RAM Update

I’m less than a month away from my Ride Across Montana (RAM), and my excitement is building along with my nerves. My training is going well, and the logistics are coming together, but there’s always the self-doubt that comes along with the unknown. I’ve done a few mulit-day bike tours, but never one as long as this. On the other hand, it’s a ride, not a race. No one will have a clock on me. I just have to keep moving, and I’ll have plenty of daylight following the summer solstice.

So far, I’ve logged over 50 hours in the saddle in preparation, and I have a little less than three weeks to train hard before I shut it down and take a few recovery days before the ride begins on June 25th.

Here’s a list of MUS stops on my tour:

  • Monday, June 26th. Flathead Valley CC, Kalispell
  • Thursday, June 29th. Great Falls College MSU
  • Friday, June 30th. Central Agricultural Research Center MSU, Moccasin
  • Monday, July 3rd. Dawson CC, Glendive & Eastern Agricultural Research Center MSU, Sidney

We’re working on some informal meet & greets at each stop, so if you’re at one of these locations, I look forward to seeing you! More info will be forthcoming as the RAM approaches!


Here’s a few “training” pics. I’m really excited to share more from the road in a few weeks! Follow along right here or on the Montana Moves twitter feed!

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The Montana Moves & Meals Wellchat

Well, we did it. We made a podcast. We’ve been talking about it for sometime now and we finally got it done! Let us know if you like it, give us some feedback, and we’ll make more! Have an idea for an episode? We take requests. Episode 1 is introductions and back stories. Even if you think you know us, if you listen you might learn something new.

Episode 1.  Neal Andrews & Cristin Stokes from MUS Wellness introduce themselves and the Montana Moves & Montana Meals programs in Episode 1 of their new podcast, The Wellchat.

Introducing: The RAM.

“We’re really doing it Harry!”              —Lloyd Christmas

Cristin and I spend a lot of time talking about goal setting, and then how to apply healthy behaviors to help achieve the stated goal. It’s kind of our shtick. Every January, your Wellness Team practices what we preach by writing down some professional, personal, and athletic goals for the year. If I’m being honest, I probably get most excited about the athletic goals 🙂

This year, and I don’t know exactly where it came from, I had a crazy idea. You might call it a stretch goal, and I’m talking about a big stretch. But I wrote it down. As I like to say, “It’s not really a goal until you write it down.” After I wrote it down, I started talking about it to my close friends and family, and I was surprised by their excitement and support. Then I started thinking about it logistically. How would I do this? What would it look like? How much help would I need? Could I make it? Then I started training for it. And now, I’m saying it publicly, so it gets even more real.

This summer, I’m going to ride my road bike across Montana. (Yikes!)

I’m calling it the RAM (Ride Across Montana), and I’m really excited about the challenge and the adventure; and I’m especially excited to share it with you! I’m lucky enough to tour this amazing state of ours via automobile as part of my job, and there isn’t a spot I visit that I don’t enjoy. So why not go by bike, and connect some amazing dots?

I won’t give away all the details yet, but I will tell you that I will be crossing and visiting several MUS locations on my trip. There is also plans for a video, plus lots of photos and stories, which I’ll be sharing here and via twitter. Oh, and Going-to-the-Sun Road. Yeah. I’m riding that.

The RAM is happening in late June/early July. I hope you’ll come along for the journey!



The 2016 Outtake Video

Thank you all for following along with us for another year of health and wellness! Once again, we’ve had an outstanding time traveling around our beautiful state this year spreading Wellness education, getting to know you better, and hearing some amazing stories about how healthy behaviors have led to better health and quality of life.

One thing we really enjoyed this year was stepping up our short video production. We received a lot of excellent feedback from you guys about them, and one thing many of you seemed to like were the outtakes or post-scripts at the conclusions of the videos.

So…here is your holiday gift from us! This is all the funny stuff that didn’t make the final cuts (and there’s a lot). Thank you all so much for following along, keeping it fun, and letting us be ourselves! Much more to come in 2017!

P.S. This outtake video is rated PG  🙂

The 2016 Montana Moves & Meals Outtake Video from Montana University Sys. Wellness on Vimeo.


Montana Moves Ski Training Video

Happy Ski Season everyone! This fall Montana Moves debuted a new Ski Training workshop. We were inspired by the workshop to make a supplemental video, and here it is, just in time for the season!

Happy skiing!

Montana Moves Ski Training from Montana University Sys. Wellness on Vimeo.


Disclaimer: Many exercises and drills demonstrated in this video are advanced, and include ballistic and high impact movements. Make sure you have a good foundation of general strength and conditioning before utilizing some of these movements. Exercise reps/times in the video are suggestions only. Reps/times should be based on the individual’s fitness level and training history. This video is intended to demonstrate individual warm-ups and exercises that can be utilized as part of a training program, it is not intended to be a stand-alone, guided exercise routine.

Riding in Comfort

As part of our Power Bite video series, Neal demonstrates different hand positions on standard drop handlebars, and talks about staying comfortable on your bike so you can ride longer and happier.

For those of you participating in our online incentive program, this video will be featured later this month along with a quiz, so you’re getting a head start!

Happy Riding!


World Records & Personal Bests

Although I’ve enjoyed having my life back this week, I’ve had a bit of Olympic withdrawal. I have to admit, I’m an Olympic junkie, and this year, I got my 4-year-old son hooked too. His favorites were Ledecky and Bolt. The kid knows how to pick a winner I guess.

I like the Olympics for many reasons—the sport, the spectacle, the competition—but I also find it inspiring to watch human beings that are absolutely in peak physical condition and laser-focused on their game. So much work has gone into what they do, that it’s hard not to share in the celebration of their triumphs and the heartbreak of when things fall short. It’s the familiar thrill of victory and agony of defeat.

During the 17-day Olympic Games, around 11,000 athletes competed, and there were 65 Olympic and 19 World Records broken or tied. This should hopefully put into a little perspective how hard it is to break a world record. On the other hand, I really enjoy seeing athletes who were excited just to set personal bests. Maybe they wouldn’t even make their event final, but they gave their best at the Olympics. That should feel good, regardless of where they finished overall. While World Records boggle my mind, I can still relate to the feeling of a personal best. All of us can.

While the chances are slim for us non-Olympic types to set a World Record, it always feels good to set a personal best, and that’s something that’s achievable with a little goal-setting and effort. Many of you have done just that during this month’s Montana Moves challenge through our MUS Wellness Incentive program, and, just like Olympians, we find you to be inspiring! Some of you shared your personal bests by posting on the site, and we wanted to list a few of those bests. Way to go MUS!

  • I have worked out every day for the last 30 days! Love to keep it going!
  • Most steps in a day
  • This month was a focus on personal best for stress. I don’t deal well with stress but I am focusing on meditation (another great challenge topic on here!), breathing and focusing on solving the problems I can and not worrying about those I cannot. This has helped decrease stress a lot! So much that I’ve decreased body pain and I feel a lot healthier! I also sleep better at night when not worrying so much!
  • On track with my workout plan, I have gone to the gym two weeks in a row, 4 days a week. This is my personal best.
  • Completed an entire week of alternative transportation to work!
  • This week I biked six out of seven days, commuting to work and running errands, totaling just over 60 miles for the week!
  • I set a record high step count this week and for the first time ranked first on my friends list!
  • Most days hitting over 10,000 steps and standing 1/2 a day at work.
  • Swam 2k without break
  • Hiked to the top of Lone Peak – a goal of mine for many years!
  • Yoga 6 days out of 7!
  • 1st place in my age group 5K today. Not my fastest time ever (great for hills and heat and altitude though) but never finished 1st.

As you can see from the list, there are many ways to set a Personal Best. Congrats to all of you who’ve hit one this month! If you haven’t, there’s still two more weekends to go for this challenge, plenty of time! But it doesn’t end this month. My wish for all of you is for you to always continue to strive for your best at every age and station of life!


It’s all in the hips.

No matter what our main discipline is, we can’t forget the fundamentals.

This week, I had a very good friend visit for a couple of days. This is a friend I worked alongside in the fitness industry during my time in New York City. The afternoon he arrived we went on a run around some of our urban trails in Bozeman and we got to catch up a bit. Last year, both of us experienced a few minor, annoying lower-body injuries that limited our running training, and we were discussing that, because thankfully we’re both feeling healthier this year.

“What’d you do to get better?” I asked him.

“Worked on my hip mobility and did a lot of core exercise, strangely enough.” he replied.

He said the words strangely enough with emphasis, and a hint of irony, as if to say, “we know this is important, but you actually have to do it.”

It’s true, as a fitness professional, I know the importance of having a strong core and mobile hip joints, but I can’t say these are my favorite things to spend time on during my exercise time. I’d rather be doing all the fun stuff, like running on a trail, or riding my bike, or hiking up a mountain, or lifting in the gym, or playing sports. I love the fun stuff.

But the fact is, no matter what our main discipline is, we can’t forget the fundamentals, and in fitness and athletics, the fundamentals truly run through the hips and the core. The largest, most powerful muscles in our bodies attach at our hip joints and pelvis, and from there those big strong muscles run up and down to our legs or spine. When we lack proper mobility through our hips, and decent strength in our core musculature (the muscles tasked with stabilizing our spine and pelvis as we move), there are a lot of problems that can manifest themselves. Some of these problems may be muscular imbalances or strains, or more serious joint issues, especially pain or injury around the knees or lumbar spine.

If this sounds like a familiar pattern, be sure to incorporate hip mobility and core strengthening exercises as a regular part of your exercise routine. It’s true, these things may not be the most fun you can have in the gym, but what is fun is being able to do all the other things you enjoy in life without pain.

Here are some practical ideas to help you get started if you need a nudge in the right direction.

  • Be sure to properly warmup before exercising, and include movements to mobilize your hips
  • Stretch! Especially after exercise
  • Take a yoga class
  • Work with a personal trainer for a few sessions to learn some hip mobility and core strengthening exercises
  • Check out these videos from Montana Moves:

Get busy with those fundamentals! And remember, it’s all in the hips (and core)!


Lifting? Think Joint Action.

…when thinking about resistance training, start  by thinking about your joints.

I workout in a college gym, which means there are college students exercising there. Which means there are college boys there. Which means that at any given moment, there are at least five of them doing bicep curls. Lots and lots of bicep curls.

We all know why college boys do bicep curls: presumably to attract college girls, right? And that’s fine, but for most of us post-college, we probably have other goals in mind when we hit the gym. Maybe we need to lose a few pounds. Maybe we want to feel more fit, move better, or improve performance. Maybe we want to look lean and mean or just have more energy. Lifting weights is a great method to help achieve any of these goals. Another part of being out of college means likely having a job and other responsibilities to balance, which means you probably have a limited amount of time at the gym, or to exercise in general.

So what does this have to do with bicep curls?

Well, there’s nothing wrong with a bicep curl. It does what it says. It trains the bicep—the big semi-circular muscle in our upper arms that when flexed, is a universal symbol of strength and victory. The bicep curl also trains a few smaller muscles of the upper arm and forearm that attach to your elbow joint, and this is where we get to the key of today’s article: when thinking about resistance training, start by thinking about your joints. Joint Action is a term referring to which joints are moving during a certain exercise, and how they are moving. Start thinking about joint action, and you’ll start to have a better awareness of your body’s movement, and you’ll maximize your time in the gym. Best of all, you don’t have to be an exercise scientist or anatomy guru to do it. Most of us can identify our shoulders, elbows, hips, knees and ankles, and that’s a great place to start.

Back to the curl. The curl is what’s known as a single-joint exercise. One joint is moving—the elbow. This means that muscles attached at the elbow are being worked, in this case, it’s the bicep, the brachialis, and the brachioradialis.

Compare this to a multi-joint exercise such as a rowing motion (the row could be done from a variety of positions—seated, standing, bent, suspended, etc.). During a row, the shoulders and elbows move, thus making it a multi-joint exercise. Now, the major muscles trained are the latissimus dorsi (largest upper body muscle), middle traps, rhomboids, rear deltoids, teres major and finally…(drum-roll please)…the biceps. In this case two (joints) are better than one, especially in terms of number and size of muscles targeted in one exercise, amount of calories required to do the exercise, and functionality—a rowing, or pulling motion is something we do in everyday life.

Multi-joint exercises should be your top priority in any kind of resistance program. Single-joint exercises are fine, but they should be thought of as a supplement to multi-joint exercises. If you have a limited time in the gym, and you want to do the most work you can in a short time, highly prioritize multi-joint exercises.

Being that the largest and strongest muscles in our bodies attach to our hips and shoulders, we want to make sure we get those joints moving as much as possible.

Here’s a list of some essential multi-joint movements:

  • Squats/Lunges/Step-Ups (hips/knees/ankles)
  • Deadlift (hips/knees/ankles—emphasis on hip joint)
  • Row (shoulder/elbow horizontal pull)
  • Pulldowns/pullups (shoulder/elbow vertical pull)
  • Chest press (shoulder/elbow horizontal push)
  • Overhead press (shoulder/elbow vertical push)

And some more advanced compound or complex full-body movements:

  • Squat to Overhead Press
  • Reverse Lunge Cable Row
  • Cable Chops
  • Push Press
  • Clean
  • Clean & Jerk
  • Snatch

Happy Lifting!