indoor activity is another family friendly Mother’s Day idea.  Indoor climbing walls are surprisingly easy to find and you don’t have to worry about the weather.  You’ll get functional workout using nearly every muscle in your body.  The challenge of climbing a wall is great for building confidence and inner strength, both for Mom and kids.

    Ropes and Ziplines.

    Definitely a thrill for Mom and school age kids, outdoor ropes and ziplines are a challenging Mother’s Day adventure.  Frequently located near state parks and natural beauty, you can probably combine this with a stop for ice cream at a nearby park or waterway.  Here’s a great resource for finding ziplines and high ropes near you that you probably never knew were there. Mother’s day ideas are endless with a little planning and a spirit of adventure.  While the above activities are easy to tackle in an afternoon, you could combine them into a full weekend with camping or a getaway.  You can also combine two or more of these activities for a full day of adventure that will make Mother’s Day 2017 your most memorable yet. About the writer: Joli Guenther is a certified personal trainer, yoga instructor and clinical social worker practicing in and around Madison, Wisconsin. Learn more about Joli.
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  3. Five Minute Yoga Practices for Workout Recovery



    If you've already hit the ground running on your New Year's resolutions, you might be noticing aches in new places. While DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) will reduce after a few workouts, it is be a great reminder to start adding some yoga into your training routine. In addition to increasing your flexibility, yoga can make you a better athlete by improving your concentration, breath control, and functional movement patterns. Since you're already warmed up and building strength in your regular workouts, you don't need a lot of time to benefit from yoga. Here are some of the best ways to incorporate yoga into your workout recovery practices. Standing Poses: From Warrior 1 to Triangle pose, some of the most familiar yoga postures will help you to build functional flexibility and strength. Because you are holding your bodyweight, these poses build strength, while challenging you in different movement planes. Holding these poses will build stability. Repetitions in and out of the postures will ingrain healthy movement patterns, improving the stability of the knees, shoulders, and low back. This video shows ways to use Standing Poses for Recovery.



    The sequence: Warrior 1: with shoulder shrugs and repeated transitions from standing Warrior 2: with wrist flexion and increased depth Triangle: with shoulder opening Hip Openers: These poses help to release tightness from the piriformis, as well as the rotators and flexors of the hip joint. This can reduce low back strain and increase range of motion in running and strength training. This active recovery video focuses on the hips and low back.



    The sequence: Ardha Matsandrasana (seated spinal twist) Easy Pose Supported Bridge Pose using a block for support Foam Rolling: Add foam rolling to your yoga practice to increase its benefits. By holding a posture with the foam roller or foam rolling prior to the stretch, you release areas of held tension in the body's connective tissue providing the opportunity for realignment and healing of dysfunctional movement patterns, as well as improving circulation and hydration in the muscle tissue. This foam rolling sequence is a great way to wind down at the end of the day or after a workout.



    The sequence: Figure Four with Foam Roller Modified Pigeon with Foam Roller Lat Foam Roll followed by Modified Child's pose Adding yoga for recovery into your workout routine doesn't need to take a lot of time. The brief practices provided above are excellent ways to warm up or cool down and can be rotated throughout your training week. If you have the time to include a yoga class on your active recovery days, you'll find that your practice and its associated benefits will progress even more quickly. Whether your yoga practice is intense or limited to a few minutes each week, commit to using that time to observe the effect of each posture on your body and breath to fully incorporate yoga's benefits on and off the mat.
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  4. Creating Daily Habits that Support your Goals



    Habits are a powerful determinant of our daily behaviors. Our daily triggers and automatic responses have a big impact on our actions, including whether or not those actions support our long-term goals related to fitness and wellness. Think about it. If your goal is to make daily workouts a part of your life, are you supporting it by scheduling reminders of those workouts and preparing yourself with the clothing and nutrition you need? Or do you allow work and family demands to crowd into all times throughout your day? If you have big goals related to improving your health and even your relationships, examining the triggers that occur in your daily life and giving yourself the opportunity to rewire those responses, is an enormously powerful way to improve your success in moving towards those goals. To put this into practice, identify your goal and then create a trigger that will help you to automatically take action that supports that goal. Here are a few examples.

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  5. Motivation tips to get you moving and have FUN!





    The biggest barrier to working out is seeing it as “WORK”. Sometimes all we need is a little fun to keep us going! If you need some exercise motivation, give the following tips a try. Make your workout seem less like work and more like FUN!


    • If you love to read, try reading while riding a stationary bike or on an elliptical. Grab your phone, tablet, or latest gossip magazine. Reading can be a fun distraction while working out – just make sure to keep proper form and don’t slack in your pedaling while catching up on the latest news!

    • Instead of being a couch potato the next time you watch TV, hop on a treadmill or elliptical while you watch your favorite shows! Turn a 30 minute TV show into a circuit workout. Pedal, walk or run during show segments and use the commercial time for crunches, push-ups, or jumping jacks. You can also run the stairs, take a lap outside, or crank up the intensity during those 2 minute breaks. This will give you a great interval workout

    • Call a friend, co-worker, or spouse to help motivate you and keep you on track. Setting a workout time and place to exercise together will both be more fun and keep you from bowing out of a sweat session. Working out with a partner could also spark some friendly competition and they will cheer you on as you go.

    • Make a playlist of your favorite upbeat songs that energize you and keep you moving! Pick out fast paced songs that you love and that will keep your body and mind stimulated. When the music is pumping, you are less likely to slack!

    • If indoor fitness equipment is a challenge, be creative and use the things in your house or apartment to create a circuit. Use chairs for tricep dips, run the stairs, take a lap around your house, use cans of soup for weights, or purchase exercise bands. Resistance bands are a low cost alternative to dumbbells and weights. They can be used anywhere and can easily be packed in a bag or purse for mid-day workouts.
    • Don't let a time crunch be a factor for you. You don't need to dedicate an entire 30-60 minute segment to working out. Try interval training in 10-15 minute "chunks". Warm up, follow with some moderate intensity exercise, followed by 2 minutes of high-intensity exercises. Alternate back and forth of moderate to high-intensity until your time has expired. Remember, breaking a 30 minute exercise routine into 2 "chunks" of time, is far better than not exercising at all.

    • Always remind yourself that exercise has many benefits beyond weight loss. You'll feel healthier, happier, and potentially live a longer life with staying active. If you are looking for weight loss, remember, the weight didn't come on overnight, don't expect it to come off overnight. Stay focused, motivated, and be patient with yourself. Don't get discouraged.

    • Remember, making exercise FUN is a great way to keep you moving and motivated on your fitness journey.
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