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Posts Tagged fitness

Experience Life Magazine

Field Notes: Hog Hunting for a Good Cause

Editorial Note: Experience Life staff writer Maggie Fazeli Fard was recently in Southwest Texas reporting on the proliferation of wild hogs in the state, their destructive environmental impact, and efforts to manage their numbers — primarily through organized, unlimited hog hunts. The hunts attract experienced hunters as well as novices with an interest in local food sourcing and the “ranch-to-table” experience. Maggie is sharing some of her reporting through the “Field Notes” series this week. Check out Part One, Part II, and Part III, and find Part IV below. 

As the number of wild hogs — and the problems they cause — has increased, so has the number of organized hog-hunting trips. People from across the country head to Texas, which boasts the largest wild hog population in the United States and has no prohibitions on hunting the exotic game.

To learn more and experience this growing trend first-hand, I signed up to accompany a group of about 25 men who, for the second year, were going to hunt hogs in the area around Carrizo Springs in Southwest Texas. This hunt happened to be a charity event, benefitting two veterans’ organizations — the Silent Warrior Scholarship Fund and the Green Beret Foundation — that provide assistance to families of fallen Reconnaissance Marines and Special Operations Forces.

Hog hunts and college scholarships don’t obviously go hand-in hand. But according to Brent Phillips, the president of the Silent Warrior Scholarship Fund, the five-day hunting trip is a perfect opportunity for members of the military to bond with civilian participants.

“We didn’t ever want to do a black-tie dinner,” said Phillips, 24, who started the SWSF in 2010 after four friends from reconnaissance school were killed in action. “I wanted to do something, because no organization existed to raise money for families of recon Marines. But I never wanted it to be something solemn.” Because “physical fitness is a big part of our life in the Marines,” Phillips and his SWSF board members decided to focus on fun fitness events. Initial fundraising efforts involved “driving around begging CrossFit gyms to put on an event.”

The first year, in 2010, the organization raised $2,000 for a student. This year, in 2014, Phillips expects to raise between $60,000 and $70,00 — enough to support five students.

“We legitimately thought we’d have to write the scholarship checks ourselves,” recalls Phillips, who also owns CrossFit Sil War in Jacksonville, N.C. “We never thought it would evolve into this.”

While athletic events continue to be a cornerstone of the SWSF effort, the annual charity hog hunt has proven to be a major draw. Phillips attributes its popularity to the combination of novelty — most of the participants don’t regularly hunt hogs — and the opportunity to form deeper bonds than they would at a short 5K run-walk.

To this end, the trip included hands-on demonstrations unrelated to wild hogs. Topics included field trauma and basic field medical skills, improvised explosive devices, situational awareness/self-defense, and shooting lessons.

The annual hunt, Phillips said, has become a success because it’s about more than hunting: It’s about doing something fun and new for a good cause.

Maggie Fazeli Fard is an Experience Life staff writer. 

Experience Life Magazine

40 Days of Weightlifting for a Foodie

I’ve never been much of a weightlifter. I don’t like the smells that accompany it (mostly from myself — I can get pretty smelly), and have never felt confident that I’m lifting correctly. It oddly makes me feel foreign in my own skin, and, frankly, I’m uncomfortable with the whole idea.

But, it’s 2014, and in honor of the B.Strong for Bryce 40-day Fitness Challenge and a colleague’s inspiring post about getting comfortable being uncomfortable, I found myself chatting with coworkers Jamie Martin and Maggie Fazeli Fard about weightlifting for 40 days — and how it was time to face my discomfort head on.

(Related: 5,000 Kettlebell Swings)

I normally take photos of food and wine, and I realized as I gathered the images below that cooking was once something I was highly uncomfortable with, too. When I finally began, I hid away in the kitchen when no one was there. I was clumsy. I burned things. I measured incorrectly. Even after I started enjoying it, it took me a good year to actually cook for someone else.

Now, I love cooking. I love experimenting. And I love sharing that passion with others. Food (and wine) does indeed heal broken pieces in us. (Disclaimer #1: I should be clear. I’m not trading my wine indulgences during these 40 days, just adding some weights to my repertoire.)

Drinking wine at the cabin while making dinner.

Drinking wine at the cabin while making dinner.

Wine

Chatting with friends over wine in the kitchen.

Pears-and-Cranberries

Preparing cranberries and pears for a new scone recipe.

TAco

A quick dinner of zucchini, cheese, salsa, spinach, and leftover tenderloins.

Tomato

Choppin’ those tomatoes!

Jam

Brunch in Chicago outside during warmer times. I loved these jam and butter jars.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was time to face the uncomfortable once again. In honor of Bryce — my coworker’s 8-month-old nephew who was recently diagnosed with Krabbe disease and has spent numerous hours in the hospital getting tests and fighting to live each day — I’m going to be brave and start picking up some weights.

On my first day at the gym, I warmed up on the bike and then found myself doing biofeedback with my new trainer — Maggie! (Disclaimer #2: Maggie is not a certified trainer. I use this term loosely, as she’s teaching me for fun.)

As we began biofeedback testing, I kept wishing I was in a room alone, away from people, but I stuck with it. Maggie was a fantastic teacher and spent a good 15 minutes explaining how to move my hips for kettlebell deadlifts. I felt awkward and uncoordinated, and caught myself saying there was something wrong with my hips.

She assured me there wasn’t. I tried again.

(Related: Show Me How: The Hip Hinge)

It turns out, kettlebell deadlifts, pushups, one-arm rows, and goblet squats tested well for me. By the end, I was feeling more comfortable and was amazed that my body was moving in ways I hadn’t felt it move before.

Below are some photos from Day 1, along with that log that Maggie took for me. Check back each week for more photos on my progress!

Deadlift-3

A close-up of me grabbing a kettlebell during a deadlift.

Deadlift-1

Deadlifting.

Deadlift-2

More deadlifting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to read the log:

  1. The set is listed first. Each set in this is made up of 2 exercises. Example: Set 1: Squats and Pushups.
  2. Total Time for the set means the length the set lasted.
  3. The weight and reps are listed next. Example: @ 20 pounds, 6, 8, 7 = 6 reps at 20 pounds, 8 reps at 20 pounds and 7 reps at 20 pound.
  4. Tested means between each rep set, biofeedback testing was used to gauge the body.
  5. Both exercise in each set are alternated throughout the set.

 

Log: Day 1

Log,-Day-1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lifting, it turns out, can be healing in its own way — just like food and wine.

Tell Us: Where are you pushing yourself out your comfort zone this year?

Casie Leigh Lukes is Experience Life’s digital content specialist.

Experience Life Magazine

5,000 Kettlebell Swings

Bryce and Auntie Jamie, just a couple of days after his diagnosis.

Bryce and Auntie Jamie reading his favorite book, Commotion in the Ocean, a couple of days after his diagnosis.

This past November, my only nephew, Bryce, was diagnosed with a fatal genetic disorder called Krabbe Disease, for which there is no treatment or cure. My nephew will never sit up, let alone walk or run. He’ll never get to toss the football with his Daddy or get to play tag with his cousins (my daughters). He will never get to tell his Mommy he loves her.

As his auntie and his Mom’s sister, I feel helpless, wishing there was something I could do to better support them in a situation that’s helpless in and of itself. Maintaining Bryce’s CaringBridge page and website doesn’t seem like enough; spreading the word about his benefit seems miniscule. And while I know my sister really just needs me to be there to let her cry and talk through her pain and grief, I still wish — I will always wish — I could do more.

So when my aunt asked if I thought my sister would be OK with her organizing a fitness challenge in honor of Bryce, I said yes. She also wants to help in some way.

The B.Strong for Bryce 40-Day Fitness Challenge kicked off last week. The goal is to inspire family and friends to set personal health and fitness challenges that they can complete by March 1st, and to tie a financial incentive to their actions — the proceeds of which will go toward Bryce’s care as he battles Krabbe. We’re asking them to walk, run, lift, bike, MOVE for Bryce.

About 75 people have joined so far, committing to everything from walking 100 miles to swimming 3,000 laps as a family to jumping rope 300 times per day. It’s a win-win: They’re helping out a special boy in need, while improving their own health and fitness. And research shows that tying health and wellness endeavors to a meaningful cause like this is a surefire way to increase fitness and motivation, as reported in an Experience Life article published in December 2012:

Thanks to the feel-good environment and focused sense of purpose, participants reap rich physical and psychological benefits beyond the walking, running, climbing and biking that takes place at the events themselves. Even those who choose to provide sideline support stand to get back far more than they put in. The Corporation for National and Community Service reviewed studies from sources like Duke University to look at the correlation between volunteering and physical health. Their discovery: Virtually any kind of volunteer activity can reduce intensity levels of chronic pain, lower rates of depression and reduce mortality risk. The social ties it creates can even improve immunity.

 I may not be able to take away the physical or emotional pain of Bryce’s diagnosis, but I can help financially by moving physically. My challenge: To do 5,000 kettlebell swings at $0.05 per swing. That’s 125 kettlebell swings a day for 40 days.

I’m seven for seven days so far. And I plan on swinging every day until March 1st — and well beyond. It feels so good to be taking action.

TELL US: Is there a charity event that’s close to your heart? Share it with us in the comments section below or tweet us at @ExperienceLife. 

Jamie Martin is Experience Life‘s director of digital initiatives.  

Experience Life Magazine

On The Bike: Wheelmen: Lance Armstrong, the Tour de France, and the Greatest Sports Conspiracy Ever

He was the best of heroes, the worst of heroes. Wheelmen--Lance-Armstrong

Lance Armstrong battled and beat cancer, then battled and beat the best bike racers in the world to win an unprecedented, impossible seven Tours de France.

How many people around the globe owe thanks to Lance for the increased public awareness of cancer, funding for cancer research, and inspiration for the possibility of besting the odds, surviving cancer, and rebuilding a life?

And how many people around the globe did he inspire to start riding, to buy a Trek bicycle, to purchase their own U.S. Post Service or Discovery Channel jersey, to take road-racing classes, to take out a beginner’s Category 5 license, to start competing? The Great Bicycle Boom of the 1990s and early 2000s came thanks to Lance.

Yet there was always an inkling — then a lurking concern, then a growing fear — that perhaps Lance wasn’t playing by the rules. In winning the Tour and other single-day classics or multi-day stage races, he outsprinted and outclimbed bicycles foes who were almost all later disqualified, fined, or sanctioned for doping — Richard Virenque, Jan Ullrich, Floyd Landis, Ivan Basso, Alexander Vinokourov, the list is painfully long. As Greg Lemond, America’s first Tour de France winner, said about modern-day bicycle racing, with the drugs they have, “one could convert a mule into a stallion.” How could Lance possibly have done it if he was clean?

The suspicions grew, but our desire to believe in Lance was stronger.

As Lemond, again, succinctly summed up Lance’s reign as America’s greatest sporting hero of the times, “If Lance is clean, it is the greatest comeback in the history of sports. If he isn’t, it would be the greatest fraud.”

We now all know which one it is.

Wall Street Journal reporters Reed Albergotti and Vanessa O’Connell chronicle the rise and fall of “Lance, Inc.” in Wheelmen (Gotham Books, 2013). The story they tell is alternately stirring, thrilling, disgusting, depressing, and revolting. It’s a thriller, a page-turner, a business exposé, at times practically a sci-fi romp. You go from rooting for the underdog to cheering for his disgrace. And when you’re finished with the book, you’ll want to wash your hands. And wash them well.

The story also follows the broader modern era of bicycle racing, getting behind the scenes into the Tour and other events, explaining things we all saw or heard about but didn’t know the backstory to. In chilling prose, the authors describe the whole U.S. Postal Team getting blood transfusions while lying down on the floor of their bus during a faked mechanical breakdown to put off the French police. They tell of team Trek bicycles sold in Belgium to buy EPO and other performance-enhancing drugs to keep the expenses under the table. And in equally thorough detail, they explain the bribes “Lance, Inc.” paid to cycling’s governing bodies to suppress positive drug tests. As they summarize,

“Lance Armstrong’s fourteen-year-long deception was an elaborate, many-tentacled enterprise requiring complicated logistics, scores of people to execute them, and an iron-willed determination to keep it going. Lance relied on his teammates, doctors, lawyers, financial backers, sponsors, assistants, and associates to help him cheat — or at the very least to ignore the evidence that he was doing so — and on the complacent, hero-worshipping media to celebrate his victories without looking into how he achieved them. The few who did raise questions were publicly attacked, sued for large sums of money, and generally vilified by Lance and his well-trained army of supporters. Some of the people in his network of allies directly aided and abetted him in his doping. And everyone from his ex-wife to his friends, sponsors, and former girlfriends turned a blind eye to it — until almost the end. Of course, once the USADA decision was released, the defections were virtually unanimous — the proverbial rats fleeing the sinking ship.”

Of course, cycling isn’t alone in its battle with drugging: think of Marion Jones, Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, and too many others. In fact, cycling should be praised for doing more publicly — and painfully — to fight performance-enhancing drug use than most other sports or sport-governing bodies.

And the money made from cycling and the attached endorsements is pennies compared to Major League Baseball, the National Football League, the National Basketball Association, or World Cup soccer.

But that’s not the point. As many of us suspected deep down, Lance was a false hero. In the end, he lost his seven Tour victories.

Yet more importantly, Lance stole our faith in our sport.

Why did we believe in him for so long? That’s one of the questions the authors struggle with. Their answer is profound:

“For a long time, Americans just couldn’t get enough of Lance. . . . Millions persisted in believing in him until it became impossible to do so. Why? That may be a question harder to answer than why his teammates and coaches, his sponsors and financial backers, collaborated in the lie. But society’s gullibility in the face of ever-mounting evidence probably has something to do with its need for a certain kind of hero. Looked at this way, Lance is the inevitable product of our celebrity-worshipping culture and the whole money-mad world of sports gone amok. This is the Golden Age of fraud, an era of general willingness to ignore and justify the wrongdoings of the rich and powerful, which makes every lie bigger and widens its destructive path.”

There have been recent calls for Armstrong — as well as Nike and Trek and others — to return some of what is now ill-gotten gain. But let Lance keep the money.

Instead, refund our faith in cycling.

As Lance’s first autobiography pointed out, it’s not about the bike. No, indeed: It was about the power and the glory, as well as all that money.

For the rest of us — the Cat. 3 racers, the gran fondo riders, the triathletes, the spinning-class exercisers, the bicycle commuters, the weekend riders — it is about the bike.

And the best response to all this madness is to simply get back on your bike and ride.

Michael-Dregni: On the Bike

Michael Dregni is Experience Life’s managing editor.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tell Us: What’s your favorite way to ride bike?

Experience Life Magazine

Pumping Up My Brain Power

brainpower

Here at Experience Life we talk a lot about physical fitness. From strength training and cardio to mobility and relaxation, we’ve got the inside scoop on building and maintaining a strong, healthy body. My officemates have described me as a “jock,” an “athlete,” and a “gym rat” — a far cry from my clumsy, sedentary childhood persona — so, unsurprisingly, I soak all this fitness advice right up.

But while I’ve worked hard to get stronger, I’m afraid I’ve been neglecting the 3-pound mass of gray matter that sits atop my body: my brain.

It’s a shame not only because I was once an avid student (nerd pride!), but because research shows that much like my bones and muscles, my brain can be fortified and strengthened. Our brain capacity is not hardwired to peak in youth only to degenerate as we age, as some people believe; it’s actually possible to change existing brain circuitry and create new neural cells at any age.

As such, I’ve been trying to make brain health a priority alongside physical strength. I want brains and brawn. Here are some of the things I’ve been up to:

1. Continuing Education:

geneticsandevolution

Coursera’s “Introduction to Genetics and Evolution.”

I’ve always loved school. Not the getting up early part, but the reading, writing, calculations, problem sets, class discussions, and even the tests were fun for me. I loved having my mind widened and blown on a daily basis. Sadly, after I finished grad school, I never made time to learn anything that wasn’t related to my work.

Recently, however, I discovered Coursera, a database of online, college-level courses that can be taken for free. Free learning is my favorite! (h/t to Facebook friend and weightlifting coach extraordinaire Tamara Reynolds of Asheville Strength for turning me on to this.) I’m currently enrolled in “Introduction to Genetics and Evolution” and “Modern European Mysticism and Psychological Thought.” A course on the highlights of modern astronomy will begin in a few weeks.

2. Games and Puzzles:

lumosity

Lumosity games aim to improve memory, problem solving, and other skills.

Thanks to Lumosity, a web app that provides “brain training,” I’ve been working on improving my working memory, visual attention, computation, and other skills by playing simple computer games.

The science backing up the idea that brain training can improve IQ and stave off early dementia is contradictory and inconclusive. But given that the Lumosity puzzles are fun, challenging but not impossible, and short (less than 10 minutes each day), it seems like a worthwhile investment.

3. Unitasking. (Is unitasking a word? This probably doesn’t support my claim that I’m doing things to improve my brain power.)

multitasking

Multitasking is not all it’s cracked up to be.

In other words, I’m multitasking less. I used to take huge pride in being able to juggle multiple things at once and do them all well. But over time I realized that 1) the juggling was exhausting; and 2) I probably wasn’t completing my tasks as well as I thought.

Well, it turns out that multitasking is actually impossible. All I’ve been doing is splitting my brain’s resources. (No wonder I felt tired.) Even though it’s a hard habit to break, I’m making a concerted effort to focus on one thing at a time, which will hopefully make all the new things I’m learning stick.

4. Exercise:

kettlebells

Strengthen your body, strengthen your brain.

Of course it comes back to exercise, you’re probably thinking with a roll of your eyes. But I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the brain benefits beholden in physical activity.

“Across the board, exercise increases brain function, memory retention and other key areas of cognition up to 20 percent,” Arthur Kramer, a neuroscientist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, told Experience Life in 2013.

Although Kramer and his colleagues don’t know exactly how exercise helps, they suspect the benefits are related to increased blood flow to the brain and the release of a biochemical that supports learning by helping our synapses store new information. They also found that exercise helps the brain make new neural connections and build new vascular structures. (Big muscles = big brain.)

Similarly, a 2013 study by researchers at the University of Edinburgh found that exercise had a neuroprotective effect among older men and women. Exercise also helps reduce stress, which has been shown to negatively impact cognition and prematurely age the brain.

5. Try New Things:

trampoline

Novelty does a body, and brain, good.

Exercise is all well and good — I needed no convincing of that. The change I’ve made is to break out of my comfort zone and instead try new movements and activities. Novelty, it appears, spurs brain activity.

Among my recent gym-time discoveries are kettlebell snatches, Turkish get-ups, and the bench press. Outside the gym, I recently tried trampolining and have plans to take advantage of the snowy Minnesota winter by trying snow-shoeing and cross-country skiing for the first time. When the weather improves, I’m committed to face my fear and go skydiving.

I can’t say for sure if any of my brain-boosting tactics will benefit me in the long run. But for the time being, I’m having a lot of fun. Which, I’m certain, is also good for the brain.

Tell me: How do you give your brain a boost? Share your experiences in the comments below or tweet us @ExperienceLife. 

Experience Life Magazine

Homemade Deodorant: B.O. No Mo’

Homemade Deodorant from PassionateHomemaking.com

Photo credit: PassionateHomemaking.com

Confession time: I stopped wearing antiperspirant/deodorant several years ago, much to my husband’s dismay. I had read about the possible negative health effects that antiperspirant could have on my body and just felt like it wasn’t worth the risk to wear it anymore.

Not using antiperspirant — the chemicals that prevent the body from sweating — would be fine and dandy except for one issue: I stink.

When I quit wearing antiperspirant, I sought out and tried numerous brands of organic deodorant. None have worked; in fact, they barely mask the smell.

There are some good days when the odor isn’t so bad. But then there are those days that I repulse myself (even within a few hours of showering). It’s been so bad at times that I’ve shortened workouts because I don’t want to offend my fellow gym-goers!

For special occasions (weddings, reunions, etc.), I will wear a popular brand of antiperspirant/deodorant so as not to embarrass myself or my dismayed husband. But even that product doesn’t work well: I still end up smelling myself by the end of the evening.

All these things considered, I had pretty much resigned myself to simply keeping my arms down and praying that nobody stood downwind from me. Then I remembered that baking soda is a known odor absorber, and I decided to try making my own deodorant using that as a base.

I’m not sure why I didn’t think of it sooner. Perhaps I just figured if the name brand deodorants didn’t work well, how could a homemade version possibly work?

The following is a recipe that I found at PassionateHomemaking.com. Amazingly, I happened to have all the ingredients at home so was able to whip it up:

Ingredients:

  • 6-8 tbs. coconut oil (solid state)
  • 1/4 cup baking soda
  • 1/4 cup arrowroot powder or cornstarch (arrowroot is preferred, but I used cornstarch)
  • A few drops of your favorite essential oil (I added a few drops of lavender)

Directions:

  1. Combine equal portions of baking soda and arrowroot powder/cornstarch.
  2. Slowly add coconut oil and work it in with a fork or hand blender until it maintains a firm but pliable texture. It should be about the same texture as commercial deodorant: solid but able to be applied easily. If it is too wet, add more arrowroot powder/cornstarch to thicken.
  3. Scoop the mixture into your old deodorant dispensers or place in a small container with lid (I used a small mason jar).
  4. Apply with fingers with each use.

Makes about 1 cup (enough for two people’s regular daily use) and lasts about three months.

I’ll admit: I didn’t think this would work well (my husband was even more skeptical). I mean, come on! There are scientists, chemical engineers, people with PhDs, etc., developing this stuff, and even more folks who make a fortune marketing and selling hygiene products to ward off unwanted smells. How could a homemade recipe with three ingredients work more effectively?

I applied a bit and set off for my own personal test.

The results? This simple, homemade recipe works better than any other product I’ve ever used! I don’t need to worry about offending anyone while doing lat pull downs, walking by someone at the gym, or standing in a group of people!

Plus, it’s passed the ultimate test: A 1.5-hour endurance studio cycle class. I gave myself a quick sniff after completing the ride and there wasn’t a hint of odor. I took a whiff of the T-shirt I had been wearing about an hour after class (we’re talking nose right to arm pit), and even then there was no odor!

I’m truly shocked, and thrilled, to have found such an effective recipe for deodorant. I hope you’ll give it a try. And I hope you’ll be just as happy with it as I’ve been!

Christy Rice is Experience Life‘s circulation coordinator. 

Experience Life Magazine

A Ski in the Park

It’s been a couple of years since I last blogged about cross-country skiing in which I wrote a recap of completing my 14th Birkie. Last year, just a week before the big race, I suffered a medical emergency that not only ended my season, but also required months of healing. Now, nine months later, my recovery is done, and I’ve been getting stronger and fitter through roller skiing, cycling, and strength training. I’m back on track to ski the Birkie once again in February.

Breaking Trail at West Yellowstone

Breaking Trail at West Yellowstone

To kick off this ski season, I traveled to Montana over Thanksgiving to attend the West Yellowstone Ski Festival. For years I’ve heard from my friends that it’s an event they loved and that I should someday experience, too. And were they right!

There were at least three thousand skiers from around the world who enjoyed the perfect conditions that week — plenty of well-groomed snow on over 35 kilometers of rolling, pristine trails that wound through lodgepole forests laden with snow. The daytime sky was cobalt blue and the temps rose from below 0 into the pleasant 20s and 30s each day.

There were races to watch, lots of friends to meet and ski with, plenty of lung-busting altitude to adapt to, and gorgeous mountain views to stop and photograph. It seemed that everyone was in heaven, skiing at least twice a day, in the morning and afternoon.

The evening ski expo was a place to see new equipment from major ski companies, to hear lectures, to see films, and even enjoy a ski-clothing fashion show. And for Thanksgiving, people made sure everyone had a place to go for a holiday meal.

One afternoon at dusk, my friend Matt decided he needed an easy ski to end the day, so we went to the Riverside trail on the edge of town. From there, we double-poled through ungroomed snow and came to an opening that overlooked the rushing Madison River in Yellowstone Park. After a brief stop to enjoy the Madison Range to the north, Matt headed off along the river, and I scrambled to keep up as we went deeper into the park. As the sun was setting, Matt took off and, realizing that I couldn’t keep up with him, I stopped to wait for his return after he finished exploring. The stillness, the darkening sky, the wildness of Yellowstone Park was at once breathtaking and also scary. When Matt finally returned, we double-poled like mad back to town. It was exhilarating, and I have to admit I was relieved to be safe again.

What better way to celebrate Thanksgiving and good health than by starting my ski season in the mountains of Montana.

(Look for more about my trip to West Yellowstone in a future issue of Experience Life.)

One of the many trails at sunset at the West Yellowstone Ski Festival

One of the many trails at sunset at the West Yellowstone Ski Festival

Range in Yellowstone Park

Madison Range in Yellowstone Park

Lone Skier at West Yellowstone

Lone Skier at West Yellowstone

Steve Waryan is Experience Life’s Copy Chief.

Experience Life Magazine

Behind the scenes with ‘punk rock yogi’ Sadie Nardini

Last week I had the pleasure of interviewing “punk rock yogi” Sadie Nardini for an upcoming Experience Life cover story.

For those who haven’t heard of her, Nardini is a NYC-based yoga instructor, host of Veria TV’s Rock Your Yoga, and author of the new book, The 28-Day Yoga Body.

She found yoga following a childhood illness that doctors predicted would leave her paralyzed for life, and used the practice to overcome her physical limitations, depression, and panic attacks. Not only did she build the strength to walk again, she has since become a combat boot-clad, steak-eating yoga powerhouse with an affinity for ninja wisdom (she practices the martial art of ninjutsu) and female empowerment.

Our interview veered from topics of life, death, depression, and downward-facing dogs, to Nardini’s favorite chocolate macaroon recipe and tips on cultivating your “inner badass.”

The full article won’t hit newsstands until March, but I thought I’d share a few of my favorite snippets from the Q&A. Without further ado, my top 5 takeaways…

Health is not about deprivation or punishment.

“I think it’s really important to reclaim the idea of what it means to be healthy, because we’ve got such a skewed perspective of what health and beauty is … We can improve without punishing ourselves or feeling bad for being imperfect. Really celebrating our bodies inside and out — that’s the new healthy.”

Confront your fears, dysfunctions, and past traumas. 

“That stuff doesn’t just sit down there hidden and quiet. It shows up in every single relationship you have. It shows up in how you feel from day to day, how insecure you are, how reactive you are. It shows up in your love relationships, in your family relationships, and in every decision you make.”

Don’t fear your mortality. 

When Nardini was warned that she may never walk again, “I decided I could always kill myself. I thought, ‘Well, that’s always an option for me. So let me try everything else humanly possible before I think anymore about such a final step.’ That gave me the courage to try anything. In Tibetan Buddhism, they call it ‘death consciousness.’ Instead of depressing you, it should make you focus more fully on the present moment, be more grateful for who you are and what you have, and be brave.

Embrace life’s challenges. 

“I have switched my mindset from being upset and disappointed when challenging things happen, to understanding that those are exactly the things that I need to strengthen myself and get more courageous. It’s a chance for me to really stand up for myself and be the best me I can be, and to change the things that aren’t working. The richest work you can do is in that space of discomfort.”

Eat for health AND pleasure.

“You want to exist in balance. You want to fuel your body properly and also have stuff that you really feel happy eating — whether it’s the clean, healthy food or a glass of wine or a little cocktail or chocolate here and there. Enjoy your life.”

Tell us: Do Sadie Nardini’s words resonate with you? What do you agree (and disagree) with? Leave a comment below or tweet us @experiencelife.

Experience Life Magazine

Big Band, Bad Diets

He was a talented musician and creative force and known for his dapper dress, but something you probably don’t know about Duke Ellington: He wore a corset. Like most people, and very many celebrities, it seems Duke had a heightened concern and self-awareness about how he looked.

DukeEllington

Picture via LastFM.

It is also noted in Terry Treachout’s biography, Duke: A Life of Duke Ellington, that he struggled with his weight.

“Duke, who is always worrying about keeping his weight down, may announce that he intends to have nothing but Shredded Wheat and black tea. … Duke’s resolution about not overeating frequently collapses at this point.”

That story has a familiar ring, doesn’t it? It’s true there have been, and continue to be, a lot of fad diets and old school rules to weight loss. If you’re like Duke Ellington and have tried any of them, you’ve probably figured out that most of them are bunk and just leave you demoralized, leading you to making not-so good-for-you eating choices and hating yourself for it.

I’ve never been all that concerned with losing weight — even a few years ago when I was 30 pounds heavier than I am now — yet I’ve experienced this vicious cycle while trying to make changes in my life.

People ask me what I did to drop 30 pounds in two years and there was no magic to it. It didn’t happen overnight and it wasn’t the focus of the change I wanted to make. I wanted to simply find — and live — a healthier, more joyful life.

I didn’t follow any of the old-school prescriptions for losing weight. What I did was buy a bicycle and use it as much as possible to get from place to place and pass the time. Riding a bike is one of the things that brings me the most pleasure in life. My vintage Raleigh, Sir Walter, has had a starring role in many of my adventures over the past three years.

SW1 SW2 SW3 SW4

As someone who really doesn’t like indoor workouts, circuits, squats, and that sort of thing, it was amazing that I somehow rediscovered lifting weights. But, it’s like Ellington said: “It don’t mean a thing (if it ain’t got that swing)” and it’s kettlebells that truly keep me in the swing of lifting.

I also made a few changes to my diet. I stopped eating processed foods for the most part (except potato chips — I just can’t seem to give those up!) and began experimenting with cooking. I used to drink soy milk, too, but after learning what’s in that stuff, I pretty much avoid any soy-based products now. I still eat some tofu or tempeh in a stir-fry occasionally.

I also worked on finding a cure for my insomnia. I visit an acupuncturist a few times a year now to help with this. (It started out as a few times a week and month.) My acupuncturist also helped me figure out which nutrients I was deficient in. It was quite a list. I’ve been surprised at just how much what I eat and drink impacts my sleep. Also, I was able to figure out my sleeping cycle. Talk about a revelation!

I guess my “secret” has been more physical activity, more sleep, and more home-cooked meals. Really, though, I’d say that feeling better has led me to feel happier about who I am, which has been the biggest gain of all.

So, if you’re interested in dropping a few pounds, and keeping them off, trying these five strategies might help. But, I think the biggest key to success is figuring out what — and who — brings you joy. Do those things. Spend time with those people. You’re bound to have more energy and support to reach any goal you might have.

Do you have a fitness milestone, weight loss or other story of healthy change you’d like to tell? We’d love to hear it! Share it on our “How I Did It” blog.

Heidi Wachter is the Community Engagement Specialist for Experience Life.

Experience Life Magazine

Giving Back: Girls on the Run

Before moving to the Twin Cities to join the Experience Life team, I worked a schedule that involved being at the office by 5 a.m. each morning. There was plenty that was painful, physically and mentally, about waking up to darkness and a buzzing 3:30 alarm, but the timing did free up my afternoons to pursue other interests.

While the obvious choice might be napping, my favorite after-work activity was volunteering at a D.C. public school as a running coach with Girls on the Run, a nationwide organization that uses physical activity as a way to build up confidence and self-esteem in young girls.

Every Monday and Wednesday, the other volunteers and I would meet at Tyler Elementary School in Southeast Washington to lead a group of 3rd and 4th grade girls through team-building, self-esteem-boosting, and anti-bullying exercises. Each session included a running “workout” or game that served as training toward an end-of-term 5K “fun run.”

As someone who doesn’t particularly like kids, the choice to become a GOTR coach surprised many of my friends and family.

But as someone who was once a shy little girl with little (ahem, zero) natural athletic talent — and who therefore never participated in team sports — the mission of the organization felt incredibly important.

GOTR gives girls a chance to be active and to be part of a team, without requiring any tryouts or special skills in return. All the girls have to do is treat each other with respect and kindness, and make an effort to run — even if that means walking around the track.

Over the course of my 10 or so weeks volunteering with GOTR in D.C., I became very attached to “my girls.”

Of course, it wasn’t always easy. These are pre-teen girls we’re talking about. There were afternoons when they’d throw fits, argue with each other, burst into tears, and flat-out refuse to participate.

There were the times when they were sweet and happy; they’d hold hands, burst into impromptu dance parties, and freely dole out hugs that, frankly, melted my heart.

And then there were the afternoons when they’d be so focused on the run that they’d get lost in the physical activity. With each lap around the field — whether they walked or jogged, sprinted or skipped — flaring emotions would calm and they’d work together toward their goals.

Since I moved from D.C. to Minneapolis in October, I arrived mid-semester — too late to sign up as a volunteer coach with GOTR’s Twin Cities chapter. Luckily, the organization offers a “Running Buddy” program for adults who want to support the girls but who can’t volunteer on a weekly basis.

As a Running Buddy, I’ll be paired with a girl for the Fall 5K, which will be held this Saturday. (If you’re in the area, feel free to swing by the Lake Nokomis course to cheer for our girls and say hello!) I’m beyond excited to meet my young buddy and complete the run with her. My only worry: Will I be able to keep up?

Tell me: What’s your favorite way to give back to your community? Leave a comment below or tweet us @experiencelife.

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