Happy Turkey Day! (Villages Style…)

Happy Thanksgiving!  I’m so thankful for all my friends and family.  It’s been an interesting year but I’ve always had great support from so many people. 

I was traveling yesterday and had a difficult time posting, so recap:

Tuesday night I drove to Jacksonville to stay with Syd’s family.  We rushed to make it in time to yoga- which was awesome.  And I’m definitely out of yoga-shape. But the instructor helped push us into poses and used eucalyptus oil to massage our necks and backs.  Heaven.  Afterwards, Sydney, her dad and I went to grab a flight of beer at a local brewery.




Syd’s family is awesome- they’re so nice and her mom is my new idol.  She runs a food bank- and uses the govn’t My Plate to assist people who can come in to “shop” with a volunteer.  They make sure that people are taking food based on the recommendations from My Plate, and color-code their food that way.  They are also in the process of building a garden to help produce fresh fruits/veggies for the food bank.  What an amazing job!



Sydney and I then went to meet some friends and tour University of North Florida’s new Wellness Center





It’s a beautiful building and it was nice to see Justin again. We all went to lunch afterwards (I’ve been terrible about photographing my meals while away…) – and I got a veggie burger and tomato bisque soup (delicious!).  Then it was time to hit the road again and battle traffic all the way to the Villages. 

It’s nice to be around my family again.  Mom, Dad, Chantel and I went to the square for live band and drinks last night.

Chantel finds all the unique architecture features of the Villages…



When we got home, we decided we needed to watch “Honey Boo Boo Child”- we were discussing this show in the car and I’ve never seen it before.  My dad wasn’t thrilled with this choice (but Chan and I thought it was highly entertaining).



Needed some fuel this morning:



This morning I wanted to do a family turkey trot, but everyone bailed on me after I took Laney on her “attempt to expend energy” run (which doesn’t work like I wish it would- homegirl has SO. MUCH. ENERGY). 

This was also the first day of the Runners World Running Streak- holiday edition!  Don’t forget to play along and track your 1+ miles every day now through New Year’s Day! 



When I got back in from my run, I found my adorable bro snoozin away…



…and my sis making Thanksgiving breakfast (something pumpkin shaped…we’ll find out soon!).



Currently watching Macy’s Day parade with the dogs and my brother and THIS is in my future for later today (before the food coma of course):


Happy Thanksgiving!  I’ll take pics of all the wonderful food (promise) 🙂 

I’m Thankful for… Thanksgiving Vacation!

Can’t wait to start my short vacation and see my family and friends!  I love when the 5 of my family members are together- and this year with Thanksgiving at the Villages, I’m anticipating golf cart races :).

This morning I hit snooze 5 times.  I couldn’t drag myself out of bed for anything.  I think I was battling the “2 day later” soreness after my Sunday mileage.  I Sparked, and it helped a little but my bod is still dragging.

Breakfast was banana, oatmeal, cinnamon, pie spice, almond milk, muesli.  Kept me full until 11:30am


Lot of wellness discussions this morning- amongst FSU staff, national colleagues, and the Stanford Wellness staff particularly.  Excited about possibilities for expanding wellness initiatives, and the conversations are scheduled to continue (next week, after we stuff ourselves silly with turkey- or tofurkey in my case!). 

Lunch today was leftovers (hey, have to clean out my fridge for the rest of this week…)


Veggie medley, whole grains, soy sauce.

Also indulged in banana with peanut butter and honey (I’m always hungrier when I’m tired- which is why if you are striving for weight loss you should always get adequate amounts of sleep)…


I challenged my staff to the Runners World Challenge- FMC style.  They can do 1+ miles every day of anything- run, walk, swim, bike, elliptical, etc.  They just fill out the form so I can keep track and anyone who (honestly) completes the challenge will get a prize!  If you want to play, join in and fill out the form (click on the picture below)- instructions are on the form (*unfortunately I can only guarantee prizes to my staff, but maybe someday if I get enough blog readership!) For now you’ll get shoutouts 🙂


Nike shoe update:  Love em.  Never ever said that about a pair of Nikes, but the Frees are light and comfortable.  I haven’t tried to run or crosstrain in them but for everyday use, they are comfortable.


Finishing up work, then Syd and I head to Jax tonight for Yoga and UNF tours tomorrow before I get to see fam!

Safe travels to all!


Book Review: My Top 4 of Spark

I love my job as Assistant Director of the Fitness & Movement Clinic at FSU- it is exactly what I want to be doing, I have a wonderful group of colleagues and students to work with, and it’s just challenging enough to keep me interested and engaged.

Another reason I enjoy working there- all of my colleagues are focused on the impact physical activity has on both short and long term health.  We were encouraged to read the book Spark– and it has brought a whole new meaning as to why exercise is SO important in our daily lives.

(Fun Fact: This book is also one of the reasons I named my blog “Sparking Health”)


The author- Ratey- uses evidence-based research and ongoing studies to 1)show that aerobic exercise has been shown to be as effective as antidepressants, 2) prove that women who exercise lower their chances of developing dementia by 50%, 3) that exercise actually sparks new brain-cell growth, and so much more.

I’ve selected my “top 4” impressions from this book:

1. “If you’re in good shape, you may be able to learn and function more efficiently” (pg 45)

During a 2007 study on humans, German researchers found that people learn vocabulary words 20% faster following exercise than they did before exercise (pg. 45)

You know that saying: “once you kill your brain cells, they never grow back”? In 1998, researchers found that that is in fact false.  We grow new brain cells everyday- just like the rest of the cells in our body. (pg. 48). Neurons are born as bland-slate stem cells, and need to develop into brain cells that actually have a function in order to survive.  In order for a cell to survive and integrate, it has to fire its axon.  Exercise spawns this process, and the environment exercise creates helps those new brain cells to survive and function instead of die off (pg 49).

You can’t learn difficult material while you’re exercising at high intensity because blood is shunted away from the prefontal cortex (to power your legs, arms, whatever you’re using for exercise) (pg 53).  However, blood flow shifts back almost immediately after you finish exercising. In 2007, an experiment had 20 adults watch a movie and 20 adults go for a 35 minute run. All 40 adults were given a vocabulary test before the their activity, immediately after their activity, and 20 minutes after their activity. The movie watchers showed no change, but the 20 runners improved processing speed and cognitive flexibility after just one workout (pg. 54)

2) “The way you choose to cope with stress can change not only how you feel, but also how it transforms the brain” (pg 60).

Humans are unique among animals in that the danger doesn’t have to be clear and present to elicit a response- we can anticipate it, we can remember it, and we can conceptualize it.  The mind is so powerful we can set off stress just by imagining ourselves in a stressful situation (pg 63).

Exercise is good stress: the stress exercise produces is predictable and controllable  because you are initiating the action.  With exercise, you develop an ability to manage your own stress instead of relying on negative coping mechanisms (drinking, over-eating, etc).

In 2004, researchers in London had 210 participants during their lunch hour take aerobics, lift weights, or do yoga.  They filled out questionnaires  at the end of every workday about how well they interacted with their colleagues, managed their time, and met deadlines.  65% fared better in all three categories on the days they exercised.

3) In Britain, doctors now use exercise as a first-line treatment for depression, but it’s vastly underused in the United States, and that’s a shame.

According to the World Health Organization, depression is the leading cause of disability in the US and Canada, ahead of coronary heart disease, any given cancer, and AIDS.

Benefits of exercise on depression: In addition to the natural good feeling from endorphins, you feel good about yourself, and that has a positive effect that can’t be traced to a particular chemical or area of the brain. If you’ve been feeling down and you start to exercise to feel better, the sense that you’re going to be ok and that you can count on yourself for that feeling shifts your entire attitude (pg 118).

4)Scientists consider addiction a chronic disease because of the way it is wired in the brain to trigger reflexive behavior.  The same changes occur regardless of whether the addiction is to drugs, gambling, eating, etc. Typically, when we learn something, the connections stabilize and the levels of dopamine trail off over time. With addiction (especially drug addiction), dopamine floods the system with each drug use, reinforcing the memory and pushing other stimuli further into the background. Drug-induced type of learned behavior can remain for months or even years after the drugs are stopped, which is why it can be easy to relapse (pg 172)

Exercise effect on addicts = exercise works from the top down in the brain, forcing addicts to adapt to a new stimulus (natural dopamine instead of the drug-induced dopamine) and thereby allowing them to learn and appreciate healthy scenarios.  It’s activity-dependent training, and while it may not provide the immediate rush like a snort of cocaine does, it instills a more diffuse sense of well-being that, over time, will become a craving in its own right. The inoculation works from the bottom-up, physically blunting the urge to act by engaging the more primitive elements of the brain (pg 171).

Spark also addresses the topics of ADHD, Hormonal Changes, and Aging.  It describes the effects exercise has through the many issues of our lives and throughout the aging process.  I highly recommend this book- especially if you are interested in how exercise affects and changes your actual brain chemistry.

Check it out!

WAIT… Smoothies And Granola Are Bad For You??

I know, I know.  We’ll get to that later. 

After a long day, I ran home fast to get in a quick walk with Laney-dog then had to run back into work to talk about the Fitness & Movement Clinic at the SGA town hall meeting.  

I grabbed a quick “protein shot” (aka boiled egg) on the way out the door.



The meeting went well… I told the students about the new facility, equipment, and programs we’re offering to help them be healthier, then took them on tours of the space and did some powerplate and TRX demos with them.  They were excited!

Walking out of my facility, I’m always amazed at how beautiful the courtyard/garden area is.  Landscapers were intentional in the design to include elements that would make it a “healing garden” and place for reflection.



Ok, I’m SUCH a dork that the whole night I was looking forward to getting back in my car so I could slip on my comfy sweatpants.  Truth.  I know–dorky. 



Got home and made dinner:

Wheat fettuccine

fresh-cooked broccoli

green olives


fresh chives


By the way, the broccoli is being sold in bags in the produce section of Publix- steam-in-bag- and is on sale right now for $1/bag.  Great deal.



Ok… now…let’s tackle the smoothies and granola!

I was reading Shape magazine online and came across “50 Seemingly Healthy Foods that are Bad for You”.  Some of these are shocking, but when you read why you understand–most of it has to do with the added processed sugar.  Added sugar very quickly adds calories to any food.  Their suggestions were to 1) look for granola that is low in added sugar and high in fiber and 2) make your own smoothies.  A lot of smoothie places add high-sugar additions to their smoothies and many use full-fat ice cream.  Make ’em at home and use your own ingredients!  (cheaper too)…



My favorite way to make my own smoothies:

frozen fruit

light non-sweetened soy milk

no sugar vanilla pudding mix (or try a meal replacement shake powder!)

a touch of agave nectar


The pudding mix makes it thicken and taste- smoothie-like- just make sure it’s the sugar free kind!