It’s Gardening Season

Focus on Health: 

Getting Reacquainted With the Gym – The Extras

By: Dr. Trina Ting

There is no shortage of various fitness accessories and it can feel overwhelming.  From yoga mats to pedometers to kettle bells, it can be difficult to know where to start.  Here are my recommendations for the beginner, intermediate, and advanced gym bunnies out there.  These will be the extras that will be a bonus to your workout.

Beginner: For those who are just beginning their fitness regime or thinking about becoming more active.

PedometerPedometer: Believe it or not, you can get this before you even step foot inside a gym.  Start by wearing one throughout a regular day to assess how many steps you are actually taking.  You might be a lot more sedentary than you think.  The goal is to aim for 10,000 steps a day, and if you aren’t getting that at a regular basis, you will have to make up for that at the gym.  Studies have shown that pedometers really do work in motivating you to increase your steps per day.

yoga matYoga/gym mat for home use:  You can start by stretching instead of sitting to watch TV at night.  Even if you have a gym membership, having a mat at home is incredibly versatile as you can use it for stretching and floor exercises in the event you didn’t get to do it after your workout.


Intermediate:  Those who work out once or twice a week and now feel comfortable with basic pieces of gym equipment, running, biking, and some simple weight routines.

gym attireProper gym shoes and attire:  A good running shoe (look at New Balance, Brooks, Asics, Nike) or cross training shoe will make all the difference in how you feel and how efficient your workouts are.  Ideally they need to be replaced every year, as the cushioning degrades whether or not you use them.  For clothing, it doesn’t need to be expensive, but it should be relatively fitted and wick away sweat.  If your clothing is fitted (not skin tight; that could actually cause more problems), it will be safer as it won’t snag on gym equipment and you won’t trip over your pants at the gym.  It will also allow you to see your body position in the gym mirrors better to enhance your posture and technique.

personal_trainerPersonal trainer: Not quite an accessory, but a good personal trainer will be able to construct a routine for you that will increase your fitness level and help you reach your goals safely.  You don’t have to see one every week.  They can simply create a routine for you, and then if you want to check in with them every so often, it can be well worth the time and money.  The advice of a good trainer, like with all health professionals, is invaluable and can actually save you time and money by creating a workout regime tailored to you.


Advanced: Those who work out regularly (4-5 times/week) and have seen and done it all.

fitness trackerThe advanced exerciser is always looking for the next thing to challenge themselves.  He or she can get easily bored, or even find they can’t get the last five pounds off despite working out regularly.  A more advanced fitness tracker that measures number of steps, calories burned, and heart rate may be useful.  If you don’t elevate your heart rate enough, you may not be getting a good enough workout to push you through your plateau.  With safe training and attention to posture, using various pieces of equipment such as elastic bands, medicine balls, kettle bells may provide an extra challenge to your strength training regime.  I would only recommend such pieces of equipment under the direct supervision or recommendation of a personal trainer, and after they have shown you exactly how to use it.  The advanced exerciser may benefit from more regular use of a trainer who can consistently switch up their routine.  Interval training or circuit training is recommended at this level, as they are already fit enough to handle it.

As always, consult your doctor before beginning any exercise routine.  Just remember, the most important thing is taking the first steps towards making exercise part of your lifestyle.  After a while, it becomes a necessary habit such as sleeping or eating, and one of the best investments you can make towards your future self.

Be Kind to Your Back When Gardening & Weeding

 weedingWe have entered the gardening season! Gardening is a great activity, it keeps you outdoors and moving, and close to nature, but since it requires repetitive bending movements, it can be especially hard on the back.

Here are a few tips to keep your back healthy and happy:

  • Warm up your back muscles before you start by doing some stretches and gentle twists.  You might want to wait a little later in the day when it’s warmer, you body will be stiff if it’s chilly.
  • Don’t stay in the same bending position for too long.  Remember to take small regular breaks. Come up and do a contrary motion by looking up at the sky and rolling your shoulders back. Have a sip of water before continuing.
  • Try to vary your actions, alternating the tasks at hand.
  • Use long handled telescopic tools whenever possible, or use ergonomic hand tools and sit on a step stool or kneel on a foam pad while you work.
  • Finally, remember to lift with your legs, not your back.  While picking up gardening detritus, bend your knees, squat and keep your core strong and your back straight.

2013 Dirty Dozen List


As you plant your garden this year, you might want to keep in mind the produce that are most likely to contain high levels of pesticides at your local store.  The Environmental Working Group has released its annual Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce.  The fruits and vegetables that rank the highest in pesticide levels are known as the Dirty Dozen, and the EWG advises to buy organic versions of these 12 items, or grow your own; even if it’s just a few containers by the windowsill. If you shop at farmers markets, you can ask the farmers about their growing practices. Even if what they sell isn’t certified organic, many of them farm very sustainably. If you’re confident that your farmer uses as few pesticides as possible, many of those foods on the Dirty Dozen become good choices, even if they aren’t certified organic. Overall, the health benefits of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables outweigh the risks of pesticide exposure.


appleapples celery2celery

cherry tomatoescherry tomatoes

Cucumber on Whitecucumbers


 hot peppershot peppers

 nectarineImported nectarines





 Bell-Pepper-sweet bell peppers

 Recipe: Spinach Salad with Strawberries and Basil

Recipe from:


Spinach and Strawberrie Salad

  • 1 shallot
  • 2 tablespoons aged balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon superfine sugar
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 1/2 cups small strawberries
  • 2-3 cups fresh spinach leaves
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
  • 4-5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper


  1. Chop the shallot and put it in a small bowl. Add the vinegar, sugar and lemon juice and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, hull the strawberries and cut them in half. Transfer to a serving bowl along with the spinach and basil.
  3. Whisk the EVOO into the vinegar mixture and season with salt and pepper. Toss the salad with the dressing and season with salt and pepper.

Did you know?

peppersOne small red, yellow, or orange bell pepper gives you up to three times your daily requirement of vitamin C.  They contain twice as much (by weight) as citrus fruits!

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