Health & Wellness

  1. Outdoor BBQ Games for Family Fitness

    Need an excuse to head outside? Whether you’re hanging with kids, the whole family, or just adults, outdoor games will do the trick. With options for every budget, fitness level, and age, outdoor games are a great way to socialize and stay active at your next gathering. Here are some outdoor family fitness games to get you started!

    Traditional Outdoor Family Fitness Games

    From corn hole to bocce ball, it’s easy to find these favorites at yard and craft sales. They tend to appeal to a wide audience and you can usually participate with a cold beverage in hand. Set up teams to increase the interaction and to level the playing field between young and old.

    Craft your Own Outdoor Family Games

    Ready to get creative? Or maybe you’re just feeling thrifty. You can make your own outdoor games with a minimal investment of time and money or create a masterpiece that you can enjoy for years to come. I love the Outdoor Twister (paint your circles right onto the grass!) and the Giant Ring Toss using pool noodles. If you’re feeling extra crafty, you can make a giant yard Jenga from 2 x 4’s. Throw in an afternoon session of painting pieces for the kids and you’ve got a double round of fun!

    Leveled Up Outdoor Games

    Got an old step ladder around? Some plastic for a slip and slide? Level up your outdoor recreation with a combination game requiring multiple steps. Combine favorites like a ladder bean bag toss (see that link above) with a run through a sprinkler or down a slip and slide. This is a great combination for kids and adults. Get creative and incorporate some of the features of your backyard, including swing sets, trampolines, rolls down a gentle hill, even animal exercises!

    Creative Outdoor Family Games

    Not all games require a big investment in time, money, or supplies. Popular favorites include water balloon fights (or Dodgeball), egg carries and tosses, bottle battle (or beer frisbee), and capture the flag. You can also put together an outdoor photo booth, create a toilet paper fashion show, or battle with balloons and empty paper towel holders.

    With a little creativity, you can take your outdoor games to a new level this year. If you have something especially wet or messy planned, be sure to let your guests know ahead of time so they can dress for it, (and mentally prepare). Set up teams so that all levels of players feel comfortable joining in on the fun and leave room for spectators to enjoy from the side. Finally, stay flexible. It’s nice to have a variety of options so guests can join in throughout the day (or evening).

    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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  2. 7 Tips for Healthy Knees

    Follow these 7 healthy knee stretches and tips for happy knees Knee pain is one of the most common ailments that people struggle with when exercising. As the largest joint in the body, your knees certainly take on their fair share of impact. Some people simply give in to accepting knee pain as being an inevitable side effect of exercise or aging. The good news is you CAN prevent, and even reverse it…simply follow these 7 tips to assure your knees stay happy and healthy!

    Tip 1

    Healthy Knees Require Warm-Up with Soft Tissue Work

    Before you perform your regular workouts, make it a point to include a well-planned warm-up routine. A proper warm-up is one of the simplest things you can do to prevent knee problems. A dynamic based warm-up (think things like skipping, shuffling, butt kicks, etc.) will get the synovial fluid going in your joints which means less friction during your workouts. Soft tissue work (foam rolling) is also a must for today’s exercisers. The pressure of your body into the roller allows you to hit the areas of the quads, calves, glutes, etc and work out “trigger points” that, when left alone, could eventually lead to pain or injury.

    Tip 2

    Ankle & Hip Mobility for Healthy Knees

    Knee pain is often a result of mobility issues in the joint below (ankle) or above (hip), so keeping those joints healthy and mobile will go a long way in keeping the knees pain free. Poor ankle mobility will limit your ability to perform certain exercises properly, which often means the knees pay the price by absorbing more force. Ankle mobility can be limited by tight calves or perhaps from previous ankle injuries. Poor hip mobility can have a similar impact on the knees. I generally use the body weight squat as a good indicator of hip mobility. The best way to squat is with your hips first. Those who lack good hip mobility will often bend at the knees first to initiate the squat and then end up with their weight too far forward. Again, the knees will then bear too much force because the hips aren’t moving the way they should.

    Tip 3

    Maintaining a Healthy Weight Helps to Keep Knees Healthy

    Being overweight really does have an impact on your joints, especially the knees. The heavier you are, the more stress you are going to deliver through the knees. Pretty simple on this one…maintain a healthy weight and you’ll greatly lower your chances of suffering from knee pain.

    Tip 4

    Keep Your Backside Strong to Lessen the Strain on your Knees

    When I say backside, I’m talking about your glutes and hamstrings. Your glutes are built to be strong and should be the powerhouse of your lower body. When working properly, they will take a brunt of the force away from the knees during many exercises. Likewise, your hamstrings shouldn’t be ignored! Many knee problems are caused by an imbalance in the legs. Many people tend to be quad dominant, which will put a lot of stress on the knees. Be sure to balance out your leg workouts by including an equal amount of quad, glute and hamstring exercises.

    Tip 5

    Be Aware of Your Knees' Aches and Pains

    This one almost seems too obvious, but if something hurts don’t do it! Far too many people try to work through the pain thinking they will eventually get through it. Instead, try to address the issue by figuring out what is causing the pain and then take the proper steps to correct it. Remember, when you’re injured you are not doing your body any good by continuing to do the same thing.

    Tip 6

    Focus on your Form to Keep Your Knee Movements Natural

    I’m often amazed at the amount of people who blame a certain exercises for their knee pain when, in fact, the problem is in how they’re performing the exercise. If you think your form may be off on certain exercises like squats, deadlifts and lunges, be sure to seek some help or do some research to assure you are doing them safely and correctly.

    Tip 7

    Build Good Posture and Core Strength will Help Minimize Knee Stress

    If you are one that suffers from bad posture, chances are you could be hurting your knees. Keeping your head centered over your shoulders and your shoulders over your abdomen and pelvis will keep your back, hips and knees happy. Make sure you’re including plenty of core exercises in your routine to strengthen the abs and low back. This will promote good posture and, ultimately, lessen the pressure on your knees. Knee pain can be a major road block for many lifters, athletes and every day fitness enthusiasts. But, by taking some of these tips and putting them into action, chances are very good that you’ll prevent, or even reverse, any future problems.  
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    About the writer: Ken Grall is a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and owns and operates an Edge Fitness in Madison, Wisconsin. Learn more about Ken.
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  3. 5 Tips to Help You Exercise Safely in the Summer Heat



    With the summer months rapidly approaching, it’s time to take your workouts outdoors!   While many of us may be tempted to jump right into our outdoor workouts, we should all take great care in preparing for the summer heat and the effects it can have on our bodies.

    Let’s take a looks at 5 tips that will assure your outdoor workouts are safe this summer.

    Tip #1: Hydrate

    Exercising in hot weather increases our body temperature, so it’s vital to assure your body is properly hydrated before, during, and after your workouts.

    While the body’s ability to perspire acts as a natural cooling system, it’s your job to make sure you’re hydrated enough for this to work properly.

    Your focus should primarily be on drinking water.  Remember, our bodies consist of 50-60% water, so it’s vital to maintain this amount.  On a hot day, you can easily lose 3-5% of your body’s water weight while working out.

    During exercise, aim for drinking 8-10 oz. of water every 20 minute. After exercise, be sure to get in another 10-20 oz. to assure you are properly re-hydrating.  Another great way to re-hydrate is to grab some fruit.  An orange or an apple will help replace valuable electrolyte loss and aid in recovery.

    Tip #2:  Avoid Peak Heat

    Plan your outdoor workouts for early in the morning or around sunset. Sun and humidity levels are more intense during the daytime hours, so to minimize the effects of the heat plan your workouts around that part of the day.

    Tip #3:  Dress Appropriately

    Invest in some lightweight, loose-fitting workout clothes that will help wick away moisture and keep your body cooler.  Sweating alone does not cool the body, but the evaporation of sweat does.  Clothes that soak up your sweat not only become uncomfortable and weigh you down, but they don’t allow for proper evaporation.

    Also avoid dark colored workout clothing that will absorb the heat and focus on wearing light-colored items.

    Tip #4:  Acclimate

    If you have been running indoors or working out in a cooler climate, be prepared to ease up a bit when the weather heats up.  Heat and humidity can wear your body down much faster when you’re not used to it, so gradually work your way into summer heat shape and allow your body to build up a tolerance to that kind of workout environment.

    Those high intensity intervals or long distance treadmill runs will be tough to match in the hot weather, so be smart and gradually work your way up to them.

    Tip #5:  Listen To Your Body

    It’s crucial to pay attention to your body when it comes to working out in the heat.  Heat exhaustion and sun stroke can quickly sneak up on you and put you in a world of hurt!

    If you’re feeling any of the following symptoms while working out in the heat, it’s time to shut it down and find some air-conditioned comfort:
    • Dizziness
    • Nausea
    • Rapid heartbeat
    • Weakness
    • Light-headedness
    • Muscle cramps
    • Headache


    To quickly cool off, here are a couple of tricks:
    • Run cold water over your forearms
    • Apply ice packs or cooling wraps to the back of your neck, your forearms, and/or your armpits
    • Use a spray bottle to mist your skin while fanning air on it to aid in the evaporation/cooling
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  4. 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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  5. 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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