In this week’s newsletter
Wellness? Well, Yes! Five wellness apps that help keep me sane. Tracking your habits. Using the Egg Pod. When you REALLY can’t work out. At all. Action for Happiness.
Mitch Tulloch is the Senior Editor of FitITproNews and a recovering fat IT pro who lost 50 lbs in midlife and is now on his way to becoming a fit IT pro. Mitch is a widely recognized expert on Windows Server and cloud technologies who has authored or been Series Editor of numerous books/ebooks from Microsoft Press. Mitch is also the Senior Editor of WServerNews and writes frequently for TechGenix.
Wellness is on everyone’s mind these days as this terrible pandemic continues, and this month we have several columnists giving us their thoughts on this important subject. Kris Lall outlines the value of having an employee wellness program and how his family has benefited from utilizing its services. Lana Khazari describes five wellness apps she’s been using to help turn herself around and avoid becoming burned out due to stress. Jimmy Vo shares about an app he uses to help track his habits to maintain wellness, stay fit and keep productive at work. And then Sarah Trammell talks about a nifty little gadget that helps you cook perfect hard-boiled eggs which are a good source of protein and healthy fats.
Then come two articles that are closely related to the pandemic we’ve all been experiencing. Robin Camp describes his own recent bout of COVID-19 which has kept him out of the gym and forced him to find other ways to improve his fitness. Please join with me in wishing Robin a full and speedy recovery so he can hit the iron again soon! And finally Kris Kane shares a website where you can download calendars that list daily actions you can take to help create a happier and kinder world, something we all desperately need in these trying times.
Enjoy this month’s issue of FitITproNews and feel free to send us feedback on any of the topics we’ve covered — we love hearing from our readers!
Mitch Tulloch, Senior Editor
Wellness? Well, Yes! (Kris Lall)
Kris Lall works as a product manager in the tech industry for an enterprise software manufacturer. As a youngster, Kris was consumed with soccer before technology came along. Now he’s consumed with both. You can find him on Twitter at the not-too-surprising handle @krisoccer.
Toward the end of “last” year, many of us participated in our employer’s annual Open Enrollment event to choose medical, vision, and dental benefits. With a pandemic in full swing and a host of other life-altering events occurring across the continent, choosing the right health benefits has become more important than ever.
Our physical health is critical, of course; however, if we learned anything from a challenging, isolating 2020, mental health is equally important. Enter the employee wellness program.
Employee wellness programs are designed to provide a safety net of services that employees might encounter living their daily lives, including substance abuse, work stress, anxiety, depression, relationship issues/divorce, domestic violence, and many others.
Thankfully, for many years, the companies I’ve worked for have offered some variation of a wellness program in which I’ve always chosen to participate. During the 2008 economic downturn, for example, my family experienced some financial challenges, and I was able to leverage my employer’s assistance program benefits to gain fast access to financial counseling services at a significant discount:
Figure 1: Employers are offering more options to help employees handle life events that can cause stress.
Employee wellness programs have proven their value to such an extent that many employers are offering them at little (or no) cost to their workers. The return on investment to employers has been healthier employees (both physically and mentally), better morale, increased productivity, reduced health care costs, and, ultimately, happier employees.
In addition to wellness programs, employers are now offering other benefits to give employees access to additional services that most employees are likely to need at some point.
Some companies offer a legal plan for a small monthly fee that automatically gets taken out of the worker’s paycheck. I’ve taken advantage of this benefit several times to gain access to attorneys at a discount for a number of scenarios, including the creation of a living trust for my family.
More recently, companies have been offering additional incentives for workers to stay healthy by paying for memberships to fitness clubs or for a physical activity of choice. Although I’ve recently retained a fitness club membership, soccer is my passion and, hence, I get most of my physical activity on the pitch, not in the gym. In some cases, employers will also pay league fees to encourage employees like me to participate in these types of healthy activities.
While some employers still do not offer these modern benefits, many human resources organizations in the industry provide guidance on how a company can design a wellness program. One such organization, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), provides online resources with the goal of helping companies create workplaces where both employers and employees can flourish. See the article “How to Establish and Design a Wellness Program“.
I’ve worked in “tech” most of my career. Rarely have I heard a colleague complain that they have nothing to do, and more often I’m hearing quite the opposite — way too much work to do and with the pandemic and other stressful events impacting our collective mental health, it’s important to have safety nets in place for those (hopefully) less frequent life events that are bound to occur at just the wrong moments. Wellness programs are designed to help in these types of situations.
Five wellness apps that help keep me sane (Lana Khazari)
Lana Khazari is a Technical Support Analyst for the Corporation of City of Windsor, Ontario, Canada. She is also a Precision Nutrition Coach, Personal Trainer, Fitness Instructor and a Yoga 200-RYT Instructor. You can find her online at lanakharazi.com.
Last year, I returned from maternity leave to a new management role and smack in the middle of a pandemic. I drained myself of all physical and emotional energy. And like throwing salt to the wound, even though I was utterly exhausted, I still couldn’t sleep at night. I could write a whole article about burning myself out (and I might do that), but I’m still in recovery mode, which means I still sometimes feel I’m either surrounded by people who don’t care or just plain “idiots.” So, I decided that I might have further insights in a couple of months when these negative feelings have settled. If you feel you are experiencing the same signs of burnout, try this Burnout Self-Test.
Fortunately enough, I believe in the power of relaxation and mindfulness. I can vouch that it has helped to alleviate many of my symptoms. A recent randomized control trial in Finland showed mindfulness practice to help do this too. The study gave one group standard burnout treatment and the next group standard burnout treatment plus eight weeks of mindfulness classes. For six days a week, they practiced 10-15 minutes of mindfulness meditation twice a day. They also brought mindfulness to daily activities. After ten months, results showed that mindfulness helped alleviate burnout dimensions (exhaustion, cynicism, and reduced professional efficacy) even more than standard treatment alone.
This year I plan to strengthen my resolve further to practice mindfulness and meditation. It is also a personal goal of mine to get into better shape. I’m still carrying some extra weight postpartum that I would like to see gone. This past year, my fitness took a nosedive. Returning to work, caring for a toddler, and COVID meant many 8 pm workouts in the basement. Not my favorite time, and it happened less than I wanted. Plus, burnout and stress increase your hunger hormone ghrelin and decrease your leptin, which boosts cravings. Also, metabolism slows. I continued to make healthy choices, but my fat loss journey was not significant. The big win here is despite all the circumstances, I look and feel better in my clothes. Although I’m not where I want to be, it could be a lot worse. Big thanks to the healthy routines I’ve built up over the years that are second nature. So the next step is to make meditation part of that routine.
Apps can be a great way to explore something new. Also, being tech-savvy, there is a natural magnetism to anything app-related. Here are five wellness apps that I’ve been using to help turn myself around:
With encouragement from a friend, I registered for the New Year’s meditation challenge with this app. This challenge was great! The guided meditations were very realistic and less hokey. I feel it does a great job of turning non-believers to the power of meditation. Dan Harris, a co-anchor of ABC’s Nightline, teamed up with the most respected meditation teachers on the planet to create this app. Once upon a time, Dan believed that meditation was ridiculous, now explains how to build focus and boost our mental muscle. How to not let our emotions yank us around – responding wisely vs. reacting blindly.
What first brought me to this app is my recent love of Yin Yoga and its founder Bernie Clark. The monthly cost is the same as one in-person class at most yoga studios with world-renowned instructors. The video library is one of the most massive, and there are yoga and meditation classes for all levels. If you want to start a yoga/mediation practice in your living room (a safe space), you’ll find more customized options than YouTube. There are also great documentaries, series, and other media. I’ve been listening to the spiritual teachings of Ram Dass, which helps to change perspective.
If you’re hesitating on spending any money and need some time to try before you buy, this is the app. Most of the content is free, and it has some popular meditation teachers. It also has a great community, and you can interact and see others meditating with you. There is a massive library of talks and guided meditations, and you can bookmark your favorites. There is also a timer feature to track your sessions.
I’ve been teaching online Zoom fitness classes, and one of my participants recently mentioned this app. I’ve only followed along to one fitness class, but I’m impressed by it so far. There are so many classes and instructors, and you can keep flipping through to find something you like. The con of that is you may be doing more scrolling than actual movement. However, the classes are all free! They keep it free so they can pull you into the nutrition plans and extras. I’d steer clear of the excesses, but if you are looking to get up and move, this may be an excellent place to start and explore.
Another meditation application that I’ve used in the past. It does a great job of explaining the mindfulness practice. It has excellent content, is easy to use, and the narrators’ voices are calming. There are nature sounds in the background of each meditation and meditations categorized by emotions. They also have the Lebron James series of meditation; enough said.
Tracking your habits (Jimmy Vo)
Jimmy Vo is a cyber security professional in the financial sector. He’s a Jiu Jitsu hobbyist and a purple belt under Lucas Lepri in Charlotte, NC. You can find Jimmy on Twitter: @JimmyVo
The other day I stumbled upon an iOS habit tracking app called Done. I’ve written about the power of habits in the past. Positive habits have been the driving force for my self-improvement in these trying times. Given my love for maintaining positive habits, I had to try out Done.
Done has a free version which allows you to create 3 habits/goals. Currently, I’m tracking 8 habits, which required me to upgrade to the premium version. I was lucky enough to upgrade for $11.99 for the year because of a New Year promotion. Normally, it would cost $39.99 for the year.
The app is developed in a way where it helps build or quit habits. Personally, I’m using the former right now as I experiment with the app.
From my screenshot you can see most of the habits I’m tracking:
The interface is simple where you can just tap on the + symbol when you’re completed the habit. An interesting feature allows customization of custom values for activity tracking. For instance, my goal is to read 1 page a day (I use the Atomic Habits approach for habit creation).
For those who have Apple watches, there is a Done watch app. It’s fairly simple, the watch app displays the remaining habits which can be quickly updated on the watch. Since my days are fairly structured since I have a baby, I set reminders for most of my habits around specific times. The reminders will pop up on my Apple Watch to remind me to act on a habit.
Honestly, at this point it’s hard to justify a $40 price tag, but at the $12 dollar promotion price for the year it’s a great deal. I would definitely recommend giving the app a try and build or quit some habits to make 2021 a great year!
Using the Egg Pod (Sarah Trammell)
Sarah Trammell is an application analyst at a university in Georgia. She became interested in health and fitness issues when she began making diet and lifestyle changes to lose weight back in 2007 and learned even more when trying to track down what to do about other health issues beginning in 2011 with not much input from doctors. You may follow her blog at ihatemyglutenfreelife.com.
I recently started using an Egg Pod to cook “hard-boiled” eggs, and it works great! I highly recommend it for anyone who enjoys eating eggs and wants an easy way to cook them.
One thing I started eating for breakfast several years ago was sliced cucumber with hummus. It was one of the many breakfast alternatives I developed when I removed wheat from my diet. However, the hummus and cucumber by themselves didn’t provide enough calories, at least for me. I tried several different things with them but ended up eating fruit, nut, and seed bars with them most of the time. Those and the hummus probably made the meal too high in copper, so when I began working to balance copper and zinc in my diet, I decided to eat hard-boiled eggs with them instead.
For a while, I just bought small packs of hard-boiled eggs each week, two packs with two each. I do my grocery shopping on Sundays and eat the hummus, cucumber, and hard-boiled eggs for breakfast on Fridays. Most of the time, the eggs would make it through the week, but if I didn’t buy the right ones, they’d end up being pretty nasty by Friday. There were times I pretty much forced them down. If I couldn’t get the smaller packs and had to buy a bag or package with more eggs, some would inevitably go bad by the time I would run out. I did at times boil eggs in a pot on the stove, but, although the eggs tasted better, it was a lot more of a pain than just buying them already boiled.
My interest was definitely piqued when I saw a commercial for the Egg Pod. It seemed like a really easy way to cook “hard-boiled” eggs. A while later, I finally decided to order one to try. I’ve been using it for several weeks now, and I really like it. The eggs turn out great, and they still taste better than the store-bought eggs. I’m so glad I decided to order it and give it a try!
When it comes to using the Egg Pod, I use it as directed in the instructions, but when it comes to cooling and cracking the eggs, I do the following. First, after allowing the eggs to sit after microwaving, I take them out of the Egg Pod and place them in a sieve. Second, I run cold water over the eggs in the sieve. I turn them over with one hand to make sure that all parts of the eggs come into contact with the cold water. I then place the sieve on the counter. I remove each egg from the sieve, tap it against the counter on the large end, and use the cracks to peel the eggs. I put the pieces of shell back into the sieve. Each shelled egg I place in a bowl for eating immediately or in a container for storage until I’m ready to eat them. To dispose of the shells, I just dump the contents of the sieve into the trash. To keep the Egg Pod clean, I rinse and wipe down the parts with a paper towel before reassembling it and storing it. Contrary to what the order page says, this product is not dishwasher-safe. Before using it for the first time, I washed it by hand with dish soap and water. Since then, it has yet to get dirty when I’ve used it, so rinsing and wiping it clean with a paper towel seems to be enough to clean it.
The Egg Pod is a great product that makes cooking eggs quick and easy. I think anyone who enjoys eating eggs would benefit from using this product.
When you REALLY can’t work out. At all. (Robin Camp)
Robin Camp works as tech support for an Orthodontic Practice Management Software company called New Horizons Software ( www.nhsoftware.com). As a professional photographer on the side, Robin does fashion, glamour weddings and more in his spare time (www.dancingwithlightphoto.com). You can also now find him working out on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/fitittech/.
So 2021 started out with a frigging bang. Are we still within the free trial period? And where do I make the return?
My daughter came home after being exposed to Covid at work (she is a nurse). Told my boss and was sent home, soon all three of us in the house had COVID. Zero out of four stars, would not recommend. Anyways, yes, I live, I may be a little punchy and over caffeinated so, oh yeah the actual fitness point.
After the symptoms started to wear off I hit the recovery stage. Having lost nearly fifteen pounds (still no abs, Damn), walking up the stairs to the bedroom was, well, exhausting. Keep in mind three weeks earlier I had been running three miles in thirty minutes, benching 315 for reps etc. Three weeks later the muscle atrophy was terrifying and any simple chore requiring a nap. I feel like I am turning into my cat.
I quickly realized I am not going to be hitting the gym for at least another couple weeks, so WHAT CAN I DO was the prominent question that came to mind after the screams of frustration.
I realized the primary thing I can do right now is learn. I can still prop myself up in front of the computer, read the latest workouts, recovery theory’s and brush up on my nutrition knowledge.
I can still go to the counter and review my supplements, ask myself am I over supplementing? Am I considering recovery supplements? Am I keeping my immune system going neglecting it?
A few of the sites I like to use to brush up on my knowledge are:
- https://whatsgood.vitaminshoppe.com minimal advertising and a wide range of articles for different disciplines
- https://www.muscleandfitness.com One of the primary reasons I love this one is their exercise searcher (usually half way down the page) don’t know what to do to target your triceps? Use this function. Someone told you to do so exotic press that you don’t know how too? Look up the exercise for illustrations of how too.
- https://www.t-nation.com Pretty focused on elite and competitive lifting, this site is great for its no nonsense break down of the newest fads and exercises, usually pointing out exactly why the older simpler routines are more effective and safer, and also in telling you straight up which of the new supplements are worth looking at with links or references to published studies. Please note the only downside is a rather heavy advertising slant in the supplements they recommend.
Lastly, not fitness related, but for those of you who have not suffered from Covid, I would highly suggest your cupboard is well stocked with your preferred selection of “sick foods” Pedialyte or equivalent, immune boosters and baby aspirin. Even if you don’t get Covid you are prepared for the next flu season, if you do, you don’t have to navigate your local grocery stores poorly executed website while fever addled. Stay healthy and safe people!
“Do not let yourself be contaminated by others’ ideas of what is best for you. Cast aside the shackles of destructive thinking.” -Kai Greene-
“If something stands between you and your success, move it. Never be denied.” -Dwayne Johnson-
“If you can’t do something smart, do something right.” -Jayne Cobb-
“Why do we fall? So we can learn to pick ourselves up.” ~Alfred Pennyworth~
Action for Happiness (Kris Kane)
Kris Kane is a North Yorkshire based personal trainer, martial arts instructor and general fitness enthusiast. You can find him on Instagram at @koachedbykris and also view him professionally on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/kris-kane.
If you’ve not seen these before then check out the Action for Happiness calendars, full of daily tasks to promote positivity throughout the month. Every month is a different theme and they are great to keep focused with, here is February’s:
We need each other more than ever right now! This month let’s focus on reaching out to connect with others and doing our best to be a good friend. Our acts of kindness and connection ripple out and impact so many more people than we realise – and they also boost our own happy hormones too! In stressful times people around us may be feeling the strain, so let’s try to keep calm, take time to listen and show compassion.
View this and more at: https://www.actionforhappiness.org/
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