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Be well
A new year, a new you? If thatís your goal, make it happen through diet, exercise and stress-free living. Weíve compiled some expert advice on how to incorporate healthy habits into your everyday life.

By NAN BIALEK, REBECCA KONYA and AMY SIEWERT

 

Hans Wegesser


First Step: Checkup

"Always consult your physician before starting a new exercise program." Itís a caution that follows every infomercial for the latest get-thin, get-toned gadget. But how many of us actually heed that advice?

Mark Obermyer, an internal medicine physician at Springdale Primary Care Clinic in Brookfield, says there are no clear-cut guidelines when it comes to getting a doctorís approval to begin a workout regimen.

"Most healthy people need little clearance," he says. But older people or those with chronic health problems like a heart condition or diabetes should definitely see a doctor before packing their gym bag.

Likewise, people who experience discomfort like joint pain or shortness of breath while exercising should also consult a physician.

Visiting a doctor before you start an exercise program is the first step to physical fitness, says Obermyer. During an exercise readiness assessment, a doctor will do a physical exam, take a comprehensive health history and address any concerns you have.

Peak physical fitness doesnít always prevent major health issues. Hans Wegesser of Menomonee Falls knows that first-hand. The 50-year-old ultra-marathon runner suffered a massive heart attack Sept. 4. Wegesser had just crossed the finish line at the Wisconsin State Cow Chip Classic, a 10K event in Sauk City, when he felt light chest pressure. Then he started feeling dizzy and nauseous. His friends sought medical attention and Wegesser was quickly transported to a local hospital.

"I had no clue I was having a heart attack," Wegesser says.

Even after ER staff told him he was being transferred to the University of Wisconsin Hospital in Madison, Wegesser questioned the diagnosis. Surgeons eventually inserted two stents in Wegesserís left interior descending artery.

"I had 100 percent blockage on the left side of my heart," Wegesser says. "The doctor told me they call that the Ďwidow-makerí in his profession."

But before long, Wegesser was walking the hospital corridors. At home, he began taking several short walks a day. Just one week after his heart attack, Wegesser was logging 25 miles on his bike.

"I lasted five days in cardiac rehab before they kicked me out," he says. "The cardiologist told me I was the healthiest patient heíd ever had."

Wegesser blames his heart attack on his previous lifestyle of smoking two packs a day, drinking and unhealthy eating.

"I abused my body for years," he says. Then 12 years ago, when his oldest daughter turned 2, Wegesser quit smoking, dropped 80 pounds and took up running, a sport heíd pursued in his teens and early 20s.

"Running saved my life," he says.

Though heís back to trail running, Wegesser is careful to carry his nitro pills with him and he purchased a heart rate monitor. Heís training for the Ice Age trail run, a 50-mile trek through the Kettle Moraine State Forest in May.

Already a healthy eater and avid exerciser, the only major lifestyle change Wegesser has had to make is giving up sweets. "My vice is ice cream and donuts," says Wegesser.

But per his doctorís instruction, Wegesser has replaced his beloved Edyís Rocky Road with sherbet.

"Itís an easy change," he says. And one his daughters are happy to help him follow.

Core values

When your six-pack abs start looking more like a beer barrel, suspension training may be just the thing to firm up your core, says Dan Shay, personal trainer at the Wisconsin Athletic Club in Wauwatosa.

"Suspension training focuses on using repetition and balance," Shay says. "Itís very versatile and can also be used as a full-body workout."

The equipment for suspension training consists of two straps that hang from the ceiling or the top of a wall. The muscles are engaged to retain balance, and when you get really good at it, you can learn to do rolls.

"Itís really not complicated. Anyone can do it," Shay says.

He points out that bench sit-ups, full sit-ups and leg raises are also tried and true methods for whipping the core into shape.

"And a lot of hip work," Shay adds. "The more you get your hips going, the better your core will be."

To speed up weight loss and firm up the core, Shay recommends Tabata training. This workout is based on 30-second bursts of jumping jacks, sprints or other extreme activity, followed by 10-seconds of low to moderate exercise and another 30 seconds of high intensity movement. You donít need a lot of equipment to whittle and shape your core, just the determination to get up and work on it.

Time to kick the habit?

The benefits of regular physical activity are numerous ó from a boost in energy, better sleep and greater self-esteem. But can you err on the side of too much exercise? Health professionals are seeing an increase in people who exercise compulsively ó working out to the point where it becomes an obsession.

"People exercising on their own are more likely to overexert themselves," says Bob Hanisch, a professional trainer and owner of Peak Performance Professionals in Brookfield.

Holly Gonwa, owner of Pulse Personal Training in Cedarburg, recognizes a pattern when it comes to overdoing it. "I see it in black and white. A person will go through intense exercise for a couple of months and then they fall off the bandwagon," Gonwa says.

Professionals like Hanisch and Gonwa understand the need to build rest into an exercise routine. Whether itís pushing yourself for two or three weeks, then taking a week to recover or planning a day or two off as part of your weekly exercise schedule, adequate rest is vital.

But too often people donít plan recovery time as part of their workout, instead continuing to increase the level of intensity,says Hanisch.

"We use to have the mentality, Ďno pain, no gainí but as we get older it takes longer to recover," says Gonwa.

So when does commitment to exercise cross over to addiction? If you feel compelled to exercise despite injury or illness, or choose the gym over family and friends, youíre probably exercising excessively. Compulsive exercisers often feel anxious when they canít work out. They can also show signs of disrupted sleep patterns, elevated resting heart rate and moodiness, adds Gonwa.

Extreme exercise carries consequences. Compulsive exercisers are more prone to injury and may begin withdrawing from others. "Youíre hurting yourself in the long run by over exercising," says Hanisch. "Pounding on your body without giving it a chance to recover is a big concern."

Gonwa says everyone is different when it comes to exercise. You need to step back and evaluate your life and find balance with your workout plan. And you need to listen to your body. "When the body is breaking down, but your mind is saying you need to exercise, then there may be a problem," says Gonwa.

Hanisch works with people to develop a realistic view of their bodies. "We teach them what will work for their body type,"he says.

So step back and take a good look at yourself. Often over-exercisers find that changing the intensity of their workout ó even cutting down on exercise ó leads to better fitness overall.

A "Hot off the Press" Smoothie at Outpost Natural Foods.


Fruits (and Veggies)

Get the powerful nutrients of fresh fruits and vegetables without all the slicing and dicing ó visit a juice bar, like The Green Kitchen at Milwaukee Public Market and be prepared for an explosion of flavor. The Green Kitchenís Rachel Sanders says the best juice bars serve pure, fresh juice, without any additives, combined to nourish both body and soul.

Margaret Middelstaedt, spokeswoman for Outpost Natural Foods, says fresh juice is loaded with antioxidants and macronutrients that are in fresh fruits and vegetables, "and because youíre not cooking them, they retain all their goodness. The vitality is really there for you."

Both Outpost and The Green Kitchen have found that combining vegetables with fruit produces a drink that is as tasty as it is nutritious.

"The sweetness of the fruits helps to bring out some of the vegetable flavor," says Middlestaedt, "and sweetness helps to enhance the earth tones in root vegetables."

The color alone, especially in drinks made with beets, will brighten up a dismal day. For a tropical punch on a winterís day, Sanders recommends the Pink Flamingo, a citrusy concoction of orange, grapefruit, strawberry and pineapple, or a Maui Waui, made with oranges, pineapple, banana and coconut.

If youíve got the sniffles, give the Cold Killer a try. The base is fresh oranges, spiked with honey, lemon, ginger and wheatgrass. Sanders says wheatgrass is reputed to increase red blood cell counts, lower blood pressure, provide helpful enzymes and amino acids and stimulate digestion. Drinks made with fresh ginger are also beneficial to the digestive system, Sanders says.

Sanders offers two recipes to try at home, but cautions they are best made with a juicer and not a blender, which may result in too much pulpiness.

Jungle Juice
1 ripe banana
5-6 fresh strawberries
6 fresh oranges

Cut oranges in half and squeeze out juice with a hand juicer. Put the banana through the electric juicer first, followed by the strawberries and the orange juice. Pour into a frosted mug and enjoy.

Green Dream
1 handful of fresh spinach
1 thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, unpeeled
1 stalk celery
6 apples

Put the spinach through the juicer first, followed by ginger, celery and apples. Garnish with celery leaves and an apple slice if youíre feeling fancy.

Psychotherapist Jim Morningstar and a client work on breathing techniques.


Just Breathe

Breathing may be simple, but itís not easy, says psychotherapist Jim Morningstar, director of Transformations Inc., a therapeutic breathwork training center in Milwaukee.

"Regulating oneís breathing, knowing how to breathe more fully, freely and functionally is one of the most simple and most effective ways to regain or maintain your health," he says. "To change your breathing pattern takes practice and coaching."

Most people breathe at about 20 percent of capacity, Morningstar says, and the cumulative effects of not getting enough oxygen into the body can lead to a series of debilitating diseases.

Morningstar says therapeutic breathwork can help release tension that is stored in the body, often as a result of an ingrained response to trauma. "Weíre continually on Ďred alertí even when thereís no longer a traumatic situation," he says. "We think weíre relaxed, but weíre really in muscular tension."

The tension may manifest itself as chronic anxiety, digestive issues, respiratory problems or other physical maladies, Morningstar notes.

Morningstar combines therapeutic breathwork with talk therapy to work on problems from a physical, emotional and mental perspective. Itís not enough to just teach someone how to breathe properly, he explains. Negative or limiting thinking patterns have to be resolved as well, or they will continue to reinforce the conditions that are at the root of inadequate breathing. m

Walk it off

The best thing about walking for your health, says Bob Corby, physical therapist and co-owner of InStep Running and Walking Centers, is that there is really no learning curve.

"Just put on your shoes, walk out the door and go," Corby advises. "Itís just such a great exercise."

Not only is a brisk walk good for the cardiovascular system, he notes, it also benefits the joints, muscles and tendons and builds endurance. The American Heart Association recommends that healthy people perform any moderate-to-vigorous-intensity aerobic activity for at least 30 minutes on most days of the week at 50 to 85 percent of your maximum heart rate. The half-hour of exercise can be divided into two 15-minute sessions for the time-challenged.

Corby says walking is similar to jogging in the amount of calories burned; walking just takes a little longer.

"You burn off about 100 calories per mile walking and about 100 calories per mile jogging. It takes about 15 minutes to walk a mile, and about 10 to 11 minutes to jog a mile," he says.

To minimize foot problems, get fitted for the proper shoe for your body structure and your style of walking.

"About 80 percent of people who come in to buy walking shoes, we put them in running shoes," he says. "There are just so many different types of running shoes, you can really fine tune it."

If you choose to take a morning stroll inside a shopping mall, Corby says there are certain rules of etiquette to keep in mind. Stay to the right and be advised that serious mall walkers tend to pace the entire perimeter of the facility, including the side aisles. And stay well out of the way of those walkers who consider their walk a race to the finish line.

Walk This Way

The American Heart Associationís startwalkingnow.org website offers free online tools for walkers, including an activity log and a personalized walking plan.

Wisconsin Go Hiking Club offers a regular series of organized walks throughout the Milwaukee area. Many are 1.5-mile routes. For a calendar of upcoming walks, go to wisconsingohiking.homestead.com.

The Riveredge Nature Center in Newburg schedules monthly hikes for walkers of various abilities and interests. For information, go to http://riveredge.us.

Methods for reducing stress depend on what type of stress you may be experiencing, says psychologist Frank Urtz of Clear Direction Psychological Services:

Stop a cycle of worry and negative thinking by interrupting it. Call a friend to talk about something completely unrelated, and youíre more likely to break the circuit of stressful thoughts.

When youíre worried about the possibility of losing a job, make a realistic assessment of the probabilities, Urtz says. If a layoff is imminent, take control of the situation by evaluating your options. Begin networking, update your resume, perhaps consider a career change. The key is to control the things you can control.

Downsizing has resulted in many workers doing the tasks that used to be done by two, three or sometimes even more staff members. Work with your boss to set project priorities. Take a close look at how your time is spent at work and you may be able to find ways to manage your workload more effectively.

When stress manifests itself with physical symptoms, such as lack of sleep or appetite, Urtz usually suggests a physical remedy. That could be relaxation training such as guided imagery, an exercise regimen, yoga, rhythmic breathing, stretching or simply walking.

People under stress often compensate by eating sugary foods and drinking things that make the situation even more upsetting, Urtz says. Opt for lower-calorie meals and snacks and curb caffeine and alcohol use to help reduce stress levels.

Can it!

Gardeners and fans of locally grown produce are reviving the traditional arts of food preservation to enjoy the bounty of the growing season well into Wisconsin winters. But, warns master gardener Kathy Awe of Cedarburg, be careful to follow proper techniques or there may be nasty biological consequences.

Herbs are easy to preserve, Awe says. For optimum flavor, pick them in bunches before they begin to bloom, loop a rubber band around the stems and hang them in a warm, dry place. Herbs like tarragon and rosemary, grown organically, can also be added to bottles of vinegar, allowing time for their flavors to seep into the liquid. Transfer the infused vinegar into an attractive glass container, discarding the herbs, and use in salad dressings.

Awe says a simple way to preserve fresh vegetables like corn, green beans and Brussels sprouts is to blanche them in boiling water ó use a chart to determine blanching time for each variety of vegetable ó and freeze them. Blanching kills the enzymes that cause vegetables to spoil, Awe explains. Onions and peppers donít need blanching, she advises, but make sure theyíre clean before freezing.

Wash fresh berries, put them on a cookie sheet, and freeze them, Awe suggests. Once frozen, drop them in a freezer bag and put them back in the freezer. When you need to use them, they wonít come out of the bag in one big icy lump.

Fruits and vegetables, including tomatoes, can be preserved by dehydration. Follow the instructions on a commercial dehydrator, or simply put the produce on a cookie sheet in a very low oven, set at 200 degrees or less. Oven dehydration can take up to 12 hours or longer, Awe says, but may be worth the wait: "Plums and apples are wonderful dehydrated."

Canning is a more complicated method of preserving food, and requires squeaky clean jars, new jar lids and clean utensils. There aretwo methods, Awe notes, hot water bath canning and the pressure cooker method.

"The hot water bath is much easier, and is used for vegetables that are pickled in vinegar or things like fruit in a simple syrup," she says. "If you want to can just a plain vegetable like beans carrots, or cauliflower, youíll have to do it in a pressure cooker."

Awe stresses that canners should carefully follow guidelines issued by universities and university extensions to preserve food safely and avoid botulism. The UW-Extension offers classes in canning and UW-Madison occasionally has Master Food Preserver courses.

For the tips on safely canning and preserving food, go to www.foodsafety.wisc.edu.

Eat Right
Maximize your workout and weight-loss by choosing the best foods

Protein and carbs are key factors when it comes to good nutrition ó and getting the most out of your workout regime.

"The biggest thing for people starting out are the foods they need to avoid," says Elise Trasser, a traditional naturopath at Serenity in Waukesha. "When eating carbs, your body thinks it has lots of energy, but itís just sugar. Protein balances the blood sugar and regulates it. You will crash after a certain amount of minutes if you eat too many carbs," says Trasser.

Both Trasser and Bernie Rosen, a nutrition consultant and educator with Rosen Wellness in Thiensville, agree regulating your blood sugar is a key component to balancing nutrition and exercise.

Many people eat carbs for breakfast, which is quick energy, says Rosen. "We get into this mode, and thatís what we fuel on." Proteins and fat will burn longer and steadier. Says Trasser, "Small amounts of protein throughout the day are important. I recommend 2 to 3 ounces at each meal."

Not becoming educated on how to fuel your body can be the downfall for many beginner athletes. "Exercise alone is not enough," Rosen says. "In the short term, you will see results, then hit a plateau and stop going to the health club. This is where diet is so critical."

If you are looking to lose weight, cut back on grains, says Rosen. And donít forget to fuel pre and post workout. Antioxidants, for example, repair free radicals that are circulating in the body from exercise, says Trasser. "Donít be afraid to eat, but eat the right foods," says Rosen. "How you feel is the key. A lot of people arenít in tune with their own bodies; you forget how it feels to feel vibrant."

Itís best to train you body to eat something in the morning before exercise or over time, your adrenal glands will be shot, Trasser says.

And donít forget about proper hydration, warns Rosen. "It is advisable to drink 16 to 20 ounces of water one to two hours before a workout."

A protein powder smoothie with blueberries is the perfect way to start the day before exercise, as it helps regulate your blood sugar and aids in tissue repair. For your post-workout recovery, grab a protein-rich snack within the first 45 minutes after your workout.

Miscellaneous food tips from Elise Trasser and Bernard Rosen

Choose sweet potato and squash over white potato.

Choose turkey over chicken.

Avoid "diet" anything.

Incorporate good fats such as almond butter, coconut oil, olive oil and fish oil; Trasserís favorite fish oil is Nordic Naturals due to its tested purity.

Best fruit carbs for race gear up are cantaloupe, peaches and bananas.

Choose brown rice pasta over wheat pasta.

Choose full-fat yogurt not low fat or fat free and add your own fruit and nuts.

Incorporate leafy greens like kale, collard, mustard, spinach and chard into your diet.

Protein shakes using whey or brown rice protein, nuts or nut butters, hummus or eggs.

Celery or carrot sticks could also be eaten with nut butters or hummus.

Oatmeal Sports Bar
2 cups quick oats
1/4 cup golden ground flax meal/seed
3/4 cup honey or agave nectar
1/2 cup walnuts, almonds or sunflower seeds
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon unsulphured molasses
1 cup dried fruit of choice (dates, cranberries, raisins)
3/4 cup almond butter or peanut butter

Mix ingredients, form into bars and freeze.

Quick and Healthy

Here, Elise Trasser shares suggestions for healthy meals and snacks.

Pre-Workout Breakfast: Oatmeal with almonds and berries of choice ( blueberries, strawberries, raspberries); organic low-fat or whole milk yogurt. Do away with skim milk options. Yogurt supplies more calcium, protein and potassium than milk.

Snack: High-density nutrition whole food protein bars or whey protein smoothie; sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds. Standard Process in Palmyra makes an excellent protein bar you can purchase through a practitioner.

Post-Workout Lunch: Turkey wrap with sprouts, avocado and a mustard condiment. Add a pomegranate or kiwi when in season.

Carb-Loading Dinner: Whole grain brown rice pasta, navy or white beans, grilled chicken or salmon, and sweet potato mashed, baked or as homemade chips.

Post-Race Dinner: Rib-eye steak, salad with olive oil and balsamic vinegar with pomegranate seeds and a grapefruit.