New Featured Challenges for Meditation Month

May is Meditation Month and we have THREE new meditation-themed map challenges!

The goal of meditation is to achieve mental clarity and a calm emotional state. Mental and emotional wellbeing is vital for handling life’s stresses and building healthy lifestyles. Similar to having many options for physical activities, there are many options when it comes to meditation. Some examples include Qi Gong, mindfulness, and focused attention meditation. Try and see which one works for you!

These meditation-themed map challenges will inspire you to try out or continue a meditation practice.

 

Buddha's IndiaBuddha’s India – Meditation May

Have you ever wondered where meditation originated?  The most influential form of meditation comes from the traditions of Buddha.  This map will take you to destinations in India that highlight the most important parts of Buddhist history.  You will learn about where Buddha spent most of his time, where pilgrims congregate to meditate and more. Along the journey you will also be given tips so that you can start your own meditation practice.

 

Ready Set Mediate worldReady, Set, Meditate: World

Meditation month is upon us and this map will take you on a journey to some of the best meditation retreats and locations around the world. We’ve included stops in eight unique destinations, where nature is abundant, and the sky is blue. From ancient cities to modern housing, you will be amongst the leaders of the world in meditation practice and knowledge.  Learn about some hidden gems, some meditation history and take note of the meditation tips given along this journey.

 

 

Ready Set MeditateReady, Set, Meditate: USA

May is national meditation month! We want to celebrate by taking you on a tour of the most relaxing and infamous retreats while providing information on meditation practices. We make meditation easy to get into even with a busy schedule, so we will give you meditation guides, motivation, and facts during this challenge! To start off, here is a list of meditation benefits to help get you inspired to meditate:

– Reduce stress

– Controls anxiety

– Promotes emotional health

– Enhances self-awareness

– Improves attention span and concentration

– May reduce age related memory loss

– May help fight addictions

– Improves sleep

– Helps control pain, both mentally and physically

– Can decrease blood pressure

– Improves positive emotion

– Makes you more compassionate

Interested in these challenges?

If you are a program administrator and are interested in adding any of these meditation map routes to your program, please submit the form below.



Walk and Talk: Meet Bob – Living Proof Walking Is Great Exercise

I’d like to introduce you to Bob. Bob is technically 85 but insists he feels 35. Bob is inspiring and determined. Bob has walked every day since he started with Walker Tracker back on June 12, 2006. Throughout the past 11 ½ years, he has averaged just shy of 8,000 steps a day (7,728 to be exact)! Bob is a big fan of Walker Tracker and we are big fans of him! Recently, I got the chance to meet Bob in person and go on a walk with him through his hometown’s huge flea market that happens every month in Canton, TX.

As we walked and weaved through the stands and vendors I learned that Bob hasn’t always been so healthy and active. In fact, he says he weighs less at 85 than he did in the 6th grade. Despite working in the steel industry and military he remained a big guy for the majority of his life. His blood pressure was 204/105 at one point and he wasn’t feeling like his best self. It wasn’t until one of his highly active stepsons was nearly killed in a cycling accident in 2004 that he had the epiphany that he needed to get moving. He said to himself, “Where will I be in five years if I keep eating and drinking the way I am? I’ll be dead. I said one of my sayings, ‘you can’t do everything but you can do something!’ and I asked myself, what can I do? Well, I can walk!”. Bob hopped online (yes, he is by far the most technically savvy 80 something year old I have ever met) and searched for websites where you can track steps and that’s where Walker Tracker came in.

He happened upon Walker Tracker in its infancy and has praised the site and even promoted it on his own blog – beefitbob.com (did I mention he’s super technically savvy?!).

You can't do everything but you can do something. What can I do? I can walk!Since he began his journey he’s lost over 100 pounds and his blood pressure is down in the 90’s/50’s. He started doing 5K’s, 10K’s and even went to the state capital and had his hometown of Canton, TX declared the ”Walking Capital of Texas”. He’s become a motivational speaker and advocate for health and wellness in his area. He walks the walk and talks the talk. In fact, he even walked to the market to meet up with me! The biggest take away from our time together was “start small”. You may not be able to do everything but you can do something. So figure out what that something is. Is it drinking more water and less soda? Is it replacing chips with an apple for a snack? Is it registering an account at community.walkertracker.com so you can track your steps just like Bob? Start small and once you’ve made that action a habit, figure out your next something.

Try to dampen that ever-impulsive need for instant gratification as much as you can. So often if we do not see instant results we abandon what we were doing. Much of the things that are “worth it” take time and hard work. As Bob might say, the path to health and wellness is a marathon. You’ve got to be in it for the long haul and it takes training and discipline but once you’re there in the thick of it, and you find your cadence and what works for you it gets easier and enjoyable. It’s never too late to start! Take it from a guy who started in his 70’s and is still going strong almost 12 years later! Thanks for walking with us Bob and sharing your story!

Make sure to visit Bob’s website beefitbob.com to find out what WAFOWASL means and join Walker Tracker at community.walkertracker.com to join Bob and many others in a fun place where your success can be celebrated and quantified!

150 Billion Steps

That's really a lot of steps

As of yesterday, Walker Tracker tracked its 150 billionth step, or the equivalent 75,000,000 million miles.

I am really proud of this, and proud of every one of our members who’ve joined us in the journey.

So what does that mean? Collectively we’ve just about walked the distance from the Earth to the Sun. Other, direct impacts are a little trickier to measure, though we can certainly infer a tremendous net-good.

Here’s what we know about our members:

  • We know our members have been active. They’ve increased their health, improved their circulation. They’ve fended off heart disease and diabetes.
  • They’ve cut their medical costs. They’ve lost weight. They’ve regained the ability to do things they weren’t able to before.
  • They’ve driven less. In car-mileage terms, they’ve put about 41 thousand tons less  Carbon Dioxide into the air, or about the equivalent of two hundred thousand trees. Seriously, that’s amazing.
  • They’ve engaged with their neighborhoods more, chatted with workmates and neighbors and friends as they walked, which have yielded improvements to their happiness and social cohesiveness. They’ve altered their routines. Maybe some have had their lives changed.
  • They’ve improved their brains. Boosted their mood. Improved their memory. Enhanced their creativity.  A few profound ideas have surely been had; lightning strikes of inspiration only possible from the most basic and wonderful of ambulatory motions.

Congratulations to every one of you who put in the extra step. That’s a lot to be proud of.

 

Cultivating Gratitude

Many wellness programs focus on getting people moving and improving eating habits. Diet and exercise are important aspects of our health, but let’s not forget to also pay attention to our emotional and psychological wellbeing. In our ambitious, achievement-oriented society, it is easy to focus on what we do not have or who we wish we were. While the negative feeling of inadequacy can lead to motivation, it comes with the risk of anxiety or depression. To keep our mind and body well, let’s try to focus on and be happy with what we have and who we are, through gratitude.

Practicing gratitude is like doing push-ups for emotional and psychological wellbeing because it strengthens resiliency, or the ability to handle stress. Work can be stressful at times, by promoting a culture of positive emotions we buffer the stresses, and spin obstacles or loss into opportunities and gain.

A gratitude journal is a research-backed practice that increases happiness. So, why not adapt the tried-and-true gratitude journal for offices and other communities? An appreciation platform, either online on an organization’s internal website, or a physical bulletin board, promotes community-building and allows everyone to celebrate each other’s contributions.

During this past holiday season, the Walker Tracker team participated in a gratitude wall. It was nice to see the many different things that all of us are grateful for. A gratitude wall allows for everyone’s opinion to be heard, not just those who are more vocal. While it can be a fun exercise, a gratitude board has the potential to create an environment of openness. When we give thanks, we acknowledge what we value, whether it’s meteor showers, dogs, or snail mail.

Speaking of mail, a simple thank you card to coworkers and friends also creates a positive, uplifting environment. Giving praise and expressing gratitude was one of the alternate New Year’s resolutions Ellen mentioned in a previous post. Acknowledging others for their time and effort, increases self-confidence and self-worth, promoting a positive attitude and buffering the negative emotions that can lead to anxiety or depression. High self-worth can also promote engagement in health-promoting activities, such as participating in worksite wellness programs. Practicing gratitude can help you develop beneficial lifestyle habits.

Coming off of the “high” of the holidays, I am feeling very grateful. I am thankful that I am able to provide wellness programing to amazing clients and that I work for an organization that values my work and wellbeing. I truly believe that we all have so much to be grateful for and we don’t need to wait to start experiencing the emotional benefits that gratitude brings. What are you thankful for?

Thanks so much for reading!


The Gift of Walking

I’m thrilled to announce that Walker Tracker is now accepting nominations for the 2018 “Gift of Walking” Challenge.

We’re big on walking. We’re big on challenges. We’re also big on sharing our love for physical activity + community! Help us share the love by nominating a nonprofit or spreading the word.

The winner receives a private portal configured just for their organization for up to 500 participants, an 8-week virtual map route challenge and unlimited access to Walker Tracker features during their program (step tracking, activity/fitness conversion, device connectivity, social features, mobile apps for iOS and Android).

Let us know the nonprofit you think would love to participate, why, and how this event could impact them. Click the button below to submit your nomination.

Nominate a Nonprofit

Thanks, community, for your support!  You keep me going, so keep going!

-Taylor

Finding Slumber

In my previous post about the importance of sleep, I encouraged you to keep track of how much sleep you are getting. I have been using my activity monitor to track my sleep for the past couple months. I am able to see how many hours of sleep I average per night. When I get less sleep, it’s usually because I get in bed late. Holidays and vacations can disturb daily routines, such as bedtimes. Missing out on a party or other holiday event may not seem appealing, but sometimes we have to make compromises with ourselves. Consider leaving an hour earlier than you would normally, or taking a nap beforehand.

Even if we can get in bed at a decent hour, many people suffer from occasional or chronic insomnia. From as far back as I can remember, I have usually had difficulty falling asleep. I know others who find it hard to stay asleep. A few simple lifestyle adjustments could be the solution. Here are a few tips I have found useful if you are looking to improve your sleep hygiene.  

Watch What You Drink and Eat
Caffeine is effective in keeping you alert in the morning, but it will interrupt the flow of melatonin, the well-known sleep-inducing hormone. If you are feeling sleepy in the afternoon, try getting up and moving around, or eating a healthy snack, like fruit or nuts. Also, sugary junk foods can interfere with sleep. If you are craving a snack before bed, try carb-rich foods that promote sleep, which include yogurt and fruit.

Exercise
Better sleep quality is just one of the many benefits of exercise. The body’s temperature drops after exercise, which promotes sleep. Also, exercise can reduce anxiety and depression symptoms that can trigger insomnia. However, avoid strenuous workouts close to bedtime. Instead, consider movement that promotes relaxation, such as yoga and simple stretching.

Power Off Electronics
The light from your computer or smartphone screen can delay the release of melatonin, inhibiting sleep. Computer and TV time can also be stimulating activities. Consider downloading a bluelight filter app on your devices and turning them off an hour before bed. Try performing an activity that you find relaxing, such as reading or journaling, and you will be preparing your mind and body for bed.

Sleep-promoting Environment
Create an environment where your body and mind can wind down. Keep your bedroom dark and cool. While many people prefer quiet, there are others who sleep best when listening to calming music or soundtracks. You can also try aromatherapy. Lavender and chamomile are two sleep-promoting scents. Finally, invest in a comfortable mattress. Your sleep is worth it!  

 

Of course, everyone’s body is different; so you may not experience results with all of them, but I encourage you to test any of these techniques. You can make notes in your sleep log and track how your body responds to any adjustments you make. In my case, I find that lavender essential oil in the diffuser and on the bottoms of my feet help me relax before bed.  

Prioritizing your sleep is prioritizing your overall health. As we get deeper into the cold and flu season, our bodies will need to be as strong as they can to defend against illness. Also, sleep and mood are closely connected. With more gloomy, cold weather in the forecast for many of us and the stress of the holidays, getting enough sleep can help enhance our emotional well-being and deter anxiety or depression. Why wait? Try getting good sleep tonight. Your body and mind will thank you!

Sleep Sense

Your body knows what it needs and it will tell you. If you don’t drink enough water, you feel thirsty. Without a restful night’s sleep, you feel tired and your mind is not as sharp the very next day, and potentially the following days. It’s surprising how common lack of sufficient sleep occurs in our society, since, while our bodies do not specifically crave kale or cross-fit, they do crave sleep.

There are countless distractions, such as work and television, that can be robbing you of much needed sleep. Our societal value of productivity is also keeping us out of bed. There are only 24 hours in the day and sleeping for a third of that time may seem “unproductive.” Imagine all we could do if we didn’t have to sleep? But our bodies need sleep, or it would have disappeared through the evolutionary process.

Professional athletes are known to rack up high numbers of sleep hours. Their bodies obviously need more recovery than the average person, but sufficient sleep is essential for all bodies. Among the theories for our need for sleep include memory consolidation (storing what you learn in your memory) and brain restoration (rest). With all the brain power we need to get through the day, sleep is essential. Without enough sleep, your immune system is reduced and you are at higher risk of metabolic conditions, such as obesity.

Ready for more sleep? First, determine how much sleep you are already getting. Walker Tracker offers an easy-to-use sleep tracking tool for our users. Some activity monitors can track sleep automatically, but any recording method is fine. Just keeping track of your sleep hours, similar to a food diary, will make you more aware of your sleep needs and may allow you to see connections between your sleep and your overall health and mood.

The Lighter Side of Thanksgiving

Welcome back, Jessica – Thanks for blogging for us again!

In true Walker Tracker style, we’re happy to advocate for a balanced approach to enjoyment and wellness during the holiday.  That means spending quality time with your family, friends and community, staying active, and having a ton of fun along the way. Check out the post below for tips and tricks from Jessica Lin to lighten your holiday.

Cheers!

Thanksgiving kicks off the Holiday season with a bang and sometimes it can be the start to a downhill slide on the health scale as we flow into Holiday + New Year celebrations. It’s super important during this time of the year to find a balance between everything. When we get over stimulated or stressed we oftentimes find our otherwise healthy habits beginning to slip. With family, friends, co-workers, parties, vacations, travel and the pressure of the end of the year upon us, I hope to share with you a few things to stay in tiptop physical and mental state to remain on a positive path as we move into 2018. We all know there’s nothing worse than starting your New Year feeling like crap, weighing an extra 10 lbs, and embarrassed from our over drinking at the company holiday party.

The most important thing to remember during this time, heck all of the time, is to stay balanced and know that you don’t have to do it all. This time of year it’s about enjoying your time with your loved ones and allowing yourself time to reset before we head into a New Year. Here are a few ways to stay healthy and sane over the next two months!

Take time out for SELF-CARE. In the midst of all the planning, prepping, and partying it’s easy to get caught up and have your feet swept off the ground. Stay rooted by scheduling time for you. What makes you feel shiney and new again?

1. Warm bath/ soaking tub action (If you’re in Portland, OR, I highly suggest treating yourself to a day of soaking and relaxing at Knot Springs)
2. Curl up and catch up with someone you love over tea/ fire
3. Light candles or a fire and leave the screens for an hour to connect with your friend and family, share stories and some laugher
4. Dive into a new book and take time each night before bed to read

With so much eating going with dinner parties, large family gatherings, holiday meals, etc. it’s easy to feel bloated, heavy, and uncomfortable; to not feel your most fit and healthy self. We can derail our healthy eating habits quickly over the next two months but it’s super easy to stay on top of it with a few simple changes. If you’re bringing any dishes, or you’re the captain of the ship and cooking the whole meal, here are a few easy swaps to help keep your holiday dishes on the ‘lighter’ side without losing any flavor integrity.  

  • Skip excess butter or use a butter substitute such as ‘I Can’t Believe it’s NOT butter’ or vegan butter (my preference) – taste is just as great and is ½ the calories
  • Dress your turkey
    • Turkey
      • Use pomegranates, oranges, clove, vegan butter, dash of EVOO and spices to give your turkey the perfect golden brown and highest level of juiciness (stick the cloves in the skin of the bird, melt butter with EVOO and mix with oranges/ poms to coat the bird, then sprinkle with herbs and spices, slice the oranges and ¼ the poms and put them into the roasting pans with everything)
    • Stuffing
      • Use gluten free bread for the stuffing and rice flour to make gravy over gluten heavy flour and breads


  • Make your mash with light sour cream or vegan sour cream over heavy cream
    • Sour cream is my favorite since it enhances the flavor and gives your taters a kick
    • Keep skins on the potatoes to get the most nutrients from your food!
  • Use a dash of Jacobson salt at the very end to reduce sodium intake and make food taste AMAZING!
  • Use fresh herbs to increase flavor in your dishes so less salt is necessary over all

The most important part of staying on track over the next two months is remembering to use some portion control, drink water as well as wine with your meal, and pace yourself as you enjoy all of the amazing food. If you allow yourself time to ENJOY each bite, it may end up saving you a second serving and a few hundred calories. No matter how you end up eating, remember to move and you’ll find a way to balance everything and bounce back after the New Year a little quicker than those who don’t!

Take a post Meal take a walk with your family. Resist the urge to sit and wallow in your overindulgence. I highly suggest taking a break between your meal and pie to walk away from the table, put on your coat and get outside. It doesn’t have to be a long walk but get everyone in the family to join, it’s a nice moment to connect with each other, enjoy the change of seasons, and to digest. By taking this time to walk between courses you will allow your food to settle so you can feel your fullness and not push yourself to over-indulgence. I learned this from my Grandmother and we always take a little walk around the block after we eat to connect and enjoy each other with full tummies and happy hearts.

Play a game post pie – my suggestion is to put on some music and play a game that requires a little bit of movement and tons of laughter. Did you know that laughter burns 3 calories a minute?! Some of my favorite food-coma fighting games are:

  • Charades
    • Create your own categories and clues and break into teams
      • Male v female
      • Generations
      • Cousins V. Aunts & Uncles
  • Cards Against Humanity – great for a good laugh – older crowd only
  • For children give them an opportunity to put on a post-meal performance
    • Gives them something to do before the meal to connect with each other
    • Post meal excitement and “dress rehearsal” while the ‘adults’ go for their post-meal walkabout
    • Memories to last a lifetime

The holidays are a time to come together and that should always remain at the forefront of this time of the year, but there is no reason why you can’t stay focused on your health goals as well. Don’t let the Holidays plow you over or derail you. Tap into yourself and allow yourself balance and control over these next few weeks. If you indulge in food make sure to move, if you drink to excess make sure to hydrate and sweat to help the body to detox. There are so many ways to find balance and all of them are fairly simple, you just have to allow yourself a little time and space to see where and how you can make them work for you.

Keep it Fresh

A few years ago, I had my workout routine down. I made it to the gym on a regular basis and felt great afterwards. But after a while, going to the same exercise classes and working out on the same exercise equipment started to feel stale. Has this ever happened to you? It’s not surprising. While we are creatures of habit, change and challenge can help to keep us motivated in our healthy routines.

Here are some tips on how bash boredom and get excited about exercise, or at least make it more enjoyable.

 

Change It Up

If you regularly list to music during your physical activity, even a new playlist can help prevent boredom. It’s even better to shuffle the songs, so you never know what’s coming up next.

What muscle groups are you neglecting? Switching up your physical activity to target different muscle groups will not only bash boredom, but it also will decrease your risk for injury or help you stay active while recovering from hard workouts or injuries.

Try variations of your favorite physical activity, like aerial yoga, pool cycling, indoor obstacle course, or Bollywood dance.

Personal training sessions can provide personal evaluation and motivation, and introduce you to new fitness techniques and equipment.

 

Enjoy the Challenge

Set a goal for yourself. Setting challenging, yet attainable, goals for yourself will help keep you motivated. It is important to continually evaluate your goals so you keep being challenged. Once a challenge gets too easy, it will seem more like a chore. Continue to test your limits. Sign up for a race or similar fitness event. Maybe join a training team or group to help reach your goal.

Don’t forget to reward yourself. Avoid workout burnout by making your workout more game-like, with points and rewards. Log your workouts on the Walker Tracker app and receive points for logging and meeting goals. (Ex. Each time you reach a new points level, treat yourself to a massage.)

 

It’s important for your physical activity to be enjoyable to keep you moving. Maybe boredom is why trying to work out regularly never stuck before. Why not give it another try? Even if you are still enjoying your current fitness routine, it is a good idea to include variety often to keep things interesting and fun. What can you do this week to “spice up” your fitness routine?

My favorite superfoods

We hear a lot of talk these days focused on superfoods. But how should we incorporate these unique items into our daily routine? What even is a superfood? Lucky for you guys, I’m a bit of a superfood hoarder, as well as adventurer.

A superfood is technically defined as a food that is consumed for a health or wellness benefit. Not only are superfoods packed with unique vitamins and nutrients, they usually taste pretty good too.

One of my favorite things to date is Jackfruit. Surprisingly, this exotic fruit has been popping up on a lot of menus here in Portland lately. So here you are, I’ve compiled a list and a few tips on how to use my favorite superfoods.

1. Chia Seeds. You’ve all probably heard of this food by now, but I like to continuously remind people that they are around due to the omega-3 load these little seeds pack! They are also rich in fiber, protein and minerals. I like to add mine to water with fresh lemon, blend into smoothies and top oatmeal. You can get creative and create a tapioca like pudding with the seeds as well! Here’s a recipe to check out.

2. Cacao Powder. This has become a staple in my morning smoothies. Cacao beans contains 40 times the amount of antioxidants than blueberries, and has the highest level of iron of all plant sources. Mix into oatmeal, blend into smoothies, or indulge in a dark cacao bar.

3. Avocados! Who doesn’t love a good avo? I could personally top everything with a little avocado, and have been found to mix it into my smoothies and even use one to create a facemask. All the good fats in avocado make this a top contender for my favorite superfood.

4. Lentils, the forgotten bean. I’m all about the lentils. My favorite way to prepare them is to create a korean bbq flavor, mixed with brown rice and veggies (found here). Lentils provide a good amount of iron, and are high in protein.

5. Nutritional Yeast. If you are a vegetarian or vegan, you already know that nutritional yeast is a must have in your kitchen. It provides us with the vitamin B 12 that is most commonly found in animal proteins. It also can be used as a vegan substitute for several types of cheeses. My favorite snack is air popped white corn sprinkled generously with nutritional yeast!

6. Pitaya. Did one of those colorful smoothie bowls catch your eye this summer? Chances are it was a pitaya bowl! This fruit is a beautiful fuchsia color, and has a flavor similar to guava. Pitaya is loaded with vitamin B, magnesium and fiber. Pitaya may also be referred to as dragon fruit.

7. Bee Pollen granules. This past spring I finally got to be relieved of some allergies by taking local bee pollen daily. I sprinkled it on smoothies. It is 40% raw protein, making it extremely nutrient dense.

8. Turmeric. This is the anti inflammatory root you’ve been dreaming of… maybe. Turmerics main component, curcumin is one of the most powerful anti inflammatory in the world. Try out my favorite recipe for Golden Milk next time you need a warm, winter drink.

9. Jackfruit. Another awesome substitute for meat! Jackfruit is a watermelon sized fruit that contains small, “meat” like textured pods. I’ve prepared jackfruit slow cooked and seasoned with Mexican spices for tacos and burritos. It contains vitamin B, niacin, potassium and magnesium.

 

And there you go! Get out there and be a superfood adventurer.