Embrace Forward Motion

Wellness, fitness & personal growth


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Before Rushing Into New Year’s Resolutions…

It’s time for an End-of-Year Review!

End-of-Year Reviews give insight into the past year. New Year’s resolutions are more meaningful (and hopefully longer lasting) if we take time to evaluate our previous year.

Reflection is part of growth and self-improvement, so why would we want to miss out on that?

An End-of-Year Review allows you to:

  • See how you started, how you’re doing and where you’re headed
  • Record progress and personal growth
  • Compare numbers (speed/distance/time) or how you felt throughout the year
  • Notice patterns
  • Identify successes and challenges
  • Brainstorm New Year’s resolutions

Ways to get started on your review:

  • Think chronologically. Take it one month at a time. How did the year go? Which patterns, successes and challenges come to light?
  • Reflect back on last year’s resolutions. How did those turn out?
  • Identify new activities or interests you picked up. Note ones you just tried out and others you continue to do. The new keeps it fun.
  • Time to brainstorm! What would you like to accomplish in the upcoming year?

Ongoing reflection throughout the year keeps you successful. Check out how to Track Your Progress and Start a Fitness Log.

If you’re eager to get started on your resolutions, learn how to Make Physical Activity a Habit.

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Money-Saving Tips on New Gym Memberships

Embrace Forward Motion

Enrolling in a gym is like starting a relationship: you need one that you like, fulfills your needs and wants, fits your lifestyle, and will not suck all the money out of your pocket.

With that in mind, here are some money-saving tips on new gym memberships:

Initiation Fees and Membership Dues

  • Initiation fees are typically one-time payments, while membership dues are normally recurring.
  • Fitness clubs at times may offer six-month or one-year commitment discounted rates. Basically, you pay up front for a given period of time, at a lower price than the current monthly rate (if added for the length of the contract).
    • Don’t go for the long-term contract. If you have an injury, don’t like the gym, change address or end up not going as often you thought you would, you won’t be getting your money’s worth and you can’t get your money back.
    • Stick with monthly payments. Give yourself the luxury of being able to cancel if and when you need to.
    • Wait for a better time of year. If the best deal currently is the packaged offer, you are likely not getting the best deal possible.
    • Ideal Best Deal = Low (or $0) initiation fees, low monthly payments.
    • Realistic Best Deal = Special Offer initiation fee (maybe 50% off regular), and LOW monthly payments. 

Best times of Year

  • Fitness clubs will run special offers throughout the year. Popular times are summer months, right BEFORE the New Year and the end of each month. Most gyms must complete membership quotas and they cram offers at the end of the month or year if they haven’t met their sales requirements.

About Those Quotas…

  • Sales representatives (real or virtual) will approach you in with enrollment or retention in mind. Though neither is better than the other, this is what you can expect:
    • Enrollment: Most fitness clubs have sales representatives who must fulfill enrollment quotas. Simply put, sales reps must enroll X number of new members monthly, quarterly, annually, etc. If you expressed the faintest interest in joining, these people really want you to join their gym. They will call you, e-mail you, send you offers and leave messages. And then a week later they will do it again.
    • Retention: Selective fitness centers may have retention quotas instead. The sales representatives’ performance is determined by how many loyal members they keep for the long term. This means that if you are new and show the slightest indication that you may not be with them long term, they may even discourage you (in a nice way) from joining, or say that this fitness club may not be the best fit for your wellness goals.

Bargaining Tips

  • Ask people you know who are members how much they pay monthly. Use that as leverage with the sales rep for your own dues.
  • Compare prices with similar gyms and present the competition to the sales representative.

Extra Tips

  • Many gyms offer couple or family member discounts or account extensions with a low transfer/initiation fee. Ask about those if it applies.
  • Call your health insurance. Most will offer monthly reimbursements if you attend one of their selected gyms an X amount of days per month.
  • Don’t jump at the first offer. Thank the rep and say you’ll think about it. Afterwards, compare and bargain.
  • Find the best fit for the least amount of money. No more, no less!

Need help unscrambling the confusing world of gym membership amenities? Check out Gym-Shopping Stress Free: Factors to Consider.


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Gym Shopping Stress-Free: Factors to Consider

Gym

If it’s nearing that time of year when you’re thinking about joining a fitness club, or if you are interested in switching from your current one, it’s time to start gym shopping! First, figure out what you’re looking for.

Here are some membership benefits to consider when choosing the fitness club that best fits your needs:

Cost of Membership

  • Monthly membership dues can typically range anywhere from $25 to $120 a month. The more expensive a club is, the more expansive, clean and high-quality it will likely be. Watch out for initiation fees–certain clubs have fees as high as $200, though many provide special offers throughout the year with no, or lower, initiation fees. Cost will likely end up being one of your biggest factors when deciding.

Group Fitness Classes

  • Fitness classes are, in my opinion, awesome to keep you going, entertained and motivated through the winter. They are great for trying out new activities, developing skills and having fun with others. Every class will be different every time. Ask to see the weekly schedule of classes to figure out if the ones you are interested in match your availability. Small fitness clubs may have studios available with recorded on-demand workout videos, instead of on-site instructors.

Aquatics Facilities, Courts and Studios

  • Availability and quality of aquatic facilities, courts and studios may be a make-or-break deal for some people. Large complexes will have the widest variety. Don’t forget to check availability (and location) of saunas and steam rooms.

Professional Support

  • Need personal training, nutritional coaching or fitness assessments? Upscale large fitness clubs have a professional for every need and muscle group, medium-sized facilities have trainers for training sessions and floating on the fitness floor to answer questions, while small centers will typically just have trainers available when leading a personal training session. Seek places with the support you need.

Child Care

  • if you have kids and need someone to watch them while you work out, find a gym that offers on-site babysitting. It’ll be one less thing to worry about.

Location

  • Preferably find a fitness center that is close to home or work. The easier it is to get to, the more likely you’ll go. It’ll also save time commuting.

Hours

  • Maybe you need one of those 24-hour gyms, perhaps one that closes by 10 p.m. is good enough for you, or you may be in dire need of a fitness center open at 5 a.m.. Check schedules.

Now that you know what you’re looking for, start by:

  • Browsing online for gyms (and their benefits) in your area
  • Visiting a few locations
  • Asking the sales representatives lots of questions!

Remember you’re still shopping, so don’t get pressured by the sales! Check out how to find the best deals on fitness club memberships.


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Volunteering at Races: How to Get Involved and Support Runners

Medals at Women Rock 10K. Saint Paul, 2015.

Women Rock 10K Medals. Saint Paul, MN. 2015. Photo Credit: Tali Levin

Volunteers are awesome!

I had competed in half-marathons in years past, but it wasn’t until my first marathon last year that I became truly aware and thankful of everyone who helped me reach the finish line successfully. Since then, I’ve volunteered at five race events in the Twin Cities with three different organizations, and it’s been an absolutely amazing way to grow!

Why Volunteer for Races?

Every runner has a reason for participating in a race. For some, this is their first race, others compete for a personal record time, some do it just for fun, or they may run with a special someone in their thoughts. Of course, there is an endless number of other reasons!

Runners’ goals and aspirations depend on the organization’s staff and volunteers to make race day happen. Without volunteers, there is no race.

With Whom Can I Volunteer?

The Twin Cities hosts three main organizations that orchestrate year-round race series:

  • Twin Cities in Motion
    • Organizes Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon and the Red, White & Boom! Half Marathon, among others.
  • Minnesota Running Series
    • Plans Goldy’s Run, Lake Minnetonka Half Marathon and Turkey Trot, among others.
  • Team Ortho
    • Known for the Get Lucky Half Marathon, Minneapolis Marathon and Monster Dash, among others.

There are many other running race organizations all over the country.

Who Volunteers?

People of all ages and backgrounds, runners and non-runners, groups and individuals.

What Are the Perks of Volunteering?

As a volunteer, you can expect to receive:

  • A volunteer shirt or apparel from the organization.
  • Snacks or refreshments (depending on organization and weather).
  • “Bones” per hour of service (Team Ortho Only): Bones act as points that may be redeemed for race entries or apparel.
  • Some leftover food at the end of the race.
  • Plenty of smiles and “Thank You”s from grateful runners and staff!

What Are Typical Volunteer Tasks?

When signing up online, you choose where you want to help and the type of responsibilities you may have:

  • Before Race Day – Prepare race packets; set-up, facilitate and take-down Expo and/or packet pick-up
  • Start Line – Set-up, bag drop, direct runners, take-down.
  • Out on the Course – Be a course marshall (enforce course and direct runners), prepare and hand out water/sports drinks at fluid stops, pass out gels (marathons only).
  • Finish Line – Set-up, prepare and pass out medals, direct runners, hand out food and drinks, give wet towels or Mylar blankets (marathons only), bag pick-up, take-down.
  • Post-Race Party – Set-up, assist in tents and activities, take-down.

How Do I Get Started?

  1. Find a race or organization.
    • Volunteering in the Twin Cities or Minnesota:
      • Follow the links for the organizations listed above and find the Volunteering tabs.
    • Volunteering in other cities:
      • Find the websites to local races you know in your area, or search in Google “(Your State) Marathon” or “(Your City) Running Races”.
    •  Use the Runner’s World Race Finder tool.
  2. Check out the volunteering opportunities for the event.
  3. Sign up and attend individually, with a friend or group!


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DO’s and DON’T’s of Overcoming Injuries: A Personal Discovery

Injuries are unexpected and inconvenient. As a typical 20-something, I sometimes feel like I am invincible. Nevertheless, a recent injury put a halt to my duathlon training. I present to you DO’s and DON’Ts, which I’ve discovered during my recovery, of overcoming injuries, as well as a narrative… because who doesn’t love a good injury story?

Two weeks ago I was out on a training run. Diverting my attention to the side, I stepped where the sidewalk meets the grass. Ungracefully, I fell and sprained my ankle. As I watched my ankle swell up and felt pain in my arch, thoughts of “well, that was stupid” and “there goes my race” flooded in. First lessons:

  • DO watch where you’re going when running.
  • DON’T put yourself down. Recognize mistakes and move past them.

After limping back home a few blocks, I dug up my ankle brace (saved from a previous ankle sprain and foot fracture on my other foot) and RICE’d up my day– Rest, Ice, Compress, Elevate. And of course, sadly canceled plans and sat at home at a loss of what to do.

  • DO RICE–Rest, Ice, Compress, Elevate–the injured limb.
  • DO keep braces, crutches or other injury “accessories”– you may need them again.

A week went by. I used my ankle brace daily, and a crutch the first few days. After talking to trainers and runners, hearing a few “I-wish-I-would-have-taken-care-of-my-injury-when-it-happened-because-now-I’m-doomed-with-weak-joints” stories, and recognizing that I intend to continue running, I set up a visit with the podiatrist.

  • DO go see a doctor if the injury is not improving, getting worse, or you want to figure out what’s wrong exactly and treat the injury accordingly.

Doctor’s advice: Ankle ligaments will take six weeks to heal completely, and the plantar fasciitis should be relieved with stretching. Until then, no running, no biking, no race. Of course I tried to bargain on the biking, but she remained firm with her answer. After giving it some thought, I decided: I’m planning on keeping a well-working ankle for the next 70 years… relatively, six weeks is not that long.

  • DON’T rush your healing time. Cutting off recovery and rehab time will highly increase chances of reinjury.
  • DO think of your recovery time as an investment: one extra week now may translate to an extra year for your limb to properly work years down the road.
  • DO recognize your body has limits. Respect them.
  • DO be realistic about safely resetting goals.

If I had to pick my top two lessons from this experience, these are it:

  • DO stay positive.
  • DO embrace this time as an opportunity to explore new areas of personal growth and wellness.


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Setting Up For Healthy Sleep

A good night’s rest makes all the difference in our day. Good sleep improves our mood and performance, recharges our bodies and minds, and helps us grow.

So how do we get good sleep? To begin, we need to establish the right setting.

In his book Sound Asleep: The Expert Guide to Sleeping Well, Dr. Chris Idzikowski, BSc, PhD, FBPsS, recommends the following tips for setting a healthy sleep environment:

Simplify the Space

  • Reserve the room for sleeping and sex only
    • No work, electronics or pets
  • Eliminate clutter
  • Consider painting walls with calming colors or rearranging furniture (such as Feng Shui)

Regulate the Temperature

  • Maintain a cool room
  • Use breathable natural fiber linens and sleepwear

Keep it Dark

  • Block outside light with heavy curtains
    • May leave a small gap for sunlight to filter in the morning (if preferred)
  • Avoid bright lights
    • Includes phones, TVs and tablets
    • Before bed, turn off the ceiling light and turn on a lamp
    • Opt for night lights with a red, instead of white, glow (if needed)

Nourish the Silence

  • Outdoor noise may be reduced with white noise, heavy curtains, earplugs or closed windows

Pick your Mattress

  • Choose the right firmness for your needs
    • When buying a new mattress, lay down and try different positions. Do not be embarrassed to lay there for 10 minutes–you’ll be spending a lot of time on the mattress you buy

Although some of these items may seem no-brainers, plenty of us are still not getting adequate sleep. Likely, we are not doing all we can to purify our sleeping space. Trying Dr. Idzikowski’s suggestions and changing one aspect of our sleeping environment may just be what we need to be more successful tomorrow.


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Best Urban Trails in Minneapolis and St. Paul

Summertime is great for exploring the outdoors! The Twin Cities are well known for their beautiful urban landscape, with an abundance of vitalizing parks, trails and bodies of water.

Here is my selection of the Best Trails in Minneapolis and St. Paul for every mood. If you are looking to be by…

The Lakes

  • Check out the Chain of Lakes. Among the lakes, Lake Calhoun is the biggest (and seemingly with the highest number of active people) in Minneapolis. Looking for something calmer? Explore Lake Harriet–family friendly, with shade under trees and lake views throughout. Rest by the Lake Harriet Bandshell for food, and free movies and music in the summer.

    Chain of Lakes

    Chain of Lakes

The Mississippi River

  • Go see West River Parkway (Minneapolis side)–beautiful stretches between Broadway St. and Plymouth Ave., and south of Lake St. to Minnehaha Falls Park.

    West River Parkway

    West River Parkway

  • Try Mississippi River Boulevard (St. Paul side). Enjoy scenic views of the river between Franklin Ave. and Summit Ave. Be sure to stop at the landscaped rest area where Summit Ave. meets the Boulevard for amazing panoramic views, a historic monument and hidden dirt trail and waterfalls down by the river.

    Mississippi River Boulevard

    Mississippi River Boulevard

A Residential Area

  • Go for a stroll on St. Anthony Parkway in Northeast Minneapolis. Suburban feel in an urban landscape. Winding off-road trail and sidewalk, plenty of green to catch your eye and quiet neighborhood. Make a stop at Deming Heights Park to reach the highest elevation in Minneapolis. (The St. Anthony Parkway bridge on the west end of the Parkway will be under construction from Aug. 2015 to summer of 2017; plan for an alternative connecting route if coming from the west.)

    St. Anthony Parkway

    St. Anthony Parkway

Minnehaha Creek

  • Run on the Minnehaha Parkway trails. A hidden urban escape with fluid, gentle water sounds. The tree canopy makes it easy to forget you are in the middle of the city. Great connecting route between Lake Harriet, Lake Nokomis and Minnehaha Falls.

    Minnehaha Parkway

    Minnehaha Parkway

Open Prairie Fields

  • Ride on the Cedar Lake Trail. Parts of the trail accommodate pedestrians and cyclists with three separate parallel lanes, including one-way bike lanes in each direction. Fast commute. with ample sun and open space. Bring your own water supply in the summer; there are only a few water sources available. Connect with the Kenilworth Trail for a tree- and shade-filled oasis that leads to the Chain of Lakes.
Cedar Lake Trail

Cedar Lake Trail

Kenilworth Trail

Kenilworth Trail

The Middle of the City

  • Go on the Midtown Greenway. Although not very scenic, it gets you where you need to go. With many street exits in the middle of Minneapolis, the Greenway starts at W. River Pkwy., stretches past Lake Calhoun and merges with the Cedar Lake Trail.

    Midtown Greenway

    Midtown Greenway