Tuesday, March 3, 2015

GIVE THANKS. BE WELL: Four Reasons to Look on the Darker Side of Life

What is the essence of true gratitude and why should you care? It turns out that the simple act of giving thanks can change the chemistry in your brain. But not all gratitude is created equal. Sometimes it is just better to look on the darker side of life.

In his 2013 book, Gratitude Works!, pioneering gratitude researcher Robert Emmons, PhD, shares several counter-intuitive research findings that challenge gratitude's reputation as a "sunbeams and rainbows" sort of activity. 

1. Gratitude can be serious stuff. Emmons reports that viewing a bleak melancholy film actually increases the feelings of joy and satisfaction with one's life -- more so than watching a comedy.

2. Reflecting on hard times can be healthy. Research shows that comtemplating sorrow and failure makes us more grateful than reflecting solely on past successes. "Recall a breakthough you had in what was once an insurmountable problem," Emmons suggests, "and be grateful for that breakthrough."

3. It's good to dwell on death-at least a little. Occasionally reflecting on one's own inevitable demise increases a sense of gratitude. Emmons reports that imagining a near-death experience increases people's appreciation and decreases overall unhappiness.

4. Picturing loss can leave us feeling that we've won. Contemplating life without someone or something that you really love increases gratefulness and happiness more than picturing yourself with it. Try imagining life without your spouse, a beloved pet, or a familiar place, and you'll get it immediately.

Genuine gratitude comes from the pervasive sense that we are full, complete, whole -- and maybe even lucky! And who really who could ever have too much of that?

by Lisa Vallejo Sorensen, UVAC Communications Director


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Strength Training Programs: Start at Your Level

By Katherine MacPherson BS, ACSM HFS, Personal Trainer, Lift It Instructor

There are many valuable benefits with strength training.  Research shows that if you engage in a consistent safe routine you will improve your range of motion, increase strength, mobility, and empower your overall health.  These consistent, safe routines are usually comprised of 4-week structured workouts that change in volume and load to insure strength gain and performance enhancement. We call these 4-week cycles, phases.  During a strength training program, there is generally 4 phases.  The workouts are created to improve posture and increase strength through the whole body. This means there will be targeted muscle groups depending on the lifting day, as well as mobility exercises that are incorporated into the workout. 

The Upper Valley Aquatic Center recently started a small group strength training program called Lift It that is structured around your fitness level.  The main objective is to learn how to lift weights safely and preform at your absolute best.  Each participant gets special treatment.   They will undergo soft tissue work, attentive exercise education with coaching tips and pointers. The instructor client radio is 1 to 6. 

"Forget the intimidating video! Lift It is really Katherine guiding me through a custom tailored protocol along with a few others doing their own programs at the same time, at a budget friendly price. If I can do this, anyone determined to build strength and well being can do it!"
-Sara Kobylenski, UVAC member and Lift It participant 

Each participant is given their own 4-week program. The workouts start with 5-10 minutes of foam rolling and warmups.  Lift It clients begin their workout as the instructor monitors and engages in instruction.  Some of the exercises included in this program may not be performed until the 2nd or 3rd phase, or if at all.  If a person is unable to properly preform a dead-lift (for an example) they will be guided to the next alternative.  In this case, it would be a goblet squat.  It is highly encouraged in this program to find positive alternatives to exercises that cannot be performed properly due to an injury, muscle weakness, muscle tightness, or fitness level. 

This ongoing, jump in at any time program, is giving men and women of all ages the opportunity to increase strength while learning proper techniques. If you are interested in joining Lift It, here is the information to sign up:
 LIFT IT: T/TH @ 6am or 6pm
$129/ month EFT (members)

REGISTER TODAY with John jgrainger@uvacswim.org or at the Welcome Desk

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Healthy Treats for the One You LOVE

With Valentine’s Day coming up soon, it’s time to start thinking of new ways to treat yourself and someone you love. These two recipes will be a perfect beginning and ending to your romantic dinner.

A Marinated Winter Vegetable Salad makes a stunning appetizer. The salad is visually beautiful with cauliflower at its center surrounded by a dazzling array of marinated vegetables. Steaming the cauliflower softens the florets and allows them to
absorb the flavor of the olive oil and spices sprinkled on top. The marinated vegetables
are full of intense flavors and salty while the cauliflower is light and delicate, creating a
perfect balance. For a full meal, follow the salad with a light pasta dish or some roasted
meats and veggies. 

But don’t forget dessert: These Dark Chocolate Sunflower ButterCookies. Few things warm the soul better than freshly baked cookies. These treats are not overly sweet and go perfectly with fresh fruit or a light sorbet. They also travel well, so any cookies left after the celebration can be packed into your gym bag for a perfect post workout snack.

You can find both these recipes on my blog, Gathering Flavors.

Happy Valentine’s Day!


Dena Testa Bray is a UVAC member, blogger and web designer. 
You can find her here:
Gathering Flavors

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Balancing a Busy Life with Health and Happiness

It is safe to say that sometimes our lives can get the better of us. We all have stressful jobs, kid’s extra-curricular activities, pets that need exercise, bills to pay, and trouble squeezing in time for the grocery store. It seems like there is never a second to breathe let alone think about our own health and fitness. It is easy to forget that if we are not healthy ourselves then the chances of being successful in any of these everyday tasks are slim to none.
In reference to the term “healthy”, it does not necessarily require six-pack abs or the ability to run a marathon. What it means is that you make time to get some form of movement daily- walking the kids to school, hitting the gym, trekking through the woods with your dog, or doing an at-home exercise routine. Anything is better than nothing and the beginning is always the most difficult. Once you find it is possible to fit in a simple thirty minute walk around the block it will become part of your routine.

The term “healthy” also refers to your level of nutrition; what you put into your body to fuel your day. Thinking about food consumption as a source of energy to help you power through your busy schedule makes it easier to make nutritious choices. Rather than falling for the “fast food is easier” trick, instead stop at a local Coop and build your own salad or wrap. This kind of locally grown, minimally processed fuel will keep you awake and energized much longer than a greasy burger made from undisclosed parts of an animal. Your body craves these nutrients to disperse to your muscles, your brain, and throughout your body to improve growth, repair and maintenance.

When you find yourself being conscientious about your food intake and fitness routine, you will find yourself ultimately happier. Endorphins will run wild and the stress will seem easier to manage.

Visit this website for advice on what to buy at the grocery store for family meal planning in advance, for last minute recipes, and for general nutrition tips. http://recipes.familyeducation.com/

Here is a list of a few low-impact exercises to get you started as an individual or as a family:
Swimming, walking, rowing, body-weight training, yoga, and light weight lifting

By Catherine Pearson, Upper Valley Aquatic Center, Aquatic Director, dog owner and happy life liver :0))

Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Go3 Way to Live With Passion in 2015


"Passion is when you put more energy into something than is required to do it. It is more than just enthusiasm or excitement, passion is ambition that is materialized into action to put as much heart, mind body and soul into something as is possible."


Living with Passion
How will you use your passion, your gift?

How are you going to share it?

What’s your vision for 2015?

What are you aiming for?

It’s hard to create goals without values?

What are you moving towards?

What skills do you need to get there?

How will you grow?

How are you going to nourish yourself with your workouts and your mind?

The workouts prop us up but how will you train your thinking?

How do you want to feel?

Who do you want to be as a partner, parent, athlete?

What friends and family do you want to surround you?

Everything stems from self...


Thursday, January 8, 2015

10 Things You Can Do to Lead a Longer, Healthier and Happier Life in 2015

Thousands of books have been written telling us what to eat, how to exercise, and even where to live and work so that we can live longer. But recent research done by the International Council on Active Aging resulted in 10 basic tips that impact living a long, vital life.
Think Positively. Strive for many small successes in your endeavors. Stay away from negative thoughts, especially about your age. Thinking positively about getting older can add as much as 7.5 years to your life.

Turn Your Spark Into a Flame. If you have a passion, talent or hobby, nurture it. Grow it. And let that enthusiasm spill over into other areas of your life.

Keep Your Motor Running. Have goals and stay focused on them. Maintaining a high energy level is important. If you find that you are feeling lethargic it could be something physical or mental so see a doctor.

Eat a Balanced Diet. OK you knew this one was coming. Eating with common sense and keeping weight down are critical. Forget the fad diets. Eat more fruits and vegetables. Cut back on sugar. You can do it!

Connect With People. Maintain an active social life. Go out with friends for coffee or a movie. Even better- volunteer. Research has shown that people who volunteer have higher levels of well-being and life satisfaction than people who don’t.

Don’t Stay Down. Everyone gets down at times, but if depression lasts more than 2 weeks it’s recommended that you see a doctor. But, as mentioned before, people who eat right, exercise, volunteer, and stay connected seem to bounce back sooner than those who don’t.

Exercise. Staying physically active fuels the body and the mind. It helps delay physical decline. Be realistic. Be consistent. Exercising with friends provides both connectivity and the physical exercise. Walking, group classes, tennis or anything that is done with a group of friends will help motivate you.

Keep Learning. Lifelong learning adds a dimension to life, whether just staying in touch with what is happening in the world or keeping the brain stimulated. Regardless of fitness levels anyone can start learning new things at any age. So why not start today?

Invest in YOU. Shift your expectations to yourself- then embark on new behaviors to realize your goals. This takes energy and effort, but consider it as an investment that will pay big dividends.

Have Fun. People who live long generally have a life that is filled with joy and laughter. So figure out what you need to do to have a good time. Ride a bike. Learn a new language. Take up Zumba or square dancing. 

You may have to step out of your comfort zone, but 2015 could be the best year of your life.

by Rich Synnott, Upper Valley Aquatic Center Executive Director

Friday, December 5, 2014

A Recipe for Workout Success with Katherine Tremblay

By Dena Testa Bray
Upper Valley Aquatic Center Member and Gathering Flavors Blogger

When I was asked if I would consider writing a post for the UVAC blog, I didn't hesitate. 

For quite some time now, I have been meaning to write about my experiences at Upper Valley Aquatic Center, in particular my work with Katherine Tremblay. I joined UVAC shortly after it opened to swim. While I knew the facility had a lot more to offer beyond the pool, I was at a point in my life when I was tired of going to gyms and attending fitness classes. An aerobics class fanatic in the 80's (what can I say...we all were doing it after seeing Flashdance), I craved the quiet and meditative aspects of swimming laps on my own. But, things had to change when I was diagnosed with osteoporosis last fall and my physician recommended I add more weight-bearing exercise to my exercise routine. I decided it was finally time to use my free training session and I met with Katherine.

Katherine is unlike any fitness instructor I have known. Don't get me wrong. I have met and worked with many wonderful and talented people over the years. What is unique about Katherine is the dynamic combination of expertise and optimism she brings to her work. She's a spitfire. She's grounded. She's taught me to believe in my own strength and to take the fear out of trying new things. She and I worked one-on-one for 4 months, then I 'graduated' to taking her fitness classes Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings. They are hard. They are challenging. They are fun. They are full of camaraderie and laughter. Invariably, I leave her classes a better person than when I walk in and I bring her enthusiasm with me throughout my day.

Katherine and I also share a love of cooking and eating well. We often exchange recipes and new ideas on ways to prepare healthful meals. This recipe for Winter Greens Salad with Tahini and Lime Dressing is one I know Katherine would love. Rich and nutritious kale leaves are massaged with a dressing of tahini and lime then tossed with dried fruits and honey roasted peanuts. The salad is delicious on its own, but can be made a part of a full meal when served with a hot soup such as Spicy Sweet Potato Soup and Pinto Bean Soup with Parsnips and Beef. You can find these and other seasonal recipes on on my blog,
GatheringFlavors (http://www.gathering-flavors.com).

Winter Greens Salad with Kale Tahini and Lime from Gathering Flavors

Servings: 4 to 6


For the dressing:
¼ cup tahini
¼ cup rice wine vinegar or Chinese rice wine
juice of one whole lime
1 tablespoon honey
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

For the salad:
1 large bunch winter greens, such as kale, swiss chard or spinach
1 cup slivered dried fruits, such as apricots, dates and golden raisins
¼ cup honey roasted peanuts


Make the dressing by putting all the ingredients in a small jar. Place the lid on tightly. Shake
until all the ingredients are combined.

To make the salad, tear the leaves of the greens off their stems. Rinse to remove any excess dirt. Shake off excess water but do not dry completely. Tear the leaves into bite sized pieces and place in a large mixing bowl. (You should have about 4 cups of greens.)

Pour about half of the tahini dressing onto the greens. Using your hands, massage the
dressing into the leaves so they are fully coated. Cover the bowl and allow to sit for at least
one hour. This will give the dressing time to soak into the leaves and tenderize them.
Place the slivered dried fruit and honey roasted peanuts on top of the dressed greens. Toss
everything to combine. Taste. Add more dressing, salt and freshly ground black pepper, as


1. This is a basic recipe for this salad. The key ingredients are the winter greens and tahini
dressing. The possibilities for additions to this salad are endless. Here are some ideas.
(Quantities will vary depending on how hearty a salad you would like to prepare. In general,
about ½ cup additions per person is a good rule of thumb):

* A chopped apple, walnuts and raisins
* Slivers of roasted chicken, cashews and dried cranberries
* Grated cheddar cheese, dried apples and slivered almonds
* Bean sprouts, chunks of firm tofu and sesame seeds
* Roasted root vegetables cut into bite sized pieces
* Croutons, shaved Parmesan, a bit of lemon or lime zest

2. Tahini is a sauce made primarily of pureed sesame seeds. It can be found in most grocery stores in the foreign food sections or near other nut butters. You can substitute a creamy peanut butter in the dressing, if you like.

3. Any extra dressing will keep in the refrigerator for about a week. Bring it to room
temperature before using and shake to combine ingredients, if separated. If the dressing
becomes two thick, add a drop or two of water to loosen it up.

Dena Testa Bray may be reached by email at dena@gatheringflavors.com