Archive for January, 2012

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

People ask me, “Sue where did you hear about all these great adventure travel locations?” One way is through my clients of course! Another way is from the Annual Adventure Travel Show that will be at The Donald E Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont this weekend (January 28 and 29).

Tickets are only $15 and the vent is well worth the price of admission. (Only $7 if you book online!)

Here is what you can expect (from their website):

• Interact and comparison shop with hundreds of destination travel experts and tour operators representing thousands of vacation options all under one roof.
• Take advantage of free scuba lessons from a certified diving instructor.  Wetsuits, masks, air tanks – even hairdryers – are provided. Visitors 10 and older can dive into the 4-feet-deep, 18,000- gallon scuba pool and even play with an underwater scooter and MP3 Players. Bring your swimsuit and you are ready to go!

• Wake up your senses at the Fiery Foods Stage! Experiencing a destination’s cuisine is a big part of every travel experience you have, so we’ve developed a stage that showcases unique flavors from around the world – with a twist (and a little heat)!

• Photo Clinic–Travel photographer and author Ralph Velasco will be
offering a Photo Clinic at the Calumet Photographic Booth 1006

Saturday, January 28 12:30pm – 1:30pm
Sunday, January 29 11:00am – 12:00pm

He’ll be discussing his best travel gear tips and recommendations for anyone interested in embarking on a trip that has photography at its core. Ralph will also be available for small group and one-on-one questions during this time. Bring your camera!


For more info on parking, directions and more click here.

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

Two weeks ago we ventured to Maui for a week of fitness and photography. Then this weekend, we headed out to the cool crisp air of Palos Forest Preserves for some winter hiking in the new fallen snow. It’s surreal to go from green mountains and blue oceans to white snow and brown branches. Both are visually striking in their own way.  Enjoy the pics from both trips below. Hopefully viewing them will either relax you, inspire you to get outdoors yourself, or just give your mind a break from staring at words or numbers on the computer screen!

Ocean waves mimic deep breathing...or is it vice versa. Image by J. Porys.

Palm trees and vibrant colored flowers are Maui standards. This photo was taken in front of a church. Image by J. Porys.

Driving up towards Haleakala Crater is like driving off the Earth into the sky.

The Road up to Haleakala Crater, Maui. Image by Sue Shekut

Hiking into the Crater we were enchanted by the floating mist as it rolled over the hills, wrapping itself around bushes, rocks and two young men with a jambox playing “I Shot the Sheriff,” reggae style, that passed us earlier in our hike. They were hiking the whole 27-mile path from one side of the Crater to the other side of the National park on the Hana side of the island.

Side of Haleakala Crator interier. Image by Sue Shekut

Of all the beautiful places in Maui, this was one view I could not get enough of! At this point were getting a little altitude sickness so we did not venture beyond this 8000 mile high vista. The actual crater goes up to 10,000 feet above sea level. But even at this altitude, we were able to fill our eyes with great natural beauty to savor for months and years to come!

Haleakala Crater, Maui. Image by Sue Shekut

But Maui isn’t all mountains and fog!

I love these trees and all the green! Image by Sue Shekut

Asian gardens in Iao Valley, Maui. Image by Sue Shekut

And of course, what is a Hawaiian adventure without the underwater sea explorations!

An underwater adventure starts....with big mounds of coral! Image by J Porys.

Maui Immersed. Image by J Porys.

Tied of Maui pics? It’s time to see the raw visual delights of a Northern Winter in Palos Forest Preserves.

Bare trees in Winter in the Chicago area have their own beauty. A stark contrast from the ocean. Image by Sue Shekut

The air was cold but clear and fresh this weekend. The sunlight in Palos casts its own warm glow through the trees.

Palos sunset in Chicagoland. Image by Sue Shekut

If you are really quiet and listen, you may be able to coax a dear to come nearby…or hear the a squirrel chattering up a tree.

This old tree has a lot of stories to tell...Image by Sue Shekut

Palos Forest Preserves are hikeable and mountain-bikeable year round!

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

This last week, the web has been a  buzz about an article in new York Times Magazine about “How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body.” The article is well worth the read. In it, the author, William J. Broad, explores some of the recent news about serious injuries than can occur from doing yoga.

As a long-time yoga practitioner and as a person that has been injured doing yoga, I found this article welcome and extremely helpful. I admit, part of my own ego is stroked when I read others finally voicing the same “radical” opinion I’ve had for years, namely that yoga, like all exercises, is not 100% benign. Yoga can hurt you. When doing yoga, you really need to be mindful of your own body and not blindly following directions of your teacher or others.

I first tried yoga in grade school in grade school when my art teacher gave a series of extra curricular classes and told us she used yoga to help her stretch on breaks during long car rides.  Years later I turned back to yoga as an adult to help combat my muscular tension from sitting at a computer all day. It was amazing–I felt better, stronger and, since I was already flexible, doing yoga only increased my flexibility. Which was great…at first.

When I came to Chicago about 20 years ago, I was taking advanced Iyengar classes (BKS Iyengar is a yoga guru of sorts, teaching in India for years and with a  book out used by many Chicago yogis, Light on Yoga). Many of the classes I took where taught by Iyengar devotees, who tried to not only emulate Iyengar’s structural approach, but also his militant and almost fanatical demeanor. This teacher said that, according to Iyengar, “The pose is more important than the person.” I don’t know if Iyengar actually said that, but since this teacher did, I was not surprised when I soon got injured in his class. Along the way I met other experienced yoga students that told me to be careful and not overdo it as they had also experienced injuries doing yoga. Yoga, like all forms of exercise is not without some risk.

The Expert About Your Body is You

One of the biggest lessons I learned from my yoga teachers me was not so much how to do each pose perfectly. Instead, after experiencing a few injuries, I learned that I know my body better than any teacher, personal trainer or guru. And if something hurts, no matter what the teacher says, I won’t do it. In fact, I am rather picky about which yoga teachers I will take classes with. I let them know at the start of class that I do not want them to touch me or “adjust me,” a common practice in yoga classes I have taken. Adjustments are meant to be settle touches to a limb or your back to show you how to get in better posture and alignment. But many teachers I’ve taken classes with tend to push too much or too aggressively. It becomes an ego thing. “How far can I push my students?” And for students it can become, “how flexible can I be” or “I must work very hard even if it hurts just to be a good student and do it “right.” It’s yoga, not Mathelethes!

Know Your Experience Level and Don’t Over Do It

Yoga is supposed to be relaxing and allow you to really focus on your body, your breathe and connect with your body, not contort or injure your body (although injury does make you connect with your body pretty quickly!). When I do yoga now or recommend yoga to my clients, I show basic standing poses, some side bends and simple forward bends. AND to make sure they have a doctors clearance to do even those poses. I don’t advocate shoulder stand or headstands or even back bends for beginners. For some, these posts may be OK. But they are fairly advanced and, as the New York Times article shows, these poses can cause SERIOUS damage and injury, not just to your spine but to your brain. Who wants a stoke?

Yoga is Not a Rapid Fix–It’s Meant to be a Lifelong Practice

Another problem with yoga is the Western approach to it. We want to get rapid results, so we use maximal effort, as though yoga is a hammer and our body is the nail. Fitness isn’t about cramming in maximal effort into a short period of time to check that exercise off out list of goals. Fitness is an overall body balance of cardio, strength and flexibility. We can improve our cardiovascular fitness, we can improve our strength, we can improve our flexibility. But we can’t get the body we want by trying really hard. Our natural frames and muscles are made the way they are made. A man’s hips will not open as much as a woman’s because he is not made to birth babies. When men say they are not flexible, I say of course not! Stretching and yoga can help improve your flexibility, but you don’t need to be able to turn your body into a pretzel. Yoga can help increase flexibility but not beyond what is natural for your body type, frame and gender. It’s about improvement and feeling better, not about getting a gold star for most flexible!

Yoga is Meditative, A Way to Calm and Focus Your Mind

If you practice yoga, approach it as a time to relax and unwind. Treat each class as thigh you have never done yoga before (beginner’s mind). Really watch your teacher and tell him or her if you are not comfortable doing a particular pose. Modifications may be suggested or you may need to sit that pose out. That’s perfectly OK! Enjoy the rest between poses and be happy you are spending a few minutes away from your phone, email and workplace!

Practice yoga gently, not while hyped up on caffeine and adrenaline. A yoga session is meant to CALM your nervous system–it’s not Grand Theft Auto on Xbox. Some of my clients and many people I’ve spoken to don’t like yoga precisely for this reason–they can’t relax enough to benefit from gentle yoga because it makes them nervous to be that calm and focus on their breath and bodies. They need constant stimulation and the idea of “just laying around” or breathing actually stresses them out. But a really good yoga class, in my experience, is both gentle on your body (not easy or lame–yoga is a workout!) and so mentally active that you don’t have time to be bored. By mentally active I mean that during a good yoga class, teachers I’ve had are constantly calling your attention to an area of your body and having you focus on that. For example, in downward dog, a teacher may tell you to really open your fingers wide, put your pressure on the palm or heel of your hand, move your shoulders away from your head, attempt to pull your ankles away from your body towards the wall (not trying to put your heels on the floor though). Along with other directions. To avoid boredom and get a good yoga practice in, focus on these instructions, try to follow them and pay attention to your body. How does each movement feel? Are you breathing or holding your breath? All these details serve to not only make your yoga practice more physically comfortable, and give your body a good workout, but they also serve to give your active mind something to focus on beyond the next task on your  do list.

Lastly, I don’t think that yoga is evil or that you should not do yoga. But when doing yoga, use your brain! Make sure the spots are comfortable for you–not easy, just not damaging your body!) Then, you can relax and enjoy the positive benefits of yoga…without causing damage to your body or your mind!

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

I’m not big on New Year’s resolutions because I don’t think they work and often make people feel guilty about taking a stand without really having a concrete plan to back up lifestyle changes. Changing habits takes a lot more than just making a statement. it takes a lot of planning and effort. And often, support from a coach, a personal trainer or other wellness support staff. I am more into planning and goal setting (which is natural from my coaching background!). The first day of a new year is always a good time for reflection and planning for me.

2011 in review

This past year has been a great year for Working Well Massage. We’d added some new team members to our happy group of professional therapeutic massage therapists: Aaron, Jennifer and Allison. And we bid a fond farewell to Janice, one of our chair massage team members, on her way as she travels to India for four months. We added a new Assistant Manager, David McClinton, to our chair massage stations in the Fall of 2011. David has done a fantastic job of sprucing up our booths and keeping things running smoothing for both our massage therapists and our clients.

In 2011, our corporate chair massage team has continued to provide many stressed out and sore office workers with relaxing chair and table massages in their office. This arm of our business has continued to grow and we are both grateful for the business and happy that our many corporate office worker clients have management teams that are progressive enough to know that providing in-house massages to their staff can mean more productive, less tense employees. (Note: I don’t mention the names of our corporate clients to preserve their anonymity. We enjoy our relationship with our clients and don’t want to exploit those relationships for promotional purposes.)

In 2011, we tried out a new business venture with Whole Foods Market’s new Wellness Clubs in Lincoln Park.  Sadly, the idea of adding a table massage location to our already successful chair massage business in the store proved to be less desirable for clients than we had anticipated. Most of our chair massage clients appreciate the convenience and location of our chair massage stations. Few people wanted to venture upstairs to the Mezzanine level of the Lincoln Park Whole Foods Market to get a table massage so, rather than scatter our resources further, we quickly closed the table location and let the Wellness Club focus on the nutritional counseling and fitness needs of shoppers upstairs while we do what we do best, walk in chair massage, on the main floor.

On this blog, Working Well Resources, in 2011, I wrote 94 new posts, growing the total archive of my blog to 395 posts. I uploaded 194 pictures in 2011.. The tops posts accessed in 2011 were as follows:

My most commented on post in 2011 was Helping Chicago Get and Stay Calm-Calm Chicago. My blog was viewed about 39,000 times in 2011.

The busiest day of the year was April 12th with 230 views. The most popular post that day was Find the Top Tweeters on Nutrition.

What’s Ahead for 2012?

In 2012, we at Working Well Massage plan on continuing to grow our corporate chair massage business, providing quality massage professionals with access to corporate office clients and providing office workers with much-needed (and much appreciated) stress relieving massage sessions. We are also looking to add some yoga classes and other fitness options to some of our corporate client sites.

In 2012, we are going to continue to improve our WWM chair massage stations inside both the Lincoln Park and Gold Coast Whole Foods Markets in Chicago, Illinois. We will be changing the carpeting, adding some new art and stretching posters and incorporating some of our new team members into the lineup at the two stores. I will personally be offering some new training and advising opportunities to my WWM team, to keep us all up to date on the latest research on massage therapy and best ways to help our chair massage clients enjoy our chair massages in the stores.

At Working Well Massage, we aim to not only give our clients the most relaxing and enjoyable chair massages and corporate massage experiences, but to help our highly skilled,  professional team of massage therapists connect with great clients!

As far as the blog goes, this year I plan on providing some new video content to give our readers visual tips on workstation ergonomics, relaxing videos of amazing nature scenes, and some helpful illustrations of how to use the Miracle balls as well as tennis balls and the yoga bolster to stretch muscles and relax your nervous system. I will also aim to provide new info on the latest massage and fitness research.

In 2012, I will personally continue to work towards my master’s degree in Clinical Professional Psychology, to give me more tools to help my clients relax and deal with stress and to help make me an even better coach for my current clients, massage therapy team and potential new coaching clients. I will also make the extreme sacrifice (wink) to continue hiking and taking photos of wonderful natural forest preserves and other nature spots to share with you in this blog!

Happy New Year to our team, our clients and of course, to all our loyal readers of our Working Well Resources blog!

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