It’s fun burning calories at the Blue Cross RiverRink

I am fortunate to come from a huge family. I spend much of my free time hanging out with my cousins because we enjoy spending time together. At any family party, you will find us all together laughing, telling stories, and planning our next outing.

One topic of conversation that you can always bet on us having is how we can be healthier. We are Italians, so naturally, we love sitting around a table, snacking on chips and dip and talking with our hands. I’m sure we burn some calories with our swift hand gestures, but recently, we tried thinking of some other activities that will get us out of the house.

Last weekend, I, along with my cousins Lauren, Nicole, and Janine, drove down to the Blue Cross RiverRink at Penn’s Landing. With age ranges from 19 to 27, we struggle with finding activities we can all do that is fun, inexpensive, and active. The Blue Cross RiverRink meets these standards and much more.

We arrived as the first skate session of the day began at 12:30pm. Lacing up our skates itself was a challenge, testing our strength while we pulled each lace tightly around the metal hooks. Then came the challenge of balancing on our blades while walking from the benches inside to the ice outdoors

I think we were all pretty nervous. Once our blades touched down on the ice, we were wobbly and unsteady. We started out pretty slow, keeping close to each other in case one of us fell. And don’t worry, there were plenty of close calls. But not one of us fell during the entire two-hour session! By the end we were pros, gliding around the oval like Michelle Kwon. Well, maybe not quite like Michelle Kwon, but we were really flying.

For each hour you skate around the ice, you burn 550 calories. So, in two hours, we each burned nearly 1,000 calories! (This is factoring in the breaks we took and the zamboni intermission.) Not bad for a Saturday afternoon.

I think it’s definitely worth checking out the Blue Cross RiverRink. You can’t beat the view overlooking the river front. Located just off Columbus Boulevard, it’s easy to get to. It’s also an inexpensive, fun, and healthy activity for the whole family to enjoy.

What are some other activities you enjoy that help you burn calories during the winter?

Life and Weight Management: The ultimate juggling act

I have to share some amazing facts for a moment. I can officially say I’ve completed a 5k, 10k, 10miler, and a half marathon – in that order – over the past 13 months. I am 115 lbs lighter. My clothes are 9 sizes smaller. I have worked very hard on the outside. Getting a handle on health and wellness has made me stronger physically, mentally, and emotionally. Wellness is a multi layered concept.  While training for the half marathon, I realized that I had gone from feeling out of control and using food as a form of control to understanding that there are other forms of positive release to maintain a life balance.

The juggling act

The theme of balance has come up in my previous blog post. To me, life is the ultimate juggling act while balancing on a tightrope. Sometimes we drop the balls. Sometimes we fall to the net. Sometimes we even miss the net and get hurt. But we have to make the consistent effort to get up, dust off, and get back up there to start the juggling act all over again.

It is only with patience that we become at peace in balancing the “stuff” we worry about on the inside. I thought of this as I was coming around the corner of Columbus Boulevard on to Washington Avenue while running mile four of the half marathon. I saw a man running and juggling. Yes, you read that right — juggling while running!!! I laughed. Some people pointed and others said he was crazy. But it was inspirational to see. We all have to find a way to juggle effectively.

Most people think weight management is about counting calories, reps, or miles. Weight management, for me, is about balancing how I handle stress, how I communicate my feelings, and how realistic my expectations are for myself. Being the “funny fat girl” my entire life has been a great persona to hide behind — both literally and figuratively —but now I am truly ready to be a fabulous, well-rounded woman.

Looking ahead

Sometimes I don’t recognize the person in the mirror. As women we are bombarded with images of what we should look like. We have misconceived perceptions of our own body image. Even the most beautiful women have insecurities. I have insecurities no matter what the number on the scale says. This is part of the internal “stuff” that I deal with while trying to keep my juggling act going and stay on the tightrope. I count the calories, reps, and miles, and yet I still have those struggles.

It is said that it takes about two years for your mind to appreciate a massive weight change and really see the truth in the mirror. Slowly, I am beginning to see the new me. I am seeing the well-rounded, confident woman I have become. It is a revelation that elates me.

With the beginning of a new year, I will continue to count the calories, reps, and miles, but I will also continue to appreciate the moments when I absolutely love myself inside and out. My goals are to continue to challenge myself mentally and physically and bask in the balance of health and wellness that I have been fortunate enough to discover.

I have to share some more facts. I am strong. I am confident. I love myself.

Knowing all of this, the possibilities are endless.

What has helped you stay balanced in this circus act we call life?

Finding my groove

I want to dedicate this blog post to a fitness craze that is taking the world by storm and has really worked for me in the past…Zumba. I’m sure you’ve seen the infomercials and heard the buzz from your friends who take a class at a local gym. I am here to tell you, Zumba lives up to all the hype!

Zumba is a Latin-inspired fitness program that incorporates dance and aerobics. Routines can include dance styles like hip-hop, salsa, martial arts, and even Bollywood. Instructors are vibrantly dressed like they belong in a music video and are highly-entertaining. A good instructor is like a dancer and a cheerleader all rolled into one.

I was introduced to Zumba three years ago during warm ups at the dance studio I attended. My teacher went to New York City to get certified to teach Zumba and tested it out on our class. From that first taste three years ago, I was hooked!

Maybe it’s because I grew up learning dance routines, but Zumba really worked for me. It’s fun, joyful, and the best part is…no one cares if you mess up or what you look like doing it. To be honest, anyone can do it. You don’t have to be a dancer and you don’t need rhythm. Most instructors are very encouraging and will tell you that as long as you are moving, you’re doing a great job. Even my mom, who has only mastered the “step-clap” to “Build Me Up Buttercup,” tried Zumba and liked it.

My hectic life has caused me to put my fitness and weight-loss goals on the back burner, but taking just ONE class made me realize how important these goals are to me, and, how easy (and fun!) they can be to accomplish, too. I think I’ll attend another Zumba class next week.

Check out your local gym or dance studios for Zumba classes. I encourage you to try it because it’s a great way to have fun and get in shape at the same time!

Shifting the traditions

I come from a large family where Sunday meals and holiday celebrations were big, food-filled events. We were the kind of family that sat down to dinner every weeknight. Still to this day, as soon as you get in the door, Mom will ask if you’re hungry. Between making gingerbread houses from scratch to baking cookies, holiday traditions mostly revolved around food.

Now that I’ve lost weight and am committed to a healthier life, I’m not happy with the old traditions. I want to spend time with my family without thinking that the Thanksgiving meal might make someone develop Type 2 diabetes or have a gallbladder attack. However, I can’t just skip all family functions without becoming the family Grinch. So what to do?

I’ve found some new, healthy traditions to replace some of the old, dessert-packed events. For example, if the weather is nice, my family and I go for a hike along Forbidden Drive and the Wissahickon on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s days. I’ve even been known to go snow-shoeing if visiting family in Vermont. Once you are out and moving around, the cool air feels refreshing. Just be sure to wear the right layers. I’ve found that even though I’ve “earned” some calories from my walk, the exercise curbs my appetite at the meal later in the day.

I’ve also become the designated salad-maker for all family functions. If I fill up on a healthy salad, I don’t have as much room for candied yams or mashed potatoes. I still get to contribute to the family meal, but don’t feel obligated to make an unhealthy dish I don’t want to eat anyway. 

Don’t be mistaken – this isn’t a boring iceberg lettuce salad. I like to use a variety of greens – everything from romaine to arugula and purple mizuna. I throw in a variety of diced veggies like cucumber, baby carrots, radishes, tomatoes, mushrooms, hearts of palm, and artichoke hearts. To add some protein, I also include some chickpeas or another bean.

By adding exercise and a healthy dish to the holidays, I get to be a part of the family celebration without backtracking on my health commitment.

What do you do to make the holidays healthier? Have you ever done a turkey trot or jingle bell run? Is there a way you make the family meal healthier?