BetterU Blog — No Longer a Challenge–Now a Lifestyle

Today’s BetterU blog is from….Jaime!

 

How is it that we are already at week 11 of this challenge?  That went fast!  As I’m writing this I’m thinking that “challenge” isn’t the right word to use anymore.  I am definitely feeling that this is more of a true lifestyle now.

When I started this journey, there were definitely moments where I thought this was going to be impossible as a full-time, working Mom of 2 young boys and wife to a husband who has a job that has him out of the house more than he’s in.  Slowly but surely, week by week, I conquered time constraints and mental obstacles until I sit here now and I really don’t give it a second thought as to how I’m going to get workouts in.  Without a second thought, I’m making the choices I know are better for me whether I planned my meal, my outing or not.  It’s a true transformation.

The strength that I’ve gained is not only physical.  It’s also mental and emotional.  I’ve realized that I am truly a sum of all my parts and getting my body in physical shape gave me the strength I’ve needed to tackle other areas of my life that need a healthy transformation.  The other items on my list to tackle won’t be handled by the time this challenge is over, but I feel much better equipped to give them the time and attention that they deserve going forward on my own.

As we are nearing the end of the challenge in just a few weeks, I feel ready to keep going on my own.  I am looking forward to keeping up the friendships I made during this program so I can still cheer them on and they can do the same for me.  Becoming a Better Me hasn’t been easy; it has been a lot of hard work and will continue to be.  It hasn’t always gotten me positive responses from those around me who aren’t used to my new sense of mental, emotional or physical strength.  It has, however, been totally necessary.  The point in my life where this program met me was exactly what I needed when I needed it and I can’t thank the American Heart Association, Central Hudson Gas & Electric, Gold’s Gym and our other sponsors enough for the opportunity to find out what I am truly passionate about and how to become the real me.

By |October 11th, 2018|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

BetterU Blog: Taking Stock

Today’s BetterU blog is from…Emily!!

 

As we enter our 12th week of #HVBetterU, I’m taking stock of where I started and where I am now. On Monday, July 23rd, a few days before our BetterU class began, I made the decision to keep a food diary and be mindful of what I eat. At that time, my scale read 240 pounds. Today, 12 weeks later the numbers are 213 and I’m not stopping. But that’s just the most easy measurement to note.

This doesn’t begin to measure the feeling of camaraderie that we BetterU sisters share. Not just my 13 amazing colleagues, but all the alums of the program who share their knowledge and support with us. I’ve been at many events the past three months and practically every time I meet another BetterU sister alum who shares her journey.

Their stories of how the program made a difference to them, how they find it integrated into their life even now (sometimes 9 years later) resonates with me. This isn’t a program with an end date – although even now each of us is counting down to November 9th. HVBetterU is a life changer.

When I entered HVBetterU one of my immediate goals was to lose weight and become heart healthy, but another goal was to strengthen my right leg so knee surgery would not be necessary. A week ago, when I saw the doctor he said my knee was now about 90% and surgery would not be necessary. I’d stopped wearing the knee bands about 6 weeks ago – just before I fell and broke my shoulder.

Yes, I’ve also had to persevere through injuries. First the radial tear of the meniscus that led me to BetterU, then the broken shoulder, then, thanks to my enthusiastic joy of riding a stationary bike for less than 6 minutes in team training, a pinched sciatic nerve. I never thought I’d be grateful for that broken shoulder, but it prevented me from taking RPM, which was on my to do list. Unfortunately I’ve discovered that I have spinal stenosis of my three lumbar discs, but that’s okay. I know now. And my doctor is amazing as we spoke about how continuing to strengthen the core will help support and strengthen that area. He recommended the rowing machine, which as he said engages 88% of your body. I’m on it!

Yes, everyone from the American Heart Association, to the trainers and instructors at Gold’s Gym, and most of all my BetterU sisters have been great about working with me as I worked through each of these injuries. Routines were modified. I felt supported in my decision to ‘soldier on” as my grandmother would say. And I’m really happy I did.

I feel healthier. I feel more confident. And I can honestly say I feel happy and secure in myself for the first time in about 16 years. There were many life changes this year and one major one really gave me the freedom to enter this program full out. And that’s something I think is really important. This program is truly a gift to each of us. As we’ve said, we’re each of us winners for being in it. But it demands a 100% commitment. Looking around the room, I know my sisters have incredibly demanding jobs. Busy, busy lives. But each of us has made the room for the lifestyle changes that the program demands.

I want to say thank you to the American Heart Association and the women who’ve provided support through this journey – Danielle, Carolyn, Allison and Ann. To Central Hudson and Denise Doring VanBuren who have supported this program since it’s inception and made it possible. To everyone at Gold’s Gym who’ve taught us gym neophytes that the gym is actually a great place to be – and we love it. To Dr. Page at HealthQuest who not only provides our pre and post physicals, but also gives great advice. And to all my friends and colleagues who have cheered me on and supported me through this time. Without them, it wouldn’t be possible.

Right now, I’m not just a person who’s lost 27 pounds and 17 inches, but someone who’s found her inner core. Thank you #HVBetterU and I’ll be treasuring each of the remaining weeks until we celebrate our graduation together!

By |October 10th, 2018|Categories: Uncategorized|Tags: , , , |1 Comment

Heart Disease Survivor Finishes Chicago Marathon

Wilton, Connecticut resident, Selina Santos, 42, completed the Chicago Marathon Saturday, her heart beating strong with every stride in the 26.2-mile race. Finishing a marathon is no small feat for any runner, but for Santos, a heart disease survivor, crossing that finish line meant so much more.

Santos served as a 2016 Faces of Heart Ambassador at the American Heart Association’s Go Red For Women Luncheon, sharing her story to raise awareness for women’s number killer—heart disease. She encouraged women to take charge of their health, know the warning signs of heart disease and get help if symptoms are present.

“Congratulations to Selina for her incredible achievement. She is truly an inspiration,” said Carolyn Torella, American Heart Association spokesperson, “She showed that not only can you survive heart disease, you can thrive.”

The Chicago native said she experienced heart symptoms when she exerted herself, even as far back as her teens and 20’s. Her symptoms included palpitations, shortness of breath, chest pain and headache.

“I was always told the same thing. You’re too young. You’re a woman. It’s stress. So, I ignored the symptoms until 2010. I was sitting at work and I couldn’t stand it anymore, I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I excused myself and went to the urgent care. I was finally referred to a cardiologist,” she said.

After extensive testing, her doctor finally pinpointed the problem–heart valve insufficiency and tiny holes her heart. Her heart valve was leaking, compromising her heart’s ability to circulate blood properly. Her choices were surgery or lifestyle changes. She chose spin classes over scalpels, first with just one class per week, then daily classes. She eventually became a spin instructor at JoyRide Cycling and Fitness in Wilton, and recently began the long haul of training for the marathon. Doctors said she couldn’t run the marathon because of the stress on her heart. That made her fight harder.

Her training regimen started at 5:30 AM on some days with spin class, then cross training and running with recovery days interspersed. She tried to keep her heart rate down to reduce stress on her heart. In the past four months, she has finished four 5K’s, two 10K’s, four half marathons and one full marathon.

“Being able to run Chicago after believing I couldn’t, gives me new purpose, not just for me but for those who have heart disease and for everyone who has be told they can’t,” said Santos.

“From that first diagnosis I made it a point to put my health first – I had a family to be strong for – a life worth living. And it took years for me to get to this point so once I got that clearance from my cardiologist I took it. It felt like a second chance and an opportunity to show others living with heart disease to make that lifestyle change.”

With her finish at the 2018 Chicago Marathon, she hopes to inspire others to strive for more, saying, “It’s possible to conquer a new goal at any stage of life, no matter the setback.”

Despite hamstring cramps and her heart monitor failing at mile 19, she and her strong, healthy, beating heart ran across the finish line, victorious, with an official time of 5 hours 11 minutes. Though overjoyed to finish to Marathon she reflected on her run time, and admitted, her time could’ve been a bit better.

That’s the heart of a true marathon runner.

For more information about women and heart disease, and healthier lifestyles, visit www.GoRedForWomen.org.

Marathon photos by Sybil Santos-Burgan.

Go Red For Women photos by American Heart Association.

Tobacco 21 Legislation Passes in Putnam

The American Heart Association offered praise to Putnam County Legislators for passage of Tobacco 21 legislation Tuesday night. The legislation calls for increasing the sales age of tobacco products, including cigarettes and vaping products, from 18 to 21 years of age. Putnam became the sixth Hudson Valley county to pass Tobacco 21 legislation in the past year. In the Hudson Valley, Orange, Rockland, Sullivan, Ulster, and Westchester Counties now have similar laws. To date, roughly 75% of New Yorkers are covered by a Tobacco 21 law.

“The American Heart Association is thrilled with the outcome of this vote because of what it will do for the health of Putnam youth. A big thanks to the leadership of Legislator Barbara Scuccimarra who sponsored this bill,” said Caitlin O’Brien, American Heart Association Government Relations Director. “We hope state legislators take notice of the widespread support rolling through New York and act on a statewide bill this year. All residents of New York need to be protected.”

“This legislation will save lives and improve the health of Putnam County residents. Tobacco use causes chronic diseases like heart disease, stroke, lung cancer and other forms of cancer. We look forward to County Executive O’Dell’s signing Tobacco 21 into law for a healthier Putnam County,” she said.

In New York State alone, more than half a million people currently have a disease caused by smoking, resulting in about $10.39 billion in health care expenditures annually.

Tobacco 21 has already proved effective in the more than 300 localities nationwide that have enacted this legislation.  In 2005, Needham, MA voted to raise and enforce the minimum tobacco sales age of 21. In 2006, before full enforcement, the town had a youth smoking rate of 13% compared with 15% in the surrounding communities. By 2010, the youth smoking rate in Needham was down to 6.7% while the surrounding communities’ rate only decreased to 12.4%. The percent decline in youth smoking in Needham was nearly triple that of its neighbors.

For more information about the American Heart Association’s You’re the Cure grassroots action network, visit www.yourethecure.org. To find free resources to quit smoking, visit www.heart.org/quitsmoking or the NYS Smoker’s Quitline at https://www.nysmokefree.com/ or 1-866-NY-QUITS.

BetterU Blog — Suddenly Week Ten

Today’s BetterU blog is from….Janna!

And, suddenly it’s Week 10….I have no idea how it went so quickly!

When I started the program, I worked with a great trainer who told me that when I found the exercise I loved. It wouldn’t be hard to keep up a fitness routine. I’ve been on the lookout for the activity I loved for the last ten weeks. I have tried nearly everything that Gold’s Gym offers and I have found some things I really like and some that I love.

I took dance class for 12 years growing up and I immediately felt at home in Barre Fusion. What a great workout, and the best part is I’m having such a good time I don’t even notice. I’ve also tried Sh’Bam, which is a hip hop style class, and Zumba. I like them both as well. Some of my favorites have been the Team Training Classes. They are boot camp style classes that usually have about 5 or 6 people in them. You get to know the trainers pretty well, and also the other people taking the classes. I’ve met a lot of great people (including a few past BetterU participants) and it definitely makes the hour go faster! Years ago, I went through a Tae Bo phase and got in pretty great shape. I’d been wanting to try boxing but hadn’t had the chance. I was dragging a bit when I arrived at my training session Monday night…but then Mike, my trainer, suggested we try boxing. I loved it! It was an incredible work out and I felt so amazing when it was over. I came home and started shopping for purple boxing gloves online. Tomorrow, I am going to get to cross two other things off my list – kayaking and clay shooting.

Today I had the opportunity to speak to the associates at Macy’s in Poughkeepsie and tell them about why I decided to apply for the BetterU program.  I shared how great the program has been for me. Macy’s is a National Sponsor of Go Red For Women. Macy’s Thanks for Sharing takes place across the country from NOW to December 31 and a portion of the proceeds raised directly benefits the Go Red For Women campaign. If you are shopping in Macy’s, please consider participating. Every little bit helps to make sure this amazing program can continue to help others.

By |October 4th, 2018|Categories: Uncategorized|Tags: , , , , |0 Comments

BetterU: Heading in the Right Direction

Today’s BetterU Blog is from…Sheryl!!

Well, as my screen print shows, my weight is headed in the right direction. My time with my health coach Debbie Justs has come to a close, so now it is totally on me.

Exercise still remains difficult for me. My “hiker’s hip” is still yelling at me when I climb steps, walk down from curbs, etc. so it has really been keeping me away from the gym (although I know modifications can be made to my workout.) I have started walking more and for now I am seeing that as a “win,” since I come from a very sedentary breed. I love the crisp autumn air. Now that I’ve passed the 50 lb. mark (started April 1st) I am noticing that I don’t get winded nearly as easily, and that feels WONDERFUL! This, combined with my healthy eating, has my chest puffed out just a little bit, I must admit!

I continue to be inspired by the tales of my teammates, and I truly hope we keep our vibe going when BetterU comes to a close.

By |October 3rd, 2018|Categories: Uncategorized|Tags: , , , , |0 Comments

Walking for Heart Health & Research at Heart Walk

Nearly 1,000 Westchester area residents, including dozens of corporate and community teams, walked at the American Heart Association’s Heart Walk event Saturday at Kensico Dam in Valhalla. They walked for their hearts, and to fund the American Heart Association’s research. This year marks the 25th Anniversary of the Heart Walk event nationally. Donations are still being accepted online at www.westchesterheartwalk.org.

Jennifer Garcia, a 40-year old mom from Peekskill, was recognized as the Survivor Honoree. Garcia survived a heart attack in February and is sharing her story and walking to help raise awareness and fund research to fight heart disease—the number one killer of men and women.

Garcia experienced chest pain and exhaustion during and after a party in February. The next day, she said head was pounding as if someone was hammering at it, and her blood pressure was sky high. She took her mother’s advice to go to the emergency room. It was a lifesaving decision. The doctor there said the diagnosis wasn’t exhaustion or heartburn, as she had thought–it was a heart attack.

Doctors said that her uncontrolled high blood pressure and possibly her birth control medicine were to blame. The American Heart Association cites research shows that birth control pills can increase blood pressure

in some women. It’s more likely to occur if you’re overweight, have had high blood pressure during a previous pregnancy, have a family history of high blood pressure or mild kidney disease. The combination of birth control pills and cigarette use may be especially dangerous for some women.

Many teams walked in honor of survivors or in memory of those lost to heart disease and stroke. Family members and friends on team “Kim’s Heartbeats” walked in memory of Kim Salveggi of Yorktown Heights. She passed away suddenly in March from heart disease. She had served as the Go Red For Women Honoree in 2017 and shared her story of surviving sudden coronary artery dissection.

The Heart Walk featured a healthy kids’ zone with fun activities designed to get kids, and kids at heart, to move more for their health. Many people took advantage of the free blood pressure screening to help identify high blood pressure. High blood pressure accounts for the second largest number of preventable heart disease and stroke deaths, second only to smoking. It’s known as the “silent killer” because often there are no symptoms, despite its role in significantly increasing the risk for heart disease and stroke. Learn more at www.heart.org/highbloodpressure.

 

The Heart Walk is sponsored Dr. Patrick W. Thomas and Mrs. Johanna D. Thomas, Fujifilm, WMC Health/Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital, New York Presbyterian, Phelps Hospital/Northwell Health, Westmed Medical Group, Burke Rehabilitation Hospital, Zedeker DDS, Stop & Shop, Examiner Media, Buzz Creators, and Westchester Magazine.

 

By |September 29th, 2018|Categories: Uncategorized|Tags: , , , |0 Comments

Change is Hard

Just over halfway through this program and eating healthy and exercising regularly is still really hard. It’s a different kind of hard than when I first started. You see, at first everything was so overwhelming. There was so much information and I didn’t know where to start. What really helped was telling everyone I knew about it and hearing all of their encouraging and supportive words. Now that the newness of the program has worn off, I’m starting to worry about long-term success. I don’t want this to be just another “phase” that I fall out of after a few months.

The connections I’ve formed with the other participants is a big part of what has kept me going. Their honesty with their journeys reminds me that I am not alone on this difficult ride. They are with me.  Seeing one or more of them at the gym on a day I really didn’t want to go makes things seem less terrible. Knowing that they are also trying to make healthy food choices helps me walk past the chips and cookie aisles in the grocery store even though that is all I can think of some days. Staying connected to my new-found friends is going to be so important. I can only hope that the connection grows stronger over time. These ladies might not know it yet, but they are stuck with me 🙂

By |September 27th, 2018|Categories: Uncategorized|Tags: , , , |1 Comment

Westchester Heart Walk This Saturday at Kensico Dam

It’s time to lace up your sneakers for the American Heart Association’s Heart Walk event, this Saturday, September 29th at Kensico Dam in Valhalla. This year marks the 25th Anniversary of the Heart Walk event nationally. Many local companies and residents have registered teams to walk for their own hearts, for heart and stroke research.

Register or donate online at www.westchesterheartwalk.org

Jennifer Garcia, a 40-year old mom from Peekskill, will be recognized as the Survivor Honoree. Garcia survived a heart attack in February and is sharing her story and walking to help raise awareness and fund research to fight heart disease—the number one killer of men and women.

Garcia experienced chest pain and exhaustion during and after a party in February. The next day, she said head was pounding as if someone was hammering at it, and her blood pressure was sky high. She took her mother’s advice to go to the emergency room. It was a lifesaving decision. The doctor there said the diagnosis wasn’t exhaustion or heartburn, as she had thought–it was a heart attack.

Doctors said that her uncontrolled high blood pressure and possibly her birth control medicine were to blame. The American Heart Association cites research shows that birth control pills can increase blood pressure in some women. It’s more likely to occur if you’re overweight, have had high blood pressure during a previous pregnancy, have a family history of high blood pressure or mild kidney disease. The combination of birth control pills and cigarette use may be especially dangerous for some women.

“I realized that this was my wake-up call to take my health and body seriously. This was a life-changing experience, and probably just what I needed to realize the importance of taking care of myself,” she said, “I’m walking to help raise awareness, and for my health–and I want to be around for my son,” she said.

Cardiovascular disease is the No. 1 killer of all Americans. In fact, someone dies from cardiovascular disease every 39 seconds. High blood pressure accounts for the second largest number of preventable heart disease and stroke deaths, second only to smoking. It’s known as the “silent killer” because often there are no symptoms, despite its role in significantly increasing the risk for heart disease and stroke. Learn more at www.heart.org/highbloodpressure.

The Heart Walk is sponsored Dr. Patrick W. Thomas and Mrs. Johanna D. Thomas, Fujifilm, WMC Health/Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital, New York Presbyterian, Phelps Hospital/Northwell Health, Westmed Medical Group, Burke Rehabilitation Hospital, Zedeker DDS, Stop & Shop, Examiner Media, Buzz Creators, and Westchester Magazine.

 

Trying and Not Comparing

This BetterU blog is from SHERYL!!!

Hi everyone, it’s Sheryl, the second oldest member of the Better U team!  And here we are at Week 7…wow!

I think it was our team member Lisa who listed the below statement as being one of her mantras.  After carefully thinking about it and analyzing how I’ve been feeling since we all started this journey, I do believe that Lisa has struck my nail right on the head!

When I look at how dedicated some of the ladies are about their gym time, going there at 5:30 in the morning, walking laps after their personal trainer workout, I find myself saying to myself “wow, Sheryl, why aren’t you doing that? You have way more weight to lose than they do!”  Even though I’m pretty regular about doing my weekly training, with my schedule and my stamina level, there’s just no way I can drag myself (yes, I STILL have to drag myself) there every day.  I love my trainer (yay Brittany…I know, shoulders down, butt out) but when it comes to me just going alone, I’m just not feeling the fire in my belly to go, as some of other ladies obviously are.

After talking with my weight loss coach Debbie Justs (I started seeing her 5 months ago, BBU – Before Better U) she pointed out that before Better U, I did not exercise.  At all.  I pretty much barely moved except when I absolutely had to.  Now, I am working out.  I went to a yoga workshop.  I walk around when I go to the store instead of heading right to the motorized buggies.   I am TRYING.  And I have to stop looking at everyone else and just own (and enjoy) my accomplishments.  Things that used to be a physical chore for me can now be done without becoming totally wiped out doing them, like going up and down the stairs to do laundry, waiting in line (which used to kill my legs.)  And finally I can do what so many ladies like me dream of: I can buy clothes at a regular store…that has plus sizes.

I guess that’s what drives me to eat well, workout, and maybe try to work out a little more.  I want to get to a point where I can live spontaneously and not have to pre-think everything I do/every place I go because of my size.  I have to take a breath, wait a beat, and give myself an attagirl for action that’s become easier…less stressful…instead of thinking “geez, why can’t I get to the gym every day?”  I’m trying to look for ways to move that are fun so I can trick myself into thinking it’s not exercise.  This weekend I bought a hula hoop.  Did you know it’s a “great cardio workout and strengthens and tones your body while burning an average of 400 calories per hour?”  It’s true!  Let’s see how this one works out…so to speak.

By |September 12th, 2018|Categories: Uncategorized|Tags: , , , , |0 Comments