The many gifts of giving

“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give” – Winston Churchill.

This time of year it can be easy to get caught up in the what you might get or what you need to get for others but it is also a great time of year to focus on giving to your community. Volunteering is a great way to build relationships with your family, friends and coworkers and depending on the volunteer opportunity, a great way to get physical exercise. Here are some suggestions on opportunities that I have personally done with friends and coworkers over the last few years that I really enjoyed.

Contact your local senior center: See if there are opportunities to go and clear some driveways or sidewalks and check in on seniors in your area after a snowy storm. Knowing that someone is around and looking out for them means a lot to seniors and their families who may not live nearby. Plus you’re getting active by shoveling the sidewalks and drives.

Contact your local police and fire department: One year a bunch of coworkers and I got together and along with the fire department dressed up a fire engine and went out to neighborhoods to collect canned food. Weeks prior we put fliers on their door informing them of the event. That night we turned on the lights on the engine, had Santa waving from the truck and as we collected literally bags full of food, we handed out candy canes. It was chilly, but we walked alongside the engine and had a great time seeing the smiles and excitement on kids faces.

Local community gardens: If you live in a warmer climate this is a good one for you. Seek out a community garden in your area and see if they are holding any events where they might be preparing for winter, harvesting, or overhauling the garden. I have done this in several different states and the most recent was for Neighborhood Impact. See if there is a Neighborhood Impact in your area and what opportunities might be available to participate in. http://www.neighborimpact.org/

There are a few things you will want to do in order to coordinate an volunteer activity.

1. Have one person be the point of contact and coordinator.

2. Take an assessment of the availability of those on your team or in your family or friends. See what opportunity fits best for the most people.

3. If you’re doing this as a work team make sure that the place you are volunteering for is compatible and approved by your company.

4. See if there are people in your group that already volunteer regularly and if their organizations need any help during the holiday season. That also helps with them becoming the point of contact and coordinator of the event.

5. Invite friends and family to join if possible.

Not only are you going to get to spend some quality time together but you will be staying active and helping your community out too. Make it a monthly tradition if you can. Try out several different opportunities to keep it engaging or if you find a really great organization see if they have predictable events that you can be a part of. Life can get pretty hectic but taking some time to step away and help others always helps put things in perspective and replenishes the soul. I don’t know about you but around the holiday season I get overwhelmed and it always helps me to help others. Stay Merry & Bright!

That Ten Letter Word

Motivation: it’s empowering, at times elusive, and requires discipline. However, without it there cannot be success.

Finding my motivation, especially when it comes to working out, has been a constant evolution. Often times I find my motivation is a reward or something I have been deprived of. Some of my motivations require a lot of discipline so I understand if they might not work for you, but perhaps they can inspire you to find something that will motivate you to get out and get active.

1. A good book or magazine. If you’re a fan of walking on the treadmill or elliptical at the gym this is a good one. I find a great read I really enjoy and reserve it for the gym only. The catch is, you CANNOT read it unless you’re on that machine. Suggestions I have would be “The Hunger Games”, “Orange is the new Black”, “The Da Vinci Code” or any other read that keeps you turning pages and therefore moving.

2. New songs you love or a station you adore. Have a jam that you really love? A new CD you just acquired? You can also tie in the above “books” idea by getting a book on your device and listening to it. No matter what it may be save it for the times when you’re moving and being active. This one takes a lot of discipline but even just creating a new playlist that you reserve for working out ONLY can be a great motivator and keep you going longer and stronger.

3. Fun clothes for working out. I love finding great clothes to workout in. They lighten and brighten my mood and once I change into them I am instantly ready to get out there and get going! It does not have to cost an arm and a leg for a decent workout wardrobe. If I am out at a store with active clothes available, I check out and see what is on sale. However, if I reach a specific goal I spoil myself with a splurge.

4. Invest in the right equipment. There is nothing worse than getting going and then having a wrench like an injury thrown into the mix. If you have invested in a gym but have never touched a weight in your life, get a half hour personal training session to curb the fear of weights and show you proper form. Getting into walking and/or running? Great shoes ARE A MUST. They will save your joints and keep you going. Yoga your thing? Get a nice mat, towel and water bottle. These things are imperative but can also a little expensive which is another aspect to their motivation. You paid for it so you better use it, right?

5. The last one I’ll leave you with: a PARTNER. There have been days when I do not want to go for jogs or walks and I know that goes for my partner too. Having another person to hold me accountable and whom I know wants/needs me to be there for them is an excellent motivator. Perhaps you like doing it on your own, but having someone hold you accountable and cheer you on or heck, whip your butt into going, can be the difference between, “I’m not feeling it and I’m not doing it,” to “I’m not feeling it but I’ll do it, if not for me, for them.”

No matter what your motivations may be, keep it relevant and recognize when it stops working. You might need to get a little creative but that’s alright, just as long as you are staying active!

Lost Lake Butte Trail

For our summer vacation this year my fiancé and I went out to a local campground called Lost Lake. The lodge and family friendliness reminded me of the movie “Dirty Dancing” and there was so much to do in and around the lake! Despite getting extremely sunburnt our second day we decided that we wanted to get a hike in. There are many trails to hike in the area but one we had heard really great things about was the “Lost Lake Butte” trail.

We started early right after breakfast since it was going to be hot that day and we wanted to hike while it was still relatively mild. Round trip the trail is 4.6 miles and I would say moderate in difficulty. There are a lot of rocks and tree roots popping up on the trail and it is a steep climb with several switchbacks. At first, once we got to the summit I didn’t see anything too worth while but after walking a little further we were rewarded with this…

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A gorgeous view of the north side of Mt. Hood! It was definitely worth the hike! We spent a good chunk of time up there taking in the view. If you are around Hood River or even the Portland area I highly recommend this hike! If you are nowhere close I ask you, where is a piece of nature nearby that you’ve been meaning to go to? Give yourself time, start early, bring snacks and water and go out for a little adventure one of these weekends. We saw kids literally running up this trail so don’t be deterred to bring your children also!

If you’ve recently gone on a hike, no matter where you are, share them with us! We’d love to hear about them and see your pictures too!

Walk With Purpose

There always seems to be a walk for something. Walk for Breast Cancer, Walk for Alzheimers, Walk for MS and so on. I do not think I know one person who hasn’t been affected by a disease somewhere in their lives. Personally, Alzheimers hit close to home for me with my grandma. These walks are usually short (5k or 3.1 miles) and help you to do a small part to support research and those suffering. Why not challenge yourself to find a walk to participate in for the end of the summer or fall? It’s true that often times these walks ask for a donation, but it is for a great cause and sometimes that money is just the extra bit of motivation needed to follow through. Get a few friends together, maybe find a cause that you and your co-workers would like to walk for. It’s great for families to do together also! Below I have listed some websites that you can click on and see if they have walks in your area.

Walk to End Alzheimers

Race for a Cure (Breast Cancer Awareness)

ZERO cancer (Prostate Cancer)

Relay for Life (American Cancer Society)

JDRF Walk to Cure Diabetes 

NAMIwalk (Mental Illness)

Light The Night (Leukemia & Lymphoma)

Those of course are just a few suggestions. I am sure that if you search for “insert cause+walk” in a search engine, you’ll more than likely find a walk or run to participate in. Now get out there, get inspired, get fit and make a difference!

7 Steps to Happy Walking Feet

You may have heard this time and time again but I am here to stress it once more, GET GOOD WALKING/RUNNING SHOES! Do you think pro football players use equipment from a second hand shop or helmets that are four years old? Do you think that Lance Armstrong rides a bike that he’s had for years kept in the back of a garage for training? I think not! The point is, they use the right equipment for the sport they are doing.

If you are not wearing the right shoes and you are walking or running several miles per week, it should be no surprise if your knees, shins, lower back, hips and ankles start to bother you. Yes, it is an investment. These shoes will not be cheap but your health and the future of your exercise routines will rely heavily on them. Below I have sifted through various websites and taken the best advice they have to give on how to go about finding the right shoe for you.

1. Go to the professionals. This means, go to a place that specializes in shoe fittings and most likely one that specializes in running and walking shoes. They are trained to find the right shoes for people and are often times runners/walkers themselves and understand the importance of a well fitted shoe.

2. Go get fitted at the end of the day. Your feet will be swollen and at their largest and wear the sort of socks you would normally wear when exercising. This will help with the fit since during a walk your feet swell and the more comfortable they are at this point means the more likely you will keep going.

3. Try on both shoes. The idea of having two different sized feet may seem a little strange, but it does happen. So don’t be alarmed if you find this happens to you, it’s best that you catch it now than trying to cram one of your feet into a small shoe.

4. Know your foot shape. Take a look at one of your barefoot prints. If you see that between your heel and ball/toes that it gets very slender you have high arches. The opposite is true for flat footed folk. It would be hard to distinguish between your heel and ball because it would all be even from back to front almost. There are shoes that cater to different foot shapes and this can help narrow down your shoe choices.

5. If you can, test them out. At the last store I went to they insisted that I run around the block and try the shoes out. It was important to them that I see if even in that small amount of distance a problem occurred. Try walking up stairs, if your heel is slipping this is a bad sign. Try walking down a ramp or stairs, do your toes start to hit the front of the shoe? Again not good. Especially since these shoes will eventually stretch and then your toes will really be ramming into the front. Ouch!!!!

6. If in doubt buy a running shoe. Running shoes translate well into walking shoes. However, the same cannot be said for walking shoes into running shoes. Walking shoes can be a little heavier and have support under the balls of your feet whereas running shoes have support under your heel and are light weight. If you are going to be walking at a fast pace or thinking of running go with a running shoe.

7. Six month rule. You may think that since you dropped a chunk of money on these shoes that they should last forever and wouldn’t that be so nice? But you are putting them through a lot! You’re beating them on pavement or a treadmill three-six times a week so they get pretty beat up pretty fast. The rule the folks at the stores will tell you is to replace your shoes every 350-400 miles or every six months whichever comes first. Don’t ignore this advice because if you keep using them and then something starts to hurt, it takes a long time to rehab what you have hurt and sometimes it never goes away.

So come on, I just gave you 7 reasons to go out and buy another pair of shoes! Who doesn’t love shoes? Remember also, that if these shoes are keeping you active and healthy that means less medical bills in the future and boy oh boy can those be expensive! Now go ahead, spoil yourself with the reward of great shoes that will make you smile when you see them and make your legs and feet happy too!

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Ellen,

Destination Walking

Now, I know that walking can be redundant and can get old pretty quick especially if you’re walking in a circle around a track or the same ol’ route everyday throughout your neighborhood. These routes can be helpful for you to know the distance you’ve travelled and see if you’re making better time but seeing the same things day in and day out can make you start to detest the idea of strapping those tennis shoes on and getting out there. Why not make your walk an adventure? Why not walk to a place you’ve never been before? I like to call this, “Destination Walking”, sometimes known as hiking. Don’t get overwhelmed with that word HIKING, that is the exact reason why I say “Destination Walking”.

I’m talking one of those places you’ve probably always wanted to go but you just never make time. Well now is the time! Summer is arriving in the Northern Hemisphere and that place you have always wanted to go to is blossoming and calling to you. Take time out of your weekends and pick a place to go and see. Bring your loved ones, water and a camera. Don’t have an idea of somewhere nearby that you might want to go? Check out your local Parks and Recreation website for trails. They’ll give you information on how to get to your destination of choice, history, pictures and current information on whether it’s open and what amenities your trail of choice has to offer.

Seeing as we are based out of Portland, Oregon here is the site for the Parks and Recreation page to seek out a trail/park by area or what you might like to do. My personal favorite is Forest Park that spoils those who wander with the green beauty that the Pacific Northwest is known for.

Forest Park Forrest Park

See what I mean? Your walks can become very rewarding if you just step out of your comfort zone. Get to know your city and state through walking and make the most of it by sharing it will someone else.

Happy Walking!

Tips, Tricks and Benefits to Exercising with a Pal

Partnership is an important aspect not only in the workplace and home but also when it comes to exercise. It is a known fact that 60% of people prefer to workout on their own but there is still that 35-40% who like the idea of collaboration. In a study conducted by Stanford research unveiled that having a person or group that you check in with at least once a week can increase your exercise time by up to 78% over the course of a year! This check in can be either through email, phone, meetings, websites or working out together.

A few tips, tricks and benefits to partnerships are below:

1. Choose someone with a similar fitness goal as yours. If you’re trying to lose 30 lbs and your partner only needs to lose 10, it can be discouraging if they hit their goal before you. You may end up feeling like you’re holding them back or get frustrated that your weight loss or fitness level isn’t being achieved fast enough.

2. Find someone you have something in common with besides just exercise. Perhaps it’ll be your shared love of the outdoors, your kids, a love of sports or travel. These things will keep you looking forward to seeing each other the next time and help develop a sense of comradery.

3. A partnership drastically decreases in excuses not to exercise. It’s hard knowing you’re letting someone down and that means that it will be harder to cancel on a workout.

4. You’ll be more likely to try new things with someone. Never rock climbed before? Pairing up with someone who has or even going in with both of you clueless gives you the advantage of not being so scared. Perhaps even make it a goal that when you get together with someone you try something new or go somewhere new.

5. Group classes are included in the partnership category! If you go to a class several times you’ll likely meet and bond with people from that class. This means that you’ll have already found someone with a common interest, most likely a common fitness level, it’s a chance to try a workout you’ve always wanted and once you get going people will start holding you accountable for showing up and heck, you might even really enjoy showing up!

No matter if you prefer exercising solo, as a duo or in a class, just make sure you have someone to check in with. They can be your inspiration for when you are just not feeling it, you can take pride in being theirs or just the mere thought of uttering the words, “I didn’t get to the gym/run/class this week”, has a great affect on whether you’ll stick with your routine. Even if you do stick with it on your own having someone to share that with will keep you going longer and stronger. So partner up and get moving!

Walking Back to Happiness

“The sum of the whole is this: walk and be happy; walk and be healthy. The best way to lengthen out our days is to walk steadily and with a purpose.” -Charles Dickens

During a huge life change, which was causing stress, which was in turn causing insomnia, which was in turn causing depression, I confessed to my doctor that I was getting desperate and was willing to try anything to get some sleep. My doctor very pragmatically, somewhat drily, recommended that I start taking a 45 minute walk every day. So easy-peasy I thought he must be pulling my leg. But he insisted that a brisk and, in his words, “mindful” walk would reset my brain. He didn’t get into all the sciencey business about increasing the brain’s production of endorphins and its analgesic effect on pain or that odd sense of well-being in the mind serotonin can provoke. He just said “Walk. And pay attention while you’re walking.”

Boy, was that sound advice. I’ve noticed since, that while every walk is a little different, when I walk at work a three stage pattern has emerged. First, my brain natters on nervously about a million small things: emails I need to answer, scheduling changes, follow-up conversations I need to have, the prioritization of every task before me, my calendar.  Next, I shift into longer thoughts and untangle larger problems.  I’m able to have what sounds more and more like a productive conversation with myself. I feel a little more confident and much less worried. And finally, and this is why I walk on my lunch hour, I stop fretting about work all together, my head clears and I return, dare I say it, happier.

As it turns out, a happy brain is a creative and productive thing. There is so much out there on positive psychology and the effects it has on a company’s success that I was overwhelmed when I started looking into it. Happy people collaborate better, stay calmer in a crisis, are more creative, more motivated, less inclined to make errors that are the end result of worrying about making errors.  And the end results are quantifiable not just anecdotal. In an article for the Harvard Business Review blog, Shawn Anchor cited a 2008 study by Gallup Healthways that shows that employees who score low in “life satisfaction,” stay home an average of 1.25 more days a month than those employees who score high. That’s 15 days of lost productivity! Other research at gallup indicates retail companies with a high “employee life satisfaction” are able to increase revenue by up to $21 PER SQUARE FEET. This is all important bottom line stuff for managers and leaders to address. But the most relevant bottom line for the individual is that we do better when we feel better. And we feel better when we get out and walk.

Anchor, S. “Positive Intelligence.” Retrieved from http://hbr.org/2012/01/positive-intelligence/ar/1

(by guest blogger/newsletterist Allisa Cherry)

Humans are born to stroll

“If people want to be healthier and prolong their life span, all they really need to do is go for a walk. It’s the single easiest thing anyone can do.”

- Gretchen Reynolds, Author of The First 20 Minutes: Surprising Science Reveals How We Can: Exercise Better, Train Smarter, Live Longer

“Two-thirds of Americans get no exercise at all. If one of those people gets up and moves around for 20 minutes, they are going to get a huge number of health benefits, and everything beyond that 20 minutes is, to some degree, gravy.”

While weight-loss is certainly an important aspect of an exercise program, she stresses that it should by far not be the only consideration:

“If someone starts an exercise program and improves his fitness, even if he doesn’t lose an ounce, he will generally have a longer life and a much healthier life. It would be nice if people would look at exercise as a way to make themselves feel better and live longer and not necessarily as a way to make themselves skinnier.”

Regarding being sedentary (ie: an office job) , she has this to say:

“I really do stand up at least every 20 minutes now, because I was spending five or six hours unmoving in my chair. The science is really clear that that is very unhealthy, and that it promotes all sorts of disease. All you have to do to ameliorate that is to stand up. You don’t even have to move. I’m standing up right now as I talk on the phone. I stand during most of my interviews now.”

 

Read the rest of the interview at the ever-great ‘Well’ blog at the NYT:

http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/05/04/the-surprising-shortcut-to-better-health/

 

Invite walked-across-the-U.S. Matt Green to come speak

I just received an email from Matt Green, who just recently finished a 157 day walk across America.

He has given a few talks on his experience and says he’s been getting great feedback. I think it’s a tremendous thing he’s done, and I would imagine the kind of things you could bring back from a walk of that length would be very much worth hearing. His talk is largely based around his experiences on that trip. A couple of lessons he felt were most vital are:

  1. The world is a far kinder and less scary place than we’re told, and
  2. There is so much beauty around us, often right in front of our eyes, that we take for granted.

I’ve got a few talks lined up for 2011, but I’d love to add more, so if you know of a group that might be interested in having me do a presentation (anywhere between 20 and 90 minutes), please let me know.

Sounds like something I’d love to hear. Drop Matt a line. His site is: http://imjustwalkin.com/