Archive for June, 2011
Today’s summer solstice marks the year’s longest day of the year. That means summers is officially here. What better way to enjoy the summer than connecting with nature. Even though I live in an urban city, there is no shortage of nature. For example, the Boston Common and Public Garden and all the small parks offer lots of green space around the city. And then there is hiking the trails at the Fells, swimming and kayaking the lakes of New Hampshire, listening to the waves crash against the rocks and boulders in Rockport, the feeling of sand between the toes walking around Wingaersheek, or whale watching in Provincetown.
With all the technology at our finger tips, we are becoming disconnected with both nature and ourselves. Getting connected to nature is a great way to connect with yourself by becoming present with your surroundings. Incorporate as many senses as you can; listen, touch, look, smell, and taste what you can.
Connecting with nature allows us to feel grounded and brings balance back into our lives. Below are some pictures I’ve taken over the last few years in regards to how I connect with nature.
How do you connect with nature?
From the moment I could walk, I was playing sports. Softball and basketball were the two loves of my life. There are few summer days of when I wasn’t outside tossing the ball with my brother or shooting hoops against the barn. Around the age of fifteen I was told I had asthma because of difficulty breathing while running up and down the basketball court.
Fast forward a few years later, my sophomore year of college. The coaches wanted to know if we were working hard enough during preseason. They asked our exercise science department to borrow the heart rate monitors used in class. We all strapped one on and after two warm-up laps around the track, mine read 185. This meant my heart rate was beating a 185 beats per minute. After jokingly tapping the watch, I said, “Coach, I think something’s wrong with my watch.” She took a look and determined that I’d wear a different one the next day. The battery was probably low or something wrong with the computer in the watch itself. So, the next day, I put a different strap and watch on. Again, after two laps the watch read extremely high. I was immediately pulled from practice and told to see the athletic trainers. From there, my participation in practice was limited until I could see a cardiologist.
A few days later I was running on a treadmill with increasing speed and elevation over fifteen minutes. At the end of the test, that doctor said, “You’re a college athlete, it’s okay to have an elevated heart rate.” Not liking that answer, I sought a second opinion back home. During another stress test, my max heart rate hit 227. The old rule of thumb for determining your max heart rate is 220 minus your age. If that were true, my max heart rate should have been 201. Clearly something was wrong. After several more appointments and tests, it was determined that I have an enlarged heart and was diagnosed with exercise induced tachycardia. A fancy term which means my heart rate exceeds normal range while exercising.
I spent the next couple of years trying to control this diagnosis, while also trying to maintain a normal resting heart rate. The two did not work hand in hand. Ultimately, I chose to opt out of playing my senior year of college. This was a difficult decision, and one I had to make on my own. I have to believe that it was difficult for my parents, coaches and training staff to see me pushing myself as hard as I could everyday, knowing there was a heart condition.
Chances are that the asthma I had at fifteen was probably more likely due to the enlarged heart. It is common for young athletes that play stop and go sports like basketball and football to develop this. It seems like every few months there is a story of a young kid that dies on the basketball court or football field, having played just minutes before with no sign of complications.
So how does it affect my life now? I rely on that heart rate monitor every time I go for a run. Some may dismiss the use of heart rate monitoring. They say you should work at high intensity all the time. Go by how you feel, that those numbers don’t mean anything. I for one, will be forever grateful to the coaches for making us strap on the heart rate monitor twelve years ago.
Itchy eyes, runny nose, scratchy throat? Yep, it is that time of the year again. I normally wear my reading glasses while diving into a book or spend long hours on the computer. These days, I’ve been sporting them while at work to keep from poking my eyes out because they are so irritated from allergies.
Allergies begin when the immune system mistakes a harmless substance such as pollen, animal dander or dust mites as a dangerous invader. From there, the body produces antibodies that can be “on alert” for that particular allergen. When you are exposed to these allergens in the future, the body will release a chemical called histamine. This will cause the symptoms of allergies.
A few tips to help reduce symptoms:
- rinse and clear your nasal cavity of irritants using a neti pot
- wash your bedding on a regular basis
- avoid spending large amounts of time outdoors when pollen counts are high
- incorporate temporary, natural decongestants to your food such as horseradish, chili peppers or hot mustard
Earlier this year, Melody Barnes, Chair of the Task Force on Childhood Obesity, recently presented a letter to President Obama with the action plan of solving our nation’s childhood obesity problem within one generation. This document is 124 pages long and so far I have only read the first nine pages. Within those pages, some mind-blowing stats stand out. A few that really struck me are:
- 31.7% of 2-19 year olds are overweight or obese.
- Medical spending on adults attributing to obesity in 1998 was $40 billion. In 2008, $147 billion.
- More than 25% of Americans between 17-24 are unqualified for military service because they are too heavy.
- Between survey periods of 1976-1980 and 2007-2008, obesity in adults has doubled and it has more than tripled among children and adolescents.
- Obesity rates are highest among non-Hispanic black girls and Hispanic boys.
- Obese 6-8 year olds were approximately ten times more likely to become obese than those with lower BMIs.
- 13% of the daily caloric intake for 12-19 year olds now comes from sugar-sweetened beverages.
- Poor quality sleep increases the risk of obesity.