Spicy Planks (Video)

This one is for all of you participating in our current “Get to the Core” challenge as part of the MUS Wellness Incentive Program. If you’ve been cranking out those planks and increasing your core strength over the past few weeks, our latest Montana Moves video gives you some ideas about how to kick it up to the next level of fitness and fun. Happy Friday! Enjoy!


MUS Wellness Champions Needed!

Can you relate to any of the following statements?

“I care about the health & happiness of my coworkers.”

“I have an idea for a wellness activity that we should offer on our campus.”

“I loved participating in the Take Control program, and I wish more of my colleagues knew about it!”

If one or more of the above statements sounds like something you would say, we need you! We are currently recruiting Wellness Champions on all of our MUS campuses for the 2018/2019 year.

New Wellness Champion application

Returning Wellness Champion application

Wellness Champions are enthusiastic supporters of health & well-being in the workplace, regardless of where they are personally on the path towards optimal well-being. In other words, to be a Wellness Champion for MUS, you don’t need to be the perfect picture of health; you just need to be someone who cares about your colleagues and wants them to lead the highest quality of life possible!

Formal “duties” of a Wellness Champion include:

  • Keeping up to date with current Wellness program offerings.
  • Reminding your coworkers of the opportunities offered through Wellness, and promoting participation. As much as your MUS Wellness Team tries to get the message out about the programs we have available, inevitably, emails are overlooked, blog posts go unread, posters go unseen. Word of mouth remains one of our most powerful tools of communication! We cannot tell you how many times someone asks about the Take Control lifestyle management program because a coworker mentioned something about it.
  • Assisting in the implementation and coordination of wellness initiatives as able. Examples may include reserving a space for a Wellness-related activity, volunteering at an information table, or suggesting topics of interest. Wellness initiatives vary from campus to campus, and again, your level of involvement will depend on what your schedule allows. Some campuses have a group of Wellness Champions who meet on a regular basis and plan activities.
  • Representing coworkers by collecting ideas and feedback about the program. Although we consider all feedback that we receive from MUS plan members, we specifically solicit opinions from our Wellness Champions on occasion.
  • Being respectful of others’ privacy and compliant with confidentiality standards.

Before you dismiss the idea of becoming a Wellness Champion because you feel swamped already with job responsibilities, keep in mind that serving effectively as a WellChamp can mean as little as reminding your coworkers that a WellCheck is coming up, and encouraging a new employee in your office to participate in the MUS Wellness Incentive Program. Or, it can mean leading a campus walking group, or organizing a monthly social event, or writing a brief grant proposal to gain funding for a campus-specific program. The beauty of serving as a Wellness Champion is that you can define what being a Wellness Champion looks like to you, and we are here to support your efforts!

As a Wellness Champion, you will receive:

  • Bi-monthly email newsletters from MUS Wellness
  • Special swag item for MUS WellChamps only!
  • Recognition as a Wellness Champion
  • Opportunity to offer feedback about the Wellness Program

A person’s work environment can have a tremendous impact on overall health & well-being. Becoming a MUS Wellness Champion gives you the opportunity to make a real difference in your workplace, and have a positive impact on your coworkers. Sign up to be a 2018/2019 MUS WellChamp today!

New Wellness Champion application

Returning Wellness Champion application

Wellchat Episode XVII: The Commuter Episode

Episode 17: After catching up since the previous Wellchat, Neal and Cristin share several interviews from MSU Bike to Work Day in June, and discuss how commuters of all types can arrive at work safe and happy. Recorded 7/10/18

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

Creating a Positive Work Environment

The Wellness team’s office is on the 3rd floor of Reid Hall on the MSU Bozeman campus. Our office gets blistering hot in the summer and frigid in the winter, but is otherwise a great space. We have big windows that let in plenty of natural light, and these days, we have a perfect view of the owls that hang out during the day under the eves of neighboring Traphagen Hall.

We are also surrounded by really wonderful office neighbors, most of whom do nutrition and health-related work. I’ve known many of our 3rd-floor office-mates for years and have enjoyed getting to know them, and hearing about the work that they do. And yet, I will admit that all too often, I get into work-mode, close the door to keep out the sound of classes during the school year or construction during the summer, and only wave a brief hello when passing in the hallway.

So it was a pleasant opportunity this week when a few new employees on the 3rd floor of Reid arranged a “Meet and Treat” event. They provided fruit and coffee cake, and we spent some time getting to know one another or catching up. Despite it seeming a million degrees in the conference room, and having to use our plates as fans in an attempt to cool off, everyone stuck around for longer than I expected. I heard several people ask why we don’t do something like this more often, and at the end of the event, plans were tentatively made for another similar get-together (maybe outside in the shade next time!)

Coincidentally, I had spent time just that morning reading through responses to our latest One-Question Survey we recently asked through our Incentive Program, “What is one specific thing you could do to foster a more positive work culture or environment?” and one of the top responses was a variation of this: Interact more with my colleagues. Answers like these:

  • Consistently say good morning to co-workers every day!
  • Get to know new additions to the department
  • Encourage conversation
  • Make a visit to a different co-worker daily and say hi.
  • Ask the “How are you?” question in a way that gets beyond the reflexive “Fine” answer.
  • Ask two follow-up questions about how my colleagues are doing before sharing my own information.
  • Say hi to everyone I meet in the halls instead of keeping my head down.

No one is advocating here that we spend our time at work only socializing. Of course there’s work that needs to be done. We don’t even need to do formal get-togethers like the one that Reid Hall hosted this week, although many of you did say that more social functions, shared lunches, or team meetings would be helpful. But so many of you commented on what a difference it would make in creating a more positive work culture if we took just a moment to talk to coworkers, ask how they’re doing, greet others in our office, or simply smile.

Other top responses were similar, in that nearly all of the suggestions are (relatively) easy to do, require very little time, money, or effort, and yet can make an incredible difference in overall work culture. Here’s what you said:

  • Communicate. This includes actually listening to what others are saying. Listen to understand, instead of listening just to respond. Open communication. Don’t make assumptions.
  • Stop gossiping.
  • Complain less. Look for solutions instead of complaining. Help shut down complaining when it starts.
  • Acknowledge others’ jobs well done. Recognize and draw attention to specific achievements. Let coworkers know their work really DOES matter, more often. Show gratitude.
  • Be kind.
  • Keep a positive attitude. Look for the positive in every situation. When a challenge comes up, be the light that mentions what benefit the adversity will play for our department.

I think we can all agree that it’s much more pleasurable to work in an office where communication is open and encouraged, gossip is nonexistent, a positive attitude is the norm, hard work is recognized, and people are kind to one another. Doesn’t that sound nice? How about we collectively agree to work towards this? Even if your boss or supervisor doesn’t do much to foster a positive work environment, each individual’s attitude and actions makes a difference. A few extra minutes to actively listen, or to encourage a coworker, or to ask how someone is really doing can make work a happier, healthier place for everyone. 

I purposefully left one top response off the list above, but if all else fails, you can do what many of you also suggested and…bring donuts! (Which, ok, I get it, but as Nutrition Specialist for the MUS Wellness Program, may I kindly suggest bringing in healthy treats instead?! People like fresh fruit too!)

Be Well!


The Dreaded DOMS

Your Exercise Specialist is human.

Like many of my fellow Montanans, I was beginning to feel like I was living somewhere more like Seattle or Portland, after weeks upon weeks of rain and gloom. To make matters worse, it seemed the cycles of rainy stationary fronts would always arrive right around the beginning of the weekend and then park it.

So finally, on a mid-June weekend, when my phone’s weather app called for clearing skies on a Sunday afternoon, I bolted toward the Bridgers for some alpine hiking. I ended up going to one of my favorite trails, Middle Cottonwood, and on up to the summit of Saddle Peak. I did a bit of mixed hiking and trail running on the way up, and after a delicious PB&J on the summit, decided that I would run down.

It was a fun, lovely run through wildflower meadows and riparian forest, but I knew with a couple of miles to go my legs were going to be smoked. A couple of days afterward, I was barely getting down stairs, and my quads remained angry with me for a couple of days after that as well.

I exercise regularly, I consider myself to be in pretty good shape right now, especially aerobically, but the truth is that my legs were not accustomed to nearly five miles of descending trail.

The result? The dreaded Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, or DOMS. Most of us have experienced DOMS at one time or another. It usually occurs after a particularly heavy bout of exercise that we are not accustomed to. That’s the key—even highly trained athletes are not immune if they do something intense and out of the realm of their usual routine. Typically, the delay in delayed-onset-muscle-soreness is 24-48 hours after the exercise bout that causes the damage.

Another detail associated with DOMS, and why my case was particularly rough, is eccentric muscle contractions. Eccentric contractions happen when your muscles lengthen under load—think of putting down a heavy load, or in my case, hitting the brakes a bit each step while running down a mountain. Eccentric muscle contractions are a natural element of muscle function and movement, but an excess amount of them can easily lead to a painful case of DOMS.

Traditional thought blamed microscopic tears in the muscle fibers for the pain and soreness associated with DOMS, but lately, science is not so sure. In fact, the latest research is inconclusive about the mechanism that causes DOMS pain. Worse, there isn’t much solid evidence that any recovery modalities actually speed up the process. In other words, once the muscle soreness has set-in, there’s not much to do except hurry up and wait.

Sorry I don’t have better news, but a little knowledge can help you better cope with DOMS, or perhaps prevent it in the first place. So, to wrap up, here are a few key takeaways:

  • Although science hasn’t agreed on what happens on the cellular level that causes the DOMS response, we do know that DOMS is incurred after intense exercise that an individual isn’t used to, and eccentric muscle contractions tend to lead to DOMS faster. So, if you’re doing something you haven’t done in a while (or ever), take it easy. Or, in my case, if it’s your first alpine hike of the season, perhaps walking down would been wiser.
  • Know that in most instances, the peak of pain occurs around 24-48 hours after the bout of exercise. This too shall pass.
  • Here’s that good news we were looking for—if you repeat similar exercise after your muscles have healed, you should not be as sore the next time, or the next, and so on. Therefore, don’t let a bout of DOMS deter you from consistently exercising, or convince you to give up an new exercise program you have just started!
  • Some studies have suggested a link between Vitamin D and/or sleep deficiencies and occurrence/severity of DOMS. [Cristin, feel free to drop some Vitamin D knowledge and enlighten us.]
  • Although there really haven’t been any scientifically validated studies that link certain recovery methods to relieving DOMS, that shouldn’t necessarily deter you from utilizing some of your favorites. After all, the brain is a powerful thing, and we’re all different and respond differently to certain recovery modalities. That being said, if you’re going through DOMS, or any muscular soreness or stiffness for that matter, things like stretching, massage, foam rolling, compression, elevation, a warm bath, and staying hydrated never hurt.

Be well!


New Exercise Library

For our latest MUS Wellness online resource, we’ve added a new Exercise Library. You can access the library by clicking the link above or by navigating there via the drop-down on the Events & Media tab located at the top-right of these pages. Currently, the library contains 40 exercises grouped into the following categories:

  • Dynamic Warmups
  • Lower Body Bilateral (Both legs)
  • Lower Body Unilateral (Single leg)
  • Upper Body Push
  • Upper Body Pull
  • Core (Movement)
  • Core (Anti-Movement)
  • Agility/Finisher

This resource is intended to be a reference-type tool to:

  1. Help you select some basic exercises to incorporate into a resistance training routine.
  2. Learn/reinforce correct technique for these exercises.
  3. If you’re comfortable, build your own workout by selecting one to two exercises from each category, which would give you a full-body workout utilizing your major muscle groups and joint actions.

This is the first draft of this library, so we’d love to hear any feedback you have so that we can constantly update and improve it.

This library is not comprehensive. There are literally hundreds of movements and exercises you can do at the gym or at home. This library includes some basics and some of our favorites. Please select exercises to match your current fitness ability and health status. Consult a personal trainer for more help, or to customize a personalized fitness program.

For further resistance training resources from MUS Wellness/Montana Moves, check out the following webinar:

…or browse our Montana Moves video library to find more detailed descriptions on certain exercises and movements.

Be Well (and strong)!


The Amazing Foot & Ankle Complex

In case you missed our recent webinar on foot & ankle health, here’s a few highlights, plus a short video featuring some exercises and stretches to keep your ankles and feet healthy and happy.

Top Ten Things we learned about our amazing feet.

  1. About a quarter of the bones in your body are located in your feet (26 bones per foot).
  2. Ligaments and tendons are very strong connective tissues. Ligaments connect bones to bones. Tendons connect bones to muscles.
  3. The longitudinal and transverse arches provide strength and support so our feet can support the load of our bodies in addition to whatever we carry with us.
  4. The average person will take between 3 and 4 million steps per year.
  5. Force plate studies show that the foot absorbs at least 3 times body weight per step at slow running speeds.
  6. An elite triple jumper may produce forces of 14 to 16 times body weight during his or her jump!
  7. Sixty percent (60%) of our MUS population who responded to a pre-webinar survey (n=191) reported currently dealing with foot/ankle pain, injury or dysfunction.
  8. Plantar fasciitis was the most common foot/ankle ailment reported by our population.
  9. RICE, or rest/ice/compression/elevation can be a primary therapy for most ailments of the foot and ankle.
  10. For chronic conditions that are not improving, health professionals such as a podiatrist (PDM), orthopedic physician, physical therapist, or licensed massage therapist can help diagnose and treat the condition, so that you can “get back on your feet again”, so to speak.

If your feet are healthy, keeping your ankles mobile and feet strong with some simple stretching and strengthening exercises can be a great form of prevention. You can learn some of these exercises in the following video. Enjoy!

If you want to watch the entire MUS Wellness foot/ankle webinar, just click here.

Be well!


June Commuter Challenges!

June’s just getting started, the weather is awesome, and if you commute to work via bike, foot, or even public transportation, there’s a couple of local commuter challenges going on this month you may be interested in!

The Montana Commuter Challenge is an annual statewide challenge sponsored by Bike Walk Montana, and the Bozeman Commuter Challenge is a local challenge put together by the Bozeman Commuter Project for all you Bozemanites.

Both challenges offer an opportunity to log your commutes this month, join a local team and see how you fare against other teams, communities and peers; plus offer a chance to win some great prizes! In the meantime, you get to enjoy some sunshine and fresh air, boost your fitness, save gas money and reduce CO2 emissions. Beautiful.

So click on the links above to learn more about the challenge that you’re most interested in, and get started logging those miles!

P.S. MSU Riders: Just a reminder that tomorrow, Friday June 8th is the final day of Bozeman Bike to Work Week, and we’re having a special tent for MSU commuters on the MSU Centennial Mall in front of Montana Hall. There will be snacks, swag, coffee, and you get to hang out with Neal & Cristin. Can you think of a better start to your weekend?



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!