From lump to limber in 12 months flat

Last year I was a lump, and I didn’t know what to do about it.

I hadn’t always been that way. I used to travel everywhere by foot, nearly every day. My round-trip walk to work was six miles, plus on-foot journeys to see friends and buy groceries. I always had energy, and I assumed I was in good shape.

After a move from the city to the ‘burbs, I suddenly felt like an unhappy lump. I had to drive to get anywhere. Sure, I had mowing the lawn and unpacking slowly dwindling boxes of books around the house — but nothing like the exercise of my constant walking.

My new round-trip walk to work? Fifteen miles. Not a daily endeavor.

When I mentioned my new-found lumpiness to friends, no one took me seriously. I’m not visibly out-of-shape. “You’re so tiny,” they replied. (Or, less kindly, “Shove it, tiny.”) But I felt my energy level dwindling and my jeans getting tighter.

I needed a fitness intervention. A “fitervention,” if you will. The problem was that I have never enjoyed exercising just for the sake of it. Walking actually got me somewhere. I hate weights and find treadmills tedious, so I didn’t think the gym was for me.

I asked my fittest friends for their favorite home workouts. Some of them were both painful and a pain, and I wasn’t in good enough shape for intense cross-training. I kept coming back to one: yoga. I felt silly doing it alone in my living room, but I enjoyed how I got slightly stronger and more limber each time I practiced.

After a few months of bragging about my video yoga habit, my coworkers convinced me to attend an actual yoga class. Yes, in a gym. I hid at the back of my first session, terrified I wouldn’t be able to strike a single pose correctly …

… and I loved it!

I’ve been practicing yoga at least weekly ever since. As my confidence and flexibility increased, I tried many other exercises. Yes, even the dreaded weights and jogging, but also Spinning, Pilates, Zumba, and Boot Camp.

Now I feel like an anti-lump: I’m a gym-goer and fitness enthusiast. I find time to walk the talk every day, even if I don’t have time to do any walking.

I am not saying you must discover the power of yoga or that hitting the gym twice a week will solve all of your problems! My point is that fitness can be found in many different places, including one that’s right for you. It can be its own purpose, destination, and fun. You just have to find your fit.

Have you found fitness in a surprising place? Or, are you still battling your own lump-y tendencies?

Slow and steady wins the resolution race

From the crowded gyms, packed cardio classes, and long lines at the salad bar, I can tell people are trying to make good on their New Year’s resolutions. People make big resolutions to work out every day, lose a huge amount of weight, cut back on calories, fat, etc. And while working out and eating healthy are great goals, many people make unrealistic resolutions that set them up for failure before they even begin.

The best resolutions are ones that challenge you but are also doable

Instead of saying you’ll work out every day, try to just keep a consistent workout routine. Studies have shown that just 30 minutes of exercise a day is sufficient if you are looking to maintain your weight.

Want to lose weight? Add some minutes to your time at the gym.

Trying to live on salads alone? It won’t last long

Instead, add more fruit and veggies to your diet. Try a vegetable you’ve never had before. Until recently, I had never tried kale. I’m now a kale fanatic. Not only is it a great source of vitamins and nutrients, it’s also associated with low cholesterol levels, reduced risk of heart disease and some cancers, as well as healthy eyes. Find a vegetable you’ve never had before and search for a new recipe. You just might find a new favorite dish.

A regular fitness routine has more than just physical benefits

A 2010 study1 showed that adults who worked out regularly had lower rates of depression than adults who didn’t work out consistently.

This year, my resolution is to pack my lunch at least four days a week. It helps me control what I eat, gives me the chance to try out new recipes, and helps my wallet too. It’s something I can stick with for a while, but isn’t too difficult.

Did you make a New Year’s resolution? Are you finding it hard to stick to?


Shimmying my way to a new body

Mysterious. Sensual. Seductive. No, I am not talking about the latest Desperate Housewives episode. I’m talking about belly dancing. This surprisingly underrated form of dance and movement is not as easy as you may think

On a rainy night in January, I trekked back into the city from my Delaware County home to try Belly Dance I at Studio 1831 with locally renowned belly dance performer Valarina, who is also the owner of the studio.

I have taken every dance class you can think of: ballet, jazz, tap, contemporary, hip hop, and modern. Needless to say, coordination is definitely my friend thanks to the thousands of dollars my parents spent on these lessons. (Thanks mom and dad!) With my background in dance, I was pretty confident that I’d pick up the movements of belly dancing quickly. So, even though I was nervous to try something new, I was more excited than anything else.

The class was made up of seven women, including myself. All of these ladies were different ages, shapes, and sizes, which showed me that it doesn’t matter what your body type is. Anyone can belly dance! All of the girls wore comfortable clothes, some with decorative hip wraps. Fortunately, Valarina had extra hip wraps so I didn’t’ feel left out!

After warming up, we worked on isolating our hips, shoulders, chest, and stomach. I’ve done this before in jazz and ballet class, but the technique in belly dance is slightly different. The idea is to control your muscles so you are only moving one part of your body at a time, or to make two different parts of your body do two different things. For me, it was difficult, to be trained one way and try to retrain your body to do something else. Valarina told me quite a few times that I looked “too hip hop.”

At times I felt like I looked completely silly. My brain was telling my hips to move and my shoulders to stay still but it wasn’t working. Valarina was very patient with me and came over to give me some extra help. In fact, when I realized she took the time to help each girl, I didn’t feel as bad.

The truth is you are supposed to feel silly at first.

Your body is moving in ways it may never have before. Valarina and some of the other participants say that practice makes perfect when it comes to belly dancing. Two of the girls, who I had noticed during the class were more advanced, said that they looked a lot like I did in the beginning. But they are actually really good now.

Valarina is pretty amazing at what she does. Her isolations are the best I’ve ever seen and her technique is pretty remarkable, too. You can tell how much she loves it. Her movement exudes joy, which made me love my time there, too. I didn’t want the class to end.

I highly recommend trying Belly Dance at Studio 1831. It doesn’t matter if you are an experienced dancer or have never taken an exercise class; everyone starts out on the same page. It is challenging, but that’s what makes accomplishing a hip shimmy that much more satisfying. Then, the next time you’re at a wedding or dance club, you have awesome new moves that I bet no one else can do!

Is belly dancing something you’d be interested in trying? Check out the IBX facebook page for a great deal on this class and more at Studio 1831!

Work out where you work

It’s simple but true: adopting better habits at work can go a long way to improving your overall health.

Fujirebio Diagnostics, a company specializing in health diagnostic tools, took that lesson to heart when they implemented a health and wellness program for their employees. Their goal, according to Lynne Woodside, a human resources representative at Fujirebio Diagnostics, was to “benefit the overall health of our employees.”

Worksite wellness beyond the ordinary

Starting three years ago, Fujirebio Diagnostics began offering a slate of wellness services that went well beyond the ordinary. Besides an on-site fitness center staffed by a personal trainer once a week, employees were offered the chance to take fun exercises classes, including Zumba and yoga. Today, workers can even join volleyball and basketball leagues.

To sweeten the incentive to exercise, Fujirebio Diagnostics continues to offer an extra 15 minutes at lunch for those who want to work out during their break.

In the future, Fujirebio Diagnostics will rotate the types of exercises offered and conduct wellness-themed workshops. Even the gym is scheduled for an upgrade as it moves to a new, larger location.

WalkingWorks really works at Fujirebio Diagnostics

Fujirebio Diagnostics has also found PLUS, an enhanced version of the WalkingWorks Plus administered by Independence Blue Cross (IBX), to be successful in encouraging people to put on their walking shoes and get moving.

PLUS is more than your typical walking program. IBX has enhanced PLUS so it is a behavior-change program with measured health results.

With the PLUS initiative, participants set their own personal walking goal on their way to achieving the ideal goal of 10,000 steps a day for better health.

At Fujirebio Diagnostics, participants walk around the corporate park as part of the program, even as temperatures headed south this winter.

Healthier habits can trim waistlines and health care costs

Woodside sees the impact every day, and not just with the walkers. “Employees are taking 15 –20 minutes out of their day to go for a walk with their co-workers or go to the gym and work out.”

Considering that research has shown walking and regular exercise is tied to lower rates of coronary heart disease, lower cholesterol, and improved blood glucose levels, the benefits to employees, and Fujirebio Diagnostics, could be huge.

Interested in starting your own Worksite Wellness program?

Check out this Worksite Wellness Toolkit from IBX.

Got your own Worksite Wellness story?

Tell us all about it. In the Comments Section, let us know what you think of your Worksite Wellness program.

Practice makes perfect

Do you remember your teacher giving you what seemed like tons of homework, because “practice makes perfect?” Well, those three words have become my healthy living mantra. I am now eleven months into my healthy living plan and, needless to say, I’ve had a few fumbles along the way.

However, I have managed to find a routine that works for me.

Creating a diet and exercise plan was no easy task 

Weight Watchers® provided me with nutrition tools and moral support from people walking the same path. IBX provided easily accessible fitness tools and resources, such as the Healthy Lifestyles℠ programs, nutritional counseling benefits, onsite gym, and IBX Healthy Steps. However, marrying Weight Watchers® and the support I gained from IBX in a way that fit into my day-to-day life was accomplished through practice.

Some people can purchase healthy meals for breakfast or lunch with little to no effort. I tried it and I found myself making the least healthy choice more often than I wanted to. Others can choose an apple over a cupcake without a second thought. Not me.

Through trial and error, I learned that the best method for me is to plan ahead. So, each night while cooking dinner, I decide what I am going to have for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snack the following day to ensure that I make healthier choices.

Me + the treadmill + my iPod = the perfect combination

When I first started going to the gym, I went with a group of four people. At the time, I wasn’t physically capable of keeping up with them. Although they went out of their way to make me feel welcome, I was pretty uncomfortable. Then, I decided to go with a close friend. That didn’t work out so well either because we spent more time talking than actually working out. About two months after that, I got an iPod. Bingo, it worked!

As 2011 comes to a close, the thing that I am most proud of is finding the PERFECT healthy living routine for me…even if it took some practice.

What are some of things that fit perfectly into your healthy living routine?

Worksite Wellness Goes Back to School

Worksite Wellness is not only an idea that works for Fortune 500 companies. At Drexel University in Philadelphia, their wellness program, A Healthier U, appeals to the university’s diverse faculty, staff, and students.

Victor Tringali, director of University Wellness, said that A Healthier U was “the perfect opportunity to affect 30,000-plus people to improve their health.”

A Healthier U offers a holistic approach, covering participants’ emotional, physical, and financial well-being. How?

“The biggest impact is that you see more and more people who you wouldn’t expect to see participate. Folks who aren’t as physically active and who don’t always participate in healthy behaviors are slowly gravitating towards the program because they have a colleague or friend that does.”

First, those who choose to participate never have to feel as though they have to go through it alone. Students and employees can work out with friends and family at the Drexel Recreation Center, a gym with 240,000 square feet of recreational space.

All are invited to take part in a variety of wellness-related programming, including stress management programs, lectures, and more. And better living doesn’t have to be boring either.

A Healthier U also puts the emphasis on fun. For example, staff who want a gold medal can compete in an Employee Olympics. And for students who want to give wall climbing a shot – yes, A Healthier U offers a program for that, too.

Drexel Aces the Wellness Challenge

A Healthier U also makes it easier to get tools to succeed online. Right on their website, participants can find:
• walking maps of some of Philadelphia’s favorite attractions, including an 8.5 mile Schuylkill River Trail loop;
• a personal health profile that delivers a customized snapshot of participants’ well-being;
• budget calculators and other resources to maintain financial wellness.

All in all, Tringali wants people to take one lesson from A Healthier U: “True wealth comes with good health.”

Is Worksite Wellness working for you?

Got a wellness program at work or school? Tell us all about what you like (or don’t like) about it in the comments section.