Track star Noah Lyles always knew he wanted to be one of the fastest runners in the world—and he’s already done it at just 22 years old. The T.C. Williams High School graduate raced his way to two gold medals at the 2019 World Athletic Championships in Doha, Qatar in October, where he became a world champion in the 200-meter sprint in an astonishing 19.83 seconds.
The Washington Post dubbed him “the star that track and field needs,” and a record-rival of Olympic gold medalist Usain Bolt. Recently, he took a break from the track to visit his alma mater in Alexandria. We caught up with him there and asked Lyles about his dedication to the sport and his most successful year yet.
What inspires you to run?
For me, it’s about the feeling of breaking my body down to make it better. I love working out. And I love having fun. I only do things that, basically, I like to do [which include running, painting, making music and more]. I enjoy every day of my life because I get to do what I love.
How did your time at T.C. Williams influence your running career?
Most of the things I do today are because of what I learned in high school. We learned how to visualize, how to prepare days in advance for track meets, how to travel and how to be on time. Those were all things that we had to learn that when we were going pro, I already had this stuff and I was just taking it along with me and building upon it.
What was it like to step on the gold medal podium in Qatar?
It was the first time I felt a little sense of nervousness again. I knew that something great was going to happen and I just wanted to make it happen as soon as possible. Stepping onto the podium, honestly, it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. Everything that’s happening is there for you. They’re playing the national anthem for you, because of something you did.
Between holiday shopping, family scheduling and party appearances, you could use the chance to kick off your shoes, get a massage and treat yourself before more of the holiday madness begins.
Lucky for you, Northern Virginia is home to more than two dozen spas that are ready to take care of you, whether it’s with a cleansing facial, a deep tissue massage or the perfect mani-pedi. Here are three of our favorite holiday-inspired treatments for the season.
Fountains Day Spa The cold temperatures have arrived, and if you’re looking for the best way to warm up from your head to your toes, get a Hot Toddy for Your Body, from Fountain Day Spa. An 80-minute hot stone massage paired with an ulta hydradermie facial will have you feeling warm, cozy and rejuvenated to take on the rest of the season. The Alexandria-based spa is also offering a Spahh-liday package including a gingerbread mini massage with essential oils (hello cinnamon, clove, ginger and nutmeg!), a 25-minute reflexology treatment and sole relaxation. Now through Tuesday, Dec. 31, find special discounts on holiday packages, making the season even sweeter! // Fountain Day Spa: 422 S. Washington St., Alexandria; $188.10-$321.30
Salamander Resort & Spa When it comes to winter-inspired ingredients and self-care experiences, Salamander Resort & Spa wants to treat you for the holiday season. Take care of your toes by indulging in a peppermint and chocolate pedicure (the peppermint scrub will help invigorate and nourish your feet, while you sip on a cup of hot chocolate), or calm dry skin with the Winter Essentials facial. The deep exfoliating chemical peel will help your skin feel in tiptop shape for every must-attend event of the season. Looking to start your new year off right in 2020? Be sure to book a winter aroma massage (a Swedish-inspired massage with essential oils), and check out all of the new offerings coming to the space. // Salamander Resort & Spa: 500 N. Pendleton St., Middleburg; $80-$185
Kimpton Lorien Hotel & Spa Starting on Saturday, Dec. 21, the Kimpton Lorien is celebrating the rush of the holiday season (and the relaxation that follows) with a winter warming body wrap, using warm and hydrating essential oils and shea butter that will keep your skin smooth and hydrated for the winter. If you’re looking to lose the knots and tightness in your muscles, book a cranberry and pomegranate Holiday Bliss massage, an aromatic massage meant to relieve tension in the body (let go of those stressful family moments!) and offer a customized blend of essential oils to leave you feeling relieved and ready to take on the new decade. // Kimpton Lorien Hotel & Spa: 1600 King St., Alexandria; $110-$125
James Cleverly is Chairman of the Conservative Party, and is MP for Braintree.
On Thursday, voters will go to the polls in an election unlike any I have seen before. The stakes are high. The choice is stark. And we have just five days to secure the result we need. Nine seats stand between us and the majority that would allow us to get things done. To deliver Brexit, bring the country back together and move forward.
All 635 Conservative candidates will back the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal – that’s the deal, by the way, that we were told he’d never get. We will re-introduce the Withdrawal Agreement by Christmas and leave the EU in January.
Just think what we could achieve then. We’d be able to refocus the efforts and energy of Government and Parliament on the ambitious agenda the Prime Minister presented in our manifesto. On levelling up education funding, helping families onto the housing ladder, supporting local businesses and boosting the number of nurses in our NHS.
A vote for any other party is a vote to put Jeremy Corbyn in Number Ten, leading a chaotic, Remain alliance propped up by the Liberal Democrats and the SNP. His promise to respect the referendum result in tatters. His flimsy commitment to the Union predictably abandoned at the first sniff of power. 2020 squandered to two divisive referendums.
Voting Conservative is the only way to end the paralysis that has characterised the last three and a half years and restore faith in the democratic system we all live by. Voters told us what they wanted in 2016. It’s a shocking indictment of contemporary politics that we are the only major party prepared to deliver it.
But the threat of Corbyn goes beyond the damage he would do to public faith in democracy. It goes beyond, even, the economic damage he would inflict on hardworking families and vital public services. Corbyn would fail in Government’s primary responsibility – which is to keep its people safe.
Whereas Labour’s post war Foreign Secretary, Ernest Bevin, saw NATO as embodying the ‘spiritual union’ of the west, Corbyn has said the peacekeeping alliance should be scrapped. No matter that over the last 70 years it has halted Soviet aggression and helped to prevent a third world war.
He would undermine our armed forced, disempower the police and inflict irreversible damage on our closest security alliances. Under Corbyn’s leadership, Labour has turned its back on the party’s traditional support, mutating into something which an ever-rising number of former Labour MPs feel compelled to urge the British public to vote against. As Ivan Lewis put it last week, it’s not the Labour party of our parents or grandparents. And it’s led by a man entirely unfit to be Prime Minister.
Since becoming Party Chairman, I’ve visited candidates and spoken to constituents up and down the country. The fear people feel at the prospect of a Corbyn premiership is palpable. And we have five days to make sure that doesn’t happen.
We didn’t want this election, but we do need it. And we need to win it. We can’t do that without you.
General elections require a special kind of commitment from members and activists. General elections in deepest winter event more so. I’ve seen first-hand the dedication of our associations and supporters over the past five weeks, but as we enter the final five days we need one last push.
In 2017, 51 MPs were returned with majorities of less than a thousand. That’s 51 results potentially determined by an extra hour on the doorstep, an extra evening delivering or telephone canvassing. In a tight election, these ‘extras‘ makes all the difference. We need just nine more seats to get Brexit done and move our country forward.
So here’s my ask to you. I need you to find the time for just a couple more hours leafletting and on polling day to work with our candidates. Whatever you can give our candidates across the country. When we work together, the Conservative Party can deliver incredible results. Just look at the famous victories of 2015 or 1979. Those victories were not just delivered by our Party’s leaders or manifestos.
They were delivered by you, our members. Taking the argument to the doorsteps of the UK and making the case for a Conservative majority government. I don’t want any of us on Friday thinking, ‘what more could I have done?’ as we look down the barrel of years more in-fighting, dithering and delay.
Like our candidates, I will be pounding the pavements. Like our councillors, I will be wearing my knuckles out knocking on doors. Like our association chairmen, I will be making sure that come December 13th we have the majority we need to take our country forward. I hope you will join me.
With winter comes the holiday season, and pantries stock quickly with canned soups, boxes of pasta, treats to satisfy sweet tooths … and let’s not forget the leftovers.
There’s nothing wrong with consciously indulging during the holidays, says Debbie Jeffery, RDN, LD, of Fairfax Nutrition. But what about that lingering hunger that seems to make an appearance every few hours during the wintertime?
“There’s speculation that part of it might be our caveman-type of gene, maybe that we’re storing extra energy, whereas other people speculate about daylight hours and serotonin,” says Jeffery, who has more than 20 years of experience in the field. “Serotonin boosts our mood, and carbohydrates have that same effect, so some people think that feeling can result in us craving carbs. Less exposure to sunlight [from daylight saving time] can mean we turn to those carb-heavy comfort foods too.”
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Aside from the holiday season influencing self-critical behaviors, binging or other unhealthy tendencies, winter eating habits can change for a variety of reasons.
“There’s a difference between people who are hungry, and then people that just want to eat. People eat for many reasons that do not have to do with nourishing their bodies,” says Jeffery. “It might be because they’re bored, more stressed, the longer and darker days … and then they’re eating, but not necessarily from the point of hunger.”
One of Jeffery’s theories on how most people add on a few extra pounds also has to do with winter fashion.
“In the winter, we wear much heavier clothes, such as sweaters, and our bodies are covered, so we are not as keyed into it as we are in the summer,” says Jeffery. “We don’t notice those couple of pounds, and all of the sudden spring comes.”
Luckily, there is a way to avoid stress-induced, boredom-induced and, of course, cold-weather-induced eating habits: awareness.
“If you’re eating at times other than you normally would, ask yourself, ‘Am I hungry, or am I just having that need that I want to eat?’,” says Jeffery. “Focus on eating different types of food, and don’t go for the high-calorie comfort food [when you’re feeling extra hunger pains] so you can make sure to balance. If you cut out too much [comfort food], you may really want to binge, and you don’t want to get into deprivation. Just be aware, look at what you’re doing and maybe get on the scale periodically, say once a week, and adjust accordingly.”
If pangs of hunger or a few extra pounds have you considering a drastic New Year’s resolution, Jeffery says it’s better to start out with smaller lifestyle changes.
“You can’t diet, lose the weight and then go back to the way you were eating,” says Jeffery. “Have incremental steps each day, and have the resolutions be specific, such as eating two servings of vegetables a day rather than just saying, ‘I want to eat healthy.’”
Otherwise, try to keep yourself exercising and get outside in the sun for some much-needed fresh air and full-body movement. And remember, it’s OK to enjoy the winter months, even with more opportunities to snack or splurge.
“If you want ice cream, go to the ice cream shop. Don’t have it in your house,” says Jeffery. “That way, you’re not going to overindulge and you can still have it.”
Yes, it’s cold. And it’s probably going to get colder. That doesn’t mean you should stop outdoor exercise altogether, says Henry Dunbar, director of BikeArlington.
“Be flexible, have the layers and push yourself a little bit,” says Dunbar. “It’s OK to be a little cool to start out, but you’ll warm up pretty quickly.”
To help you tackle winter exercising with ease, we spoke with year-round cyclist Henry Dunbar of BikeArlington, and Dave Ringwood, training program coach at the Formula Running Center in Clarendon. Below, find their best tips for beating the cold and staying active while waiting for spring to arrive.
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Let’s start by discussing the challenges of biking and running in the winter. Other than the cooler temperatures, what makes this time of year more challenging? HR: One of the challenges is really just the amount of planning you have to take into account. The weather in this region can be anywhere from 10 degrees to 50, and with many cold-weather activities, the key is layers. You have to be able to adjust to what the temperatures may be at any point in the day. DR: Winter mornings provide anything but a warm welcome to us runners. We get up those mornings and know what’s on the other side of the front door: any combination of freezing temperatures, darkness, snow and ice. By contrast, we could remain inside with the ability to turn up the heat, turn on Netflix and tell ourselves, “I’ll get my run in later.” But laying out your outfit the night before, planning to run with a friend or group and preparing a post-run meal are all valid ways to increase your motivation to run on those mornings. The more consistent you become with your morning routine, the easier it becomes.
If you’re someone who already has a biking or running schedule during the warmer months, should you readjust it for winter? HR: As a year-round cyclist, I would stick to the same time frame, but the light changes, so make sure you have good light on your bike and reflective equipment. Being able to see and be seen are essential.
DR: I strongly recommend adjusting one’s training to account for winter obstacles. Freezing temperatures, darkness, snow and ice are just a few aspects of winter that impact one’s running. With that said, I have several recommendations. First, focus on effort and time over speed and distance. Instead of mapping out a specific distance run to be covered at a certain pace, consider how long that would take in ideal conditions and then run on that length of time for the same effort. You’ll get the same aerobic benefits as you would any time of year, despite the wintry conditions. Second, allow yourself flexibility with your schedule! No training plan should be absolutely set in stone, especially when winter elements can be so unpredictable. While braving a blizzard to get in your long run might make for a cool story, staying healthy and setting a new PR makes for an even better one.
What are some tips you might suggest to someone who is just starting out this winter, or who is looking to add biking and/or running to their New Year’s resolutions? HR: Biking offers transportation flexibility and the opportunity to not be locked into one particular mode of getting around. The exercise benefits are the same as in the summer too. But I would say the secret to starting is having that windproof outer layer. That really goes a long way in keeping warm. I find that I don’t have to wear that much clothing if I have that shell. Also, waterproof gloves. The other thing is, even if you don’t want to ride when it’s under 40 degrees, you can still ride some days throughout the winter. Even if it rains on Monday, you could be guaranteed perfect riding conditions for the rest of the week. The weather will change.
DR: I think the most valuable advice I can give to a beginning runner (or one getting back into the game) is to find your support system. This could be family, friends, a running group, heck … even pets make for a great support system! As long as you feel supported and held accountable, you’re setting yourself up for success. As for tips, I definitely have a few that I have learned from personal experience. First, it can be easy to overdress for the cold. A general rule of thumb is to dress for 10 to 20 degrees warmer than the actual temperature, as your body will naturally warm up throughout the run. Second, make sure you continue hydrating. Despite the colder temperatures, we still sweat while running. Third, shorten your stride to stabilize your center of gravity. This becomes especially important when running on uncleared sidewalks. You have to stay on your feet if you want to keep running!
Are there any equipment tips you might you offer to runners and bikers for the winter? HR: The real secret for me was when I discovered Bar Mitts. They’re big, mitten-like things that fit over the handlebars. Those are the only things that truly made the difference in making sure my fingers didn’t freeze.
DR: Warm up before you head out the door. A dynamic warmup routine should be performed inside to ease the transition from your warm house to the cold outdoors. Understand the purpose of each clothing layer to stay warm. Your base layer should be made of a fitted, dry-wicking material to retain heat while allowing moisture to escape. A second, middle layer can be worn depending on how cold it is. This is looser fitting and can even be fleece material. A jacket should be worn on top to both retain heat and block the wind. For safety, reflectors should be your best friends. Running out in the brisk winter air is a great way to feel alive, while remaining visible to vehicles is a great way to stay alive. Finally, gloves are good, but mittens are better! When you’re out on a run, your body is the lone source of your warmth. While gloves prevent the colder elements from reaching your hands as quickly, they also prevent your hands from warming themselves. Investing in a quality pair of running mittens was one of the best running-gear purchases I’ve ever made!
And if it’s just too cold outside, any suggestions? HR: Everyone has to make their own choice. I don’t ride when there’s ice, but that’s where Capital Bikeshare can come in handy. Those bikes are very sturdy and forgivable, even in bad conditions. I know a lot of people won’t ride their own bikes when it’s slushy out, and the local bikes are designed to withstand weather conditions.
DR: I’m a strong proponent of treadmill running, especially during the winter months. Treadmills provide a control of external variables in such a way that can’t be replicated outdoors and, as a coach at the Formula Running Center, I’ve seen runners of all abilities benefit tremendously from that control.
Those holiday cookies and cocktails are tempting, but sticking to your health goals through December isn’t impossible. Offset all those extra calories, or just go have fun, at these 16 events around town. From workouts to mental health seminars, they will help you get your body and mind right, just in time for the new year.
Polar Bear 5K Sunday, Dec. 1, 9-11:30 a.m. Occoquan’s official Polar Bear 5K is a fun and healthy event for all ages. Take the 5K race course by storm, winding through the Occoquan Regional Park as you look out at the scenic Occoquan River. Race participants will receive a free race mug and a coupon for a free hot chocolate. // Occoquan Regional Park: 9751 Ox Road, Lorton; $15-$30
Yoga Alignment 88 Sunday, Dec. 1, 10-11 a.m. Learn 14 new yoga poses and build them into a flow at this yoga class hosted by Sand & Steel Fitness at Aslin Brewery. One ticket includes the yoga class and one Aslin beer. And, the first 20 registrants will receive a gift certificate for a free class at Sands & Steel. If you have a yoga mat, bring it, but if not mat rentals are available for $5. // Aslin Beer Company: 847 S. Pickett St., Alexandria; $20-$25
Zumba at Eavesdrop Brewery Sunday, Dec. 1, 11 a.m.-noon Get your Zumba on at this hour-long event to burn off that Thanksgiving meal. Each ticket includes access to the Zumba class and one beer, wine or cider at the end. Plus, enjoy $1 off all drink purchases. // Eavesdrop Brewery: 7223 Centreville Road, Suite 115, Manassas; $13-$15
Monthly Community Wellness Event: Seasonal Flavors Sunday, Dec. 1, 3-5 p.m. Ekoe Health owner Lynn Westine, M.S., DCN-c, will share small-bite recipes featuring nutrient-dense, seasonal foods. Learn how to chop, roast, sauté and simmer in your own kitchen for the winter months. // Ekoe Health: 254 N. Washington St., Falls Church; free
Community Sunset Sip + Stretch Tuesday, Dec. 3, 5-6:30 p.m. Take a deep breath ahead of the holidays that often bring stress as an unwanted side effect. Watch the sunset as you practice yoga and relax during the guided meditation. Select tea will be provided by Elden Street Tea Shop after the class. // Rowan Tree: 280 Sunset Park Drive, Herndon; free
Healthy Holiday Meals Wednesday, Dec. 4, 7-8:30 p.m. This educational lecture will address how to cook healthy meals that are traditionally calorie-heavy during holiday parties and get-togethers. After, there will be a 30-minute Q&A session. // Roselle Center for Healing: 8500 Executive Park Ave., Suite 300, Merrifield; free
Run RTC: lululemon Run Club Every Thursday, 6-7 a.m. Bundle up and hit the pavement with lululemon’s Run Club. Each Thursday morning, the group meets outside the Reston Town Center location for a 25- to 45-minute run. All running levels are welcome. // lululemon: 11957 Market St., Reston; free
Eat the Frog Fitness Broadlands Grand Opening Thursday, Dec. 5, 5-7 p.m. The first-ever Eat the Frog Fitness location in the DMV is officially open. Head to its grand opening event for music, spirits, hors d’oeuvres, giveaways and more information on the unique workouts offered there. // Eat the Frog Fitness: 43170 Southern Walk Plaza, Suite 104, Ashburn
Sahaja Yoga Meditation Every Thursday, 7-8 p.m. Sahaja Yoga was created in 1970 to help participants “breakthrough in the evolution of human awareness.” It is practiced in over 100 countries and focuses on reducing stress and anxiety, improving creativity, building up self-confidence and bringing overall peace to the mind. // Herndon Fortnightly Library: 768 Center St., Herndon; free
Introduction to Essential Oils Saturday, Dec. 7, 2:30-4 p.m. Want to learn more about essential oils and how they can help reduce stress, soothe muscles, improve sleep and help alleviate other common health issues? Head to Ekoe Health where two special guests will be discussing the benefits of essential oils. // Ekoe Health: 254 N. Washington St., Falls Church; free
Sunday Sweat Series Sunday, Dec. 8, 9:30-10:30 a.m. Lace up your sneakers and head to lululemon’s Clarendon location for a Barry’s Bootcamp class, which will feature high-intensity interval training to tone muscle through a combination of running and weight lifting. // lululemon: 2847 Clarendon Blvd., Suite 150, Arlington; free
Baby Goat Yoga Pajama Party Sunday, Dec. 8, 1:30-2:30 p.m. & 3-4 p.m. Get happy with goat yoga. Friendly goats from Walnut Creek Farm will freely roam around as participants enjoy a casual yoga practice, with plenty of time for goat cuddles and photos afterward. // Faith Lutheran Church: 3313 Arlington Blvd., Arlington; $35
Sweat and Shop Wednesday, Dec. 11, 5-8 p.m. Head to lululemon’s Mosaic District location to work up a holiday sweat before diving into that never-ending shopping list. // lululemon: 2920 District Ave., Suite 105, Fairfax; free
Health Empowerment Expo Saturday, Dec. 14 and Sunday, Dec. 15, 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Shop over 30 vendors at this expo, featuring health and wellness products, beauty products, clothes, accessories and more. There will also be consultations with fitness professionals, free health screenings and opportunities to meet health care providers. // Springfield Mall: 6500 Springfield Mall Town Center, Springfield; $0-$600
DIY Bath Bubbles and Bath Salts Sunday, Dec. 15, 2-4 p.m. Itchy skin and dryness are common in the winter months, but there is a way to combat those symptoms. At this workshop, learn how to make your own bubble bath and bath salts with essential oils to create hydrating products for your skin. // Hambrock Holistic Healing Center: 297 Herndon Parkway, Suite 105, Herndon; $15
Yoga Saturdays Saturday, Dec. 21, 9-10 a.m. Unwind before Christmas at this yoga class designed for all levels. Be sure to bring your own water and mat. // Prince James Clubhouse: 5900 Prince James Drive, Springfield; free
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Dr Sejal Bhansali is Chairman of Conservative Dentists.
Last week the Labour Party announced, that if elected, everyone will be entitled to a ‘free teeth MOT’. What has not been reported is that under the current Conservative Government, check ups are already free for:
Children (but less than 40 per cent of the population attend the dentist);
Students under 19;
Pregnant mothers or those who have had a baby in the previous 12 months;
The unemployed or those on Income Support.
Cost is not the barrier to dental treatment. The challenge is, more so, access to dentists and the size of the profession willing to work with the NHS.
A previous Labour government introduced the current dental contract in 2006, whereby dentists are paid by UDAs (Units of Dental Activity). If a patient needs ten fillings or one, the dentist is still paid the same, which is a ‘Band 2’. The contract does not take into account the growing cost of materials, practice management or the cost of auxiliary staff, for example dental nurses and receptionists. It often costs a practice more to treat NHS patients then what they receive for doing so.
The contract has forced a number of practices to become solely Private Practice. Working within the NHS is no longer financially viable for many dentists. This in turn, has led to challenges of access, whereby many areas of the country lack a single NHS dentist.
The Labour policy has not discussed what happens if, after the free dental examination, the patients need treatment. Who is going to pay for this, the ‘Unicorn of Dental Activity’? Offering free examinations only works if the patient has a stable mouth.
When studying to become a dentist, the one phrase I was taught very early on was, ‘prevention is better than cure’. It is with dismay, so far, that I note the Labour Party has not mentioned anything about prevention.
Dental decay is 99 per cent preventable. Currently, oral health disease is the third most expensive healthcare condition behind diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Oral health disease places a significant burden on the NHS. Between April 2015 and March 2018 there were over 100,000 hospital admissions due to tooth decay among children. One in four children have dental decay by the time they start school.
The whole focus of Matt Hancock and the Conservative Government is on prevention. A commitment has been made to roll out improved toothbrushing schemes in nurseries and schools across England, and to produce proposals for supervised toothbrushing programmes that can reach 30 per cent of the most deprived 3-5 year olds by 2022.
A position on water fluoridation has also been taken, with Whitehall instructing the NHS to work more closely with local authorities to implement water fluoridation schemes. A sugar levy has been introduced and there is strong evidence it is working.
More needs to be done on prevention. Introducing the subject of oral health on the the Early Years Curriculum; increasing the number of advertisements that incorporate the importance of oral health and correct meal choices for children; encouraging the availability of more healthy, better and cheaper food and encouraging schools and nurseries to go ‘sugar free’, are all examples of good behaviour.
By contrast, Labour’s promise is just another ill-thought-through election gimmick.
When the temperatures turn cold, we tend to shut the doors and bundle up inside. But our cold-weather tendencies can put a damper on children’s exercise routines, as well as our own.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests 60 minutes of physical activity each day for children 6 to 17 years old. With daylight saving shortening sunlight, fall sports leagues ending and more, there are plenty of ways exercise can fall to the wayside from December through March.
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Here, two local registered dietitians, Brittany Cines, R.D., L.D., CNSC, CNP and Lise Gloede, M.S., RDN, CDE, share their tips on how to keep kids moving through the winter, and how it can benefit you too.
Since cooler temperatures tend to bring us inside, how should kids be getting physical exercise at home during the winter months? BC: It is just as important for kids to stay active during the winter as it is during the summer, but accomplishing this often involves more effort and planning. Remember that kids are resilient and the frigid temperatures does not have to stop them from getting some fresh air. Bundle your child up and walk the dog, head to the playground or take them sledding! Of course, there are also plenty of indoor activities that kids can do to get moving without wearing all the layers. Consider signing your child up for winter sports, such as basketball or indoor soccer, or finding classes at a nearby dance studio. The whole family can also be active together at home by doing an exercise video, household chores or enjoying a dance party.
What physical activities outside of the home would you suggest for kids and families? BC: Most kids get a portion of their one hour of physical activity (as suggested by the CDC) from P.E. class at school, but it often isn’t enough. On weekends, consider activities such as ice skating, laser tag, gymnastics, indoor play spaces, bowling, an indoor pool and more.
LG: It’s always best to make it fun, so thinking about indoor options such as ice skating, snow hikes, indoor tennis and soccer, or just walking with the family on the weekends. These are all good and helpful. Finding new stores at the mall and walking around the mall while catching up with your kids and having a scavenger hunt in the mall or other big area is another idea. Anything that requires movement and can be worked into a game, challenge or social activity is key.
What are a few ways to motivate children to exercise during the winter? BC: Children do not tend to need as much motivation to exercise compared to adults. In fact, children should not view it as exercise at all, but rather they should see these activities as fun! When we set limitations on sedentary activities such as watching television, it isn’t as difficult to get them moving. One big incentive for some kids is a step tracker such as a Fitit to serve as a motivator.
LG: Well that applies to adults too! After all, if parents aren’t exercising or fitting movement into their week, how can we expect our kids to do so? I think my approach is not really about exercise, it’s about movement and finding ways to do it with the family to connect, or to make it into a game.
If a child is hesitant to exercise, what is the best way for a parent to start the conversation to get them moving? BC: I am a big proponent of explaining the importance of a balanced diet and regular physical activity to our children so that they can take more independence over keeping their bodies healthy. Rather than emphasize words like weight and calories, I prefer to use phrases like more energy, stronger, happier and “better grades in school.”
LG: Be the example and do it with them. Have the expectation that everyone is going hiking on Saturday, for example, and proceed.
What are the overall benefits of kids staying active during the winter? BC: The health benefits of children being physically active during the winter are the same as the benefits during the summer. Exercise not only helps to prevent long-term issues such as obesity, heart disease and Type 2 diabetes, but we also know that there are a lot of cognitive and mental health benefits to getting a child’s body moving each day.
Is there anything else parents should know about keeping their kids healthy through the winter? BC:According to the American Heart Association, kids spend an average of eight hours per day using some form of media while the recommendation is to limit to a maximum of one to two hours per day. While no one is perfect, we should all try to be mindful of how our children are spending their time. Also, I believe that the key to achieving our children’s physical activity goals is to keep them busy and to join them!
LG: Parents always want the best for kids, so in their free time, they should think about creating ways to make movement fun (so it lasts and is memorable in a good way), as well as thinking about these health habits as time to connect. That will make a huge difference. You can’t force your kid to move and you don’t want to make it World War III.Healthy eating is very important too, so eat meals with your kids, only keep favorite treats in the house, don’t make them a big deal and arrange your kitchen and home environment so the healthy choice is the easy choice. Again, be an example of healthy living and it’s easier for kids to follow.
Prior to retail shops opening their doors in the area at 10 a.m., Gunther has already worked for nearly six hours, organizing schedules for his trainers, responding to emails and training with clients. He’s been in the role for just over three years, and has watched the location’s clientele triple in size.
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“We’ve even added more [physical] space,” says Gunther. “It’s been really cool to see the growth, especially how many new trainers can bring in new people, and to see their successes.”
Gunther got involved with personal training and overall health by growing up as an athlete. He played basketball. He played football. He dabbled in soccer. Then he went off to run track at Bridgewater College in Harrisonburg, West Virginia.
“I realized I couldn’t go hard all the time. It was a full-on project, I had to eat healthy, I had to take my ‘easy’ days easy, and recovery was really important,” says Gunther. “I got a holistic approach, and the more I took advantage of those things, the faster I got.”
He tapped on the shoulders of coaches and professors while studying exercise science.
“I learned so much by doing that,” says Gunther. “I was interested in my own way, so I would ask them what they suggest and what things they experienced and that grew into, ‘How can I make other people better in certain ways?’”
Now he spends a majority of the day on his feet with his own clients, working on the physical exercises and science behind gaining speed and agility, having quicker reaction times and strengthening certain areas of the body.
His days can be 12 to 13 hours long at times, and they all start with that crack-of-dawn alarm clock.
“From 6 to 9 a.m., I either have adult groups that max out at four people, or I have one-on-one clients,” says Gunther. “I might have some runners that want to come in and work more on flexibility or stability, and then I have some guys who just want to get their butts kicked before work.”
“Around 9 a.m., I’ll knock out more emails, schedule last-minute programming, grab a snack. Sometimes I get a workout in, but who really knows?,” says Gunther. “And then at noon, I’m back with training again. I have a few guys from my Parkinson’s group come for a smaller group experience.”
Gunther’s Parkinson’s group meets every Monday night with roughly 12 to 18 people. Aside from getting in general exercise, he gets the opportunity to bring in rewarding, helpful movements that focus on fine tuning deteriorating muscle skills and what he calls “BIG movements.”
“There’s working on BIG movements such as giving yourself a hug and then expanding your arms to be really big, or doing a toe touch, followed by a big reach,” says Gunther. “And then we’ll do some very fine movements, like with the fingers where they have to move each individual finger and thumb, and that kind of throws them off a bit because it’s really small movements.”
The afternoon means more emails, another snack and heading straight into afternoon training. Gunther works with Middle Creek Country Club’s developmental tennis programs a few times each week, and has steady weekly clients too. Their ages range, as well as their goals.
“I try to train everybody as an athlete. I feel like everyone has a sport, and I’m really competitive, so I have that mentality anyway,” says Gunther. “Whether their sport is lacrosse, volleyball, whatever, or everyday stuff like, ‘I want to be able to pick up my grandchild,’ or go for a jog every now and then and not have lower back pain, everyone has different goals but our work just depends on what those goals are.”
Back in September, Gunther also had the chance to bring his training to the professional stage. He was approached at the gym by none other than the Washington Capitals video coordinator, who invited him to run one of the 13 stations for the team’s preseason training day.
“It was really cool to see that championship culture at the highest level,” says Gunther. “They are not far removed from winning the Stanley Cup. It was cool to see how a professional team runs things and seeing how certain athletes move and test what they can do. It was also so cool to see Alex Ovechkin and T.J. Oshie come through to get tested. I hope I get to do that again, but I was definitely really, really honored that he thought of me to do that.”
Moving forward, Gunther is always on the lookout for teams that need a trainer or clients who simply want a different approach to personal training. The company as a whole has worked with the Washington Spirit, a few national-level athletes, and were one of the only training facilities authorized by the NFL during the 2011 NFL lockout.
“The best part is building relationships with clients at the gym. You get to see what’s going on in their life and then also see their growth and treatments. People have a lot of doubts going into something they might not like at all or feel uncomfortable doing, and seeing them lift that heavy weight or run that 5K faster than they ever have before, I think that’s one of the most rewarding parts of my job. I like seeing them achieve the goal that they had when they didn’t think they had it in them,” says Gunther.
Interested clients can reach out via Instagram or the company’s website, and get a free one-week trial of training. Just make sure it’s before Gunther turns out the lights at 9 p.m.
“Some people stay up way later than I do,” says Gunther. “I can’t seem to stay up past 10. I’m out.” // One Life Fitness: 11445 Isaac Newton Square S., Reston
You’ve caught it flipping through the channels. American Ninja Warrior, the ever-addictive television show where highly trained athletes hop from obstacle to obstacle, hoping to reach the tip-top of the Warped Wall.
Casey Passafaro has gone on the national stage twice for the show, and now brings her ninja experience to Northern Virginia at NoVA Ninja, a ninja gym based in Sterling. On Sunday, Dec. 15, she’ll host the Youth Ninja Warrior Winter Competition at the gym for competitors ages 5 to 18.
“I started training for Ninja Warrior in my house with my two boys,” says Passafaro. “[American Ninja Warrior] was a show we loved to watch together because it was becoming a real sport. I built up our house with obstacles. I had things hanging from the ceiling and some homemade balance obstacles.”
Her kids were a pivotal influence in her journey into the sport. Passafaro didn’t predict that five years later, after training in and around her home, she would be a two-time competitor on their favorite show, a ninja gym owner and a ninja coach for adults and kids. (Plus, she’s an oncology nurse practitioner too). She has even trained seven local kids who have made it onto American Ninja Warrior Jr.
Now, she’s excited to continue to bring the sport to the younger generations here in Northern Virginia and beyond with local competitions.
“Establishing a fun, positive relationship with fitness at an early age is important, and NoVa Ninja provides the opportunity to expose kids to a unique style of fitness that can only benefit a child,” says Passafaro.
The winter competition will be designed with specialized obstacles (about 10 per course) for each age group, ages 5 to 7, ages 8 to 10, ages 11 and 12, and the 13 and older group. Each will vary in intensity and challenge the different methods of training in ninja. In true American Ninja Warrior fashion, the courses will not be released in advance, and kids will need to rely on their honed skills and previous experience to make their way to the podium.
“When I travel to youth ninja competitions with our competition team, I tell them, ‘All you can do is focus on the course at hand. Don’t overthink the simple things you can do, and have a plan for new obstacles you aren’t sure about. Failing an obstacle will happen, and that’s OK. I have fallen in the water on national television, and I’ve also won local competitions. You’ve put in the work, now go out there and have fun,’” says Passafaro. “I have to say … I get more nervous when the ninja kids I train run [a course], and I get more excited when they do great, than I do for myself,” says Passafaro.
She will be creating the multiple courses for the competition this year, surely with some inspiration from her “Obstacle Dreams” notebook, where she scribbles down ideas for challenging obstacles and brings them to life in the gym. But the creativity of the sport itself is yet another reason Passafaro has fallen for it, and encourages kids to tap into their own imaginations.
“I encourage our ninja kids to make their own order of obstacles to put together a course for their class. I don’t want them to just be great athletes, but also encourage them to have great minds,” says Passafaro.
The gym currently has local kids who train every single day in the space, and is willing to help any local child get involved with only one requirement: athletic shoes. For children interested in getting involved, a preliminary course Ninja 101 helps establish foundational skills, like quintuple steps, the rope swing, ring rows, tilting beams and, of course, the warped wall.
Otherwise, Passafaro hopes the upcoming competition not only lets kids have the chance to compete and for the location to spread the word, but for parents to be open to the idea of having their kids try something entirely new and different from other sports, and get involved too.
“Fitness as a family is so important,” says Passafaro. “We offer family ninja nights where the whole family can train together. NoVa Ninja is not a bounce house, it is a place where real-life warriors train for the sport of ninja. And between myself, my business partner and our general manager, we have seven children. We make it a priority to train our coaches on how to make sure every kid leaves here feeling good about themselves and their experience, regardless of if it’s their 100th visit, or their first.” // NoVa Ninja: 21531 Blackwood Court, Suite 110, Sterling; Dec. 15, 5-8:30 p.m.; $30-$40
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