Embrace Forward Motion

Wellness, fitness & personal growth


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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


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Our Bodies Talk, Let’s Listen

“Our bodies are speaking to us all the time. Often, we don’t listen to them until they are screaming at us in pain.” – Jacki, yoga instructor

Our bodies are wonderful, biological machines: they know when we are cold or hot, hungry or full, thirsty, sore and hurt. In theory, we should be able to give our bodies everything they need and know when they are satisfied.

The problem? Our thoughts and emotions get in the way.

The solution: check in with the body periodically and identify cause and effect as to why we are feeling a certain way. Checking in is not about developing guilt, but rather self-control and personal growth.

Food

Food is a prime example. We may eat because we are…

  • hungry
  • bored
  • upset
  • feeling social pressure
  • indulging on food that looks or tastes great

Biologically speaking, we need to eat because we are hungry and need nutrients to nourish our bodies. Sometimes certain foods bring back treasured memories, making us happier and whole. It’s alright to indulge on occasion, both physically and emotionally, but during the majority of meals we can check in with our bodies to see if our stomachs are satisfied. Think: Why am I eating? Am I hungry? 

Physical Discomfort

Let’s define here “discomfort” as a antecedent to pain or soreness. Viruses and bacteria aside, we often experience physical discomfort due to our environment or the way we are treating our bodies. This may occur during physical activity, meals, or other daily routine or activities.

Checking in with the body in times of discomfort may alleviate situations. If we are experiencing…

  • A headache after a long work day: reduce stress by relaxing, become surrounded by dimmer lighting and quieter environment.
  • Discomfort in shoulder from helping a friend move: take a rest day or focus on lower body exercise
  • Shin splints while running: adjust running form to diminish or eliminate heel-striking

At times, recognizing and removing a harmful trigger of discomfort, or finding an alternative, will prevent the discomfort from turning into pain or soreness. We will be less likely to use pain killers and instead teach our bodies to avoid future discomfort. Think: How is my setting or what I am doing enabling physical discomfort? How do I prevent it from becoming physical pain?

Checking in with the body develops body awareness and personal growth. It gives us a chance to pause. Our bodies are talking to us; we just have to listen and they will lead us on the right path.


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Strategies for Sparking Change in Physical Activity

Mississippi River Overlook

Change challenges us and helps us thrive, as individuals and as a community. Pursuing and maintaining a physically active lifestyle will allow us to be healthy, happy and productive people.

It’s easier to progress our personal growth when we have direction. The five Stages for Motivational Readiness for Change, as explained in my earlier post Making Physical Activity a Habit, guide individuals on creating lifelong habit changes in physical activity.

Here are strategies you can implement to move up the stages and spark change in your current levels of physical activity:

How to advance through the Stages of Change

1. Identify which stage you are in (for guidance, click here).

2. Read through and consider the following selection of recommendations from Motivating People to Be Physically Active (Forsyth & Marcus, 2003) on how to advance through the stages. Many of these are cumulative and continue to apply as you move up the stages; some are specific to the stage.

If you are in…

Stage 1 – Inactive and not thinking about becoming more active

  • Write down how your sedentary lifestyle is affecting you and your loved ones
  • Determine benefits of physical activity and how much these matter to you
  • Look back at past attempts at behavior change and identify learned experiences

Stage 2 – Inactive and thinking about becoming more active

  • Expand knowledge on benefits of physical activity
  • Identify excuses and issues that prevent you from engaging in physical activity
  • Create achievable short-term goals

Stage 3 – Doing some physical activity

  • Create a plan to substitute 15 minutes of sedentary time in the week with an simple, enjoyable, active option
  • Decide on a reward for achieving your goals
  • Brainstorm ways to overcome excuses that shy you away from physical activity

Stage 4 – Doing enough physical activity

  • Note how you have benefitted from physical activity
  • Think about future obstacles that may prevent you from engaging in physical activity and develop a plan on how to address them
  • Expand your horizons and try out new physical activities

Stage 5 – Making physical activity a habit (maintaining Stage 4 for at least 6 months)

  • Launch long-term goals and track progress on a log
  • Consider becoming a role model to someone who may need motivation to advance through any of the stages
  • Remind yourself that if for some reason you need to pause physical activity, you will be capable of resuming

Most importantly, always remember to praise yourself for your efforts, diligence and dedication. The only one who ultimately can enable your personal growth is you!


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National Running Day: Why Do We Run?

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Every first Wednesday in June is National Running Day. This year, it’s today–June 3rd.

This day showcases the love runners have for running and expands national awareness of the running community.

The theme this year, as organized by National Running Day with their logo (above), is to have runners complete the sentence “I run…” and post it on social media with the hashtag #NationalRunningDay. This can take the approach of “I run because…, in order to…, so I…”, among others.

Whether you are just starting a wellness routine (not even necessarily running) or have been maintaining one for a while, I encourage you to think about why you do it. Get specific about why you favor certain activities over others, and decide what effect those reasons have on you on your personal growth–in mind, body and/or spirit. For example:

  • If you bike every day to lose weight, why do you want to lose weight? Which feelings are you trying to attain?
  • If you like outdoor runs better than running on a treadmill, what is it about the freedom of the outdoors that sparks your enjoyment?

Identifying and evaluating the basics can allow us to refocus and reassess that which fuels our motivation. Ultimately, recognizing why we do what we do can give us a renewed drive to pursue growth and keep us moving forward.


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Essential Bike Accessories

The spring weather is beautiful and it’s biking season! Here are some essential items and accesories that will ensure you have a smooth, comfortable and safe bike ride!

Need To Have

Bicycle – Most common types are road bikes (specialized for slick paved surfaces), mountain bikes (best for rugged terrain) and hybrid bikes (considered great commuter bikes).

Helmet – Safety first: protect your head, you only have one. Make sure the helmet fits right according to the instructions. IMPORTANT: Once a helmet has been in a crash, you MUST replace it. The material compresses only once (often not visibly) and it will no longer protect you in the future.

Lights – If you are going to do any riding during dark hours, you need a front white light and a back red light. Not only do they improve your visibility to drivers at night, but also they are required by law in many cities. Additionally, the front light will help you see where you are going and avoid potholes or rough bumps on the road.

U-Lock – Lock your bike whenever you make a stop and leave it unattended. U-Locks are harder to break than cables or chains. The better the lock, the less chance your bike will get stolen.

Nice To Have

Bike Emergency Kit – May include tools and items to repair a flat tire, make mechanical adjustments, and tend to minor medical needs and first-aid. Follow link for more information on what to pack.

Road ID – In case you become unconscious due to a collision or another circumstance, this handy wristband can list your name, city, emergency contacts and phone numbers, allergies or other critical information that may assist others (including EMTs) to help you when you are not able speak for yourself. You can get it for a good price in different colors and in different varieties (ankle bracelets, shoe attachments, etc.). Explore the RoadID website for more details.

Phone – For safety, in case you need to make emergency phone calls, and to track your route and progress. Fitness apps with GPS like Endomondo and MapMyRide can measure your speed, riding time, elevation, time splits, and map your route, among others. See Resources for more details.

Sports Watch – It’s nice to keep track of time in a visually accessible place.

Water Bottle – Stay hydrated during longer rides. Bottles can be mounted onto most frames for easy access while riding.

Gloves – Great for slightly chillier rides. There are also variety of sweat-wicking athletic gloves with good grip.

Windbreaker/Raincoat – Nice for the windy and rainy days.

Obviously there are a variety of other gadgets and accessories you can invest in depending on what kind of riding you do. Hope this list helps you get started on the basics; be sure to visit local bike shops or chat with cyclist friends for other useful accessory ideas!


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Top 10 Reasons Why The Public Library Is Your Friend

Public libraries are awesome.  The sheer amount of resources, information and services they provide is outstanding, and the best part is that they provide them for FREE!

Or if you want to get technical, yes, you pay for them with your tax-payer dollars… so if you’re paying for them, might as well use them, right?

If you don’t already go to them, I challenge you to visit a public library in the next month. Seriously, try it.

Locally speaking, the Hennepin County Library is basically amazing. I frequent the library about twice a month, typically migrating toward the non-fiction section. The content I’ve learned has greatly guided my personal growth, and I believe it can facilitate yours as well.

Here are my Top Ten Reasons why the Hennepin County Library is your friend:

10. There’s always one close to you.  There are currently 41 library locations scattered throughout Hennepin county.

9. HCLibrary has around 5 million items in its catalog and free on-site computers/WiFi available.

8. The libraries offer a variety of reading programs, children storytimes, homework help, and events and tutorials, among others (check calendar and locations).

7. Books and magazines can be checked out for 3 weeks and DVDs for 1 week. Materials may be renewed up to three times unless someone has requested them.

6. The library is kept neat, clean and organized, the website is easy to use, and the books/technology are up-to-date.

5. Items can be requested and arranged for pick up at a HCLibrary of your choosing.

4. If there’s an item HCLibrary doesn’t have, you can request an Interlibrary Loan from other libraries in the state (and pick it up at your local library!).

3. The people who work there are always friendly and ready to help.

2. Check-out can take as little as 10 seconds.

1. The Hennepin County Library provides so much great content for free!

Please take advantage of your local library–find a novel, check out a workout DVD, or learn about a new topic in the non-fiction section! Relax, practice or learn: your personal growth awaits.