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Archive for January, 2011

By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

Getting fit and staying fit when you have a busy schedule is tough.  I sympathize with all my overworked clients, friends and relatives and loyal readers as I work full-time and go to graduate school. But all the evidence points to the importance of regular exercise to help our moods, our minds and our bodies stay healthy and work well. I reviewed some of the articles on the internet about fitting exercise into busy schedules and am providing some of the best below. And, as a way to practice, read the articles as you stand at your computer. For the adventurous, do “squats” as you read. (Sit down, stand up sit down, stand up)

Articles on fitness:

• Staying Fit During Back-To-School Madness from About. Com

• Great tips for those over 40 contemplating starting an exercise program from Berkely Wellness here.

• Check out Technology fitness aid for those that are glued to their computer in Getting Fit the WebWorker Way here.

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By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

Future Warrior Dasher

Bored with running marathons, going to the gym, and other routine fitness activities? Why not train to be a warrior? There are two Warrior Dash races being held in the Chicago area this year: one in  Channahon, Illinois and one in Twin Lakes, Wisconsin.

What is a Warrior Dash? Kind of like a cross between an Ironman and boot camp. From the website, the description is this A mud-crawling, fire-leaping, extreme run from hell (really gets you interested with that marketing pitch, right?). This fierce running series is held on the most challenging terrain across the globe. Warriors conquer extreme obstacles, test their limits and celebrate with ass-kick music, beer and warrior helmets.

I assume the 300 warrior spray painted abs are optional. Giving out beer to extreme athletes after a race is odd to me considering that alcohol is so dehydrating. But hey, for those that imbibe after working out: FREE BEER. And can’t beat those snappy horned warrior helmets-race in ’em if you want. It’s allowed!

Note: I signed up myself for the September Warrior Dash in the Wisconsin! I will let you know how it goes. (And hopefully will be able to share some great pics too!)

Watch videos of previous Warrior Dashes here.

There are Warrior Dashes coming this summer in two locations in the Chicagoland area: Upper Midwest in WI and Midwest in IL

Upper Midwest September 17 & 18. For more info click, here.

Start Location: 2305 Lance Drive
Twin Lakes, WI 53181

Upper Midwest Price: Valid until 11:59pm* on Sunday, Aug. 21, 2011: Saturday: $60 Sunday: $50

Midwest Location June 18 &19. For more info click here.

Dollinger Farms
7502 East Hansel Rd.
Channahon, IL 60410

Midwest Course Price: Valid until 11:59pm* on Sunday, May 22, 2011: Saturday: $65 Sunday: $55

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Sand Flea Bites
Sand Flea bites. Image by jebb via Flickr

By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

On our recent trip to St Johns, one of the Virgin Islands named after nuns by Columbus-check), we expected to relax, get some sunshine, snorkel and hike. And we did all that. We also found ourselves in an uncomfortable relationship with some creatures we’d not yet experienced prior to our trip. At night in our bed, on the beach and in our little rustic cabana, we fast became food for Noseeums.

Noseeums are annoying tiny black bugs  that are so small you often don’t see them (hence the name). They are also referred to as sand flies, vampire bugs and .  We are used to mosquitos and those bugs can be very painful and annoying as well. But unlike mosquitos that tend to bite in solo, noseeums seem to attack in groups. So bites may be 5-7 in a row perpetuated by a “gang” of marauding noseeums, young insects out on the town and up to no good (from our perspective). Unfortunately, the St. John police department did not put out an APB on our behalf. But the noseeums were in all their glory. By the end of the trip, we’d learned that lemon eucalyptus helped to ward off the bugs at night and is less toxic than DEET. A fellow traveler also told us that baby oil applied liberally all over our bodies also helps keep the noseeums from landing and biting as well. (But baby oil and suntan lotion don’t mix so this was only helpful at night!) Each morning we’d have to scrub off the baby oil, then lather on the sunscreen and  lemon eucalyptus before heading out the beach. After we got out of the water, we did apply some DEET, especially as the afternoon sun began to set. But any time we stood a few minutes anywhere on the beach, near the beach, or even when we were walking away from the beach, the little blood suckers let us know it was their island and we were only their to be their next Happy Meal.

St John‘s history is a bloody sad tale of slaves from Africa being bought from warring African tribes that sold their conquered enemies into slavery to the Dutch and Danish settlers of St. John and St. Thomas. The settlers then transported the unlucky people to St. John. Many slaves perished due to the tough living conditions of the island (No DEET back then!) and rough treatment by slave owners. My boyfriend and I wondered if the noseeum infestation was actually caused by the spirits of dead slaves getting their revenge. Locals said the noseeum infestation was more likely caused by recent heavy rains and cooler weather.

“The Skinny on Noseeums” a great post from a Undercurrent.org a webzine about serious divers. I’m not a diver, but the article’s noseeum advice was rather sage so I thought I’d pass along the link. Click here to read what Undercurrent.org authors have to say about the possible diseases carried by and ways to diagnosis illness from noseeum bites.

Yet more noseeum info here.

To read about the potential dangers of DEET click here.

For an article called, “Whats more dangers DEET or insects?” click here.

And for our next warm weather trip, we’ll be taking calamine lotion, DEET, Lemon Eucalyptus oil and lots and lots of Solarcaine with Aloe!

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By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

The Chicago segment of the Adventure Travel Expo will be held next weekend, Jan 29-30, 2011.
I went last year and it was well worth it!  It looks like they added more events this year. Some of my clients have talked about going to Costa Rica for vacation this spring and going zip lining. Trying out zip lining in the safety of the Travel Expo would be a great way to get your kids or yourself over the initial jitters of zip lining. (The pic above shows the zip lining, however the website does not list it as an attraction.  This years Adventure travel Expo also has scuba diving lessons (In a big swimming tank on the show floor. Gear provided but bring swimwear.) For kids there are camel rides and a petting zoo. And for adults a Wines of the World, wine tasting area. Click here for details about the hands on  Adventure activities.

The thing I enjoyed most about last years show was the opportunity to talk to reps from different states and countries about their regions. I found out that Kentucky has fantastic lakes and hiking and ended up going to visit last fall.  And I found out that visiting the lakes of Kentucky is pretty much like a tropical vacation for a lot less hassle and a much lower price!

Rick Steeves

This year, Rick Steeves, of PBS’ Rick Steeves Europe will be giving presentations on both Saturday and Sunday. Rick Steeves’ will present Europe Through the Back Door and Travel as a Political Act. Rick is known for his Rick Steeves’ European Guidebooks as well. Also,  Amanda Pressner, Travel Journalist and Co-Author of The Lost Girls, along with Patty Hodapp, Deputy Editor, LostGirlsWorld.com will be presenting, Get Lost! How to escape the cubicle and take the trip of a lifetime.

There are also presentations on budget travel, travel photography tips, info on traveling to Costa Rica, Cozumel, Australia and New Zealand, Barbados, Panama and the Arctic. Click here for info on presentations.

There are sure to be  a number of exhibitors from all over the world, Thailand, Greece, Italy, Africa, Mexico, as well as reps from states in the U.S. If you are tired of sitting around freezing and waiting for Spring, take a few hours and head out to Rosemont’s Donald E. Stephens Convention Center next weekend and see where you can go next!

Show Location

Donald E. Stephens Convention Center
5555 N. River Road
Rosemont, IL

Show Dates & Times

Saturday, January 29, 2011
Sunday, January 30, 2011
Public Show Hours:
Saturday, January 29: 10:00am-5:00pm
Sunday, January 30: 11:00am-4:00pm

Tickets/Admission Fee

Adults $15 per day. Children under 16 years of age are free. All children must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. To attend the public conference sessions you must be registered for the expo. No exceptions.

Buy tickets online here.

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Illustration of the pain pathway in René Desca...
Descartes’ pain pathway. Image via Wikipedia

By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

A neuroscience-minded friend shared an interesting post (Mind-body: How mental, physical pain are linked) with me about the mind-body connection between physical pain and emotional pain. According to the post author, Dr. Raison,  associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Emory University, and CNNHealth’s Mental Health expert, people experience both types of pain within the same region of the brain, the anterior cingulated cortex, or ACC. People subjected to short bursts of electrical shock (physical pain) had the same ACC region of their brain light up during pain that those that experienced a simulated emotional snub did. Researchers also found that medicating people with pain reliever, like Tylenol, helped them become more resistant to emotional pain. Not to tell everyone to start taking pain medication to deal with emotional pain. But this is an exciting area of research and I look forward to more posts from Dr. Charles Raison and CNN Health!

A few other ways to help reduce pain:

• Medication and relaxation techniques. Since the mind-body connection is so strong, relaxing your mind can also help reduce your reaction to hurt and pain

• Visiting a counselor or psychologist to learn new ways to cope with pain and also ways to heal from past hurts and emotional traumas

• Massage therapy an help reduce pain caused by tense or injured muscles. It can also help relax you and reduce your body’s reaction to stress.

• Accupuncture has been found to help relieve some types of pain and also to calm the nervous system

• Taking a break from TV news, loud music, and spending some time in quiet, relaxing spaces can help calm your nervous system as well

Learn more about the Pain Pathway from Discovery Health here.

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By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

Tai Chi can be done at Any Age. Image by Wikipdia.

One of my most popular posts is about Tai Chi and the Wii Fit. As far as I know, there are still no Tai Chi modules for the Wii Fit. I also wrote a post about schools offering Tai Chi in Chicago. But I missed one.  I was recently contacted by a Tai Chi school is in Chinatown, Calm Chicago. to let me know about their classes and school. For my Chicago-based readers,  thought I’d give you more info about this school so those of you that don’t yet have a teacher or place to study Tai Chi could check them out. (And I don’t get any freebies or advertising revenue to tell you about it. Just passing on the info!)



The Calm Chicago center offers three types of classes: yang 24 short form, 18-form qigong and yi jin jig.  They also offer classes in meditation, sitting, standing, walking. They also have a Facebook page and wordpress blog. Find out how to get to the school here.

What does Calm Chicago Offer?

From the Calm Chicago website: Teaching and practice at Calm Chicago focuses on the simple and practical. We offer stress reduction and whole body health via taiji, meditation and qigong. Our teaching leans on a traditional pattern, passed from generation to generation, teacher to student. We emphasize learning by direct experience not from reading in a book or analyzing with the mind. Our classes allow you to : Restore the unity of your mind and body. Enter the natural peace and quiet of your own mind. Balance, strengthen and relax your whole body. Get healthy and stay healthy. Dump stress. Think more clearly. Respond more calmly. Leave feeling refreshed, invigorated and calm. We offer group classes, private lessons and corporate stress reduction programs.  Steady programs of stress reduction utilizing taiji, qigong and meditation, helps keep employees happier and healthier.

Find out more about the Calm Chicago teacher, Hillary here.

Cost of the classes is $20 a class for drop-ins and $100 a month for a once a week class. (Note: There is a one time membership fee of $50 to cover liability insurance. It looks like its cheaper to drop in after that though unless you have 5 days a month to attend! More tuition info here.

Beginner classes are offered on these days and times: Saturday 3:30-4:45pm and Sunday 10-11:15 a.m. Beginner classes offer a gentle introduction to 18-form qigong, Yang 24 form taiji and meditation.

Advanced classes are offered on Sundays from 11:30am -1pm.

Calm Chicago Blog

Read about the upcoming (4-30-11) World Tai Chi Day in the their blog here.

For a great explanation of what Tai Chi Is (from the what it’s not perspective!) click here.

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By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

Today, I was reading a wonderful blog, Writing A Blue Streak written by Allissa Haines, a fellow massage therapist. I  love her blog because it’s funny and honest and she doesn’t take herself too seriously.  In her New Year’s post, she talked about creating more voids, as in space in her life, for relaxation and  enjoyment (versus work, work, work). It’s a good reminder for me, the Queen of Overcommitment.

One of the things I struggle with as a massage therapist, teacher, coach, business owner and graduate student, is balancing time for my clients with time I need to care of myself and my other obligations. Sadly, I have not managed to find a way to create the 80-hour day (and as a friend, pointed out, I would find a way to fill all 80 hours if I did!). So this often means I have to say “No” to some potential client bookings or other things I’d like to do in order to say “Yes” to myself and my other obligations.

Being in a helping profession, I am a natural helper. I like to help people and I like people. But many of my work and school obligations require me to be solitary. I can’t concentrate if I have a lot of noise and that includes noise in my head. We often talk about relaxing or taking a break as in giving our bodies a break. But our minds need rest too and that’s not just sleep rest. We need mental rest.

This past week, my boyfriend and I had the good fortune to be able to take an actual entire week off of work (between school terms) and visit St. John, one of  the U.S. Virgin Islands. We spent the week hiking, snorkeling and relaxing. Aside from the many many bug bites we got (which I will discuss in another post!), we had much mental relaxation. Looking at colorful fish and coral, navigating steep mountainous roads while driving on the left, photographing beautiful blue water and sandy beaches was such a  nice break from my day-to-day living.

Flowers overlooking Hanover Bay in St John, VI. Image by Sue Shekut.

I can’t always take a vacation when I get stressed, however, and that’s where I find I need other ways to give my mind a mental break. One way to take a mini-vacation is seriously to close my eyes and just focus on my breathing. Doing some yoga also gives my mind a much-needed break. (And it’s not so bad for my body either!)

Little Lameshur Bay in St. John, VI. Image by Sue Shekut

Think about your own life. Do you find yourself rushing from task to task and feeling overwhelmed, stressed out or irritable? Do you get sick frequently? Do you feel burned out?  It may be a time for an actual vacation. Or it may simply be time for you to take a look at your schedule and cut back some oblations to give yourself more time for mental rest.

St John, VI. Image by Sue Shekut.

Putting Space Between the Notes

To me, mental rest is like listening to music. If all the notes were played simultaneously it would be a noisy cacophony. You could not hear each note distinctly. By giving yourself “space between the notes” you give yourself time to appreciate and hear all the wonderful music going on in your life. Whether it is your kids’ first steps, the successful completion of a big project at work, or the sound of a good friend venting to you about their own life’s accomplishments and struggles–those times are best heard and experienced when we have space in our lives to appreciate them. I know it’s a tall order for many of us. During the term there are days I go from my computer to clients to class to my computer to write a paper. Those days the space I get is few and far between. My head hits the pillow before I get a chance to breathe. But those are the times I have to breathe! And be in the moment, not in my head.

If I only have a  few minutes to walk up 10 flights of stairs or walk to class, I savor those “alone time” moments. Or I may use my travel time to kvetch with my boyfriend via cell phone as I go from work to school. But if I over commit and book that one extra client that I really don’t have time for but feel guilty if I don’t accommodate, I can end up being frustrated, irritable and burned out. Which does not make fora happy or effective massage therapist or coach! So I’ve learned that as hard as it is to turn down more work. there are times I have to to keep mentally healthy!

St. John, VI. Image by Sue Shekut.

Here are a few tips to help you find time for mental rest

1. Listen to relaxing music when you drive versus news radio, or loud music like rap or rock.

2. Spend at least 10 minutes a day in a quiet place, where you won’t be interrupted by cell phones, emails, or other people. If the restroom is the only place people will leave you alone, so be it! You get to sit down and relax. If a s stairwell is available at work or a massage table (for those of us in the field), use that area. If you can care out 10 minutes at home to just lay on the bed or floor and breathe, that’s another great way to find this mental decompression time.

3. Take an electronic holiday at least time once a week where you don’t go on the computer, use your cell phone or watch tv. Get outdoors if possible and experience the natural world.

4. Schedule time for yourself and don’t give that time away for work, family or friends. At can be 60 minutes a week or a 20 minutes a day, but make it an unbreakable appointment.

5. Say “Let me think about it” before committing to volunteer work, the PTA, extra work on the job or any obligation that is nonessential. And if you think all obligations are essential, you may be headed for burnout and exhaustion! I tend to say YES and then later regret my acceptance of two many time committments. Asking for time to think about it lets me mull over future obligations and reduces my over commitment.

6. If you tend to over schedule as I do, set up your appointment book so that you only have certain blocks of time available for extra work, volunteer work or other obligations. If that time is booked up, don’t try to fit in an extra something else. Because at that point your are sacrificing your mental well being for someone else.

View of Round Bay in St John, VI. Image by Sue Shekut

7. And lastly, forgive me if I don’t blog as much as I originally did. When I started blogging, I posted about every day for the first year.  Now with grad school and other commitments, I am lucky if I can blog once or twice a week.  But I would rather blog less frequently and write higher quality posts. So enjoy the posts I still have time to write. I know I really do!

Me relaxing on Lameshur Bay trail, St. John, VI, snorkel gear in my backpack. Image by Sue Shekut.

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