Archive for April, 2009
The weather warms, your garden grows, the world turns beautiful and young again. Everything about spring is energizing and inspiring. Almost. For millions of people, this is also Sneeze Season.
Flowers in bloom and warmer temps bring a bevy of eye-watering, allergy-stimulating irritants that could make even the most die-hard naturalist relish the great indoors. But before you reach for that bottle of prescription pills or over-the-counter-medicine, consider some simple, more natural ways.
“The best course of action when it comes to allergens is avoidance. If ragweed is in bloom, that may not be the best time to go for a hike if you are allergic to ragweed,” says Canyon Ranch in Tucson Medical Director Stephen Brewer, M.D., whose specialty is integrative medicine. “But if you do want to get out, you can minimize the severity of allergies through diet modification and by taking a few simple precautions.”
Fish rarely sneeze
Because allergens essentially cause inflammation in the body leading to symptoms such as a runny nose and itchy eyes, one useful way to keep your reaction to irritants at bay is by introducing more omega-3 (good fat) into your diet. Omega-3 has anti-inflammatory properties which can help reduce allergic responses.
“For example the omega-3 you get from eating cold water fish such as salmon and cod will help reduce swelling. The same is true for flaxseed oil and walnuts,” explains Dr. Brewer. “It’s not a cure, but it will certainly help.”
Conversely Dr. Brewer says foods such as corn oil which are high in omega-6 (bad fat) and trans fats can actually contribute to inflammation and should be eliminated. He adds that acupuncture has also been shown to be an effective way to reduce allergen inflammation.
A clean environment
Allergens such as dust and pollen love collecting on surfaces such as carpets, drapes, shelves, upholstery and even stuffed animals. A little spring cleaning can go a long way to reducing allergy-provoking contamination. But remember: Vacuuming and disturbing allergen collectors can initially cause more problems than they solve.
“A good spring cleaning is a great idea. But if you are the person who has the allergy problems, by all means let someone else do the cleaning,” Dr. Brewer says. “You would be amazed how much invisible detritus dusting or running a vacuum will kick up.”
Other environmental improvements can include:
• Removing any visible mold from walls and floors using a solution of water and chlorine bleach, or a product that contains chlorine bleach or other fungicides. If you are sensitive to chlorine, consider a mixture of white vinegar and water to help kill mold. If you use an air conditioner, be sure to check it regularly for mold contamination. A dehumidifier can be helpful in keeping your living environment dry.
• Consider buying an air filter such as a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter, which removes particles in the air by forcing it through screens containing microscopic pores.
• Try taking a bath or shower before going to bed. This will help remove pollen from your hair and body, keep it out of your bed, and may provide some allergy relief.
So, before you reach for the pills, think about the natural solutions to allergies. Then enjoy the beautiful springtime.
Just when you thought you knew your hair, it turns on you. Gray happens, and the style you always favored, and the colors you wore, suddenly need rethinking. Even your hair’s texture can change. But disconcerting as those first gray hairs may be, graying can be an opportunity to fashion a whole new you.
As silver strands increase, your appearance is changing. What direction do you want to go in? And what will your decision mean in terms of ongoing hair care and your personal image? The options are many, says Canyon Ranch hairstylist David Zaragoza, and the good news is that you have more choices for lovely locks than ever before.
Is color right for me?
Many people – men as well as women – prefer to color their hair because it’s more flattering or they simply don’t want to look older, says David. Others elect to go gray naturally. If you’re undecided, go to a stylist for a consultation. Some people who decide to go with color prefer to leave a little gray for a more natural look, he says.
One way to determine how your coiffure would look au naturel is to try on wigs in the same shade as your gray strands. Take into account your skin and eye color. Gray may set them off in a whole new way, or it may tend to wash you out. Platinum can be flattering with most skin types, even at an early age, says David. On the other hand, “A dull gray can be very unflattering no matter what your age.”
As your body chemistry changes with age, your hair’s behavior and texture may alter too. It may become duller, thinner, or even wavier. “Graying hair changes texture because it loses its pigment,” says David. “It may coarsen, or become more unruly.”
Dye coats the hair, and may actually make it more manageable. “Fine hair may even become fuller, as the hair color penetrates the hair shaft, plumping up the hair.”
Is your natural hair color dark or light? Either way, you have several coloring choices, says David. For naturally dark hair, “If you don’t have much gray, having your stylist weave in more of the natural color with foil to cover some or all of the gray is a good option; and it has the advantage that it leaves no line of demarcation.” People with naturally blond hair can blend in some of the gray with highlights, or cover it by weaving in some lowlights.
If you have more gray and want to keep your natural look, try covering it up completely using a semi-permanent color that’s close to your natural look. “Usually your stylist will recommend using a permanent color only if the semi-permanent product is no longer covering the gray” says David. “Be guided by a professional – every situation is different.”
Safer than ever
oday’s hair color is safe and more environmentally friendly than it was 15 to 20 years ago, he says. “In the past, hair coloring products contained a high volume of peroxide mixed with ammonia, which damages hair and can adversely affect the lungs when breathed in frequently. They also contained bleach, which is known to damage the hair and dry the scalp. Now, most salons, including Canyon Ranch, are committed to using products that are safe.”
It’s preferable to leave hair coloring to an experienced stylist, David advises. “Attempting to color your own hair can be a catastrophe waiting to happen.” For instance, he says, “putting brown on blond hair can result in an ash-green effect.”
Going lighter than your natural color is a harsher process than darkening it, so if you do go blonde, ask your stylist to recommend a reconstructor to counteract the loss of protein and moisture from your hair. Whatever your color choice, keep hair healthy by using a good, acid-balanced shampoo and a conditioner between treatments.
Be adventurous. Brightening your brown hair to a coppery shade may lend a more vibrant look – you might shop for sweaters or blouses in colors, such as teal or gorgeous greens, to complement your new look. If you decide instead to embrace the gray, revel in a whole new range of color choices to set off your chic silver mane. This is a good time to experiment with new styles – maybe a sleek bob or a terrific crop. So make way for the new you; you’ll feel better than ever – and look mah-vellous!
Ah, springtime. You can think of it as Earth’s wakeup call. Time to get out of the house again, enjoy the grass between your toes, and tend your garden. From peace of mind to glorious flowers and fresh vegetables there is nothing quite as primal and satisfying as tilling the soil for a summer garden. You just dig in your hands and reconnect with all the goodness that the season has to offer. And, best of all, it can be done virtually anywhere.
Whether you plant seeds in an urban window box high above the asphalt or work a patch of land in the country, all you need is a little bit of earth, sun, water, and time to take part in the annual cycle of life.
“Spring is one of my favorite times of the year here in the Berkshires,” says Canyon Ranch Assistant Supervisor of Grounds Lori Donnelly. “It’s a time of new beginning and rebirth. When I garden I feel like I’m adding something to the world by nurturing the plants that we as a planet need to live and thrive. It’s a way of becoming one with the Earth.”
Let your senses roam
As every gardener knows, growing and tending plants is a sensual experience that involves much more than simply digging holes, although that can be vigorous, enjoyable and satisfying experience as well. “Gardening involves all of your senses. Simply getting outdoors and hearing the birds or spring peepers can change your whole mood,” Lori explains. “After being locked up indoors all winter there is no better way to get away from the computers and cell phones and just let your soul breathe deep for a while.”
Touch – Don’t be afraid to get dirty. Experience the texture of plant stems and the softness of flower petals, the comfort of damp earth. “It’s like a friend of mine once said, ‘Work with your hands and it will free your mind.’ You become Mother Nature’s apprentice,” Lori says, “and I can’t imagine anyone better to work for.”
Smell – In spring the air is often perfumed by plants trying to attract pollinators. Take some time to stop and smell the roses…and don’t miss the hyacinths!
Hear – While tending your garden, be sure to listen. Hear the nuances of birdcalls, the whisper of wind rustling newly formed leaves, or maybe the soft patter of a passing rain shower.
Taste – A great way to get an immediate “taste” of spring is to plant herbs. They do well in all sorts of environments and make a wonderful addition to any garden, not to mention most meals.
While gardening can awaken the senses, the mind and body, it can also require more physical exertion than most imagine. So be sure to spend some time stretching your lower back before you begin and during the day.
“You would be amazed how many people say they would love to do what I do because it’s such a good workout. I always tell them: Feel free to pick up a rake and join me,” Lori says with a laugh. “Gardening can be a great way to burn calories but stretching is key if you want to avoid strains, sprains and other injuries.”
Also, remember to bend your knees or squat when lifting. If you’re having trouble reaching down, one option is to do your gardening in raised beds or use tools with longer handles. Never lift that feels uncomfortably heavy. A useful way to maximize your workout while gardening is to simply avoid power tools. You would be amazed at what a great workout it is to simply use a push mover instead of and electric or gas-powered one.
Start a garden journal
One secret to maintaining a garden is to keep a journal. A small pad of paper and pencil kept in a plastic bag with your hand tools is all that you need to remember which plant needs more shade or when you can start harvesting those vegetables so lovingly tended.
Keeping a diary is also a way to maintain continuity. If you jot down your successes and failures each year you can use those notes as a guide the following spring. Lori also recommends taking photos, so you have something to remember the seasons by.
So, grab a hat, slather on the sunscreen, and enjoy one of the great natural pleasures. A garden can thrill your senses, fill your table, and keep you happily connected to beauty and nature.
Veteran hiking guide Bob Mills jogged the Berkshire byways back in the ’60s – long before fitness hit the public radar. Nicknamed “the Silver Fox,” “General Mills,” and “Bee-Bob,” Bob has guided guests on outdoor adventures at Canyon Ranch in Lenox since 1990, one year after it opened. Square-jawed, grandfatherly and deeply knowledgeable about plants and wildlife, he has a razor-sharp wit, and at 85 he can out-hike many a 40-year-old.
A former marketing executive with six children and six grown-up grandchildren, Bob has always loved the outdoors, but had never considered making his hobby into a career. “Hiking was something we did as a family on weekends, like skiing,” he says. When he retired from the corporate world, he spent 10 years as a top-notch downhill ski instructor and a guide at the Norman Rockwell Museum before bringing his expertise and enthusiasm to Canyon Ranch in Lenox.
Right from the start of his career as a hiking guide, Bob felt strongly that there’s more to hiking than simply following a trail. During his first months on the job, he researched local flora and fauna and details of the terrain, and produced a field reference guide for use on hikes. He also included many items of historical and social significance. “There’s a lot of history here in New England,” he says. “When we share that information, it makes hikes a lot more interesting for guests.”
Return guests seek him out, and others forget his age as he mentors them through hikes, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. “I identify with youngsters,” he says. “Everybody is younger than I am, but I almost feel like I’m their contemporary. I think young.” Actually, age isn’t an issue, he says. When a group of people are chatting and enjoying the outdoors together, “those lines are kind of erased. It’s a leveling influence.”
And, he says, “You develop a lot of relationships over the years. When repeat guests come back, it’s like a reunion.”
Outdoor programs at Lenox have seen constant evolution in the course of two decades, Bob says. Back in 1990, snowshoes – now high-tech, lightweight metal – were made of wood and rawhide, and Lenox offered 20 to 25 hiking destinations. Today, that number has increased to more than 90 choices, along with added outdoor options from kayaking and sculling to the High Ropes course, “hike and paint” expeditions, and tai chi hikes.
Since he turned 79, Bob has slowed down to intermediate-level hikes, but he works out regularly and hits the weight room three times a week. “You’ve got to keep your body working,” he says. “If you don’t want to lift weights, there’s always walking. Set yourself a goal and get out on a regular basis.” In addition to taking good care of himself, Bob teaches English as a second language in his spare time, and has volunteered in New Orleans helping to rebuild homes destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.
“The remarkable thing about Bob is that he spans the generations,” says Lenox Outdoor Sports Director Mike Duffy, who was with Bob on his first hike in Lenox. “He’s a really experienced guide. Guests adore him. People just look at him and say, ‘that’s where I want to be.’ He’s living proof that this kind of lifestyle is good for you.”
Running a 5-kilometer race sounded like a good idea back in January when you were making New Year’s resolutions. But as summer approaches, running to the mailbox may be the closest you’ve come to training for it. It’s not too late to reach that goal, and Canyon Ranch is ready to help.
Getting started is the most difficult part. For one thing, many people do not envision themselves to be runners. Avid walkers may view the gap between walking and running as a huge obstacle that they’re not willing to overcome. Although running is more difficult than walking, it is doable.
Demystifying the 5k
Don’t let the distance scare you. A 5k race only amounts to 3.1 miles. If you are a walker who’s afraid to run, consider this: Running is harder because it requires a higher degree of fitness. So why not decide up front to take yourself to the next level? It may be a challenge, but you’re up to the task.
Once you make a commitment to begin training, you need to find a race in your area. You can search online for local running clubs, which will typically link to a calendar of running events in your area. Sign up right away. Making that public promise is a great way to get motivated. Then you can focus on preparation.
Ready, set, GO!
You’re jazzed and ready to train, but on your first day of running, you feel winded after five minutes. Don’t get discouraged.
“When people first decide to run, they are so excited about it. They get new shoes, sign up for a race, then they actually hit the streets and on their first attempt, they want to quit. It’s important to remember that most people cannot run three miles nonstop today. There needs to be a slow build-up, allowing time for your fitness level to improve,” says Mike Siemens, Director of Exercise Physiology at Canyon Ranch in Tucson.
He suggests allowing 10 to 12 weeks for your body to get used to running. Start with walks spiced with brief running intervals. Do your normal walk two or three times a week. Then, as you progress, start adding periods of running. In the beginning, these intervals can be for as little as 30 seconds at a time, eventually building up to two minutes of running. Follow these running intervals with two to four minutes of walking to allow yourself time to catch your breath.
Whether you are a novice or more advanced, Siemens suggests using one of the following eight-week training schedules:
Week Mon Tues Weds Thurs Fri Sat Sun
1. Rest or Run/Walk 1.50 mi Rest or Run/Walk 1.50 mi Rest 1.50 mi 30- to 60-min. walk
2. Rest or Run/Walk 1.75 mi Rest or Run/Walk 1.50 mi Rest 1.75 mi 30- to 60-min. walk
3. Rest or Run/Walk 2.00 mi Rest or Run/Walk 1.50 mi Rest 2.00 mi 40- to 60-min. walk
4. Rest or Run/Walk 2.25 mi Rest or Run/Walk 1.50 mi Rest 2.25 mi 45- to 60-min. walk
5. Rest or Run/Walk 2.50 mi Rest or Run/Walk 2.00 mi Rest 2.50 mi 50- to 60-min. walk
6. Rest or Run/Walk 2.75 mi Rest or Run/Walk 2.00 mi Rest 2.75 mi 55- to 60-min. walk
7. Rest or Run/Walk 3.00 mi Rest or Run/Walk 2.00 mi Rest 3.00 mi 60-min. walk
8. Rest or Run/Walk 3.00 mi Rest or Run/Walk 2.00 mi Rest Rest Race
Can you handle it?
Before beginning a fitness program, Siemens says you should determine your fitness level, which may be the deciding factor for whether you run or walk the 5k on race day. Always consult your doctor before beginning any fitness program.
Now that you’ve made the commitment and have the training schedule, what are you waiting for? Start moving toward a healthier, happier you.
They don’t care where you went to college or what clothes you wear. They don’t care if you’re having a bad hair day or if you drive a clunker. They don’t care who you are and they’re without ambition to be something different from what they are. A dog or cat or horse is completely committed to being what it is.
Just being around these creatures tends to make people more content with themselves. Indeed, studies have shown that interaction with pets is often less stressful than socializing with people, because the interaction is so much more straightforward and free of judgment.