Wellchat Episode 22: Fast Forward 2019

Episode 22: Neal and Cristin catch up on all things MUS Wellness on their first Wellchat of 2019, plus Neal gives some tips about keeping indoor exercise fresh as we transition through winter into spring.

Wellchat Episode 22

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

Spring[?] Workshops on the way.

Spring is around the corner? March is days away but winter is digging in her heels. Nevertheless, your fearless Wellness Exercise Specialist is making travel plans, and will be visiting several MUS campuses during March and April. As we plan and populate workshops, check out the calendar on the Events and Media tab to see what’s being added, and be on the lookout for announcements from your campus.

That being said, I wanted to go ahead and put out some early opportunities to register, especially for all my Missoula friends. I’ll be spending some time next week with you, and we’re offering four workshops, which can be found in the PDF link below:

For Bozeman folks, we have an Intro to Mindfulness Workshop the week of Wellcheck, hosted by one of our friends at MSU Counseling and Psychological Services. For more information, and to register, click here.

Again, more info will be coming soon regarding live workshops this spring across the state! For now, be safe and stay warm!

Neal

Fighting the Flu with Food

Although it’s too early to draw conclusions, data suggests that the 2018/2019 flu vaccine has been a good match against the main strains going around, and this year’s season is shaping out to be milder than last’s. Even so, the latest reports from the CDC show that the flu is still widespread across the U.S., and the season could extend until May. So we’re not quite out of the woods yet. Although my household has avoided the flu so far, we’ve still had our share of colds and stomach bugs in the past few months. Ugh.

That being said, we’re doing everything in our power to stay healthy, and eating well plays a significant role! While consuming a balanced diet that includes plenty of fruits and vegetables and protein is the best strategy for getting the nutrients you need, research has shown us that some nutrients in particular are important for a strong immune system. These immune-boosting nutrients include zinc, selenium, iron, copper, and vitamins A, C, E, B-6, and B-9 (folic acid). Probiotics have also been identified as potentially immune-boosting.

While it may be tempting to pop a multi-vitamin and call it good, the research is clear that when it comes to nutrients, whole food sources are best. So here is a list of 10 foods to include in your diet to ensure you are getting the nutrition you need to stay healthy during these long, cold winter months!

  • Spinach – This favorite leafy green is high in iron, selenium, folic acid, vitamin C, and vitamin A. Throw it into a smoothie if you’re not fond of it otherwise. 
  • Red bell peppers –  Did you know that red bell peppers are higher in vitamin C than an orange? Slice peppers into strips and eat raw with hummus or put into a stir fry for dinner.
  • Sunflower seeds – These little seeds make an excellent salad topping or trail mix addition, and are high in copper, selenium and vitamin E.
  • Garlic – The cold and flu-fighting benefit of garlic is thought to come from allicin, a compound that is formed when garlic is crushed or chopped. Studies suggest allicin may help prevent a cold or flu, and reduce its severity if you do get sick.
  • Almonds – A handful of almonds makes a perfect mid-morning snack. Like sunflower seeds, they are high vitamin E, copper, and also zinc.
  • Chicken or turkey – The notion that chicken noodle soup is good for a cold goes beyond the old wives’ tale. Poultry is an excellent source of zinc, selenium, iron, and B-6; all vital for a strong immune system.
  • Salmon – Great source of selenium, B-6, and protein. Cooking salmon in parchment paper is my favorite preparation method.
  • Broccoli – What’s a list of healthy foods if it doesn’t include broccoli? This darling of vegetables is high in vitamin C and folate.
  • Dried beans – Cold, wintry days often beg for a warm bowl of chili or white bean soup. Make a big batch to enjoy all week and you’ll be supporting your immune system with extra iron and folate.
  • Yogurt – Yogurt provides zinc, selenium, and probiotics, the good kind of bacteria that supports a healthy gut microbiome. Some flavored yogurts can be very high in sugar, so choose plain yogurt and stir in fresh fruit or a little maple syrup for sweetener. If you don’t eat dairy, get your probiotics from other sources like fermented vegetables or kombucha.
  • Bonus: Oysters. Probably not a standard food choice here in Montana, but oysters are an incredibly rich source of zinc and copper. They can be a popular choice for Valentine’s Day, so if you’re planning to cook a V-Day meal for your sweetheart, consider adding immune-boosting oysters to the menu.

In addition to the nutrients we should be eating, there are also a couple that we should limit if we want our immune system in top form: sugar and alcohol. While saying that sugar suppresses the immune system may be an oversimplification, it’s still a good idea to moderate your intake. The same goes for alcohol. So if you’re getting low on sick days, consider skipping that drink or dessert and eating an extra handful of broccoli instead!

Finally, while nutrition is important, let’s not forget the power of frequent handwashing, adequate sleep, and physical activity. It’s also not too late to get a flu shot. Getting vaccinated is still proven to be the best way to prevent the flu.

Be Well!

Cristin

Creating Healthy Space

Our environment plays a critical role in influencing so many of the choices we make daily. Given the choice between easy and difficult, we most often choose easy. More complicated, or simple? We’ll take simple please. When it comes to exercise, I’ve heard a fitness expert say, “The best gym is the one that’s closest to your house.” My gym at MSU is steps from my office, and even on the coldest, iciest winter days I know I can make there. Having a convenient healthy space at home or at the office also makes it easy to take a few minutes to stretch, meditate, or break a sweat when we need to.

Our first Montana Moves challenge this year was to create (or upgrade) a healthy space at home or work, so we thought we’d check in to see some of the great ideas you guys came up with! Here is a sampling of what you shared:

  • I used my Amazon gift card to bring kettlebells to work where a group of us meets every morning at 9:30 for a 10-15 minute session As a group we are going to #commit to meeting daily!
  • I created space in my bedroom, complete with weights, roller, resistance bands, yoga mat and fitness ball. I am using the space for quick morning workouts.
  • I moved furniture in guest bedroom to make yoga studio.
  • Yesterday I finished up creating my workout space. Balance ball, TRX, yoga mat with a streaming TV to follow along with my favorite YouTube workouts!
  • Fitness space is in the bonus room above the garage. It’s a life saver during the week in the winter. Has a dip bar, weights, agility ladder, fitness step, fitness bands, balance board, and exercise ball.
  • Cleaning out our old family room in basement that became our junk room. Almost have a calm and relaxing meditation room.
  • I put all my equipment in an easy to access corner — yoga mat/blocks, hand weights, foam roller. Small spaces make it hard, but seeing them and having them all together should make planning easier.
  • I now have a designated stretching/PT while watching Netflix space at home.
  • We have turned one of our extra bedrooms into a workout space with TV, mirrors, weights, treadmill.
  • Donated all extra furniture in basement rec room, then cleaned, greased, and replaced drive belt on the elliptical. Less clutter makes a much better exercise space.

A few theme’s emerged from reading through people’s comments. First, you don’t need a lot of equipment or a huge space. Most of you kept it simple: yoga mat, roller, maybe a few free weights or resistance bands. Second, many of you mentioned your workout entertainment to go along with the space, whether it was music or a television. For me personally, I gotta have my music going during a workout! Finally, it seemed like a lot of people already had the equipment they needed, it was just a matter of getting it all together and organized. It’s possible there may be a life lesson somewhere in that last observation. 🙂

As usual, super job MUS! Keep making the healthy choices the easiest ones to do, and enjoy all your new spaces!

Neal

Flipping the Mental Switch

Happy Friday! Here’s a success story to start your weekend with. Today’s story is shared by Katherine Swan, from the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs at the University of Montana. As we focus on mental health this year, Katherine’s story is an awesome reminder of the power of perception, and how a small change of thought and attitude can have a tremendous impact on how approach daily challenges. In this story, it’s the difference between “I can’t do that” and “I can’t do that yet.” Norman Vincent Peale famously said, “Change your thoughts and you change your world”, and Katherine’s story is an excellent example of this concept. Thanks for sharing Katherine!

Growing up, I was always the chubby girl, the last girl picked in gym class, the girl who failed miserably at every test of fitness. Fast forward to adulthood and I am now pretty fit, working out 5 to 6 days per week. I am in great shape, but the mindset of the chubby, non-athletic girl has stuck with me. The result was that I would look at a workout and think “Yeah right. I can’t do that.” The result is that I would end up failing because I didn’t really try. I would still get a good workout, and still be generally fit, but would leave workouts feeling discouraged and like I would never make progress.
 
Finally about a year ago, I decided that I needed to actively work on changing my mindset. Instead of looking at a pull up and thinking
“I can’t do that,” I look at a pull up and think, “I can’t do that yet.”  I had to up-talk myself through some of the tougher workouts, but that has become more and more natural. And as it became more natural, I started trying to make better progress. I would pick one movement in the workout to really challenge myself and focus on that one thing. So if the workout had thrusters, pull ups, and pushups, maybe I would worry less about getting a heavy weight on the thruster and worry a little more about getting stronger at my pushups (or vice versa). This made the workout approachable, and I could leave feeling proud about pushing myself. I also started staying after class and working on pull ups, pushups, and double unders (three particular weaknesses).  Over the course of the last year, I have gone from zero to 15 linked double unders, zero to 3-4 linked pull ups, zero to several rope climbs, and zero to 1:00 min+ hand stand hold (against a wall). Better than all that is that fact that I now look at my workouts (and myself) with a  better lens. So a workout is challenging? Okay, it gives me something to work on. And as long as I go in and give what I can on that day, then I can leave the workout feeling like I am not the unfit girl from elementary school, but like I am a strong woman who can tackle the day.

Katherine Swan, University of Montana

Improving Mindfulness & Performance with Whil

We’re only a few days into our 2019 MUS Wellness Incentive program, and we hope you’re off to a good start! As mentioned before, our 2019 program is placing a special emphasis on mental health, and to that end we’ve introduced Whil, a new tool to help you practice mindfulness, reduce stress, and boost your performance!

If you are an MUS active employee and Benefit Plan member, you can access Whil through our Incentive site, and then through your mobile phone if you’d like (the video at the end of this post shows you how).

Our Whil practices for 2019 are broken into three categories: Basic Training, Stress, and Performance. Here are some examples of programs and sessions within each.

Basic Training/Mindfullness 101

  • Focus you Attention
  • Sense the Body
  • Relax the Nervous System

Stress

  • Reduce Daily Stress
  • Focus and Be Calm
  • Overcome Conflict

Performance

  • Thrive in the Workplace
  • Develop Healthy Habits
  • Build Concentration

If you’re new to practicing mindfulness and meditation, that’s great! That’s exactly what this tool is for. I’m new as well, and have been enjoying the sessions. For me, these practices are a welcome antidote for what can be the noise, clutter, and frenetic pace of our day to day lives. One of the early Mindfulness 101 sessions invites you to Set an Intention for your mindfulness practice, and one of my early intentions has been to be able to stay calm even when I feel like there’s a storm raging all around me. With six and three-year-old boys at home, there is always a veritable hurricane of energy to manage. Not to mention lots of laundry and dirty dishes.

Following one of these early sessions, a daily tip popped up that I wanted to share:

“The point of mindfulness is making it part of what you already do, not making it an extra task. You can do short practices throughout your day. Many can even be done when you are focusing on things as basic as brushing your teeth, driving to work, lifting weights, or just listening to a colleague. You can train your attention on anything happening in the present moment. Then benefit, as you get better at the skill of focusing you attention.” 

If you haven’t started already, we hope you will soon. Research has shown that about five minutes of practice a day can do wonders for your concentration, stress resilience, and mental outlook. Enjoy!

Neal

Getting started with Whil for MUS

Initiate Countdown!

We’re hours away from the launch of our 6th year of the MUS Wellness Incentive Program, and to be honest, we can’t wait to get started! It’s going to be fun. It’s going to be challenging. It’s going to be fresh. Here are some new things to look forward to!

All your favorite things, plus a focus on Mental Health

All your favorites will return—challenges and educational videos from Neal & Cristin. Team step challenges and other physical challenges throughout the year. Plus, this year, we’re adding a focus on mental health. To facilitate this we have a new partner called Whil, which provides training directly through our Incentive site or on your smartphone, in the areas of mindfulness, stress resilience, and productivity. The Whil micro-learning sessions can be done in 1 to 5 minutes, whenever and wherever you need them. We hope you will join us in making 2019 a year of personal growth and achievement by doing some new training with your most amazing possession—your brain.

Other New Features

Our Incentive Program will have a personal feel this year through a feature called My Choice. Personalized challenge recommendations will be pushed to you based on your ongoing challenge selections and your Well Being Assessment results. You will be able to earn up to a quarter of your incentive points by choosing these personalized challenges.

Fitbit is Back!

We’re pleased to offer an array of Fitbit Health trackers at no cost or a significant discount for our first incentive. When you reach Scout level, you’ll be directed to a Fitbit webcart offering the lastest Fitbit trackers, including some brand new products that have just been introduced!

Staying in the incentive lineup are Amazon Gift Cards, plus an opportunity to receive a special Expedition Leader hat at our top level!

Tune in Wednesday for the whole scoop!

Wednesday, January 16th, we’ll host our 2019 MUS Wellness Overview webinar to talk about our entire Wellness program, including details regarding all the information we just announced. We hope you’ll join us as you discover great health with MUS Wellness and blaze a trail to your best life! 

Happy New Year!

Happy 2019! Although I’m not one to make strict resolutions, I do find that the start of a new year is a good time for self-reflection and a setting of intentions for the coming year. For me, the subtle language shift from resolution to intention allows more flexibility, and when it comes to making behavior changes that stick, flexibility is key. Few of us are able to make drastic changes overnight.

According to a YouGov poll from 2018, “eat healthier” was tied with “getting more exercise” and “saving more money “ as the most popular new year’s resolutions. If you are one of the millions who’s resolved to eat healthier in 2019, first, please read Neal’s past blog post about setting SMART goals, and second, I wanted to remind you that MUS Wellness is here to help. Our next round of the 30-Day Nutrition Upgrade kicks off Monday, February 4th! This program provides a simple way to reshape your eating habits and boost your nutrition.

Unlike the diet plans that abound on the internet, this program is not a diet or a detox. In fact, a previous participant said this about the Nutrition Upgrade in her 2018 Success Story, “I have been tracking my calories in – calories out for years after learning at a young age from my mother. This year, I was able to participate in the Nutrition Upgrade program offered last spring and that gave me a different perspective on tracking my food intake and nutrition.”

Another participant said, “I’ve been looking for a food plan that fits me and my busy life for years. It feels so balanced and realistic. I can still really enjoy eating and cooking. Thanks for sharing it.”

If you’ve attempted to eat healthier in the past, but were not successful, I encourage you to try the Nutrition Upgrade. It provides a refreshing way to view nutrition that doesn’t involve counting calories or strict rules. By participating, you’ll receive access to a live one-hour online kickoff, the Nutrition GPA app for iOS or Android, downloadable handouts, two live check-ins midway through the program, and a private Facebook group for MUS participants. Plus, new for this round: participants will receive a email every day from Monica and me with a helpful tip or tasty recipe!

Even better, program creator Monica Reinagel will be here in Montana for a live kick-off at MSU Bozeman, followed by presentations and meet-ups at UM, Montana Tech, and MSU Billings! Monica is a board certified, licensed nutritionist and professionally trained chef. She’s the author of six books about nutrition including Nutrition Diva’s Secrets for a Healthy Diet and Inflammation Free Diet Plan. She writes the blog at http://www.nutritionovereasy.com, and she’s the host of the popular Nutrition Diva podcast. She’s an incredible nutrition resource, and participants in select locations will have the unique opportunity to meet her and ask nutrition questions in person!

To sign up for the 30-Day Nutrition Upgrade, go to https://nutritionovereasy.com/mus. Email me at cristin.stokes@montana.edu for the discount code to receive $30 off (you pay $10).

Perhaps it’s not healthy eating that you want to focus on this year, but instead you want to get in better shape, become more financially savvy, or start a daily meditation practice. Or maybe you didn’t make any resolutions at all, but are still interested in improving your health and well-being in 2109. MUS Wellness is here to help you too! Our online Limeade Incentive Program kicks off Tuesday, January 15th with daily, weekly, and monthly challenges designed to set you on the path towards better health, and a new tool to help you focus on improving your mental health. Plus, participants can earn a free Fitbit health tracking device, and up to $80 in Amazon gift cards!

To learn more about what MUS Wellness is offering in 2019, please join us for the 2019 MUS Wellness Program Overview Webinar on Wednesday, January 16th at 12PM. We will be focusing on what’s new with the Incentive Program, but we’ll touch on all of the programs available through MUS Wellness. If you are unable to watch at that time, we encourage you to still register for the webinar, and the recording will be sent to you as soon as it’s available.

We hope 2019 is your best year yet, and we at MUS Wellness are here to support you along the way!

Cristin

End of Year/New Year News

Our MUS Wellness Incentive Program is winding down this week, so we wanted to share some important end-of-year dates for our participants, plus share some news to get you excited for our next round!

2019 Program News

The MUS Wellness Incentive Program will be returning January 15th, 2019, for our 6th year of programming! Here are some quick highlights we’d like to share with you to get you excited!

  • Fitbit is back on the incentive table in 2019! Look forward to some awesome new products and choices from Fitbit!
  • Introducing Whil. In 2019, our program will have a special focus on mental health and mindfulness. As a tool to help, we’re adding a resource called Whil to our program platform. Whil offers short practices on mindfullness, meditation, stress resilience, and productivity. Take your mental game to the next level in 2019 with Whil, Limeade, and MUS Wellness!
  • We’ll kick things off with our MUS Wellness Overview Webinar on January 16th. Click the link to register! 
Introducing Whil mindfulness and stress resilience training in 2019!

Hitting 10,000. Every Day.

Today’s success story comes from Trudy Carey. Trudy is the director of Disability Support Services at MSU Billings, and has been a Wellness Champion on that campus for several years. Trudy has also been a very active and competitive participant in all our wellness challenges. She especially loves a good step challenge, as her story will attest to. Thanks for sharing Trudy! Keep up the awesome work!

I love the Limeade program, especially the step/mile challenges.  I have walked 10,000+ steps every day since the 10,000 step-a-day challenge a couple of years ago.  Thanks to that, and the fact that I can see how many calories I burn on my Fitbit, I lost 35 pounds and have kept it off for more than two years.  I never thought of myself as a competitive person, but I discovered that I am very competitive about staying on the leader board for walking challenges.  In fact, the most recent team challenge in which I participated named the team “We follow Trudy”! 

Trudy Carey, MSUB

Here’s some good news for Trudy—we’re thinking about bringing back that 10,000-step-a-day challenge [Million Step Club] in 2019. Who’s up for starting your own streak?