Celebrate The 7 Days of Valentine’s

Fun Ways to Enjoy the Holiday

Start a week before Valentine’s Day:

Day 1 – Light a candle at dinner

Day 2 – Gift a pair of tickets to a movie, show or game

Day 3 – Write three short love poems to say how you feel

Day 4 – Fly four balloons, proclaiming “I love you”

Day 5 – Give five favorite flowers or recorded songs

Day 6 – Sweeten Valentine’s with six chocolate hearts

Day 7 – Enjoy a celebration you both will remember

CrossFit Workouts

Expect Whole-Body Functional Fitness

Michael R. Esco

CrossFit, a strength and conditioning program used by the military over the past decade, is growing in popularity with recreational athletes.

While most traditional exercise plans target a specific area of fitness—like jogging for cardiovascular health or weightlifting for strength—CrossFit focuses on all of them by combining many types of exercise. A typical mixture might include weightlifting, gymnastics, aerobics and explosive plyometrics, energetic and fast-acting movements that improve strength and speed. The goal is to enable the body to respond to many different and sometimes competing stimuli. “CrossFit training prepares the body not only for the unknown, but for the unknowable, as well,” explains Greg Glassman, founder of CrossFit.

Due to its nonspecific nature, this approach may not be best for an athlete focusing exclusively on one sport. “While it may not help you become an elite marathoner, this can be an effective training regimen for those interested in broad-based, functional fitness,” advises Bob LeFavi, Ph.D., a certified strength and conditioning specialist, senior coach for USA Weightlifting and professor of sports medicine at Armstrong Atlantic State University, in Savannah, Georgia.

The program requires disciplined workouts three to five days a week in an intense circuit format with little rest. This allows the practitioner to finish in five to 30 minutes, depending upon his or her current fitness level and the day’s plan.

Nuts and Bolts

A free Workout of the Day (WOD) is posted daily on CrossFit. com. WODs generally involve exercises using combinations of Olympic weights, dumbbells, kettlebells, medicine balls, gymnastic rings, climbing ropes, jump ropes and rowing machines. Bodyweight-only exercises such as push-ups, sit-ups and pull-ups are commonly included.

Most WODs are named for women or fallen military heroes. Here are a few examples.

Cindy – as many rounds as possible of five pull-ups, 10 push-ups and 15 bodyweight squats within 20 minutes

Angie – 100 pull-ups, 100 push-ups, 100 sit-ups and 100 bodyweight-only squats with in-between breaks

Murph – a one-mile run, followed by 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups, 300 bodyweight squats and another one-mile run; advanced athletes do it all wearing a 20-pound vest

The objective is to beat one’s own overall best time with each workout.

“CrossFit training is unique in that it rarely schedules rest periods, unless specified as part of the WOD,” says Brian Kliszczewicz, a CrossFit researcher and Ph.D. student of exercise physiology at Auburn University, in Alabama. “Your fitness level will determine the length, intensity and duration of each WOD.” Kliszczewicz’ recent research found that CrossFit subjects expended more than 250 calories on average during 20 minutes of the Cindy workout.

Any WOD can be done at home with the proper equipment, a base level of physical fitness and knowing how to properly execute each exercise. Consulting with a coach can help; be sure to ask for credentials and references, including education and experience in sports science and conditioning.

Glassman also suggests visiting one of 5,000 CrossFit affiliates worldwide; warehouse-like facilities that are unlike traditional fitness centers in that they don’t have lots of machines. Instead, the only equipment available is what’s necessary for conducting WODs. Workouts are completed in groups, with participants usually performing the same exercises, directed by a CrossFit coach trained to observe individual technique.

Because athletes like to compete with themselves and others, they can post their personal bests for each WOD on the CrossFit website.

Injury Risk

Professor Henry N. Williford, EdD, a fellow of the American College of Sports Medicine and department head of Physical Education and Exercise Science at Auburn University at Montgomery, cautions, “Make sure the staff at a CrossFit affiliate is appropriately trained to deal with emergencies; at a minimum, they should be certified in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and first aid.” Let the coach know of any discomfort or pain during a workout.

As an intense workout progresses, many CrossFit exercises can be performed as one is becoming increasingly tired, increasing the risk of injury to a joint or muscle. Beginners, seniors and anyone out of shape or with a previous injury or health condition needs to take additional precautions; basic guidelines for physical activity are published by the American College of Sports Medicine at Tinyurl.com/BasicExerciseGuidelines.

It’s important to start slow and gradually increase the intensity of workouts. “Personal safety is always a major factor that must to be considered when selecting any exercise regimen,” remarks Williford.

Requirements for starting to practice CrossFit exercises include a base level of sufficient physical strength to handle the demands, which may be achieved by first following a less intense plan. Always check with a physician before starting any exercise program.
Michael R. Esco, Ph.D., is an associate professor of exercise science versed in sports medicine and director of the Human Performance Laboratory at Auburn University at Montgomery, AL.

This article appears in the February 2013 issue of Natural Awakenings

The Gift of Empathy How to Be a Healing Presence

How to Be a Healing Presence

Margret Aldrich

When someone is suffering, it can be agonizing just to listen—we feel compelled to jump in with advice or stories of our own trials, filling any awkward space or moments of silent air with word upon word. The first rule of empathy, however, is listening in silence.

Miki Kashtan, writing for the Tikkun Daily interfaith blog, points out that giving our full presence is the most important step in practicing true empathy, and it doesn’t require us to utter a thing: “There is a high correlation between one person’s listening presence and the other person’s sense of not being alone, and this is communicated without words. We can be present with someone whose language we don’t understand, who speaks about circumstances we have never experienced or whose reactions are baffling to us. It’s a soul orientation and intentionality to simply be with another.”

When we achieve full presence, empathic understanding follows, Kashtan continues. “Full empathic presence includes the breaking open of our heart to take in another’s humanity. We listen to their words and their story, and allow ourselves to be affected by the experience of what it would be like.

“Then we understand. Empathic understanding is different from empathic presence. We can have presence across any barrier, and it’s still a gift. If we also understand, even without saying anything, I believe the other person’s sense of being heard increases, and they are even less alone with the weight of their experience.”

There are signs that empathy might be on the decline, with narcissism elbowing it out of our modern lives. As reported in the Utne Reader, University of Michigan Psychologist Sara Konrath, Ph.D., found that empathy levels among college students measured on the Interpersonal Reactivity Index plummeted between 1979 and 2009. The greatest drops were in empathic concern and perspective-taking—the ability to imagine another person’s point of view.

But don’t yet lament the death of human compassion. According to scientific studies, empathy is built into us. In recent research at the University of Southern California, Professor Lisa Aziz-Zadeh, Ph.D., pinpointed where and how the brain generates empathy, regarding it as a naturally occurring emotion. “It appears that both the intuitive and rationalizing parts of the brain work in tandem to create the sensation of empathy,” Aziz-Zadeh told The Times of India. “People do it automatically.”

However we get to that utterly tuned-in, selfless state of empathy, providing a listening ear, giving our full presence and being moved by another can be gifts not only to the others, but to ourselves, as well. Concludes Kashtan, “Allowing into our heart the other person’s suffering doesn’t mean we suffer with them, because that means shifting the focus of our attention to our own experience. Rather, it means that we recognize the experience as fully human, and behold the beauty of it in all its aspects, even when difficult.”
Margret Aldrich is a former associate editor of Utne Reader.

This article appears in the February 2013 issue of Natural Awakenings

A GMO-Free Grocery List

What Foods You Should Avoid

According to a recent article published inGreen American magazine, 93 percent of Americans believe that genetically modified foods should be labeled. However, only USDA-certified organic products cannot intentionally contain genetically modified organisms (GMO), so identifying GMO foods and products in a typical U.S. grocery store is difficult. The following information can help.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) confirms that large percentages of the nation’s crops were genetically modified in 2011: 94 percent of conventional soy and soy products; 90 percent of cottonseed, a common ingredient in margarine, salad dressings and oils; and 88 percent of corn, contained in breakfast cereals, corn flour products such as chips and tortillas, high-fructose corn syrup, soups and condiments. More than 90 percent of the U.S. canola crop also is now genetically modified.

The Independent, one of England’s leading newspapers, reported in 1999 that the artificial sweetener aspartame has been made with genetically modified bacteria since 1965. Aspartame, inconclusively linked with numerous health risks, is present in more than 6,000 products, including diet sodas. Two other ubiquitous artificial sweeteners, Nutrasweet and Equal, also contain aspartame.

The USDA further lists 95 percent of the 2009 U.S. sugar beet crop, used to produce conventional sugar, as genetically modified. NonGMO alternative sweeteners include pure cane sugar and honey from organic farms.
Source: GreenAmerica.org

This article appears in the January 2013 issue of Natural Awakenings