Gimme a Break

There was a time when football coaches were more likely to continue to push their athletes through grueling late-summer practices with little or no breaks, and in extreme cases, no water, for the sake of making the athletes “tougher”. Then came an intersection of science and reality. Scientific research suggested that rest and water would actually enhance performance, while many kids deprived of rest and water in hot conditions suffered incidents of heat stroke, heat exhaustion, and even death. At this intersection, things changed, and the old-school practice of making kids tougher via depravity fell by the wayside. Not only were coaches who gave athletes adequate breaks and hydration safeguarding their players, they were also enhancing performance. No brainer. Win-win.

This may seem a dramatic metaphor, but a similar phenomenon seems to exist in many workplaces in our country.  Whether imposed by a supervisor, imposed by peer-pressure, or self-imposed, many employees will work an entire workday with little or no breaks. Thank goodness for AC. You won’t die of heat stroke, but your work performance and mood is probably suffering nevertheless.

I recently got to listen to researcher and New York Times best-selling author Daniel Pink (Drive, When) speak at a conference. Among other things Mr. Pink talked about was the latest research regarding the transformative power of a good break.

I won’t go too deep into the science in this article, but rather skip to the conclusions of the research:

  • Breaks in work (of any kind) enhance both mood and performance.
  • Working without breaks results in decreased performance, mood, and a significant increase in work errors.
    • In industries where lives are at stake, such as the healthcare industry, consequences can be disastrous.
    • In school settings, standardized test scores decrease in the afternoon, but studies show a good break before afternoon testing can normalize this statistic.

So what is a good break? According to Mr. Pink, here are the rules for a good break:

  • Something beats nothing.
    • A one-minute break is better than no break.  A five-minute break is even better. Don’t say you don’t have time to take a break. Your performance may depend on it.
  • Moving beats stationary. Get out of that chair. Move some blood. It’s good for your muscles, joints, and brain.
  • Social beats solo. Grab your coworker and take a walk.
  • Outside beats inside. Duh.
  • Fully detached beats semi-detached. 
    • So you’ve followed the rules stated above and gone out for a walk with your office buddy. Now try not to talk about work–you’ll work better after the break is over if you don’t.
    • Leave your phone behind.  It’s ok, it will be there when you get back.

P.S. I almost never write a blog post in the afternoon. In fact, I seldom do anything creative in the afternoon. It’s not my wheelhouse. But I took an outside walk break at 2:30 today, came back in and started writing. Cristin even noticed, “You’re writing a blog post in the middle of the afternoon?”

This stuff works. It’s scientifically based. And it’s easy to do. If your office culture isn’t break-friendly or accepting, please feel free to share this article. It could literally change your work culture via better moods, higher performance, and less mistakes. Who isn’t for that combination?

If you want to learn more about maximizing work performance, the rhythm of your day, and the power of breaks, check out Daniel Pink’s newest book When, The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing. I think you’ll find it interesting and informative.

Be well!


Wellchat Episode XV: A chat with ‘It Starts with Me’

Episode 15: Neal and Cristin interview Dan Keith and Craig Linke, President and VP of It Starts with Me Health. Discussion includes hot topics and trends in the field of health and wellness, where the industry is headed, and what our hopes are for the individuals we serve. Recorded March 2018.

The Montana Moves & Meals Wellchat is available on Itunes podcasts! Subscribe and take us with you for a walk, run, or drive!

Bike to Work (in Comfort)

Happy National Bike to Work Week! Although Bozeman chose to delay our Bike to Work Week Festivities (June 4-8), I still rode into the office this morning in solidarity with the rest of the state and nation! Everything is so green and the air is crisp—it’s an outstanding time to ride!

To kick off this special week of riding, we wanted to re-share a video we produced a couple of years back on bicycle comfort, in case you missed it or need a refresher. If you’re comfortable on your bike, your riding will become much more enjoyable and unlimited! Enjoy, and stay safe out there!


Happy Bike Month!

May is here, and it’s one of our favorite times of the year! There’s Star Wars Day, Cinco de Mayo, the end of school, Memorial Day weekend, and of course, National Bike Month!

Here’s a few links and news about Bike Month happenings in your community!

  • This week (May 7-11) is National Bike to School week. For those of you with children, check to see if your child’s school is doing special promotions or group rides this week.
  • Next week (May 14-18) is National Bike to Work week. Check your local community calendar for events. Here is some info for Missoula and Bozeman riders:
  • Bike Walk Montana is a great resource anytime to learn more about riding for transportation and riding safety.

On a personal note, I was able to kick off National Bike Month in a fun way last week, while visiting Kalispell and Flathead Valley Community College. On May 1st, a small group from FVCC braved the threat of rain and rode west on one of the Kalispell area’s fantastic Rails-to-Trails paths. The weather turned out to be fine, and we had a really enjoyable after-work ride in the early evening light. Thanks FVCC!

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Saddle Up!



Symbiotic Spring

Each spring in the northern hemisphere, trees and plants bloom and grow, and in the process, scrub millions of tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. This CO2 is converted to oxygen, which is a great thing for us.

Likewise, as the weather improves, there are so many things you can actively do that are not only beneficial for you, but are beneficial for your environment and community as well.

Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • If your destination is within walking distance. Walk there.
  • If your destination is within biking distance. Bike there. (Happy National Bike Month!)
  • Plant a garden.
  • Plant a tree.
  • Buy local produce from a Farmer’s Market or Community Supported Agriculture (CSA).
  • Compost.
  • Volunteer for an organization you support.
  • Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.

The communities in which we live give us so much, and we can give back by making choices that lead to healthier environments and stronger communities. During the process, we can become healthier individuals and families as well. Many recent studies on longevity and happiness suggest a link between strong social and community bonds and the happiest, healthiest, longest living people.

It’s a win-win. It’s symbiotic. It’s spring. Go bloom.


Swim-to-Bike Transition

We’re on the cusp of National Bike Month, but did you realize that April is Adult Learn to Swim Month? So as we transition from April to May, here is a post from guest-writer Phillip Luebke, addressing the importance of swimming skills for adults.

Phillip Luebke works at MSU-Bozeman as a government contracting advisor for the Montana Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC), where he helps Montana companies do business with federal, state and local government agencies. He currently serves as president of the Bozeman Masters Swim Club and is the Top Ten and Records Chair for the Montana Local Masters Swimming Committee (LMSC). He is looking forward to competing in his first USMS National Championship Meet in Indianapolis next month.

Every year the Swimming Saves Lives Foundation formally declares the month of April, “Adult Learn-to-Swim Month.” In many parts of the country, this is the time of year when outdoor pools, lakes, and beaches are opening for spring and summer recreation. It’s a little early for that here in Montana (I’m writing this in the middle of yet another April snowstorm), but it’s never too early to start thinking about summer recreation and water safety.

More than a third of adults in the United States can’t swim the length of a pool, which puts them at risk of being one of the ten people who drown every day in the United States. Summers in Montana are an especially dangerous time. 46% of drowning deaths in Montana occur in June, July and August, and the rate of unintentional drowning deaths in our state is 54% higher than the rate for the U.S.

To help prevent drownings, the Bozeman Masters Swim Club gave free swim lessons to adults during the month of April. They were beginner lessons for adults with little-to-no swimming skills. Some never learned how to swim when they were younger. Others might have had a few lessons as a child, but never achieved a level of competency where they felt comfortable in the water.

You might not find anything strange about a swim club offering swim lessons, but I should point out that it’s not something that is normally offered by a masters swimming club. Masters swimmers (swimmers aged 18+) may need help with their technique or want to build up their strength or endurance, but in general, they already know how to swim. So why are we doing this?

A grant from the Swimming Saves Lives Foundation was the spark that spurred us to offer free adult learn-to-swim (ALTS) lessons last year, but once we saw the impact our lessons were having on the participants in our program, we knew that it was a program that we had to keep going. Learning to swim can be life-changing. The heartfelt gratitude that was expressed by the “graduates” of our program at the end of last year’s sessions is what prompted me to volunteer to be an instructor this year.

As someone who has been swimming since about age seven, I don’t think I ever truly appreciated what it’s like to go through life without knowing how to swim. We have heard some heart-wrenching stories from participants entering our program about what that is like. These are stories I wouldn’t feel right sharing, but this excerpt from the USMS Adult Learn-to-Swim Instructor Manual paints a pretty vivid picture:

Once a person is convinced that swimming any distance is impossible, a life of avoidance begins. Excuses are made to remain safely on the beach while friends run for a cooling dip. Vacation plans are altered so that swimming is not included. Fearful or nonswimming parents will stay out of the water or instill fear in their kids to keep them safe. Cruises, fishing from a boat, and ferry rides are all accompanied by the concern of, “What happens if we go over?” For anyone who does not know how to swim comfortably, there is a nagging sense of something missed, that the joy others feel while swimming is not available.

That is no way to go through life. Think of all the fun summer activities in Montana that happen in and around bodies of water. Here in Bozeman, we’re doing our small part to eliminate lives full of excuses, avoidance and fear…and the community responded. All three of our sessions filled up just a few weeks after we opened registrations.

I have already seen remarkable improvement from the adults that I have been instructing. Students who struggled with putting their faces in the water on the first day are now taking multiple strokes across the pool and learning to breathe properly so that they can continue to swim without stopping. Recent lessons have included smiles and laughter, along with high-fives and fist-bumps. Six lessons over three weeks is a short period of time to learn anything, but I remain optimistic that most of our students will be able to master the five water safety skills the American Red Cross has identified as critical for “water competency” by the end of this month:

  • Step or jump into the water over your head.
  • Return to the surface and float or tread water for one minute.
  • Turn around in a full circle and find an exit.
  • Swim 25 yards to the exit.
  • Exit from the water. If in a pool, be able to exit without using the ladder.

If you don’t know how to swim, and would like to learn, feel free to reach out to me at or 406-600-2771 and I’ll try to point you in the right direction. In addition to the ALTS program in Bozeman, there are at least a couple of USMS-certified ALTS instructors in Kalispell and Missoula, and I know a few folks who give private lessons, but are not USMS-certified.

If you already know how to swim, but would like to improve, I strongly encourage you to check out a U.S. Masters Swimming club near you:

Bozeman Masters Adult Learn to Swim Lessons

Joining the Challenge

We love to hear inspiring stories of our employees challenging themselves and others to get stronger, eat better, and live healthier lives. The following story was shared with us by Megan Schultz, from the W.A. Franke College of Forestry & Conservation at UM Missoula. Enjoy!

Before Christmas 2017 we were having casual conversation about exercise and the topic of planks came up. My coworker Kara and I were telling our Director, Norma, about how good of an overall body exercise a plank is. So, the 3 of us along with Jeremy in our research center (ITRR) embarked on the 28-day plank challenge. Each morning the 4 of us would meet and do planks together in the office. We built up to a 4-minute plank that culminated on Christmas Day!

During the plank challenge, some other employees in our building heard about it and were interested in joining us for another challenge. After the plank challenge, we did a wall-sit challenge where we built up to a 5-minute wall-sit. When we started this challenge, none of us thought we would make 5 minutes! But, we all did. And for those who were not involved with the plank challenge the first time around, they added that on. By the end, we were all doing a 5-minute wall-sit and then we decided on a 2-minute maintenance plank. There were now 8 CFC employees participating!

For the next challenge we wanted to incorporate some lower body and upper body, and Johanna suggested a squat challenge and push-up challenge together. The squat challenge was a different kind, with most days wrapping up with a variety of all the different kinds on the last day. The push-up challenge built up to 60! Some of us did knee push-ups, inclined, wide or just regular. And we continued our 2 minute plank each day at the end of the other exercises.

[This week] we will wrap-up our latest challenge. For this one we looked at a variety and created our own hybrid: squats, bridges, lunges, tricep dips, yoga poses, and the stand-by plank. This challenge has been the most time consuming, but it still only takes about 15 minutes to get it all in! We meet each morning at 10:15 and instead of hanging out catching up by the water cooler, we’re meeting for some exercise!

Today we completed 80 squats, 60 bridges, up to 70 lunges (some of us did a lower amount), 12 tricep dips, and a 1 minute plank! I pushed to start this challenge quickly after the last one ended because I wanted to finish out the challenge with the group before I am gone to have a baby. This has been such a great way to stay active during my pregnancy and I am thankful for the support of my colleagues.

It’s my understanding someone else will spearhead the challenges will I am gone, and I look forward to joining them again when I am back from maternity leave.


Megan Schultz, Project Manager & Research Associate, ITRR, University of Montana

Challenge group photo 4.6.18
Super strong UM staff celebrating the completion of another challenge and Megan’s soon-to-be new arrival!

As an epilogue, we’re happy to share that Megan had a little baby girl this week and mom and baby are doing well! Congrats Megan, and thanks again for sharing!


Wellchat Episode 13: The Nutrition Diva and the 30-Day Nutrition Upgrade

Episode 13: Cristin interviews the “Nutrition Diva” Monica Reinagel about her collaboration with MUS and the 30-Day Nutrition Upgrade™, beginning April 9th.

If you weren’t able to register in time for this round, we’re optimistic about offering a second round in the near future!


The Montana Moves & Meals Wellchat is available on Itunes podcasts! Subscribe and take us with you for a walk, run, or drive!

Magic Wand Survey Insights

Earlier this month we shared some aggregate results of our challenge survey question,

“If you could wave a magic wand and improve one specific aspect of your personal health and/or well-being, what would it be?”

Today, we wanted to delve beyond the surface for a few insights we’ve gleaned from this data, plus share some of our favorite responses.

For starters, we asked this question because it’s good for us as a Wellness Team to know the pulse of our population. But we thought it could also be a useful tool for our participants as well. Answering this question is a great starting point for driving change.

A few responses landed outside the realm of one’s control. We had a laugh at some of these tongue-in-cheek answers:

“[I would] be taller.”

“I wish I had a personal chef to make me healthy balanced meals all the time.”

or, our personal favorite:

“I’d be 30 years younger.”

Ah, yes…with a magic wand we could all be younger, taller, and be able to hire a personal chef. Take a deep breath and think about how nice that would be…

…one more second…

And now snap back to reality. The majority of the 1200+ responses given to this question did land within the realm, or locus, of our control. Here is a sampling of responses that cover many different perspectives of wellness:

“Less screen time.”

“Losing weight–without any effort :-)”

“Have all my bills paid off.”

“I would give myself permission to relax more.”

“[I would] improve relationships/friendships.”

“I would do some type of physical activity every day.”

“Put more time and effort into purchasing, prepping, and consuming healthy foods.”

“Get more sleep.”

Each one of these “wishes”, could also be viewed as a very specific and manageable goal. Each one offers its own set of challenges, and most likely obstacles. And of course, we all know that losing weight, or reaching any goal for that matter, does require some effort. Read over the list again. Which of these wishes/goals seem easy to you? Which ones would be difficult? Do any seem impossible?

Obviously, these wishes are a challenge for the individuals who wrote them, or they would’ve picked something else. Nevertheless, each of the specific goals listed here are manageable, and fall within the locus of our control. And because they fall under our control, there are actionable steps and behaviors that we can utilize and leverage to bring these goals within reach.

Whether you view your personal challenges in the area of health and wellness as manageable goals or dreamlike fantasies makes a big difference.  If you decide to make your desire a specific goal, at that moment your small, daily behaviors you chose to align with that goal effectively becomes your magic wand.

So, if you answered the “magic wand” question, whether in our survey or right now, and you want to go a step further, here is your homework:

  • Select at least one, but no more than three, specific behaviors that will bring your dream-goal closer to you each day, and then practice these behaviors daily.
  • Don’t give up. Be consistent.
  • Watch the magic happen.

One last insight.

We live in a world where we are inundated with information, and married to technology. Many of us don’t go for more than a few minutes at a time without checking the little screen we carry around with us wherever we go. So it was nice to read several responses to our question that had to do with presence. Therefore, we leave you with two magic wishes that were shared with us, that we want to share with everyone:

  • I would live in the moment more often.

  • Remember to be grateful.

Be Well.

MUS Wellness Team