Here at MUS Wellness, we certainly don’t believe in a one-size-fits-all concept of wellness. We’re all different: different goals, different interests, different motivations, etc. Variety is the spice of life right?

That’s why one of our favorite annual Montana Moves challenges is the Wildcard challenge. It gives our participants a chance to play their fitness wildcard. For some, it’s a chance to go to their wheelhouse, and be rewarded for doing their favorite things.  For others, it’s a nudge to get out of the box a bit either by trying something new, or setting a specific goal they’ve been thinking about for a while.

I always enjoy reading how creative our MUS population is, and I find the wildcards to be very motivating. Here are a few highlights. Way to go MUS!

  • Rain, sleet, wind or snow didn’t keep me from achieving my October goal of walking or hiking outside every day in the month. And I maintained 10,000 steps or more each day in October. Yippee! Also, I went to yoga classes every week in October at least 2 times a week. My body and my future self thanks me.
  • 38 day streak of 10,000 steps or more.
  • Have been working on strength training and am now able to squat more weight than I ever have and increased my 1RM by 20%!
  • I kayaked a 24 mile section of river!
  • I’m playing volleyball again! I’ll be attending every week and bringing my A game! I haven’t played for about 10 years, but it’s all coming back to me!
  • Agreed to dance in the Nutcracker. Strapping the pointe shoes back on and rehearsing 3 days/week.
  • Yesterday I had my first consult with my new personal trainer – a first for me is having someone who is keeping me accountable on lifting.
  • After months of walking and building my strength back up, I made it to the ‘M’!
  • Did 4 great hikes in Zion and Bryce Canyon over the weekend, which has been on my bucket list for years!
  • Registered for a half marathon!
  • Doing a 30 day squat challenge. Some form of squats every day for 30 days.
  • I hiked the Wonderland Trail around Mt Rainier – 96 miles in 6 days
  • I am going for a 15 x 15 challenge. 15,000 steps for 15 days. Wish me luck.

Streaks, bucket-list items, registering for new events, or resuming an old activities seemed to be repetitive themes this year.  Hopefully the streaks and new habits are still alive as we head into the holidays!


Everything you always wanted to know…

Confused about cholesterol and eggs? Want to know more about sugar substitutes? Wondering if you should follow a gluten-free diet? If yes, you’re not alone! Those were a few of the big questions that emerged after combing through the nutrition questions that were sent in for this month’s Montana Meals Challenge of the Month. Join us on Tuesday, April 14th at 12:05pm for our webinar titled “Everything you wanted to know about Nutrition but we afraid to ask” as we discuss the current research regarding those questions, along with several other intriguing nutrition topics.  Although I can’t promise I’ll cover everything you want to know about nutrition, I will do my best to cover a variety of topics based on your questions including fish consumption, multi-vitamins, coffee, juicing, and boosting metabolism. Register for the webinar here today!

Also, because so many of your questions were a variation of “What is the best balance of carbs/fats/proteins? And what are the best & worst sources of each?” we’re devoting an entire upcoming webinar to the topic! Date TBA soon. Stay tuned!


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Food for Thought

We’ve been posting a lot of individual success stories lately; but today, we thought we’d share a campus success program from Flathead Valley Community College (FVCC) in Kalispell.

MUS Wellness provides funding for initiatives that promote Wellness on a local, campus level. In the spring of 2014, a group of FVCC employees, including Chef Malcolm Orser, Dr. Heather Estrada, Human Resources Director Karen Glasser, and Campus Farm Manager Julian Cunningham came up with a brilliant idea for promoting more healthful eating on campus through a Farm to Café venture they named Food for Thought.

Food for Thought linked the FVCC campus farm with Eagles Nest Café, an on-campus café that is a popular choice for breakfast and lunch among employees. Each Wednesday during the summer of 2014, Chef Orser and employees at Eagles Nest Café provided a healthy, locally produced menu option featuring a fruit or vegetable from the campus farm. Examples of lunch specials included Spicy Oven Roasted Cherry Tomatoes with Tilapia, Roasted Red Pepper & Cauliflower Soup, and Salmon with Cucumber Mango Salsa served with a tangy Tomato, Cucumber, and Onion Salad. Other featured produce items included Swiss chard, peas, basil, and spring lettuce mix. Yum! And, as part of the Food for Thought program, employees could also save their meal receipt from lunch and receive a free item from the campus farm stand.

FVCC is fortunate to have an organic farm associated with its campus. Established in 2012, the farm serves as a learning laboratory for students in the FVCC Integrated Agriculture & Food Systems program. Organic vegetables from the farm are distributed through a community-supported agriculture (CSA) program and are sold at a farm stand on campus. Food for Thought provided an additional avenue for employees to access fresh produce, and perhaps more importantly, served as wonderful inspiration to eat more fresh veggies as Chef Orser demonstrated the delicious dishes that could be made using fresh farm produce! Nutrition information and recipes using the weekly featured item were also provided for participants.

Here’s what Karen Glasser had to say about the program:

“The link between our Campus Farm and the Eagles’ Nest Café was so successful that it has been proposed to be adopted as an annual event!  Frequently, our Food for Thought day was sold out and generated more revenue for the café than any other weekday.”

Way to go FVCC!

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Baby It’s Cold Outside

Here’s a Re-Blog from last January. The big cold came earlier this year, so I thought I’d repost! Stay warm out there!

Montana Moves & Montana Meals

One of my friends from New York City enjoys texting me Montana weather reports like this one when it’s particularly cold and nasty out. bozeman weather2

But Montanans are tough, and we can’t let a little cold stand in the way of us staying moving and getting outside.  This weekend, despite the fact that it was zero degrees, I still got out and ran, and was relatively comfortable, thanks to the right combination of layers.

If you want to be active in the cold—running, walking, snowshoeing, or cross-country skiing—think in threes.  Three layers: Base, Warmth, and Shell.

Base Layer

Your base layer is the layer of clothing that rests directly against your skin.   This layer should be a relatively lightweight, wicking fabric.  Synthetic materials like nylon & polyester blends work well.  There are some lightweight, high-performance natural options as well—Merino wool is one of my favorites.  Again, the main purpose of the base layer is to…

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Hey! Focus on that Food!

This month’s Montana Meals challenge, Enjoy Your Food, is designed to encourage mindful eating using strategies promoted by Intuitive Eating experts and dietitians, Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch. You can check out the full challenge details here.

As part of the challenge, and for an extra prize drawing entry, we are asking participants which strategy is most difficult for them and why. We have started to receive completed challenge logs, and while there are a wide variety of interesting answers to the most difficult strategy question, a common answer has been eliminating distractions, including TV, books, computers, phones, tablets, etc. In a culture that values multi-tasking, this is not surprising. Why just eat, when you can eat and catch up on unread emails or Facebook, watch the news, or check out scores from the latest sports games, all at the same time?

I am definitely guilty of distracted eating at times too, especially if dining alone, but a study from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests a few reasons why we should focus on our food instead. Researchers divided the study participants into two groups. One group played online solitaire while eating lunch; the other group was fed the exact same lunch, but without the computer distraction. At 30 minutes post-meal, both groups were asked to participate in a taste test of biscuits where they could eat as many or as few biscuits as they liked. Compared to the group that ate their lunch without distractions, the distracted, solitaire-playing group, which included both men and women:

  • Reported feeling less full after lunch (despite being fed the exact same meal)
  • Ate more food when given the opportunity 30 minutes later
  • Could not remember details about their lunch as well as their non-distracted counterparts
  • Previous studies have shown that distracted eating increases the number of calories consumed at a meal, but this study suggests that being distracted during a meal can even have an effect on subsequent intake. Yikes!

Distracted eating can become an ingrained habit (i.e. you click on the TV as you sit down to eat without even a second thought) and one that is tough to break, so write yourself a note or two to leave on the kitchen table, in your car, on the front of the refrigerator, on the TV, or anywhere that it could serve as a useful reminder when you are tempted to reach for your iPad or phone, or turn on the TV during dinner.

Lastly, keep in mind that our emotions, particularly stress, can make a big impact on what and how much we eat. Don’t let work emails or upsetting world news influence your meal choices. Allow meals to be a break in the day—a time to relax, take a deep breath, and focus on the pleasure of eating.

Happy Undistracted Eating!


Oldham-Cooper RE, et al. Playing a computer game during lunch affects fullness, memory for lunch, and later snack intake. Am J Clin Nutr 2011 93: February 308-313.

Blass EM, Anderson DR, Kirkorian HL, Pempek RA, Price I, Koleini MF. On the road to obesity: Television viewing increases intake of high-density foods. Physiol Behav 2006; 88: 597-604


Building Successful Architecture

…given a choice, humans follow the path of least resistance…we like easy.

Our March Challenge involves setting up your surrounding environment to help you achieve your goals.  This is sometimes referred to as behavioral or choice architecture.

According to Dr. B.J. Fogg, who is a world leader on this subject, human beings can be summed up by three descriptives. Dr. Fogg says human beings are:

  • Lazy
  • Social
  • Creatures of habit

Now hold on! Before you get defensive about being called lazy, let me make an example.  Have you ever, upon entering a building with several doors, changed your path to follow someone through a door that’s already open, rather than going through a closed door directly in front of you? I know I do this all the time. This is a form of laziness. More times than not, given a choice, humans follow the path of least resistance. Maybe that’s the more sensitive way to put it—we tend to follow the path of least resistance.  We like easy.

Simply being aware of this human tendency can help us make some “architectural changes” that will give us an advantage in creating those desirable behaviors and habits we know will lead to health, but are sometimes hard to follow.

Here are a few of the real architectural adjustments that our members have shared thus far as part of the COTM, and commentary on each:

  • Programming Outlook Tasks with Pop-up “Move” messages every 1/2 hour.
    • This is known as a “trigger”.  Triggers initiate behavior.  A phone ring is a perfect example of a trigger.
  • Keeping my cross-country skis on the front porch so that I can quickly go outside and ski around in my yard whenever I get a chance.
    • This is an example of taking a desired behavior (skiing/exercise) and making it easy and convenient to do.  Plus, seeing the skis on the front porch acts as a trigger.
  • I will bring veggies to work and put them in a nice mason jar at my desk so I can see them and munch instead of buying pop tarts from the vending machine.
    • This architecture involves replacing an undesirable nutrition choice with more desirable choice.  Again, the veggies in a clear jar act as a trigger, and they are easily accessible.
  • I will use the bathroom on Level 5 [2 levels up]
    • This choice creates a new habit (Humans are creatures of habit) and sneaks in a great exercise—stairs—several times a day (depending on your bladder!)
  • [I will] Pack my lunches the night before in order to avoid having to purchase something from the cafeteria.
    • A time investment the night before will yield a big payoff in the morning, which for many of us can feel more stressful because we are on a schedule and may have other demands from family or pets.  This choice makes the morning easier, saves time and money, and leads to better nutrition choices.
  • [I will] Pack all of my clothes/toiletries the night before I work out and have my work out clothes ready
    • Same thing: a small time investment the night before makes the next day easier.

If you haven’t made any changes yet this month, there’s still plenty of time to do so. If you’re really stumped, or want an extra challenge, check out Dr. Fogg’s Tiny Habits program. The program will walk you through some exercises to establish 3 new habits within a week!

Keep up the good work!


Great Falls Fitness!

Your Wellness team spent the past couple of days at Great Falls College, helping upgrade their Employee Fitness Room.  GFC has spent some of its existing Wellness funds over the years to provide employees a place to exercise, and recently purchased some new equipment for resistance exercise.  After helping rearrange the layout of the room, we also ran five short workshops to help employees become familiar with the new equipment.  We plan to produce a video featuring the new, functional space at Great Falls College, but until then, we thought we’d share some photos from our time there. We also need to thank the GFC HR department and maintenance team for all their help and for providing the resources to make this project possible!

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We helped create some functional space for yoga, stretching, and resistance training.
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Some of the new functional equipment, including medicine balls, a bench, and a TRX.
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Neal coaching some medball exercises.
“Now drop and give me 20!” Just kidding! Neal was not berating this employee–rather, she is approaching a kettlebell and getting set for a deadlift.
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Core training with resistance bands.
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Cristin trying out the new TRX suspension trainer.

And the Winners are…

It’s time to unveil our Grand Prize winners for our 2013 Challenge of the Month program! We randomly selected our two winners from all of our 2013 Challenge of the Month participants. And the winners are…

Eric Tangedahl from Missoula won our Montana Moves Grand Prize drawing.  Eric is a Wellness Champion on the UM campus, and stays active year-round doing a lot of fun, outdoor Montana recreation like trail running and hunting.  You can check out a hunting/training video Eric shared with us here.  We look forward to many more awesome videos, as Eric will be receiving a GoPro Hero 3+ Camera for his prize! Congrats Eric!


Mike Pfeffer is a retiree from Helena.  Mike won our Montana Meals Grand Prize drawing.  Mike and his wife Arlis participated in every monthly challenge in 2013, so it is fitting that they won the grand prize, a NutriBullet  Pro blender.  Mike and Arlis will be blending all kinds of amazing fruit and veggie concoctions in 2014! Congrats Mike!


Thanks to all of you who participated in our Challenge of the Month Program in 2013. Of course, now we get to start all over and do it again! Check out these links to get involved!

January Challenge of the Month

2014 Challenge of the Month Informational Webinar, January 22nd

Turkey Day is Two Weeks Away!

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, because it includes some of my favorite elements: family, food, football, and a long weekend!  Last year was my first Thanksgiving in Montana, and I started a new tradition by signing up for a local race on Thanksgiving morning—the Huffing for Stuffing 10K in Bozeman.  Montana plays host to at least 8 Thanksgiving Day runs statewide.  I encourage you to sign up for one in your community today!  Here are a few reasons why:

  • We already know we’re going to put back a few more calories than usual on Thanksgiving weekend (and by a few I mean a lot).  Why not do a preemptive strike and burn a few calories on Thanksgiving morning?  You’ll feel better about the gluttony to come.  I feel like I need to earn my big holiday meal, and participating in a community race is a great way to do it!
  • Most Thanksgiving Day races are associated with a local charity.  By signing up, you’ll also be donating to a great cause in your community.  See the list below!
  • Holiday races are festive and fun.  It’s kindof like being in a big parade.  Many of these races encourage costumes!

Here are a list of Montana Thanksgiving Races that I know about, plus a link at the bottom to help you register:

  • Huffing for Stuffing 5k & 10k, Bozeman.  Benefits Gallatin Valley Food Bank.  Neal will be running the 5k.  Come say “Hi” at the post-race party!
  • Turkey Day 8k, Missoula.  Benefits Missoula Food Bank.  Cristin will be running this one.  Come say “Hi” at the post-race party!
  • Burn the Bird 5k & 10k, Great Falls.  Benefits River’s Edge Trail.
  • Turkey Trot 3 Miler, Polson.  Benefits Polson Loaves and Fishes.
  • Turkey Trot 5k, Whitefish.  Benefits North Valley Food Bank.
  • Run! Turkey Run! 5k, Billings.  Benefits Billings Food Bank, Family Service, Meals on Wheels, and the Billings BackPack Program.
  • Turkey Trot 5k & 10k, Helena.  Benefits Helena Food Share.
  • Buckey’s Turkey Trot, Glendive.  Benefits Dawson County Food Bank.

Information and links to all of these races can be found here:  Run Montana Calendar 

Yours Truly showing a little race hardware in front of Big Mike at the Museum of the Rockies.
Yours Truly showing a little race hardware in front of Big Mike at the Museum of the Rockies following the 2012 Huffing for Stuffing 10k.  This year, I’m taking it easy and running the 5.