The Importance of Keeping Your Blood Sugar Stable

Though scientists aren't entirely sure why, high blood sugar leads to certain complications in diabetics. And therefore, maintaining consistently balanced blood sugar levels can prevent or delay complications in diabetics and potentially prevent diabetes in those with insulin resistance or pre-diabetes.

Benefits for Type-1 Diabetics

Research shows keeping your blood sugar levels consistently in a tight range may substantially decrease risk of developing diabetic eye disease (retinopathy), kidney disease (nephropathy), and nerve disease (neuropathy) while also delaying and slowing progression of all three of these complications.

However, there is a potential drawback associated with tight blood sugar control – low blood sugar (hypoglycemia). And in fact, study subjects who followed an intensive treatment program (with the goal of keeping blood sugar within a narrow range and close to normal limits), had three times the risk of severe hypoglycemia compared to the standard group. Hypoglycemia can result in many side effects including potential heart attack and stroke in adults. However, hypoglycemia can be prevented; click here for more information1.

Benefits for Type 2 Diabetics

The United Kingdom Prospective Diabetes Study (UKPDS) followed type 2 diabetics over a median 10-year period. They found any improvements in blood sugar control and blood pressure reduced diabetes-related complications including strokes, diabetes related deaths, diabetes-related eye, kidney and nerve disease and vision loss. For every percentage point decrease in A1C, there was a 35% risk reduction in diabetes-related eye, kidney and nerve disease. However, this study also found a potential drawback associated with intense blood sugar control, particularly with insulin; an increase in weight gain and hypoglycemia (as well as hypoglycemia related complications)2.

What is Tight Blood Sugar Control?

Tight blood means trying to keep your blood sugar levels as close to normal as possible1:

  • Before meals: between 70-139 mg/dl
  • In the 2-hour time period after the start of a meal: < 180 mg/dl
  • A1C: less than 7%

* For some diabetics, physicians may set different blood sugar and A1C goals. And therefore, it is very important to work with a physician and Certified Diabetes Educator to develop a plan that is individualized to meet your specific needs while minimizing risk of any complications.  

How Diabetics, Prediabetics and those with Insulin Resistance Can Keep their Blood Sugar Within Normal Limits

Exercise, healthy eating (your healthcare practitioner may set specific limits for carbohydrate intake), weight loss (or keeping weight within normal limits) and taking medications as prescribed, will help you keep your blood sugar levels closer to normal. In addition, keeping stress levels low and consistently getting a good night’s rest may also help. Research shows people with untreated sleep issues or those who do not get enough sleep may increase their risk of developing obesity, insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. The Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP), a federally funded study examining people at high risk for diabetes, found modest weight loss and physical activity can help prevent or delay the development of type 2 diabetes in those with pre-diabetes.

Careful monitoring and leading a healthy lifestyle can pay off by helping  diabetics prevent or delay complications while also helping those with pre-diabetes and insulin resistance delay or prevent the development of type 2 diabetes.

 

References

1 http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/treatment-and-care/blood-glucose-control/tight-diabetes-control.html

2 King P, Peaock I, Donnelly R. The UK Prospective Diabetes Study (UKPDS): clinical and therapeutic implications for type 2 diabetes. Br J Clin Pharmacol 1999; 48(5): 643–648.

American Diabetes Association. Implications of the Diabetes Control and Complications Trial. Diabetes Care 2003, 26(1):S25-S27.

SEE ALSO:  Easy Steps for Prediabetes Proactive Care and  New Study: Mediterranean Style Diet May Help Fight Diabetes Better than Just a Low Fat Diet

 

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Beauty Foods - Nutrition's Role in Looking (and being) Healthy

Your skin is the largest organ in your body. And though applying a broach spectrum zinc-based sunscreen all year long should be your number one defense for keeping your skin healthy and preventing wrinkles, what you eat and drink can also have dramatic effects on overall skin health. Here’s a look at the top beauty foods and drinks:

Water

Water is a part of every single cell in the human body. And, staying hydrated keeps your skin plumped up and smooth. If you are dehydrated your skin will look dry, less elastic and more wrinkled. If you have a tough time getting enough water, consider low calorie or calorie free sparkling water, milk, 100% juice and tea. All contribute to your hydration needs. Plus, milk and 100% juice have nutrients necessary for good health and tea contains antioxidants that may protect skin from some of the damage caused by UV rays.

Citrus fruits 

Citrus fruits contain an abundance of vitamin C. But did you know that these other fruits and veggies do too?

  • tomatoes
  • strawberries
  • oranges
  • Red bell peppers
  • Kiwi
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Potatoes

Vitamin C is essential for the synthesis of connective tissue – a type of tissue found throughout our body including in our skin. In addition, adequate vitamin C is necessary for wound healing.

Sunflower seeds and almonds

Sunflower seeds and almonds are both excellent sources of vitamin E, a vitamin that few people get enough of from their food intake. As an antioxidant, vitamin E helps protect cell membranes and collagen from damage. Plus it helps “recycle” vitamin C for use again.

Salmon

Salmon is one of the most commonly eaten sources of the omega 3 fatty acids EPA and DHA. The omega 3 fatty acids can help the symptoms associated with some skin disorders, contribute to skin integrity and help decrease inflammation.  It also contains a good amount of Vitamin D.

Dark green leafy vegetables

Spinach, kale, collards and turnip greens are full of carotenoids, namely lutein and zeaxanthin. Both of these antioxidants ( What Do You Know About Antioxidants? )seem to protect skin from some of the damage caused by UV rays from the sun.  

photo credit: rachel a. k. via photopin cc

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Wondering what you can do to defend against Diabetes?

Pre-Diabetes and Diabetes Prevention – Action Plan

We all are pretty familiar with the basics – eating right, exercising, and managing weight gain can and do make a great difference in your health.  But specifically, there are helpful details you may be unaware of that help regulate blood sugar and can help fight a predisposition toward Type 2 Diabetes.

Move it! And lift it or push or pull it too! 

Exercise is always healthy, but did you know that on top of helping you manage your weight and reducing your appetite, physical activity helps lower blood sugar levels and helps boost your body’s sensitivity to insulin which helps keep blood sugar levels within normal range.  Aerobic movement and resistance training together offer the most benefit.

Fruit Fiber, Vegetable Fiber, Nut Fiber and More Fiber 

Fruit, beans, vegetables, whole grains, and nuts and seeds all offer fiber benefits, including:

  • Weight Control – helps you stay fuller longer and keep portion sizes in control, a little fiber filled food goes way farther and you’ll eat less than the same amount of non-fiber-filled food.
  • Long-Term Health Benefits – Fiber intake plays a part in heart health and intestinal/colon health.
  • Blood Sugar Regulation – Fiber specifically helps regulate blood sugar because it doesn't require insulin to digest, so it simply passes through your body intact.

Weight Reduction in Baby Steps

While we all know that reaching and maintaining an ideal body weight is the best way to combat diabetes, even a small reduction in weight can have a measurable effect on diabetes risk!  Surprisingly, as little as 2.2 lbs. can possibly reduce diabetes risk by 16%, one study says.  A modest 5-10% loss of overall body weight reduced the risk of diabetes by almost 60% over the course of 3 years.  So this is not an all or nothing proposition!

Protect yourself against diabetes ~ every little step you take makes a difference!

Mayo Clinic Resources

SEE ALSO: Diet and Exercise Can Keep You Looking and Feeling Younger  and  Easy Steps for Prediabetes Proactive Care

 

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Break Out of Your Comfort Zone!

Right out of the gate I want you to know that this doesn't mean you need to start sky diving or running back-to-back marathons. No, actually what I mean by “getting out of your comfort zone” is that there are so many things out there you should try!

Many times when we try new things, even though they may be healthy for us, the first time we try them it can be scary and just weird. Don’t worry, that will quickly wear off once you get accustomed to it!

Let’s look at a couple of health related activities that you need to try that may take you getting out of your comfort zone!

Zumba 

There may not be a more fun, engaging way to really ramp up your heart rate and burn through the calories than Zumba. This dancing form of exercise really has swept the country and it may be time you try it! The best part is that you can convince a couple of your friends to join in on the class and you all can have a blast dancing, laughing, and just being healthy!

HIIT 

If you are looking for a way to cut back on the hours and hours you do of cardio each week while still reaching the results you want, HIIT sessions may be the ticket. These High Intensity Interval Training sessions are intense and employ short bursts of super high intensity exercise. They are great for torching calories and saving you time! Make sure you are cleared to perform such intense exercise.

5K 

This may be WAY out of your comfort zone. Running or walking a 5K is a great way to help you shape-up and they are usually for a good cause (many 5Ks are for charity). The beauty of it is that once you are committed to running or walking one, you have a set date that you can then work towards. This means that it will motivate you to exercise before the actual event, hopefully providing you with some great results!

At-Home Workouts

I know for a fact that many people don’t want to try this one. Many people think they need a gym to exercise. They think they need a trainer to guide them. They think they need equipment to exercise. I totally get it, but you can get a great workout at home and this is especially important if you are pinched for time. Instead of not working out at all, you can perform body weight exercises or use dumbbells to perform a strength training workout right from your living room. It can be just as effective and will save you a trip to the gym!

Wrap-Up

Well you probably have heard of each and every one of these listed above, but have you ever tried them? This might be the opportunity or the push you need to get out there and try something new. Sometimes it takes a little change to re-ignite that fitness spark and get you motivated again! So today when you go exercise, try something new. Try something a little different and get out of your comfort zone!

SEE ALSO:  Get Physical For Free! Body Weight Exercises for Top Fitness and  Re-energize Your Exercise Program for Fall

For easy, effective, convenient ways to workout at home visit Always Active Athletics: “Your #1 Source For At-Home Fitness.”

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These Joints Were Made For Walking

We recently posed an online question: 

“How do you stay in motion when your joints are giving you trouble?”  

By far the most popular answer was – WALKING!!  Walking at lunch, walking the dog, parking far away and walking to your destination, walking up stairs instead of elevators – anything to do with walking.  Here are a few of the comments we received: 

“Keep a pair of athletic shoes at work which will encourage you to walk more.”

“Walking daily helps me keep my joints feeling good.”

“I just keep doing things to keep my body moving and my muscles going.”

“I keep music on in the house most of the day and dance about while I do my chores.”

Other great suggestions included:  

  • gardening
  • dancing
  • yoga and Pilates
  • taking nutritional supplements such as glucosamine and chondroitin
  • tennis
  • bowling
  • hiking
  • water aerobics
  • biking
  • swimming
  • spinning classes. 

Lots of great ideas!

Walking is a wonderful way to relieve joint discomfort and manage arthritis.  It can also you help maintain a healthy weight, when part of a sensible diet and exercise program.  Sometimes a joint health supplement can help get you going too, just be sure to talk to your doctor first about what might help you.

Join a Team!

One way to stay motivated is to walk in support of a cause.  The Jingle Bell Run/Walk, taking place in cities and towns all over the country this December, is the Arthritis Foundation's annual nationwide event that supports public awareness and raises funds to fight arthritis, the nation's leading cause of disability.  Put a Jingle Bell Run/Walk team together at the event nearest you (click here to locate the JBR nearest your hometown), put bells on your shoes, tinsel in your hair and have lots of fun while raising money for a great cause .

Here is a great blog outlining a 30-day just get started walking program for beginners: QUICKSTART

Walking Healthy Tip  – Buy good walking shoes – if your feet hurt, you won’t want to walk, so it’s very important to have good shoes.  Go to a shoe store that will personally find a shoe just for you such as an athletic or sporting goods store.  It’s well worth the money and your feet will love you for it!

SEE ALSO:  Best Exercises for Stronger Feet and Ankles for Foot Health Awareness Month and  Arthritis Activity Continuum for Maximum Benefit and Minimal Joint Strain

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What are you willing to do to live your dream? An older professional athlete's perspective

Happy fall ~ it’s almost time for Winter Sports!

There is always snow and ice somewhere; so all of you who play winter sports are probably getting your gear out of the garage and pulling it from each nook and cranny you stuffed it in last spring.  Winter sports take up a lot of storage space – right?

For me, as a competitive Skelton athlete, I had no idea how much space my gear would take up! From shoes, winter gear  for the cold gym,  extra snow pants and coats, helmets, steel runners,  large rolls of foam, buckets of tools – to rolls of tape, cans of glue, metric and standard wrenches- crates for sleds,  it all takes up an entire room in the house.  Most people might not be willing to lose an entire room or a garage to gear storage.  This is not a hobby, this is not an adventure;   this is a full time commitment that requires not only household space but emotional, financial and all other parts of life re-prioritized.

In addition to giving up a room in your home what else are you willing to do?  This question is so incredibly nontrivial.    

If you have passion for being a competitive athlete or for pursuing any dream with a degree of perceived success then you must ask yourself, “What am I willing to do to make it happen?”   

What I have been willing to do because of my sport might not be relevant to you, but you will be able to relate it to your sport or dream.

To commence, everyone is different.  What drives each athlete is different; what drives one older athlete over another is different.  

What am I willing to do?  

At the risk of extreme oversimplification, I am willing to burn retirement income, have an extremely limited social life, trade all that has been prior goals for a new singular focus, re- prioritize almost everything in life, eat differently, live differently, I am willing to be different.  How does this play out in living the life of a professional skeleton athlete?

I am willing to be a lone wolf emotionally to pursue a dream, to have no regrets, to pursue something that is in my heart and I do not care to evangelize to anyone as I do not have the emotional bandwidth.  

I am willing to lay in freezing ice and water and snow to put chains on in the middle of the night after training for 4 hours in blizzard alone.  I am willing to sleep in my car if I cannot get home and I am willing to do whatever it takes to survive and be successful.    This means I have left some friends in the rear view mirror.  One who chooses to pursue a dream with tenacity, determination and passion cannot have negative or non-supportive people in their lives.  It impacts your mental game and your physical training.  Cut them loose!

I am willing  to drive cross country for hours alone in the car with static on channels and my own thoughts of knowing I have made the right choice and yet wondering why I did not pick up a yo yo instead of a sled?  

I am willing to live and dream and pursue morning, noon day and night my dream.  It is all consuming to pursue a dream- yet one must find balance -especially as an older athlete.

I am willing to endure surgery with no anesthesia because I have no ride home from the hospital.    I have been injured severely by a doctor who claimed to be an expert.   I have fought back from surgery and rehabilitation.  Why would someone do this?   Most would stop here- especially if you are older it is easier to say… “Well, I gave it a try.” 

When you are older and you get hurt, the world around says, “see I told you – too old!”  Or my favorite “You just do not heal as fast as you get older.”  Well there is some truth to the latter but it is all relative.  Basically it takes twice as much for an older athlete to achieve the same as a younger, sacrifice is greater and if you are fighting back from an injury the journey is different. 

One cannot address the topic of “What are you willing to do?”  without addressing what are you willing to do when most would give up; or when there is a catastrophic unplanned interruption in the dream.    Severe injury is just one interruption, older athletes face other life issues like death and illness of family – at each extreme interruption you have to ask -  What am I willing to do?  How do I juggle everything?

You must trust that the moments of clarity where you know your choice is right are the moments that count.  This takes wisdom, emotional intelligence and again, balance. 

No matter what you must be willing to move forward.

  1. I am willing to give up any type of a vacation for years- as days off are for training time on a track.
  2. I do not have time for a dinner out- I work full time, I train full time, I juggle the sport and the scheduling and the human dynamics and politics of professional sports full time and I still must keep the wheels on the bus of life.     
  3. I am willing to do extreme nutrition.   I cook for the winter in the fall.  I eat only what I cook to keep out GMO toxins and other chemicals such as MSG.    My social time is done while my friends understandably talk to me while I am cooking 150 meat balls comprised of bison, organic beef, nuts and berries, cooking 24 chicken breasts, protein powder mixing and baking.  All to be frozen and taken on the road with me so I can continue to train and not suffer food consequences. 
  4. I am willing to spend most time alone in deep focus and planning.  Of course the brain needs breaks;   and this I do alone as well.  My life is unusual.    I have made choices and I also have a strong sense that we are put on earth to serve and to help others.   My sanity is balanced in this way – One must have balance.    In an instant, I will stop the above to help a fellow man or woman in need or in crisis.  Even my balance is extreme but the universe understands my DNA and I am willing to step up to the plate presented at any given moment. 
  5. I stay balanced by reason and logic; prayer and meditation – Balance in the face of a choice of unbalance is critical.  Being willing to do these things is an enormous sacrifice but at the end of the day – It does not matter if your passion or dream is to quilt the best quilt or jump from a plane, or hunt the biggest deer.

 The reality is there is a price. To be the best, one has to be willing to imagine the unimaginable and then be willing to actually execute the unimaginable. 

Benjamin Franklin said; “If passion is what drives you, make sure that reason is holding the reins” reason must hold the reins for an older athlete – but it is a line that you must be willing to test daily and understand clearly.    Passion gets you through and keeps you going but reason cannot be ignored.  

Without question, for me, the sacrifices are all worth it! Until perhaps, one day, reason says otherwise. 

I am preparing for the best season ever!  Headed to Canada to train, I have a new coach who is outstanding.  I am on cloud 9 and ready! Bring it!  I am willing, able and ready! 

SEE ALSO: Is It Different Being an Older Athlete? The Financial Impact and  Is It Different Being an Older Athlete? The Medical Impact

Anna Prata is an Olympic hopeful Competitive Skeleton Athlete. Otherwise known mainly by her last name of Prata, she is 100% committed and passionate about living every moment of her life and leaving it on the field every day.   In her non-athlete time, Prata is a highly successful executive in the niche of corporate turnaround.  Both her corporate life and her sports life have similarities of stealth, intensity, and speed in creating value and less time down the ice; while wearing Kevlar to protect from the dangers of companies in distress and from potentially hitting a wall of ice at 90 MPR.  Ms. Prata is not a nutritionist, a physical therapist or in any way should her opinions be considered medical, physical  or psychological advice.  P/S Prata is 50 Years of age! 

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Lets Talk About Seizures and Iron

On September 8th, my husband and I were sitting on opposite couches watching television together. He made a joke, looked over, and thought I was laughing.  When he looked harder, he saw me shaking and thought I was choking.  My arms had been crossed over my chest, and he picked me up (!)  and tried to give me the Heimlich.  I guess when he saw my face, he realized that I was having a seizure.  He called 911 because I wasn’t breathing, blood was coming out of my mouth, I had bitten straight through my tongue, and they talked him through everything and sent the ambulance within minutes. (Sidebar:  apparently I was VERY belligerent to the firemen who showed up.  I don't remember this at all, and feel awful that it even happened.)
 
Other than that, I don’t remember a thing about it.  It was mostly traumatic for my husband, who really took the brunt of all of it.  I did end up with some battle wounds:   I bit almost clear through my tongue, twisted my ankle, and tweaked my back.  I tried to nurse all of those yesterday, but I’m really feeling the brunt of the pain today. 
 

Not being able to sing, talk, or practice trumpet is KILLING ME. 

 
They say that the mouth heals faster than any other part of your body, so hop to it, body!  I can deal with the back and foot (although they are pretty damn painful), but the tongue is just really an inconvenience for everything:  the above mentioned plus eating, drinking, or brushing my teeth.
 
I went to rehearsal and tried to sing, which quickly frustrated me:  I sounded like a lisping Cindy Brady every time I sang a work with an "S's" in it. Playing trumpet was even more traumatic because you use the tip and front of your tongue almost all the time.  Right now, it feels like my tongue has been given Novocaine and over a week later, it is still numb.
 
I’ve never had a seizure before and have no family history.  The ER tests couldn't pinpoint why this has happened, so we’re kind of on the hunt for what’s going on right now.  
 
The reasons they are focusing most on:
  1. My low iron levels
  2. That I may have bleeding ulcers again
 
I don’t feel like I do, but they are doing an upper GI next week to be sure, and I have a consultation with a neurologist as well.
 

But the moral of the story here kids is DO NOT SKIP YOUR VITAMINS!  

I am a well-known proponent for Wellesse and all it's liquidy awesomeness.  I'm usually pretty good about my multivitamins, but if I'm being honest, I've been slacking on the iron.   So from this point on, I carry my little travel bottles with me EVERYWHERE.  Low iron and seizures for me no more!
 
 
Diva Taunia is a professional musician and music educator in the Greater Los Angeles area.  She had RNY gastric bypass surgery on 03/25/2008 and has maintained a loss of almost 150 lbs.  You can visit her website at www.divataunia.com.
 
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Is There Any Difference Being An Older Athlete? The Loneliness Factor

Past articles in this series selected gritty topics to examine, with our families and loved ones affected - not always positively – by our choice to be an older athlete; even when there is great communication and commitment to the goal between the athlete and their family or spouse.  This series did have a great deal of discussion about what the loved ones or inner circles in our lives (as professional athletes) actually encounter.  

This blog is all about the athlete.   How lonely is it?  

Being an older athlete means juggling a lot of issues between career, training, spouse, children, finances, medical visits, and sometimes intimacy issues and competition.  Any and all of these issues can create a feeling of loneliness.   

There is a difference between being alone and being lonely!

Let’s be clear:   We own our choices and that is that – no whining, or as I was raised “no blood, no Band-Aid.”  

It is rewarding to be an older athlete, it is invigorating, and it keeps you healthy, young and well, not sure about “wealthy or wise.” But I would not trade my choice for the world – until the moment I do.  

Being an older athlete means that at any point in time you might have to make a different decision for the family, for the retirement plan, for the career.  A younger athlete usually does not face these decisions.  

Being an older athlete can be extremely lonely!  It is exhausting!  I do not mean physically because of a hard work out - I mean the juggling of life. 

I am going to use my specific sport because it is my experience. The sport of skeleton is what I chose somewhat blindly to go “all in”.  Everyone’s journey is different.

I am a winter athlete which means if I do not live near an ice track.  I have to go find one in EU, Canada, Japan or the USA.  We train at the gym in the morning – we train on the ice at night, on a track at higher altitude.  By the time the athletes commence training, it is cold and dark.   We warm up, we slide, we go down the hill, and go back up in a truck, in the dark, at temperatures of -10 degrees, in a paper thin speedo.  If you are in Alberta it can be -20 (-25 and they close the track). 

The cold alone can create emotional fatigue and loneliness.   In addition, there is something more challenging about training for something in the dark - Special Forces Navy Seals and other divers train in the dark underwater.  Darkness brings an entirely different dimension to any sport or training

My alarm goes off at 3:17 a.m. and again it is dark and cold.   wake up to silence and my own energy -mixing the right protein shake, planning food for the day and packing the car for the gym and then the laptop for a days work - There is no one to say “come on Prata, you can do it! – we are doing dead lifts and core today!” except the voice in my head.

During the day I train, mix protein shakes, take my supplements, try to stay warm, work on my sled, call the insurance, the 401K investment research, and work a minimum of 12 hours in corporate America – do conference calls on mute while sanding the runners on my sled in a basement that I rented with a hat on my head, because it is damp and cold.  No one has checked on me to see how I am or if I have eaten enough or am I ready for the night.

3:30 PM – I still have to get my sled ready for night training, get to the track, make my runs, load up my gear after sliding, drive home, (often chaining up to get out of snow) and arrive home around 11:00 p.m., wet, cold and insanely hungry.  This is lonely and I love it -  but, after four days of intense physical and emotional pushing, even the energizer bunny is tired. 

 I have stood in curves of the track with my love for the sport and the ice in the dark studying what I did wrong on that steer and cried.  I have cried hard knowing I am older and have to learn faster.  There is no learning faster in this sport – a friend said, “You cannot force it – it will come.” 

I have always been able to conquer- there were nights the harder I tried the worse I did. And after working so hard to do well and missing that mark, I still have a full night ahead.  This is lonely.   

Being an older athlete can or might mean you do NOT have emotional support.  Even your most inner circle does not really know why you are doing this, let alone agree with your choices.  

No champion means you start every day out emotionally alone.

You have to dig very deep to find the drive.  I have tenacity and determination in spades and I use these to prevail.  I also happen to be a Girl Scout and survival trained, so when I am stuck on the pass at night after training cold and hungry,  I already have protein bars, a sleeping bag and shovels and lights to dig out if I have too.  Talk about lonely!!! All you want is someone in that moment to care, love or support you or take a turn with the shovel!      

This is when being an older athlete, you dig deep and ask why you are doing it?  For Fame?   Wrong answer!  FOR the purity of the sport?  YES!!.   

Do not expect support from someone who does not understand-that will never happen.  Do not pursue a dream like this while trying to impress anybody!  

For me, I fell in love with the ice.  Often falling in love is a beautiful thing.  In this case it has proven to be one of the most amazing blessings and also a curse.  

Pursue your dream no matter what and if that means you learn to deal with a deep loneliness on occasion- I assure you, it will make you stronger, your resolve more intact and your focus more clear.

To illustrate my point, here’s a scenario:

I have pulled up to my temporary den, the snow is blowing and I cannot get down the driveway and into the garage without shoveling 40 meters of driveway.  What the hell!  At this point in the night I am thinking, “BRING IT!”  Another workout!   30 minutes later I am in the garage, unloading my sled and gear bag (sled weighs 34.5 KG /75+lbs) I still need to shower and get food in me fast so my muscles recover.  My heart rate has been high enough for such an extended period of time, being in survival mode after training, that I will burn in excess of 8000 calories this night.  I am so hungry!   I am emotionally processing my runs in the shower. It never stops!

There was no one to have watched or videoed, no one to say, “Nice job Prata! or what the hell was that?”  No one to make sure the salmon does not overcook (I prefer my salmon quite rare), no one to dry the clothes, dry off Gabriel (my sled); yet, as lonely as this can be, I have no regrets.

I fell in love with the ice, and anytime anyone falls in love and you are fortunate to have that happen in life, then you have to play it out! It is amazing what one will do for love and in my case the true purity of the sport. I have no regrets!  

This blog is dedicated to Louis Cardello- a precious kind human who has supported me emotionally from a distance and asked me on many nights, “Well, how did curve 6 go?”  He has never seen a track, he never will, he simply knows and trusts my commitment and passion for this sport and he respects that I must play it out.

SEE ALSO: Is It Different Being an Older Athlete? The Medical Impact  and  Is There Any Difference Being an older Athlete - The Intimacy Talk

Anna Prata is an Olympic hopeful Competitive Skeleton Athlete. Otherwise known mainly by her last name of Prata, she is 100% committed and passionate about living every moment of her life and leaving it on the field every day.   In her non-athlete time, Prata is a highly successful executive in the niche of corporate turnaround.  Both her corporate life and her sports life have similarities of stealth, intensity, and speed in creating value and less time down the ice; while wearing Kevlar to protect from the dangers of companies in distress and from potentially hitting a wall of ice at 90 MPR.  Ms. Prata is not a nutritionist, a physical therapist or in any way should her opinions be considered medical, physical  or psychological advice.  

 

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Happy Healthy Halloween

The joy of Halloween comes from haunted houses, spooky decorations, seeing adults in costumes at work and the excited faces of children who knock on your door. The candy and treats - well they are the same ones that are available year round in non-Halloween packaging! If you’re tempted though, try some of these replacement ideas or tips to avoid the cookie jar at work:

Stock candy you don’t like 

Small kids love sour candies (thanks to their taste buds at that age) but how many adults crave that sour taste? Take some time to look through the candy isle and pick up candy that your trick-or-treaters will love but you won’t be tempted to eat.

Hand out toys 

Most houses hand out candy for Halloween. But how many have cool toys that kids will remember? Silly putty, stickers, temporary tattoos, sticky spiders (they stick to walls without leaving a mark) bouncy balls, glow in the dark sticks – all of these are things that kids love playing with yet they won’t affect your waistline if you have any leftovers. In fact, you can even save any extras for next year!

Focus on healthy Halloween treats 

If you are having a party and thinking of making decorated cookies or a cake, consider healthier options. Here are a few ideas: pumpkin muffins, roasted pumpkin (or other squash) seeds, pumpkin bars or cookies, caramel apples (drizzle caramel or white or dark chocolate on apples instead of coating them and you’ll still get the taste with fewer calories), gingerbread cookies, spiced popcorn, rice crispy treats in Halloween shapes.

Hide that candy jar at work

Research shows you eat less of foods that are out of sight (out of sight, out of mind). If your co-worker brought a jar of leftover candy or your break room at work contains doughnuts and other treats, put them out of sight (the refrigerator, a desk drawer) and send an email out about where they are. Anyone who really wants that orange frosted doughnut will go out of the way to find it. But, anyone who is trying to avoid the temptation will eventually forget about the doughnuts, cakes, cookies and candy. In fact, I bet many of your coworkers will thank you.

Choose other ways to celebrate 

Fall is an absolutely beautiful time of year – the weather has cooled down yet it isn’t too cold making it the perfect time to go for a hike, pick apples or pumpkins, take a walk at work during your lunch break, head to a scary hunted house or rake leaves and jump in the piles. Take advantage of the many ways to celebrate this holiday while also getting a little physical activity at the same time!

There’s no reason to be concerned about holiday food. In most instances the packaging is more exciting than the actual candy or baked goods. Take part in all of the Halloween activities, enjoy Fall weather, make healthier treats with Fall produce and hide the candy and you’ll have a healthy Halloween.

SEE ALSO:  Fall Food Finds - The Best Nutrition in Autumn Harvest and  Tips to Reduce Sugar in Your Diet Without Missing a Thing

 

 

 

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A Vitamin D and Calcium Primer

What do you know about calcium and vitamin D?

When it comes to nutrition, the media often finds an ingredient, supplement or product that steals the spotlight for a period of time.  Sometimes the ingredient is lambasted to the point where it becomes an outcast at warp speed, this happened with partially hydrogenated oils (man made trans fats).  Other times, the news is good.   And this is what has happened with vitamin D.  This vitamin has gone from the kid at the back of the class to center stage in a short period of time.  


Why Vitamin D along with Calcium?

When it comes to bone health, many of us automatically think of calcium and milk/dairy.  However, calcium alone can't do its job without adequate vitamin D.  Think of vitamin D as the gatekeeper to bone tissue, it aids in the absorption of calcium.  Many calcium supplements now come fortified with vitamin D to make supplementation easier for consumers.

Vitamin D may also decrease our risk for certain types of cancer.  Most notably, colon, prostate and breast cancer.  And, a deficiency in vitamin D can lead to osteopenia, osteoporosis, chronic pain, muscle weakness, fractures and autoimmune diseases.  A recent U.S. study in the June 9 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine, found that Vitamin D deficiency may increase the risk of heart attacks in men.

We need sunlight - but in moderation

Vitamin D is manufactured in the skin upon exposure to sunlight.  Past recommendations have indicated that just a little exposure - say 15 minutes a day, will give us all the sunlight we need to make vitamin D.  However, recent studies have shown that many of us fall short.  Even people living in climates sunny throughout the year like southern Arizona.  How can this be the case?  Individuals with darker skin and older individuals just don't produce vitamin D as well as fair-skinned, younger people do.  And, people who live in less than sunny climates simply aren't exposed to the sun's rays often enough.  Lastly, many people have had skin cancer (basal and squamous cell carcinoma is on the rise) and are avid sun block users and therefore don't manufacture adequate vitamin D.

Calcium - our bones needs it!

Now, on to calcium. Aside from its role in bone health, calcium also aids in:  muscle contraction, blood vessel contraction and expansion, hormone secretion, heartbeat regulation, conducting nerve impulses and blot clotting.  And, all of these functions are considered more vital than keeping our bones strong.  So, when we fall short on our calcium intake our body leaches it from our bones. If this process occurs frequently, over time we end up with weak, porous bones, osteopenia and osteoporosis.

Make sure you get enough!

It's clear we need to take in adequate levels of calcium and vitamin D daily.  Calcium is more easily obtained from foods, especially dairy foods.  Greens like spinach are often noted for their calcium but, this calcium is bound to the oxalic acid present in these greens and therefore, not readily absorbed.  The same thing goes for calcium that is fortified into grain products - it is bound to phytic acid and not easily absorbed in the body.  Vitamin D is a bit harder to find in foods.  Salmon, mackerel, canned tuna, canned sardines, and milk are your best options.  If you don't drink 4 glasses of milk a day or a combination of other dairy and the fish mentioned above, try a calcium + Vitamin D supplement.

liquid calcium and Vitamin D supplement is very easy way to get what you need each day.  You can take it all at once or split up the dosage.  Calcium is best absorbed if you take 500 mg at a time, usually morning and evening doses.

SEE ALSO: What You Need to Know About Calcium and Vitamin D and  What You Need to Know About Osteoporosis

 

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10 Healthy Snacks to Replace Junk Food

Snacking is the bane of many people’s nutrition existence. They do so well in eating 3 healthy meals a day but almost always slip up when it comes to snacking. Maybe it’s because snacks are just so tasty that it’s hard to find a good alternative.

If you want to really get your health or weight loss under control its important to control your snacking. It’s amazing how many calories you consume throughout the day when you don’t even think you are. A handful of M&Ms here and a couple of potato chips there don’t seem like a lot at the time but when added up they can lead to hundreds of calories (this is especially true considering their relatively low volume to caloric content of most not-so-good for you snack foods).

Below you will find 10 savory, tasty snacks that can replace some of the junk food you may be accustomed to eating. Just replacing one bad snack with a healthy one could save you 50-100+ calories a day which can add to big weight loss over the course of a year (5.2 – 10.4 pounds worth of calories). Start small with sustainable habit forming practices to get your snacking under control!

10 Awesome Snacks

1. Peanut butter and banana slices on crackers 

This is one of the better combinations out there in my personal opinion. This great snack gives you a boost of prolonged energy while filling you up; meaning you won’t crash at 2:00pm. You can even use rice cakes as well!

2. Celery with peanut butter and raisins

Here you get deliciousness for a low amount of calories! Get the energy boost from the peanut butter and nuts/raisins on stomach-filling celery. Plus this snack is super easy to make and would be great at the office!

3. Greek yogurt and fruit

Greek yogurt and any fruit is killer in my book! A small bowl of Greek yogurt with blueberries, raspberries, or even peach slices is amazing! This snack will provide you with a healthy dose of energy, calcium, and probiotic. Try putting in a few cashews or almonds too!

4. Sweet potato fries and honey

This is also one of my favorites that I make all the time! With a long energy boost due to the slow breakdown of the carbs and natures energy drink (honey) this will have you energized and feeling full!  

5. Watermelon slices with mixed nuts 

Sound weird? It’s super tasty! Any type of nut (pistachios, almonds, almonds…etc.) combined with watermelon is going to make for a great snack. This snack is great for throwing into a container and taking with your to work!

6. Tomato slices, roast beef, and goat cheese

Sounds like a Mediterranean snack doesn't it? Chopping up a little roast beef and adding it as toppings really make this snack yummy! Consume your veggies with a healthy dose of protein!

7. Cucumbers, horseradish, and roast beef

Need to spice it up a little? The horseradish gives it a perfect amount of spiciness to combat the cooling sensation of the cucumbers! On top of that, the roast beef adds a nice salty flavor.

8. Hummus and vegetables

Hummus is amazing by itself but combined with vegetables, it flat-out rocks! This is convenient, making it a great office snack (or a great snack for anywhere).

9. Peanut butter, nuts, between apple slices

Make yourself an apple sandwich! Use the apple slices as “bread” with peanut butter and other mixed nuts in between! Simple and fun to make and it provides a good amount of protein and energy!

10. Meat wrapped mozzarella

Another Mediterranean-esque snack! This will hold you over until your next meal, trust me. Just wrap a string-cheese mozzarella stick with a piece of ham or roast beef! These two combined equal energy and sustenance!

Wrap-Up

As I said earlier, take it gently and start replacing a snack a day with some of these healthy alternatives (don’t want to dive in head first). Once you get into the habit and find the snacks you like, try to eventually replace all of your junk snacks with quality, filling healthy snacks!

SEE ALSO: Sneaky Calories - Identifying them is half the battle! 

For more healthy snacking ideas and fitness examples that you can do at home visit Always Active Athletics: “Your #1 Source For At-Home Fitness!”

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Health Tickets to Minimizing Breast Cancer Risk

A few nights ago I was talking to my mom about breast cancer and she interrupted me and started naming the women she knew on nearby streets who were breast cancer survivors. There’s a reason we are hearing so much about this disease and you too many know many women who have had it - breast cancer is the most common cancer in women worldwide. But here’s the good news: there are steps each of us can take to decrease our risk.

Maintain a Healthy Weight

Being overweight increases one’s risk of developing breast cancer and leads to a poorer prognosis if you have breast cancer as well as an increased rate of recurrence, particularly in post-menopausal women.

Make Time for Physical Activity 

According to the most comprehensive report on food, nutrition and cancer prevention from the World Cancer Research Fund and American Institute for Cancer Research, greater than 3 hours of physical activity per week reduces risk of breast cancer. Get your calendar out and schedule periods for exercise. If you are having trouble finding time, get an activity counter (Nike and several other companies make them and there are apps on your phone that you can use as well) and measure your physical activity each day (aiming for at least 10,000 steps per day). Activity counters make you accountable.

Minimize Alcohol Consumption

One or more drinks per day increases your risk of developing breast cancer. And, the more alcohol a woman drinks, the greater her risk of breast cancer.

Eat a Nutrient-Rich Diet

Eating a healthy diet rich in vitamins, minerals and fiber will help you feel better and keep your weight within normal limits. Also, diets that contain plenty of vitamin C rich foods including citrus fruits (oranges, tomatoes, grapefruit), potatoes and strawberries may help protect against certain types of cancer including lung, breast and colon cancers. And, be sure to consume vitamin D rich foods as well including fortified milk or a milk substitute, fortified yogurt (check the container since only a few have added vitamin D) and fatty fish. And, get your vitamin D levels checked and if you are having trouble maintaining them within normal limits through diet alone, take a supplement. The latest research shows patients with the highest levels of vitamin D in their blood had approximately half the death rate from breast cancer as those with the lowest levels of vitamin D in their blood.

SEE ALSO:  Calcium, Vitamin D & Weight?  and  Can Calcium & Vitamin D Supplements Reduce Breast Cancer Risk?

 

References

Food and Nutrition Board. Dietary Reference Intakes: Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Selenium, and Carotenoids. Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 2000. Website: http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=9810

Anticancer Res 2014;34(3):1163-1166.

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Overcoming Commitment Challenges

Commitment Can Be So Hard

You just started a workout or nutrition plan and you are on cloud nine! I mean it seems so easy to stick to this plan that there is no way you will ever stop and the weight will be falling off before you know it! Okay, fast-forward 3 weeks…this plan sucks! You are finding it harder and harder to drag your butt up for a workout, plus you are about sick of those stupid meal plans. AND THE WORST PART; you’ve only lost 2 pounds!

Look we’ve all been there. Losing weight shouldn’t be incredibly hard but it does take commitment and the proper plan. You also need a hefty dose of patience to go along with it but we can save that for an entirely different article.

 But what are some ways to stay committed to your workout or nutrition program? Let’s go over 4 incredibly easy strategies you can put in place in a matter of minutes to help you stay on track!

Ways To Stay Committed

Your program must fit YOUR lifestyle:

There is nothing worse or more demoralizing then getting on a nutrition program that totally doesn't fit your lifestyle! For instance, if you hate to run don’t start a program that involves numerous sprints to induce weight loss. Or if you hate working out at the gym don’t get on a program that requires equipment you will only find at a gym. Find a program that fits your time availability, your career, and your family and you will be more easily able to stay committed!

 Make your loved ones your weight loss allies:

This is more than likely is the best way to stay committed to a program; get a friend to do the program with you. Nothing is more motivational then having a friend there by your side the entire time. You can also tell you family and friends what you are trying to do and have them check in on you from time-to-time to see if you are still on track. This accountability is incredibly motivating and will keep you committed as well! They should be more than happy to help you make positive changes in your life!

Create small goals:

This is huge; only create small goals! For instance, create a goal of only losing 5 pounds in a 2 week time frame. It’s important to be very specific and it will help motivate you to take weight loss 5 pounds at a time! Lose the first 5 then repeat the process! Keep on going!

Write your goals down on paper:

Write down that small goal we just created of “losing 5 pounds” and the date two weeks from now. Having to write them down and having that physical reminder is huge! Put it on a couple sticky notes; one on your computer and one in your purse…so they are always with you! This will be a gentle reminder about what you are trying to accomplish, keeping you committed to seeing it through!

Wrap-Up

Staying committed is one of the hardest parts about losing weight and keeping it off. There are a number of small changes you can make to help keep yourself committed and on the path to weight loss success. Implement these 4 small steps today and see how far you can go!

SEE ALSO:  The Art and Practice of Staying Active and  8 Tips to Break a Weight Loss Plateau

Need more tips for staying active and eating a healthy, well-balanced diet? Visit Always Active Athletics: Your #1 Source For At-Home Fitness!

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Banana Cream Pie Chia Pudding

The rich, smooth flavor of banana cream pie combine with bone-supporting calcium, vitamin D3, and magnesium is a delicious way to get your vitamins!

This chia seed pudding takes on the divine taste of a classic dessert. Banana, cream, and milk married together replicate the silky filling of homemade pie. Use your choice of any dairy or non-dairy milk and substitute chilled, full-fat coconut milk for the heavy cream. Wellesse Calcium & Vitamin D3 liquid supplement adds everything you need for healthy, strong bones. Your body and taste buds will thank you!

The benefits of adding Chia seeds into your diet are numerous as well.  Chia seeds are a concentrated bundle of wholesomeness, including healthy Omega-3 fatty acids and a whopping 10 grams of fiber in just 2 tablespoons!

Banana Cream Pie Chia Pudding

  • 1 banana
  • 4 Tbsp heavy cream (or full-fat coconut milk, chilled)
  • ¾ Cup milk (dairy or non-dairy)
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla
  • ¾ tsp lemon juice
  • ½ tsp stevia, or to taste
  • 2 Tbsp. Wellesse Liquid Calcium Supplement with Vitamin D3
  • pinch of salt
  • pinch of turmeric, for color
  • ¼ Cup chia seeds

Combine banana, cream, and milk in food processor or blender until smooth. Add all remaining ingredients, except chia seeds, and process until well blended. Fold in chia by hand. Refrigerate 1-2 hours until thickened.

SEE ALSO: Matcha Chia Pudding For Strength and Energy  and  Immune Boosting Peanut Butter & Banana Smoothie

GUEST POST by Blogger, Recipe Designer and Test Chef Brittany Angell.  Visit her at www.brittanyangell.com and sign up for Club Angell to receive amazing Paleo, Gluten Free, Grain Free recipes.

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Isometric Exercises to Improve Strength

I get why many people can be intimidated by compound, complex exercise movements, “Burpees?...I might break something if I try that!

I also understand that sometimes doing these types of compound movements can be hard on people’s joints, especially if not performed in the right manner. Even with the best form, it can sometimes hurt! That’s where isometric exercises can come into play.

Isometric exercises involve holding a position for a predetermined amount of time. This static position doesn’t allow for your joints to move throughout the duration of the exercise. You are basically holding your muscles as they are against a force, which is usually your own body weight.

This can make isometric exercises great for people with joint problems (as always consult your physician before beginning any exercise program). 

Let’s break down a quick isometric workout that you can do at home with minimal equipment to help build your strength!

Isometric Workout

Wall Sits 

This exercise is great for you lower body! Lean back against your wall as if sitting in a chair with your knees at a 90 degree angle (indicating you are low enough). Hold that position as a timed exercise. You can hold a weight in your lap in order to increase the difficulty.

Planks

To strengthen your core put your body weight on your elbows and toes with your midsection off the ground. Keep your body as straight as possible;  your butt should not be high like a tent or sagging down low either.

Chest Squeeze

Holding your weights out in front of you at arms length, squeeze the weights together. Squeeze the weights together hard with your pectorals the entire time (will also work your shoulders).

Squat Punch

Sit down into a squat (knee over toe, back straight, head up) and hold that position the entire time. While holding the position and dumbbells in hand, punch out repeatedly the entire time! Although the second part (punching) isn’t an isometric move, it will increase the difficulty of the exercise. You can also get down into a squat and hold it while holding onto a table or chair for balance or support.

Leg Holds 

While on your back and your hands under you glutes for added support (take you hands out to make it more difficult) hold your legs about 6 inches off the ground throughout this exercise!

Wrap-Up

To help build strength while saving your joints, perform this set of exercises 3 times trying to hold each position for at least 30 seconds. If it is easy for you (and as it becomes easier) make sure to increase the time you are holding each position. With these simple, joint-friendly, yet highly effective exercises you can keep building your strength! Trust me they are harder than they look! 

SEE ALSO: Exercise Do’s and Don’ts … on a Joint-by-Joint Basis and  Get Physical For Free! Body Weight Exercises for Top Fitness

GUEST BLOGGER: Josh Anderson, Owner of Always Active Athletics

For more great at-home workouts from Josh that you can do easily that are effective and convenient visit the Fit Female Club – “Forget the Gym, You’re In the Club!”

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Happy Halloween from Diva Taunia and Wellesse!

I love living in the Greater Los Angeles area, but one of the things I miss the most from back home in New England is the foliage.  The changing color of the leaves, the crisp air, the sunny days with a bit of a chill to them - I miss it all. 
 
One of the other things I miss about home is Halloween.  It's one of my absolute favorite holidays because:
  • I love to dress up
  • I love to see the changing landscape of my neighbors homes turning into graveyards and haunted houses
  • Kids. Seeing how excited they get about being their favorite character and making off like a jewelry thief with a bag full o' loot.
 
One of the most important parts about Halloween in my family (and pretty much all the other holidays) is that my dad went, and still goes all out.  He's like an excited kid every year and tries to think of new ways to decorate and have fun.  One year, he took an old pair of jeans, stuffed them to the brink, somehow got boots to stick to the end of the pant leg, and then took the whole contraption and stapled it (he's a carpenter) to the wall so it looked like someone's body got stuck inside the house with only the legs being able to escape.  It was pretty clever, and the kids in the neighborhood LOVED coming over to my parents house to see what the decorations would be like.  I miss that, truly.
 

In the spirit of my father's love of doing fun things for Halloween, Wellesse and I have teamed up to create a super-fun Halloween photo contest and giveaway! 

 
We want to see your Halloween pictures.  They can be of you, your kids, your pets - anything and anyone as long as it's in good taste.  
 
But here's the catch:  You have to have to tagline:  "Happy Wellesse-O-Ween!" somewhere in the picture. 
 
Now, we realize that we're not even close to Halloween yet, so you can certainly use a picture from a different year and you can use a free editor to add the text.    One easy to use and free photo editing system is www.picmonkey.com.  Additionally, you can also take a picture in costume now and hold up a sign that reads "Happy Wellesse-O-Ween!"  

Once you've created your photo, please PIN it using the hashtag #Wellesse-O-Ween, either to Pinterest, and/or to Twitter.  You'll get one raffle entry for each picture you pin. 

Take a look at my example on  http://www.pinterest.com/divataunia/wellesse-o-ween-contest/ where I'll be grabbing and pinning all your entries as we go, so you can keep up on all the fabulous Halloween photos!

To determine the winner, we will manually enter each photo/name into a raffle drawing and announce the winner both online and on The Backstage Pass Radio Program on Monday, October 29th at NOON, PST at www.backstagepassradio.com.  There are no limits to how many photos and entries you can post.
 
We hope that you'll join in the spirit and fun of Halloween and post tons of entertaining photos!
 
 
This article was written by Diva Taunia, a Greater Los Angeles musician, music teachers, and nearly 7 yr gastric bypass post-op.  You can find out more about her at www.divataunia.com.
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Pumpkins...Coming Soon Everywhere!

Princes and princesses aside, fall pumpkin season is one of the best times of year to boost your intake of 'good for you' vegetables like the proud pumpkin.

Whether you love it or hate it, pumpkin 'everything' will soon abound;  pumpkin spice lattes (though they really don't count since they have no 'actual' pumpkin, pumpkin bread, pumpkin pie, savory roasted pumpkin side-sishes, and toasted pumpkin seeds just to name a few.

But did you know that pumpkin flesh, and pumpkin seeds are packed with healthy nutrition?  The nutrients in pumpkins cater to heart health, vision health, weight maintenance and healthy aging.  

One cup of cooked pumpkin =

  • Over 200% of the daily recommended amount of vitamin A
  • 20% of your daily dose of vitamin C
  • Antioxidants called carotenoids (they make pumpkins orange, and are very good at keeping skin healthy.)
  • A very good source of fiber (3 grams per 1 cup) which helps you feel fuller longer. 
  • More potassium per cup than a full sized banana

The seeds contain their own nutrition boost:

  • Phytosterols important to keeping your heart healthy
  • Tryptophan - an important part of seratonin production which keeps your mood bright during darker fall and winter months

So don't hesitate to pull out all the stops and take advantage of pumpkin season this year.  There are great, healthy recipes out there that incorporate pumpkin into dishes fitting for every meal!

SEE ALSO: Tiny Nutrition-Packed Seeds - How do you use them?  and  Fall Food Finds - The Best Nutrition in Autumn Harvest

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5 Easy Ways to Correct Posture

Don’t move. Stay exactly how you are. I bet you are leaning forward, back hunched over, neck craning forward…not the best posture. You’re not alone; they say at least 80% of us will experience back pain at some point in our lives. I wish I was in the other 20%, but who doesn’t.

Correcting that posture is one way to fix back pain or at least decrease its severity. Let’s go over 5 tips that can help us correct our posture and the muscle imbalances that this can cause! [Note: if you have severe back pain or other known back issues please consult your physician before beginning any exercise program.]

Get up and move

If you are like me you probably spend a large portion of your day sitting down in front of a computer screen which leads to the bad posture I described above. Sitting for hours on end can lead to tight and weak muscles. One tip that I always try to implement is, after every 45-60 minutes of sitting I will get up and walk 5 minutes to break it up. During this walk I try to stand tall, with shoulders back, and head up in order to help stretch some muscles. Go talk to your friend down the hall, go use the restroom, or go get some water… just break up your extended periods of sitting!

Strengthen your base

Many times when we are continually sitting it causes some of our muscles to stretch for extended periods of time which can weaken them. One such muscle group is the glutes (or your butt). You can strengthen these muscles to help your posture and alleviate back pain via exercises like lunges of glute kickbacks.

Strengthen your lower back  

Another way to help alleviate back pain and gain better posture is to strengthen your lower back. Having a stronger lower back can really help stabilize your spine. One great, easy way to strengthen the lower back is via an exercise called the superman. This gentle exercise can help with core stability.

Stretch your core

Your abs can really get tight when you are constantly bent and leaning forward. This tightening of the abs can cause them to pull and equate to back pain. There are a number of stretches you can implement to help stretch your abs. Stretches like trunk twists and the elbow press stretch (lay on your stomach with your hands under your shoulder, push your upper body off the ground keeping your abdomen/legs on the ground and hold that position) can help stretch your abdominal muscles.

Stretch your hips

Just like your abs, your hips can become incredibly tight due to sitting and being bent for extended period of time. This can cause them to pull on your lower back which can lead to back pain. One way to stretch your hips is by stretching your hip flexors. You can do this by kneeling on the ground with one foot in front of you with the knee slightly bent. Move your hips forward and you will feel the front of your hips pulling or stretching. Switch legs and stretch the other one.

Wrap-Up

Make sure to stretch your tight muscles and strengthen the weak ones to not only improve your posture but to help alleviate back pain. Work on your posture, and be conscious of it as much as you can. It not only makes your appear more confident but it can also help reduce your back pain!

SEE ALSO: The Endless Possibilities of Planks - Why You Should Love Them Too! and  Techniques for a Quick Energy Boost

To get more fitness and nutritional info, visit Josh at Always Active Athletics: “Your #1 Source For At-Home Fitness.”

 

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Celebrating Family Health and Fitness Day - September 27th

On September 27th, our nation celebrated Family Health & Fitness Day – a day set aside to promote staying fit and active.

The idea for this annual event, now in its 18th year, stems from the Surgeon General’s Report on Physical Activity and Health, which stated that the majority of Americans are not getting enough physical activity. Regular physical activity is one of the most important things you can do for good health.

​A regular regimen of exercise can help you:

  • Control your weight
  • Reduce risk of cardiovascular disease (diseases of the heart and blood vessels)
  • Reduce risk of type 2 diabetes
  • Reduce risk of metabolic syndrome   h
  • Strengthen muscles and bones
  • Improve mental health and mood
  • Live healthier and longer

Why is the focus on family fitness?  

Parents are role models for their children. Kids follow in the footsteps of the people they look up to and children of active parents are more likely to be active as well. Also, kids and adolescents who learn to love physical activity are more likely to encourage their parents to get out there and get active with them. Think about the child or teenager who wants to practice their soccer game, tennis serve or pitching a baseball or softball. They will probably grab one of their parents to play with them from time to time.   

How can you get involved in Family Health and Fitness Day?

Local organizations are hosting family-friendly health and fitness activities throughout the nation including fitness demonstrations, health screenings, games, health workshops and more. Check with your local city or county events calendar, YMCAs/YWCAs, schools, parks, hospitals and health clubs. 

SEE ALSO:  Back to School Exercises for the Whole Family and  The Let’s Move Campaign

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Is there any difference being an older athlete? The Loneliness Factor

Welcome back! This is the final blog in the series:  Is there any difference being an older athlete? 

This blog series selected topics that have discussed a gritty side to the life of an older professional athlete.  Our  families and loved ones are affected - not always positively, even when there is great communication and commitment to the goal, for the athlete by the family or spouse. 

This series is titled “Is there any difference being an older athlete?” which infers that it will cover topics specifically about being a older athletes; but the series also covered much of what the loved ones and inner circles within a professional athlete’s life have to cope with as well. 

That said, this final blog is all about the athlete.  

How lonely is it?  

Being an older athlete means juggling a lot of issues.  Between career, training, spouse, children, finances, medical visits, sometimes intimacy issues and competitions, it’s easy to feel isolated and lonely.

There is a difference between being alone and being lonely.

Let’s stipulate to the following:   We own our choices and that is that – no whining, or as I was raised “no blood, no Band-Aid.”  It is rewarding to be an older athlete, it is invigorating, and it keeps you healthy, young and well, not sure about “wealthy or wise.” But I would not trade my choice for the world – until the moment I do.  Being an older athlete means that at any point in time you might have to make a different decision for the family, for the retirement plan, for the career.  A younger athlete usually does not have all of these decisions to face.  

Being an older athlete can be extremely lonely!  It is exhausting!  I do not mean physically because of a hard work out - I mean the juggling of life.  I am going to use my specific sport because it is my experience. The sport of skeleton is the one I chose (somewhat) blindly to go “all in”.

I am a winter athlete which means if I do not live near an ice track, I have to go find one in EU, Canada, Japan or the USA.  We train at the gym in the morning –we train on the ice at night, on a track at higher altitude.  By the time we commence training, it is cold and dark.   We warm up, we slide, we go down the hill, and go back up in a truck, in the dark, at temperatures of -10 degrees, in a paper thin speedo.  If you are in Alberta it can be -20 (-25 and they close the track). 

The cold alone can create emotional fatigue and loneliness.   

In addition, there is something about training for something in the dark - Special Forces Navy Seals train in the dark in the water, Divers train in the dark. 

Darkness brings an entirely different dimension to any sport or training. 

3:17 AM – The alarm goes off and again it is dark and cold.  There is no one to say,  “come on Prata, you can do it! – we are doing deadlifts and core today.”  I wake up to silence and my own energy of mixing the right protein shake, planning food for the day and packing the car for the gym and then the laptop for a days work. 

During the day I train, mix protein shakes, take my daily supplements, try to stay warm, work on my sled, call the insurance, the 401K investment research, and work a minimum of 12 hours in corporate America – do conference calls on mute while sanding the runners on my sled in a basement that I rented with a hat on because it is damp and cold.  No one has checked on me to see how I am or if I have eaten enough or am I ready for the night.

3:30 PM – I still have to get my sled ready for the night, get to the track, night train, load up my gear after sliding, get home often chaining up to get out of snow and arrive home around 11:00 p.m., wet, cold and insanely hungry.  This is lonely.  I love it, but, after four days of physical and emotional pushing, even the energizer bunny is tired. 

 I have stood in curves of the track, in the dark, with my love for the sport and the ice, studying what I did wrong on that steer and cried.  I have cried hard knowing I am older and have to learn faster.  There is no learning faster in this sport – a friend said, “You cannot force it – it will come.” 

I have always been able to conquer- there were nights the harder I tried the worse I did. And after working so hard to do well and missing that mark, I still have a full night ahead.  This is lonely.   

There is no one to call who would understand, support or even know what to say.   Being an older athlete can or might mean you do NOT have emotional support.  Even your most inner circle does not really know why you are doing this, let alone agree with your choices.  

No one in your corner championing your efforts means you start every day out emotionally alone.

You have to dig very deep to find the drive.  I have tenacity and determination in spades and I use these to prevail.  I also happen to be a Girl Scout and survival trained so when I am stuck on the pass at night after training cold and hungry,  I already have protein bars, a sleeping bag and shovels and lights to dig out if I have too.  Talk about lonely!!! All you want is someone in that moment to care, love or support you or even just take a turn with the shovel.    

This is the time, as an older athlete, you dig deep and ask why you are doing it? 

For Fame?   Wrong answer. 

FOR the purity of the sport?  YES!!.  

For me, I fell in love with the ice.  Often falling in love is a beautiful thing.  In this case it has proven to be one of the most amazing blessings and also a curse.   Being alone can make one lonely but I mean the emotional loneliness of the internal struggle to drive forward.  I have been fortunate and figured out that sometimes the best love and support is from friends who become family.    

Do not expect support from someone who does not understand- that will never happen.  Do not pursue a dream like this for the purpose of trying to impress anybody!  

BUT, pursue your dream no matter what. If that means you learn to deal with a deep loneliness on occasion, then so be it.  I assure you, it will make you stronger, your resolve more intact and your focus more clear.

So I have pulled up to my temporary den, the snow is blowing and I cannot get down the driveway and into the garage without shoveling 40 meters of driveway.  What the hell!  At this point in the night I am thinking, “BRING IT!”  Another workout!   Thirty minutes later I am in the garage, unloading sled and gear bag- my sled weighs 34.5 KG (75+lbs). Picking it up and down at 11:30PM, even as a strong athlete will wear on you some nights more than others.  I still need to shower and get food in me fast so my muscles recover.  Strip, hit the shower- water is cold.  My heart rate has been high enough for such an extended period of time being in survival mode after training that I will burn in excess of 8000 calories this night.  I am so hungry!   I am emotionally processing my runs in the shower. It never stops!

There was no one to have watched or videoed, no one to say, “Nice job Prata or what the hell was that?”  No one to make sure the salmon does not overcook (prefer my salmon quite rare) and no one to dry the clothes, dry off Gabriel (my sled); and yet, as lonely as this can be, I have no regrets.

I fell in love with the ice, and anytime anyone falls in love and you are fortunate to have that happen in life, then you have to play it out! It is amazing what one will do for love and in my case the true purity of the sport. I have no regrets!  

This blog is dedicated to Louis Cardello- a precious kind human who has supported me emotionally from a distance and asked me on many nights, “Well, how did curve 6 go?”  He has never seen a track, he never will, he simply knows and trusts my commitment and passion for this sport and he respects that I must play it out.

SEE ALSO: Is It Different Being an Older Athlete? The Financial Impact and  Is It Different Being an Older Athlete? The Medical Impact

Anna Prata is an Olympic hopeful Competitive Skeleton Athlete. Otherwise known mainly by her last name of Prata, she is 100% committed and passionate about living every moment of her life and leaving it on the field every day.   In her non-athlete time, Prata is a highly successful executive in the niche of corporate turnaround.  Both her corporate life and her sports life have similarities of stealth, intensity, and speed in creating value and less time down the ice; while wearing Kevlar to protect from the dangers of companies in distress and from potentially hitting a wall of ice at 90 MPR.  Ms. Prata is not a nutritionist, a physical therapist or in any way should her opinions be considered medical, physical  or psychological advice. 

P/S Prata is 50 Years of age!

 

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