Bike Ready

May is National Bike Month, and even though winter was still in full force on the last day of April, May looks promising for some more spring-like weather, so if you haven’t already, this weekend could be a great time to knock the off-season dust of your family’s bikes and make sure they’re ready to roll!

Basic bicycle maintenance you can do at home

  • Get air in the tires and make sure they are holding air pressure.
  • Check tires for any wear or damage that would warrant replacing.
  • Clean the chain, gears, and derailleurs, and give them some fresh lube.
  • Check the seat and seat post to make sure they are tight and in the right position. Clean any dirt/dust from seat and seat post.
  • Test the brakes to make sure they are working properly, and that the brake pads aren’t rubbing on the rims of the wheels.
  • Just give your bike a general cleaning so it looks shiny and ready to roll!

If your bike is in need of a more major overhaul, you can always head to your local bike shop for a spring tuneup!

Bike month resources/events

  • National Bike to Work Week is May 13-17. National Bike to Work Day is Friday, May 17th. Check out your local community calendar for special events!
  • Bozeman is celebrating Bike to Work Week on June 3-7, Bozemanites, stay tuned for a list of coffee and brewery stops for that week. MUS Wellness will host a tent on the MSU Centennial Mall on Friday, June 7th for our MSU commuters!
  • Missoula has events all month long! Check them out here with this awesome Bike Month Calendar.
  • FVCC in Kalispell is starting weekly rides on Wednesdays from May 7 to August 21. The group will meet between 5:15 and 5:30. For more info contact
    dgrabowski@fvcc.edu

Have fun and be safe!

#Energized at work

We recently asked participants in the MUS Wellness Incentive Program to share on the Limeade Feed what energizes them at work, using the hashtag #energized. We wanted to know what gives our MUS employees a sense of purpose and commitment at work. Thanks to all who posted their thoughtful responses!

We identified 5 big themes in the responses, plus a few honorable mentions, and wanted to share with you all some great examples of what makes people excited to work here at MUS. Motivation and energy for work often come in waves. Days that you finish a project or help solve a problem, it’s easy to feel happy about work. But other days, perhaps you don’t see any progress, maybe you have poor interactions with colleagues or students. If that’s you right now, we share these quotes with the hope that some will resonate and remind you of why you do what you do!

  1. Working with students. For those of you who work directly with students, it’s clear that seeing students succeed is highly motivating.

“I am #energized when I see the students accomplish things they didn’t think possible.”

“#Energized by building relationships with students and seeing them make progress in their goals.”

2.  Great colleagues. As one person put it, “having excellent colleagues makes all the difference in how I feel about coming to work.”

“I enjoy the people that I work with. We all have the same goal…helping the students. And are willing to lend a hand to other departments if needed. We keep a sense of humor during those crazy times and it gets us through. We care for each other not only as co-workers but as people.”

“My coworkers and management are what keep me #energized. Everyone is upbeat and positive. We all work together to solve problems and pitch in when someone needs help.”

3. Team work. Related to (#2 Great colleagues), working together for a common purpose is always nice.

“#Energized when the lab all works together to complete a project or solve a problem!”

“Coordinating and collaborating with multiple teams, to meet common goals.”

4. Learning new things  – Working in higher education presents constant learning opportunities, which many of you find to be the best part about your job.

“I’m lucky because I get to see information about the amazing science our researchers are doing. Even though my job is all paperwork and compliance related, it still thrills me to see the cool, fascinating, interesting and beneficial work that our researchers do.”

“I get energized by new ideas and stimulating intellectual conversations with colleagues.”

5. Accomplishing tasks. Nothing feels better at work than being productive and seeing check marks in those To-Do list boxes!

“I am #energized by checking things off my to do list, especially when it’s a large project that I have been working on for a long time.”

“There are new challenges every day, but I feel really #energized when I am able to make progress on a project that I can actually see and feel!”

Honorable mentions:

We asked this question in Februrary/March, the time of year that winter can drag on in Montana. Not surprisingly, many of you mentioned feeling energized by the end of winter and arrival of spring. Although much of the state woke up to a blanket of snow on Monday, the sun is finally out today, at least in Bozeman. Hopefully this translates into feeling extra energized!

Some of you also said that you get a boost of energy from decluttering. If you’re feeling stuck, take your next break at work to clear some space from your desk or clean up a corner of your office.

Finally, several responses included something about how receiving positive feedback is motivating. We all like to be recognized for the work that we do. Help your coworkers feel energized at work and create a healthier, happier work environment by providing kind, thoughtful feedback and a pat on the back for your colleagues who deserve it!

Thanks for keeping us #energized too! —Cristin

Giving Yourself a Raise

April is Financial Literacy Month! Financial literacy is defined as the understanding of financial topics related to managing personal finance, money, and investing. Amy Berry, Associate Director of Retirement Benefits & Pension Plans for MUS, is our guest writer today, and shares the following article to help improve financial literacy when faced with the fortunate situation of having a little extra cash on hand.

Got some Extra Cash?

Occasionally we may find ourselves with a little extra cash in our bank accounts.  Maybe you just paid off a credit card or your car payment?  Or you have a side hustle?  Maybe you get a raise?  Or your kiddo starts school and you no longer have that daunting childcare bill?  There are a lot of life events that allow you to give yourself a “raise,” but finding a way to make that raise work harder for you in the long term can be a little more challenging. Instant gratification can be tempting, and sometimes we find we’re just replacing one bill with another. So when you find yourself with a bit more income, here are a few things to consider:

1.     Wait a Few Weeks

Make sure you know what portion is going to you before you make any big decisions.  Depending on where your new-found income is coming from, your taxes and withholdings may change.  Don’t be caught off guard by allocating your new money before understanding your current obligations. 

2.     Reassess your Budget

Before allocating money to budget categories, this is a good time to assess your budget and see if there are ways to save more.  Once your budget is in place, then think about where your “raise” is going to do the most good.  Consider starting an emergency fund (3—6 months’ worth of expenses), paying off debts, or increasing contributions to your retirement plan.

3.     Avoid Lifestyle Creep

Lifestyle creep erodes building wealth.  With an increase to your pocketbook comes the temptation to immediately increase your standard of living, but first carefully consider: “Is this new expense really necessary?”  If not, then resist the urge to spend your money now and save it to grow its value and provide financial resources for your future.  The key to savings and retirement readiness is continuing to live below your means; i.e. pay yourself and your future first.

4.     Attack your Debt

Getting a “raise” is a good time to accelerate your efforts to reduce debt.  Consider increasing your monthly payment to pay your balance off quicker and avoid increased debt due to interest.  Attacking your high interest debt is the easiest way to begin building positive net worth. 

5.     Build your Emergency Fund

Everyone needs an emergency fund.  Life is full of unexpected events so be prepared to deal with the loss of a job, a medical emergency, or a car repair by saving 3—6 months’ worth of expenses.  Once you have a little more income, use either split direct deposit (if you employer offers it) to fund different accounts or set an automatic transfer from your checking to your savings until you reach your goal.  Automation is your friend when saving!

6.     Reexamine your Retirement

Once your daily expenses have been addressed, it’s time to examine your retirement plan.  Consider that you have been living on your pre-raise salary and your “raise” could go to helping you be retirement ready.  Increased contributions to your retirement plan mean more retirement income in your portfolio.   Consider the options available to you through your employer or a personal IRA.

7. Reward Yourself

Celebrate or allow yourself to scratch that “I’ve got money to spend” itch by rewarding yourself with a one-time purchase.  Buy tickets to a concert or sporting event, new clothing, or meal out.  A one-time purchase allows for a reward without increasing your future expenses.

Remember, one of the best things you can do is pay yourself first:  before you pay your bills, your groceries, pay other expenses, set aside a portion of your income to save.  The first bill every month should be to pay yourself and your future self.  Prioritizing your savings helps you to develop the mindset that you and your future are important and develops good financial habits.  The most important step is to just start.  Starting small is a good start.  Continue to increase over time.  And just like a diet, if you have a set-back forgive yourself, move on, and start again to create your best financial future.

Developed from Money Crashers, Business Insider, Discover, Personal Finance for Beginners, and Get Rich Slowly.

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!