Edible Flowers for Fitness!

Gentlemen, flowers aren’t just for the ladies anymore — beyond their aesthetic value, there are many flowers that have tremendous health benefits!  The medical information on flowers is limited, but the research is growing.  Check out some of the many flowers with nutritive and medicinal properties:

  • Apple and Orange Blossoms – both are edible but should probably be consumed in small quantities, as their nutritional properties are still being explored. 
  • Baby’s Breath – are edible and may be anti-carcinogenic, as well as protect against alcohol induced hepatic fibrosis.
  • Chamomile – long used as a tea for their calming effects, chamomile flowers are also edible in raw form.  Research indicates that chamomile flowers have anti-inflammatory, anti-carcinogenic, and wound healing properties.
  • Chrysanthemum – are traditionally used to brew a type of tea in China.  They’re high in anti-oxidants and minerals, and they may have anti-carcinogenic and anti-inflammatory properties.  
  • Dianthus – can make a colorful and nutritious toping on salads.  They’re high in minerals (including potassium) and anti-oxidants.
  • Echinacea – is primarily used as a tea for its anti-viral and anti-allergenic effects.  Echinacea can also be applied topically as a poultice to promote wound healing, and the petals can be added to soups or salads as a beautiful garnish.
  • Elderflower – a tasty herb that’s used in popular drinks.  Very little research has been done on the flower (there’s more interest in the berry), but it may help improve metabolism.
  • Fuchsia – the beautiful blossoms can be eaten raw and are high in anthocyanins.  
  • Hibiscus – these flowers aren’t only beautiful on a salad or as a tea, they have numerous researched health benefits.  Hibiscus contains anthocyanins and antioxidants, and may lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
  • Jasmine (Jasminum officinale) – is a fragrant and flavorful flower, traditionally blended with green tea.  It can also be added to other recipes (like salads).  It may have anti-carcinogenic and anti-viral properties. 
  • Lavender – this wonderfully smelling flower can be used topically and as a food.  It is anti-septic and may help alleviate dandruff when applied topically.  There are a variety of recipes that use lavender, even a lavender ice cream.  I’m thinking a lavender frozen yogurt would be tasty.  
  • Marigolds – can be used in tea and and applied to the skin as a poultice.  They’ve shown efficacy in wound healing when applied topically.  Nutritionally, marigolds are high in the pigment lutein and may have anti-tumor action.
  • Nasturtium – the leaves and flowers are edible and make a great addition to an edible garden.  The buds can be pickled and used like capers.  The flowers appear to have anti-oxidant properties.
  • Pansies – these edible flowers are high in potassium and other minerals.
  • Peony – may have anti-depressant and cardio-protective properties.
  • Rose Hips – are a good source of vitamin C and may provide relief from arthritis through their anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Violet (viola species) – the violet’s flowers and leaves are edible.  They are high in minerals, anti-oxidants, and potassium.

While not everything should be judged by its utility, as you can see, flowers are extremely useful!  In addition to their nutritive and health promoting qualities, they attract important pollinators to your garden and can keep away pests.  And last but not least, flowers have an unrivaled ability to brighten our mood and help us express love to those closest to us! 

Note: Be sure to properly identify the flower and its edibility before consuming, and be sure that they’re free of pesticides and other chemicals.  Also, those who are allergic to pollen may be allergic to certain flowers.

References:
Baby’s Breath and Alcohol-induced Hepatic Fibrosis
Chamomile Anti-inflammatory Properties
Chamomile Anti-proliferative Effects
Chrysanthemum Anti-Oxidant and Anti-Inflammatory Effects
Edible Flowers as Important Mineral Sources
Elderflowers and Insulin Sensitivity
Hibiscus for Blood Pressure and Lipidemia 
Anti-viral properties of Jasmine
Marigolds’ Anti-tumor Action
Nasturtium’s Anti-Oxidant Potential
Peony’s Anti-depressant Effects

Originally posted 2013-02-19 23:58:00.

Wilderness Time for Whole Health

“…the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness.” – Luke 3:2
“…Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness..” Luke 4:1

Without reading too much into or over-spiritualizing the matter, I believe there’s a lot of truth and evidence to substantiate the idea that time in the wilderness is important for whole health (spirit, soul, and body).  In modern and ancient times, the wilderness has been both an alluring and frightening place for civilized people.  Lack of human presence and technological manipulation make the wilderness simultaneously a place of freedom and unpredictability, of rich abundance and lack.  In the Bible, trust in God typically goes hand-in-hand with less trust in civilization (the works of man) and more trust in the generosity of God as evidenced in his creation.  Today more people than ever in the history of the world are living in cities (with 81% of its citizens living in cities or suburbs, the U.S. has one of the largest urban populations in the world) which makes spending time in the wilderness more important than ever.  

The Mental and Spiritual Benefits of Time in the Wilderness: Adam, Enoch, Elijah, Elisha, Moses, John the Baptist, and Jesus – all spent time in the wilderness to clearly hear the voice of God.  God reveals his truth to us through his spoken word.  In order to receive his living word we have to listen, but the constant sights and sounds of civilization make that difficult to do.  Unless we very intentionally make space and set boundaries, we are almost constantly bombarded by television, internet, radio, billboards, magazines, imposing architecture, pictures/paintings, i-phones and more.  These sights and sounds are incredibly intrusive and almost inescapable, making it difficult to listen for or hear the still small voice of God.  Even when we go to church on Sunday, there’s often loud music, flashy powerpoint slides, and monologue-style sermons that don’t give us the chance to dialogue and reflect on the truth.  Making the time to get away from it all, with a day-trip to the woods or even to a quiet park, can help provide the space needed to hear from God (you might want to leave your smart phone at home or in the car). Time in the wilderness can also provide the opportunity to meditate, listen to your heart, and gather your own thoughts.  Meditation (thoughtful and peaceful reflection) is scientifically shown to help reduce stress levels and can help to more fully and thoughtfully engage the world.

The Physical Health Benefits of Time in the Wilderness:  Time spent outdoors, away from the city, is less toxic, less busy, and provides the opportunity to re-connect to life.  The evidence that spending time in the wilderness (or outdoors in general) is good for health is growing:  

  • Sunshine causes the skin to produce tons of vitamin D which helps protect against cancer and ensures proper cell function.  With over 81% of us living in cities, working indoors, it’s not surprising that about 50% of Americans are vitamin D deficient and that cancer rates are on the rise.  More time in the sun is also connected with lower rates of depression.
  • Fresh air is good for the lungs and cellular health, but breathing forest air is even healthier.  Several recent studies found that participants who spent several days in densely forested wilderness areas had an enhanced immune system and lower stress levels.  These benefits lasted for about a month. 
  • Connecting to the earth’s surface on sand, grass, or dirt may lower stress levels, thin the blood, and provide a unique source of anti-oxidants.  When we’re indoors and in civilization, however, we’re rarely grounded.
  • The wilderness or outdoors also provide the best places to get exercise.  Running and performing other exercises on varying terrain activates more muscles than what’s activated by monotonous exercise machines. The changing scenery experienced outside also helps take one’s mind off the pain of exercise and makes exercise more like play.

If you want better health, start by getting out where the wild things are (the word wilderness comes from the Old English words wild (animal) and ness (place).  In the beginning God said that it was all good!  We were made to depend on the good gifts in God’s creation.  We shouldn’t be surprised that our health is slipping when we’ve increasingly cut ourselves off from what is living.  Most importantly, how can we have true life when we don’t provide ourselves opportunities to hear the voice of God? “Man shall not live on bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

Originally posted 2013-01-15 04:34:00.

Git Fit Faster with HIIT!

Why HIIT?

You don’t have to spend hours on the treadmill or run miles and miles at the break of dawn before work to loose weight and get healthy.  In fact, it’s possible to get fit with less time and less overall work than previously thought.  The answer is H.I.I.T. (High Intensity Interval Training).

It used to be believed that high intensity training  wasn’t effective at promoting weight loss because it caused the body to use carbohydrates, instead of stored fat, for energy.  Yet, it turns out that while high intensity training does burn the body’s carbohydrates at first, it promotes fat loss, muscle growth, and cardiovascular health more effectively than traditional aerobic exercise in the long run.

High Intensity Interval Training stimulates the production of fat burning hormones and enzymes that keep working even when the body’s at rest.  Also, since High Intensity Interval Training takes less overall energy per workout than an aerobic exercise of comparable duration, it causes less of an increase in appetite.  A smaller appetite means fewer calories consumed, and fewer calories consumed typically means a healthier body.

So what exactly is HIIT?

High Intensity Interval Training exercises are comprised of short, intense intervals of work (approximately 90% max heart rate), alternated with brief periods of rest or low work (approximately 70% max heart rate).  For success, it’s important that the exercises are undertaken at max effort, for anywhere between 20 sec to 2 minutes, followed by 1-4 minutes periods of rest.  A typical HIIT session lasts from 10 to 20 minutes and is usually performed 3 to 5 days per week for best results.

HIIT can be performed doing almost any type of exercise, whether outside or on machines.  Rowing machines, elliptical trainers, stair steppers, stationary bikes, sprinting, cycling, cross country skiing – all can be adapted according to HIIT protocols.  The type of exercise dictates how long you can perform your maximum effort and how long you need to rest. Here are a few sample exercises:

Rowing machine:  10 intervals of 2 minutes max effort, followed by 1 minute of rest/light rowing.
Sprinting: 8 intervals of 20-30 sec max effort sprints, followed by 2 minutes of rest/light jogging.
Cycling: 8 intervals of 45 sec max effort sprints, followed by 1.5 minutes of rest/slow peddling.

Just remember, if you aren’t able to give your max effort, you are beginning to lose the benefits of high intensity interval training.  Try adjusting your workout by doing shorter intervals that will allow you to give your max effort.  HIIT is a great way to improve your health with a limited amount of time.  If you can, do High Intensity Interval Training outside where you can enjoy fresh air and sunshine at the same time!

Advisement: If you’ve never done high intensity exercises or it’s been awhile, ease into your HIIT program over time! Your body needs time to strengthen the ligaments, bones, and muscles that support high intensity exercise. Also, before beginning any new exercise protocol, or if you have health problems, consult your doctor first!

References:Evidence-based Exercise, Six Weeks of High-Intensity Interval Training, High Intensity Interval Training in Overweight Young Women

Originally posted 2013-01-04 21:13:00.

Connect to the Earth for Healing Energy…?!

If you opened this blog out of pure curiosity or skepticism about the title, that’s understandable. Connecting to the earth for “healing energy” sounds more like a belief from a New Age religion, than something that belongs to the realm of scientific discovery or that glorifies God as creator. When I first heard about the earth’s healing energy,  I too was skeptical, but it turns out that there’s a growing body of scientific evidence to support the idea that the earth’s electrical charge is important for the normal functioning of the human body (check out the references below).  As a result of society’s “advancements,” however, we’ve almost completely disconnected ourselves from this energy source and possibly damaged our health as a result.

Here’s how it’s thought to work: the earth’s surface is a vast source of free electrons, which have a negative electric charge. When we come into direct contact with the earth, such as by walking barefoot, those free electrons transfer to our bodies.  Once in our bodies, the electrons serve as anti-oxidants and blood thinners.  They serve as anti-oxidants by neutralizing excess positively charged Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) that cause inflammation in the body.  Chronic inflammation is responsible or contributes to a number of health problems, including slow recovery time, arthritis, cardiovascular disease, and aging.  The discovery of the role of inflammation and free radicals in the aging process is what prompted the recent anti-oxidant craze, and it turns out that simply being connected to the earth might be one of the best and more affordable sources of anti-oxidants.

Connecting to the earth, or what’s been called “grounding” or “earthing,” also attenuates the viscosity of the blood, or thins it.  It does so by decreasing the coagulation of red blood cells (RBC) through electric charge.  Pilot studies have found that when the body is grounded, the Zeta potential of red blood cells increases.  In other words, the number of negative charges on each RBC is increased, which causes the RBCs to separate from one another and flow in the blood stream individually and more freely.

Based on a growing number of studies, the other benefits of grounding may include: improved sleep, stress reduction, improved heart rate variability (an important status for cardiovascular health), reduction of symptoms of arthritis, and improved glucose regulation.

While I think it’s important to avoid targeting any one environmental factor as the primary cause of our society’s health problems, it seems that not connecting to the earth is one more way that we’ve cut ourselves off from the life-giving properties of God’s creation.  Thanks to rubber soles, modern construction practices, and the automobile, we almost entirely cut ourselves off from the earth’s supply of free electrons.  Have you ever walked barefoot in the grass or on the beach and obtained an amazing sense of relaxation and peaceful energy?  Perhaps those feelings have to do with the positive physiological effects of being grounded to the earth.  At this point in the research it isn’t known how much grounding is needed to obtain the benefits listed above, but it’s thought that even half an hour can help (but the more the better).  On your next walk, consider taking your rubber-soled shoes off and walking barefooted, or look into getting some shoes with leather soles (which nearly all soles used be made of 100 years ago) – they won’t block the flow of electricity like rubber soles will.

It turns out that God’s creation is beautifully complex, and we’re part of it.  We’ve tried to control it and manipulate it for our own purposes but doing so usually only results in more problems.  Like other creatures, we depend on light, air, food, sleep, movement, and electricity for health.  Our bodies contain a vast electrical system, from our brain and nervous system to the electrical charges on our Red Blood Cells.  If we want to have optimum health we have to discover how we’ve cut ourselves off from the gifts in God’s creation, whether it be from healthy food, sunlight, or the earth’s free electrons, and RECONNECT!

References: Earthing: The Health Implications of Reconnection the Human Body to the Earth’s Surface ElectronsEarthing, The Most Important Health Discovery Ever?

Originally posted 2012-11-07 20:16:00.

Cardboard bicycle – a world changer?

While it might be difficult to believe that someone created a functional bicycle entirely out of cardboard, that’s exactly what Israeli engineer, Izhar Gafni was able to accomplish.  Gafni, an avid cyclist, inventor, and engineer, first came up with the idea after hearing about a man who built a cardboard canoe.  Gafni’s wheels started turning and he brought the idea of building a bicycle out of cardboard to three of his friends, all engineers, but none of them thought it was possible.  Their disbelief, however, only fueled Gafni’s creative drive.  With his wife’s encouragement, he set to work in his makeshift shop, experimenting with cardboard and building a number of prototypes before he finally arrived at a functional, sleek, and strong cardboard bicycle.  An adult and children’s model of the bicycle is set to hit mass production in approximately six months.  

The beauty of the cardboard bicycle is that its production costs are so minimal that it can be profitably manufactured nearly anywhere.  Cheap labor would only result in very marginal, if any, real savings, so whether it’s manufactured in America or China will make little difference.  Cardboard can also be an environmentally friendly material, as it is both renewable and recyclable.  Gafni’s bicycle also utilizes tubeless and airless tires, made out of reclaimed rubber, which will require little maintenance (no tubes to be replaced) and also minimize waste.

Personally, I’m a big fan of this invention.  When I envision a better world, I picture people riding their bikes instead of driving cars.  An affordable bicycle will make it possible for more people in developing countries to own bikes, and perhaps the intriguing and affordable design will inspire people in developed countries to ride bikes instead of drive cars to work.  Cycling is both the most energy efficient form of transportation known to man and a healthy way to travel.  A cheap cardboard bike is also less likely to be targeted for theft, a common problem in big cities.  I’m keeping my eye open for this one and plan on getting a cardboard bike for commuting.  Movement is one of the keys to vitality, and this playful invention epitomizes the spirit of Creation-based play!  But if you have a bike already, don’t wait for the cardboard bike to come out, commuting by bike is the best way to get to work or school!

Originally posted 2012-10-24 15:55:00.

Sun Exposure and Healthy Skin

Sunscreen-SPF-What-it-means-protectionWe absolutely depend on sunshine for health! When exposed to the sun, our skin produces a plentiful amount of a potent form of Vitamin D, which has hundreds of different roles in the body (including protecting against skin cancer). The dilemma: sun exposure can also damage the skin and eventually lead to skin cancer. Fortunately, when we live in God’s creation the way he intended us to, our skin is healthy enough to endure plentiful amounts of sunshine. Compared to unhealthy skin, healthy skin can absorb more sun rays without incurring damage, and skin is healthy when we eat a Creation-based diet and get enough sunshine! Nearly all fruits and vegetables provide some type of photoprotection for the skin. Regular consumption of healthy foods especially berries, tea, and dark chocolate infuse the body’s cells with polyphenols, flavanols, anthocyanins, and antioxidants that protect the skin against UV rays. Regular consumption is key!

It takes months of maintaining healthy eating habits to improve the skin’s health.The carotenoid family is especially effective at absorbing UV rays and providing anti-oxidant benefits. This includes pigments like beta-carotene, Lycopene, and astaxanthin. Of the carotenoids, Astaxanthin, which is found in salmon and krill (responsible for their red/pink color) is the most powerful. If you don’t eat much salmon or krill oil, astaxanthin can also be found in supplement form. Studies have found that those who regularly consume astaxanthin can stay in the sun longer without getting sun burned. Astaxanthin also has other benefits, such as increased athletic endurance and reduction of inflammation.

Having enough healthy fats in the diet, especially saturated fats and omega-3s, is also important for the skin. Fats are one of the primary building blocks of skin-cell membranes. Be sure to consume fatty fish like salmon or take krill/fish oil pills to meet your daily omega-3 requirement. Good sources of saturated fats include organic butter, organic whole milk, and coconut oil.

A note on topical before/after sun care:

Suncreen can be beneficial, but it has to be the right kind and has to be reapplied regularly. Sunscreen can provide a false sense of security, resulting in burns or excessive sun, so use wisely. Here are the things to know: There is no such thing as a water-proof sunscreen. All sunscreens wear off as as a result of water and toweling, and must be reapplied regularly. Also, many sunscreens use harmful chemicals to absorb the sun’s rays. If you use sunscreen, be sure to only use sunscreen that uses zinc oxide as the sole active ingredient. Zinc oxide is a natural mineral that blocks all types of UV rays. Finally, there is little benefit in using a sunscreen beyond an SPF rating of 30. Anything beyond 30 SPF is primarily a marketing scheme. The sun protection beyond SPF 20-30 drops of exponentially.

Perhaps more important than sunscreen is applying the antioxdiants and phytochemicals listed above, topically. Studies on animals have found that when applied topically after UV exposure, green tea and astaxanthin reduce skin damage. Antioxidants such as Vitamin C and E also have positive effects on the skin. It is easy to make your own before/after sun ointment at home – simply make a 50/50 mix of almond oil and water and add green tea powder (green tea leaves ground in a coffee grinder), astaxanthin (cut open several astaxanthin capsules and insert contents in your oil/water mix), vitamin E, and Vitamin C then shake well before use! Word of caution, the astaxanthin does have a slight pigment to it, so let the ointment absorb into your skin before wearing clothing or touching anything you dont’ want died pink (you can also not add the astaxanthin, but it’s so potent for the skin that I would recommend adding it).

The bottom line is, don’t get burned. You can get more sun without getting burned by improving the health of your skin through proper nutrition and skin care.

Pubmed Sources:

Chocolate study: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19735513
Carotenoid study: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18803658
Polyphenol study: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22070679
Green tea study: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21094124

Originally posted 2012-07-19 20:03:00.

Staying active with children – an interview with the Eller Family

While having children is a great joy, life with children can be a difficult adjustment.  It can be challenging to balance the important things in life and establish healthy routines with a family.  As parents of two young children, Mike and Alli are an excellent example of people who have learned how to stay fit and active despite their busy schedules.  They do a great job at enjoying a healthy lifestyle as a family.  Their experience and example is an inspiration to others!

Mike and Alli, tell us a little bit about you and your family.  How long have you been married?  What are the ages of you children, and what are their personalities like?

Mike: Well, we just celebrated our 6th year of marriage this month. Pretty exciting for sure! We have had the opportunity to live in some cool places along the west coast, and are currently in Oregon. The Eller clan includes 2 little kids. Our daughter Dayvanee is 3 and our son Asher is almost 2. They are pretty unique in their personalities except for one common trait: there is no such thing as slow with them. Dayvee is our little firecracker: you can always tell when she enters the room, and she loves to laugh, sing, play, etc., and wants to get everyone else involved. Asher tends to be our risk analyst: he observes the situation, and if he likes it, he goes for it. If not, he hugs Mommy or Daddy’s leg. He loves to laugh and play. Also, both kids follow the “play hard, crash hard” style. When they fall apart, it is to the max. It seems to be a fair reflection of their parents.

Alli: I think Mike answered pretty accurately.

Were you fairly active before having children? Was it difficult to stay active and fit after having children?

Mike: We were both pretty active before kids. Alli played basketball in high school, and I have tried to keep myself doing something outside as long as I remember. Before kids, you would find Alli and I camping, rafting, or hiking together. I liked to go out mt. biking, trail running, triathlons, or doing stuff I won’t tell my kids about, as I long as I was outside. Since kids, well, it has really changed. The first year is a challenge because you are really limited in what you can do: did you bring enough diapers, bottles, formula, warm water (doh! forgot that a couple of times). We tried some little day hikes in the winter and had to resort to stuffing our daughter’s onesie with extra clothes to keep her warm – won’t win “father of the year” accolades like that. But now that Dayvee and Asher are a little bit older, I think that it is getting easier to get outside, explore, and have fun with them, especially as we are establishing a method for doing it. For example, I still trail run and cycle on a regular basis but do it before work or before the kids wake up. Alli will run when I get home or after the kids fall asleep. Also, we try to involve them as much as we can in getting outside and exploring.

Alli:  I did play basketball in high school and I do love camping, rafting and hiking. However, it wasn’t until I had a baby that I started running and exercising more consistently. While it was difficult for Mike during the first year, it was easier for me. Dayvee went to bed around 7 so I could run in the evenings and go to the gym after. We would also walk for an hour plus everyday. It is harder now to go for walks that get your blood pumping, because Dayvee likes to stop and pick up rocks, smell the flowers or just explore around us. It makes for fun walks, just not as much exercise. I do make time to run after Mike gets home from work and before dinner, and I also find time a couple of days a week to do a workout video during nap time.

What types of activities do you like to do, and how do you do them with children?

Alli: I just like being outside. Unfortunately Oregon is usually pretty wet, but we find a way to still be outdoors. Corvallis has what seems like a park on every corner and the kids LOVE the park. I try to walk to the one right around the corner from us as much as possible. Camping is always an adventure with the kids, and they love to pick blueberries. We also love to bike around town as much as we can when the weather permits. We have a trailer that the kids sit in and they love it. Dayvee is getting a little big for it though, and we are going to buy a trailer bike so she can pedal along with us.

Mike: We love to take our kids camping. Recently, we just did our first family canoe camping trip here in Oregon. Also, we take them on bike rides, runs, little hikes to pick berries etc. We started joining some friends with kids who run weekly at a track here in town. The kids all play in the sand pit or on the grass while the parents run/jog/walk around the track. The older kids are encouraged to run as well, and in the end, we celebrate by getting some ice cream afterwards. Also, we take advantage of the commuter-friendly atmosphere we have in town and ride our bikes while pulling the kids in the trailer. We commute by bike for groceries, eating out downtown, going to our community church, etc. Also, my son thinks that when he holds his baseball bat, everything is a ball. So we are frequently playing baseball outside on the grass, which usually turns into dodgeball.

Are there any special tricks you’ve learned to stay physically active despite having a busy schedule?

Alli: I would say the most important thing is not to be discouraged if you can’t find time. There are stages to life with kids. Sometimes you’ll be able to exercise more than others. For instance, the summer after Asher was born we weren’t able to ride our bikes with the kids because he was too little. I had to remind myself and Mike that it was just for the summer and that next summer we could break out the bike trailer again.

Mike: The main trick that works for me is to set tangible goals and to try something new every year, while never forgetting what really is important. You won’t be able to do everything, but you can try and see what comes of setting goals. You will find the activities that you enjoy the most and work the best with your new responsibilities. Also, involve your kids in these activities as much as you can. They will be introduced to it and hopefully will participate with you in the future.

What type of gear or accessories do you recommend for parents who want to stay fit and active?

Alli: We use our bike trailer A LOT! I also use our jogger stroller all the time. I like it so much better than the strollers with 4 tiny wheels. I’m able to walk/jog and I only need one hand to steer. I also recommend an ergo baby carrier. I never had one, but I’ve used them and they are amazing. So much better than a lot of the other front pack carriers. They are good for going for walks or hikes. I would also suggest a good BIG tent. If you have a family of 4 I would suggest a 6 man tent. Especially if you are camping for more than one or two nights. It’s amazing how much stuff you bring when you have little ones.

Mike: The main recreational gear we use right now is a bike trailer that can fit both of our kids. We use it extensively. Also, when they are younger, the backpack/kid carrier is great to have. Not only do you get to go hiking with the fam, you get a huge workout carrying these guys as you are their BOB (beast of burden). Also, we have friends who have several canoes and kayaks. We recently borrowed their family canoe for the camping trip and found this to be a great piece of equipment for family recreation.

What are some of your greatest memories of being active and outdoors with your children?

Alli: I remember a lot of great hiking trips with Dayvee in the backpack. We also have some great camping memories with family and friends. Beach days are always memorable, especially the clean-up (as most everyone knows, sand get’s everywhere). Mike is definitely the brave one when it comes to taking the kids on adventures by himself. I like to have him with me.

Mike: Our recent canoe camping trip stands out the most. The kids were thrilled to be in the canoe, camping at the beach, and swimming. Also, there are plenty of hikes that we turn into “explorations” here in the surrounding forests where we climb on fallen trees, find newts and banana slugs, and throw rocks at ducks (can you blame us, we live in Beaver country…Note: no ducks have been hurt in the raising of our kids to date). Once I had the kids while Alli was out having some girl time. We went hiking to a nearby waterfall on a trail that went downhill for about a mile. I didn’t even think of it, but when we started heading back up, Asher was in the kid carrier and Dayvee was too tired to walk. So, I loaded her up on my shoulders and hiked both of them up. At that time with all of our snacks, that was over 80+ lb. I was worked over by the time we got to the car. I laid in the grass while the kids threw pine cones at each other. Fun, exhausting, and definitely memorable.

Is there any final advice you’d like to give to new parents about staying fit and healthy?

Alli: Buy the bigger tent! Just kidding. I think if you want it you can make it happen. That seems to be the motto we go by. It may take a lot more work, but it’s worth it in the end.

Mike: Get in the habit of trying something new every year, and when possible, introduce your kids to it as you yourself are learning about it. They look up to you so much and will naturally gravitate to what your interests are. If you have a healthy perspective on fitness, both physically, mentally, and spiritually, I think that your kids will be more inclined to explore a similar direction.

– Mike and Alli, thanks for giving us a little insight into life with kids and sharing the ways you’ve learned to stay active with two young children.  You’re an inspiration, and you have an awesome family!

Originally posted 2011-09-19 19:13:00.

What in the world is fartlek?

Fartlek is a Swedish word that roughly translates to “gaseous propelled running.”  Just kidding, despite how it sounds, it’s not a Swedish word.  Ok, it is, but it doesn’t have anything to do with the word gasesous.  Roughly translated “fartlek” means, “speed play.”  The reason you should care is because it is one of the most effective, yet enjoyable, forms of running.  And it’s been successfully used by professional athletes since the 1940s.

Fartlek was developed by a Swedish running coach named Gosta Homer, and his training methods helped improve the speeds of two already quick Sweedish milers.  The fartlek method aligns perfectly with CREUS because it’s a free-flowing form of training that’s centered around play, enjoying nature, and personal intuition.  There’s no rigid training schedule with fartlek.  The runner simply varies his speed throughout a medium to long-distance run as he chooses.

A fartlek run usually includes intermittent sprinting, fast paces, medium paces, and fast walking all within one run.  The runner varies his speed by picking a landmark on the horizon, such as a tree, rock, bush, or hill, then running to it at a predetermined pace.  Having small goals along the way helps the runner forget about his pain or the distance of the longer run and push the limits of his training.

Fartlek runs can be adapted to include more anaerobic or aerobic exercise (by doing more or fewer sprints) depending on the goals of the athlete.  There are also a number of variations of the fartlek, such as a variation that builds full-body strength by incorporating obstacles, push-ups, sit-ups or squats along the run.  This is what makes fartlek fun; it involves the imagination and allows the runner to break away from the confines of the stopwatch and track.   If you want to run faster, you have to run faster, and fartlek helps you do so by breaking fast runs into small chunks.  So, get outside and play with speed.

Primary reference: Run Fast: How to Train for a 5-k or 10k Race by Hal Higdon.

Originally posted 2011-09-14 14:44:00.

5k for Fitness training plan

If you want to get off the couch, improve your cardiovascular health, lose some weight, and get outside while doing so – there’s not much in the way of exercise that beats a nice run.  Setting goals, however, can make running more interesting and rewarding.  A particularly fun goal for getting in shape is a 5k race (3.1 miles).  The distance isn’t too intimidating to work towards, but it’s a long enough distance to be proud of.  It’s also a great mid-length distance that can promote a good balance of strength and endurance.  Yet the primary key to running a successful 5k race is building a solid cardiovascular base.  In order to do this, you’ve got to get out and run consistently for a while.

If you’re completely new to running you’ll want to start out slowly.  The 5k for Fitness Plan was designed to help prepare new runners for a 5k.  The first two weeks consist primarily of walking, which helps build strength and a cardiovascular base.  If you’re already doing some light jogging, you can skip the first two weeks of walking and begin on week three of the 5k for Fitness Plan.  You should be ready to run a 5k race by the end of week ten, but the additional weeks will only further improve your 5k time. 

Click here for the 5K for Fitness Plan in PDF.  It’s designed to gradually build your aerobic and strength base through varied training, overload, and consistency.

For a 5K race near you visit Active.com

Running basics:

  • I recommend running/walking barefoot to improve your running form and efficiency.  However, if you plan on running barefoot, you’ll want to add several weeks of additional walking and light running to the beginning of the 5k for Fitness Plan.  It is important to ease into barefoot running.  
  • Stretch before if desired but especially after every run.  Stretching will help your muscles recuperate more quickly and improve flexibility.
  • Stay loose while running to avoid straining, bad form, and unnecessary expenditure of energy.
  • Keep your arms to your side and elbows bent.  Cup your hands instead of holding them in a fist.
  • Keep your body perpendicular to the ground, eyes looking forward.
  • Hips should be slightly out in front of you to move your center of gravity forward. 
  • Stay hydrated, well fueled, and get plenty of rest.
  • It also helps to have a nice stopwatch that you can use to keep track of your times.

Most importantly, keep running fun!  Only run for as long as you enjoy it.  If you follow this approach, running will be something you enjoy and improve at overtime, not something you do for a short time and give up on.  Have fun!

Originally posted 2011-09-09 17:37:00.

Better than drugs: a creation-based approach

IMG_1394-1CREUS is based on the axiom that God created us and everything we need for optimum health. When we don’t have access to the things he created for us – positive relationships, activity, healthy food, fresh air, etc – our health declines. Based on similar observations made many years ago, a Harvard-educated doctor named William Thomas designed a program called Eden Alternative to improve health for the elderly . The premise of Dr. Thomas’ program is that the health of elders in assisted-living situations depends on positive social interaction, varied activity, and purpose-filled living. According to Dr. Thomas, the three things elders suffer from the most are loneliness, helplessness, and boredom. To combat these problems elders are given opportunities to care for and interact with plants and animals on a regular basis. They’re also frequently visited by children. The principles of the Eden Alternative have had wonderful results: In one care facility, the percentage of elders that received psychotropic drugs dropped from 47% to 2%!

In our increasingly technological, sedentary, and individualistic society many of us face the same barriers to good health as elders in retirement homes. According to a 2005 study, 10% of Americans take antidepressants. If 10% are taking prescribed medication, how many more are suffering from depression without any treatment? Something is wrong with this picture. While our society places many demands on us, it’s important to remember that taking care of ourselves is a divinely sanctioned priority. We were made in the image of God. If you’re a follower of Christ, you’re also a temple of the Holy Spirit. In order to bless and love others it’s essential that we have good mental and spiritual health. So, if you feel depressed and lethargic or if you know someone that suffers from depression, get outside together, eat healthier food, and encourage each other in your life purpose. Sharpen the axe first and the tree will fall more easily.

Originally posted 2011-08-30 04:35:00.