Monday, December 19, 2011

Staying Healthy this Holiday is Easier Than You Think

Staying Healthy this Holiday is Easier Than You Think

Tis the season for Holiday shopping, parties, gatherings and a whole lot of homemade Holiday cooking! For most of us, the Holiday Season disrupts our normal health routines and habits. Spinning class is replaced by an office party and our evening Zumba class is spent at the mall trying to complete the never ending shopping list. To make it even worse as we go for Grandma’s special snowmen brownies a voice in our head tells us over and over again, “Don’t do it!” or “You’re gonna regret that!” We can be too hard on ourselves during this time of year, but here are some things to consider before you get down on indulging and some tips on how to enjoy your holidays this year:

  1. First, you’re most likely not going to gain ten pounds between now and New Year’s Day. No matter what has happened since Thanksgiving and what you have planned for the remainder of 2011, according to research the average person gains between 1 and 4 pounds during this time. Not great, but not ten pounds either, so celebrate!
  2. Be real with yourself. You’re most likely not going to lose weight, adjust your goal to try to avoid gaining weight.
  3. Plan time to exercise. As I mentioned, routines are disrupted and classes or gym time is missed, so try to find other ways to exercise. Park farther away at the mall. Not only will you avoid those ugly parking battles, you’ll most likely save time parking and walking the extra 20 yards than driving around trying to find that great spot close to the entrance. Finding an extra five minutes in everyday tasks can add up! If you can plan time to exercise that is great, it can be a fantastic stress reliever!
  4. Don’t try to skip a meal prior to a party, that just leads to over eating. Instead eat a raw vegetable or piece of fruit, that will curb your appetite a bit and boost your confidence. It’s like they say, one good decision leads to another.
  5. When you are faced with a goody filled buffet, stick with your favorites temptation and pass on those foods you can live without.

Remember that the Holidays are about being with family and friends, not necessarily the food. So enjoy the time you have together, create some new memories and worry less about what to eat. Besides, there’s always your New Year’s Resolutions to help get back on track!

For more tips visit: CPMC Sutter Health

Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Santa's Workshop a Great Success

Teaching children the importance of giving and sharing can be a challenge especially during the holiday season when the mantra, "I WANT..." can be heard everywhere. Adults need to role model generosity, compassion, empathy and philanthropy if they expect children to grow up to be good neighbors.
Last Thursday the Y gave families the opportunity to share the true meaning of Christmas with an event called Santa's Workshop. More than 30 people packed the Hazen Room and brought toys that were then wrapped and will be delivered to ABC Women's Center and NEAT. Children enjoyed making crafts, and eating cookies but the highlight of the evening was definitely Santa Claus making an appearance to thank the children for their donations.
There was a wonderful feeling of Christmas in the room that night. Everyone was smiling and laughing and enjoying being together. And that is the best way to teach values, by doing more than talking about sharing, by having children actually share.

Thank you to Tony Sharillo, Melanie Carfora, Amy Cardoza, Dave Jacob, Maegan Musanti, Kevin Devery and the staff of the Therapeutic Support Mentoring Program for all of their work and support.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Middlesex YMCA Addressing Youth Obesity

The significant increase in youth obesity and the resulting health crisis that many of our young people face requires intervention and action. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that in 2008, more than one third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese. This statistic is alarming but what is most sobering is the impact that obesity has on the quality of life of these individuals and the short and long term cost to society. It is a societal imperative that we reverse the trend and help young people gain back a healthy lifestyle.

The YMCA is for healthy living and we are committed to teaching our youth that an active lifestyle is attainable and enjoyable. Our message is that it is fun to be fit, to play hard, to run and jump and move your body. In 2006 the YMCA Kids’ Korner after school programs introduced the CATCH (Coordinated Approach to Child Health) curriculum in our eleven after school programs. This wellness curriculum is comprised of physical fitness games, activities and nutritional resources. Y staff facilitates a daily active game and integrates the nutrition materials into cooking clubs, group discussion and science clubs. Parent survey results indicate that 75% of children have shown an improvement in their fitness level as a result of this program. Feedback from staff, families and children proves that the program is encouraging active lifestyles and making a real difference in the activity level of children.

In September 2011 the YMCA was awarded a grant from the Aetna Foundation to expand the reach and scope of the CATCH program. As a result, the YMCA now facilitates CATCH activities three days a week at five elementary schools in Middletown (Macdonough, Bielefield, Wesley, Farm Hill and Snow). The activities are popular amongst the children and Y staff provides incentives for participation. Currently close to 500 children are participating in CATCH activities at these schools and the number of participants is increasing weekly.

The YMCA is encouraging inactive children to embrace a healthy lifestyle that includes regular exercise. It is important that children see positive role models making healthy choices. Families need to exercise together. Go for walks, ride bikes, swim at the Y, ice skate or roller skate. If you can’t get outside then at least turn off the TV and turn on an active video game. The following links are resources for families.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Camp Ingersoll 50th Anniversary Gala

The Middlesex YMCA celebrated the 50th Anniversary of Camp Ingersoll in grand style with a Gala on September 17, 2011. Over 100 guests enjoyed a great night of camp stories, good food, and a live band. Henry Coe presided over the dedication of Phelps and Loretta Ingersoll to the Wall of Honor followed by a moving speech by Joshua Lesse past camper and current camp staff member. Josh spoke about his love and appreciation for Camp Ingersoll and shared how attending camp was instrumental in helping him overcome childhood insecurities and social issues that plagued him as a result of being over weight when he was young. Josh is now a successful college student who aspires to be a pediatrician. Josh served as the voice for thousands of children who have been positively impacted over the past 50 years through their participation at Camp Ingersoll.

The YMCA is proud of the important youth development role that Camp Ingersoll has had in our community and we look forward to serving many future generations of young people. To commemorate this important milestone, plans are underway to raise funds to build a special gathering place. Once built, this gathering place will allow campers to assemble in a comfortable place each morning and afternoon to participate in the traditional flag raising/lowering and camp skit ceremonies. These important community building activities have been part of the Ingersoll tradition for the past 50 years and a seated gathering place will insure that this tradition is bigger and better than ever for generations to come!

The Gala kicked off the fundraising with the support of our event sponsors: thank you Aetna, Pratt and Whitney, Comcast and CL&P. During the evening guest bid on great silent auction prizes donated by Teresa Opalacz and Ken Landy, Malloves Jewelry, Comcast, Jennifer Zettergren, Mohegan Sun, Carol Buchanan, Craftsteak and F. James Ifkovic. There was also a fun balloon raffle with prizes donated by Lino’s, Durham Fair, Perk on Main, DaLaur’s, Brownstone Exploration, Portland Paint and Hardware, Palace Theater, Fiore’s, Time Out Tavern, Blackbird, Subway, Illiano’s, First and Last, Portland Electric, Uncle Bob’s, Tuscany, Echo Trading, Stop and Shop, Little Rooster, Hope & Stetson, Expect Discount, Mondo, Lyman Orchards Golf Course, Agway, and EG Salon. Special thanks also goes to Best Cleaners, Kim’s Cottage Collections, City of Middletown Parks Department, Uncle Bob’s, Margo Chase, and Anthony and Aline Grandazzo for donating goods and services in support of the event.

The celebration may be over but the work is just beginning to raise the funds needed to build this beautiful gathering place. To support our efforts buy a brick, bench or seat and dedicate to your special camper, in memory of someone special or to the future generation of campers who will benefit from your generosity. We are grateful for the support of the community and look forward to our next big event being held in our wonderful new gathering place.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Kids' Korner and Girls Outside

Girls Outside” is a fun outdoor education program for girls that is funded by a grant from the Middlesex County Community Foundation. Girls Outside has recently partnered with YMCA Kids’ Korner programs at Snow, Macdonough and Spencer Schools in Middletown to provide fun and educational outdoor activities for girls. The primary objective of this program is to enable more girls and women to have positive outdoor experiences and develop the skills, knowledge and comfort level to enjoy some of the many benefits that nature can have in our lives. The program teaches environmental and science education (identifying basic trees and plants, vernal pool studies) and skill building activities (reading trail maps and using a compass) that encourage girls to explore the natural environment and have experiences that develop the confidence to over time be able to explore and connect with nature without an organized group.

The girls joined Lucy Meigs, founder of Everyone Outside, for a series of walking field trips at their individual schools. They kids explored the natural environment of their school grounds and surrounding neighborhoods and Lucy shared some sights with the kids that they had otherwise overlooked. The girls at Macdonough found a patch of grass that smelled like onions and some willow branches that could be formed into shapes. These trips were a lead up to a series of special field trips that the girls were to take to explore the grounds of the Wadsworth Mansion on Wadsworth Street in Middletown.

On April 15th girls from Kids’ Korner at Macdonough School and Spencer School traveled by bus to the Wadsworth Mansion at Long Hill Estate. Lucy Meigs and her helpers guided the girls on a tour of the parklands surrounding the manor. It was a perfect day and perfect weather for the trip. The grounds were beautiful with newly sprouted daffodils and budding trees. The girls were able to walk a wooded trail where Lucy taught them that there were various features on the hike that would appeal to the different senses. They were able to smell a spice bush, skunk cabbage and black birch. The girls especially loved the smell of the black birch which smells distinctly like wintergreen. “Omigosh, this stick smells like gum,” shared Rejoyce. The skunk cabbage, however, was not appreciated. The girls shared a resounding, “Eww” when informed that the inside of the plant is over 70 degrees and smells like old meat. They listened for the sounds of small woodland animals like birds and chipmunks and were able to feel furry leaves. They also learned that Native Americans would use the furry soft leaves to line their moccasins. While on this hike the girls also spotted a “Letterbox” with a booklet for stamps. In time the girls will create their own stamps and learn how to find more letterboxes.

Following the nature hike, both groups met up to have a nice outdoor snack at the rear of Wadsworth Mansion. They were also given a small tour of the downstairs of the mansion. During snack, Lucy played a recording of wood frogs croaking from the pond. The girls couldn’t believe how loud they sounded. After snack, Lucy escorted the girls to the vernal pool on the Wadsworth grounds. She allowed the children to touch a large frog she had caught. She taught them that they had to wet their hands before touching it. They also used special magnifying pond viewers to look at pond water extracted from the vernal pool. Lucy was on hand to explain to the girls just what they were discovering in each scoop of water.

The girls had a great time on their trip and are looking forward to the next trip scheduled in May. The Middlesex YMCA is fortunate to have partnered with Girls Outside and to be able to offer our children this fantastic experience. We thank the Middlesex County Community Foundation for the grant funding which has made this program possible. For more information about nature activities that you and your family can participate in please visit It's a great time of year to get outside with your family!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Fear of Commitment?

Some folks just do not like a long term commitment. They get nervous when you talk about "next year" or say "anniversary". Those folks often do not join the YMCA because they imagine that a membership is a tie down, or a regular routine that they deem too inflexible for them.
Well, we have the solution for them. Beginning right now, we are offering a summer short term membership special for $1 A Day. Now yes, there is a two week minimum, but even the most cynical "non commiters" can see that 2 weeks is like a first date. Additional weeks are only $7.
So, please tell your friends and your family members that are always saying things like, "I need to start exercising", or "I keep meaning to get to the Y", that NOW is the time to get started.

Before you know it they'll be loving it here and we'll get them into a long term relationship (but don't tell them'll be our secret).

Monday, April 11, 2011

It's Never Too Late To Start Something Worth Doing

That was the first sentence that I wrote in my personal journal last month. You see, since my son was born (4 &1/2 years ago) I have been meaning to start writing in a journal. We take lots of pictures and such (not as many as we used to) but I realized that the best parts were also the simplest and most fleeting moments. Those times that I want to remember...but know that I never will. So, I kept thinking about that journal. BUT after a while I figured it was just too late to start. I had missed so much, maybe I would just forget it.
However, one day I just decided to start. I went and bought a journal. I bought a new pen. I put the new pen and the new journal by my bed so that I can write in it for a few minutes each night. It was very difficult to make myself do it at first but now it has become a fun and rewarding exercise. I look forward to the time alone with my thoughts. I revel in the thought that one day my children will read about their childhoods from MY perspective. It is a gift I give to myself and it started because I TOOK ACTION.
If you have been considering beginning a health and wellness program, the only way to begin is to take action. If you have a friend that has been talking and talking about it...tell them to TAKE ACTION. Don't wait until the time is right (it never is), don't wait until you have more money (you never do) don't wait until you get more rest (it won't happen). DON'T WAIT!

It's never too late to start something that is worth doing.

But you DO have to start.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Spring Into Action

By Kristin Champagne, Health and Fitness Director, Middlesex YMCA

It’s the end of a long winter and time to finally start looking forward to the warm weather. Maybe you are thinking of your spring and summer clothes, and how they will fit; or maybe you are looking forward to a specific goal; running a race, or doing a hike.

So how do you get started?

Step one- Just start. Your first step is to take action, get to the gym, get outside for a walk or a run.

Step two – Do it again. It takes 30 days to build a habit. Talking yourself out of a workout one day will only make it easier to talk yourself out of it the next day.

Step three- Don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you have questions or concerns, ask a qualified fitness professional. If you need help committing, ask someone you know who is already committed to exercise to be your workout buddy.

Step Four- Set realistic goals. Take stock of where you are without beating yourself up. Negative self talk will only make it harder to get back on track. Give yourself credit for the good work you’ve done.

Step Five – Scathe off boredom. Mix up your workouts to keep it interesting. Try a different kind of workout or a new fitness class.

Finally – Keep your goal in mind. Know that reaching your goal is just a matter of continuing, and maybe you will find you enjoy the journey. Learning to love exercise is a guarantee of lifelong fitness J

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

YMCA Strong Kids Dodgeball Tournament

The first annual Strong Kids Dodgeball Tournament was held on Saturday, March 5th in the YMCA gymnasium. Over 100 people made up the twelve teams that competed in a series of fierce and competitive games of dodgeball.

This event was created to bring members of our community together to have fun and help donate to our wonderful cause; the YMCA Strong Kids Campaign. The Strong Kids Campaign is an annual fundraiser whose proceeds benefit our YMCA Open Doors Financial Assistance Program. Donations to the Strong Kids Campaign ensure that all families and children have access to YMCA programs at affordable prices.

This event helped the YMCA raise $500.00 for our campaign. The winning team of this year’s Strong Kids Dodgeball Tournament was YMCA Camp Mataucha (or also known as Team Awesome). The champions received a gift certificate to one of Middletown’s great restaurants Mondo Pizza.

Thank you everyone who helped make this tournament a great success. A special thank you goes out to Mondo for kindly donating gift certificates and pizzas for this event. I hope to see everyone back next year at our Second Annual Strong Kids Dodgeball Tournament!

Friday, March 18, 2011



Ryan Nolan Barnicle, Aquatics Coordinator

Ryan has been with the Middlesex YMCA for six months. He is a Providence College graduate who obtained his teaching certification from SCSU. Ryan taught high school biology in the Bronx, Newington, and Middletown but decided to recommit to his first love, youth aquatics. He has been a lifeguard, swim instructor, swim coach, and pool director for over 10 years with Newington Parks and Recreation and now calls the Y home.

Fun Fact: Ryan loves to swim and be near the water. He was a Division I swimmer for Providence College and is currently training for a marathon!

What is your role at the Middlesex YMCA?

“I am responsible for scheduling and training the lifeguards and swim instructors here at the Y. I coordinate with the Engineering Department to keep our aquatic facilities clean and safe. I also teach swimming lessons and am the primary instructor for American Red Cross health and safety courses.”

What do you find most rewarding about your work at the YMCA?

“I love seeing a student fall in love with the water after learning a difficult skill.”

How does the YMCA impact the community?

“The Y puts youth development at the forefront of its mission and that is an ideal I can really get behind. Growing up is a precious time in a person’s life and I think the Y helps make sure that it’s done right.”

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

YES! You May

Congratulations to Caroline & David May who were the first of our new members to earn back $50 by visiting the YMCA at least 10 times in their first 30 Days.
David & Caroline now have lots of company because yesterday we sent out 23 more checks to others that have reached that magic number.

We hope that by becoming regular users during their first 30 days, our new members will start to make regular exercise a habit. As regular users they will get all of the health benefits that YMCA members know, more energy, less stress, improved stamina and weight loss.
So congratulations to Caroline and David and all of our new members that are active members of our YMCA.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Master Raffle Winner for 2011

I had the pleasure last Thursday of having lunch with Tom Sweeny, this year’s Middlesex YMCA Masters Golf Raffle winner. That man sure can smile! He brought along three friends that will be going with him to Augusta in April and they’ve already got their clubs cleaned and ready to ship south.

Tom Lenahan, last year’s raffle winner was able to join us and he brought along his photo album from his trip last April….the smiles got even bigger. Tom and his brothers had a great time and I have no doubt, Tom #2 and his friends will have a great time also.

While it might seem like your name has to be “Tom” to win this raffle, I can assure you that is pure coincidence. And while we’re happy that both Toms and their friends have the chance for great bucket list adventures, we’re thankful for all who took a chance on this great package. In 2 years you helped us raise over $30,000 for our Open Doors Financial Assistance program at Camp Ingersoll. That means that while 8 lucky guys get to the Masters in 2 years, nearly 120 kids have access to a 2 week summer camp experience that will last a lifetime.

Congratulations to Tom and friends…have a great trip. For all who will be watching the April event on TV, stay tuned for word of the next YMCA Camp Ingersoll Masters Golf Raffle which could be yours to win. There’s just one winner at the Masters and it only takes one ticket to win.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Adult Swim Training

We have over 100 children in our Barracudas swim team and they are here practicing their strokes and preparing for competition. It got us thinking, why should they have all the fun! So, we are pleased to introduce Swim Training for Adults.
This new program is going to be led by Barracudas Head Swim Coach, Brian Fazzino, and will have participants training like a real swim team. It will be a great work out and a terrific way to help you reach your goals, whether those goals are competitive or just recreational. Below is a link where you can find out more about how you can be a part of this exciting new opportunity.

See you in the pool.

Link for more info.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Strong Kids Campaign

It's that time of year again! To many people that means different things. At the Middlesex YMCA, that means it's Strong Kids Campaign time.

The Middlesex YMCA is a community of caring people who support families, build character and promote wellness. One of the special ways that we bring our mission to life is through our belief that everyone should have access to the quality programs offered by our YMCA. The Middlesex YMCA awards over $300,000 of financial assistance to families each year. The Strong Kids Campaign is an annual fundraiser whose proceeds benefit our YMCA Open Doors Financial Assistance Program. Donations to the Strong Kids Campaign ensure that all families and children have access to YMCA programs at affordable prices. These donations have made it possible for us to not have to say "no" to families who want their child to spend a summer outdoor with friends, learn to swim or spend time with a caring adult role model.

In these uncertain economic times, we are proud of the fact that the YMCA has been able to continuously offer financial assistance in an effort to make quality programs available to all members of our community. We are grateful that we have a dedicated staff team who brings our mission to life every day in our community and through our many YMCA programs. Last year, YMCA staff donated over $13,000 to ensure families access to Y programs at affordable prices. We are also grateful to have the support of so many generous business partners throughout our community such as Citizens Bank, Liberty Bank, A & A Office Systems, Best Cleaners, Comcast, Daniels Oil, Suburban Office Products and May, Bonee & Walsh. Thank you to our business partners for standing with the Y in this important cause!

Are you feeling inspired to help? There are so many ways you can contribute to our campaign.

  • Become a donor! Your gift to the Strong Kids Campaign is tax deductible and 100% of your donation goes straight to families who need financial assistance.
  • Become a volunteer! The Y is always looking for people who will volunteer to help with the campaign and speak about our cause.
  • Ask others to become involved! Do you know someone who can donate to our campaign or does the company you work for donate to charitable causes? Let us know if we can make a connection in the community.
  • Participate in our Strong Kids Campaign Dodgeball Tournament! Register a team to participate in this fundraiser that benefits our campaign. It's only $5.00 per person. Please click here for more information and a registration form.
We are proud of the work of our YMCA but we can not do it alone! Please consider supporting our Strong Kids Campaign. For more information,to make a donation or volunteer for our campaign, please contact Bob Spencer at 860.343.6232 or

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


Karin James is the Director of the Phelps Ingersoll Center for Children

Karin has worked for the Middlesex YMCA for 11 years. She resides in Columbia with her Husband Robert and will graduate from Eastern CT State University with her Bachelors Degree in Liberal Arts with Minors in Child Psychology and Early Childhood Education.

Fun Fact: I am an avid UCONN Basketball fan of both the men’s and women’s teams. I enjoy going to the games when I can and I have gone to 3 final fours.

What is your role at the YMCA?

I am the Child Care Director of the Phelps Ingersoll Center for Children, a licensed and accredited Preschool Program of 53 preschoolers and a staff of 11. I provide the oversight for all aspects of the program including enrollment, curriculum, monthly reporting, supervising, and budgeting.

What it the most rewarding part of your job?

The most rewarding part of my job is to see the children learning and growing through play each day. To know that the center is guiding the children we serve through the learning process and making it a fun activity. I also enjoy when the children walk by my office and acknowledge me with a wave or a “Hi”, as they go by.

What makes the Y a special place?

I think the “Y” is a special place, because of the pride and commitment the staff take in providing a great service whether it is through the Child Care Center or another Y program. The community is impacted in a positive way by the services that the “Y” can offer at reduced rates, through its strong kids campaign and partnerships with other agencies such as United Way and Middletown School Readiness.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


There are few things as much fun for children as bouncing. If you have young children you know this to be true. My 4 year old son and 2 year old daughter will bounce on ANYTHING...a bed, the couch, the floor or the dog (yup, poor Tucker). They bounce to music, they bounce while sitting at the dinner table and they bounce while trying to brush their teeth.
So, to take advantage of this fun past time (and to help my dog) we have created the BOUNCE BONANZA, a family event that will take place this Saturday from 2 -4 pm here at the YMCA. The gymnasium will have a bounce house or two and there will be music, mats, popcorn (for sale) and lots and lots of smiles. The event is FREE for members and only $5 for guests.
My family will be here (sans Tucker) and I hope yours will to.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

How to Lose Those Holiday Pounds

By Kristin Champagne, Health and Fitness Director, Middlesex YMCA

Set a realistic goal. Take stock of where you are without beating yourself up. Negative self talk will only make it harder to get back on track.

You did not put the weight on over night (even if it felt that way). It probably took two months. If it took two months to put it on, give yourself two months to take it off. Quick weight loss is not healthy weight loss, and it is also not permanent weight loss, and it takes a permanent toll on you metabolism. Every time you go on a crash diet, about half the weight you lose will be muscle mass, and for every pound of muscle you lose, you metabolism takes a hit. In other words, the less muscle you have, the fewer calories you burn.

It takes 30 days to build a habit, so try to be consistent. Come up with a plan that is realistic for your lifestyle and schedule. If you plan to workout three days a week, and make it four, you have exceeded your goal. If you plan for seven and make it four, chances are you will feel bad. So keep your goals attainable.

Be patient with yourself, if you fall off your plan, don’t beat yourself up, just get right back on. Don’t be a slave to the scale. Use another measure. How do you clothes fit? Take a waist measurement every couple of weeks.

Lose it the right way! 1% of your body weight per week, so if you 150 pounds, that 1 ½ pounds per week. To lose a pound a week, you need to burn an extra 500 calories a day, or restrict you diet by 500 calories a day, or a combination of 250 calories burned and 250 calories restricted. The combination will feel less extreme.

Calorie Burning Ideas ~

  • An hour of spinning can burn up to 600 calories.
  • An hour of running or swimming will do the same.
  • An hour of Zumba or Kickboxing will burn up to 500.
  • An hour of walking can burn up to 300 calories.

You can burn between 200- 400 calories in Pilates, Sculpting or Yoga, depending on the length of the class, but remember, these classes build muscle, and muscle will rev up you resting metabolism. This means you burn more calories just sitting around!

Not a class person? Hit the weight room, for a calorie burn, and metabolic boost. The Fitness Staff is there to help you! Make an appointment for a free Fitness Consultation if you a beginner.

Healthy Dietary Changes ~

  • Drink more water.
  • Eat more fiber (try to switch white breads and pastas for whole grain varieties)

Fruits and veggies, eat up! (at 25 calories per serving of vegetables, and about 60 calories per serving of fruit, they are a low cal, nutritious alternative to most other snacks).

  • Eat more frequently, but keep potion sizes small, it will help keep your metabolism high, and keep you from getting too hungry.
  • Eat some protein to help maintain muscle mass. Lean proteins such as fish, turkey breast, or chicken breast or vegetable proteins, like soy or Tempe are best. Nuts are good too; just watch your portion size.
  • Don’t skip breakfast! It is truly the most important meal of the day, it gets your metabolism going!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Danny Dreyer Interview

The YMCA's own Chris Grosso who works as an Assistant Site Director for Kids' Korner recently interviewed Danny Dreyer and has offered to share his interview. It is fascinating so enjoy!

Danny Dreyer is the creator of ChiRunning® and ChiWalking®, revolutionary forms of moving that blend the subtle inner focuses of T’ai Chi with running and walking. His work is based on his study of T’ai Chi with Master Zhu Xilin and internationally renowned Master George Xu, and his 35 years of experience, running, racing ultra marathons and coaching people in “intelligent movement”. He has taught thousands of people the ChiRunning and ChiWalking techniques with profound results.

Danny’s first book, ChiRunning: A Revolutionary Approach to Effortless, Injury-free Running was released April, 2004, by Simon & Schuster. ChiWalking: Five Mindful Steps to Lifelong Health and Energy was released in March, 2006.

Danny has been a featured speaker at the prestigious Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego Marathons, as well as at hundreds of other health and wellness events across the country. He has taught the ChiRunning and ChiWalking techniques to training groups such as the San Francisco Marathon, the AIDS Marathon, Team in Training, USA/FIT, AARP and many others. He has been on CNN, NPR and other news programs. He publishes a monthly newsletter and has been published in Running Times, Body & Soul Magazine, and others. He has received press in Time Warner’s Health Magazine, AOL, Shape Magazine, Fitness Magazine, Elle, Washington Post, New York Times, Web MD and hundreds of newspapers, journals and web sites across the country and abroad. For a list of some current media attention, see our In the News page.

Dreyer is an accomplished Ultra Marathon runner (races longer than a marathon) and has raced every distance from a 10K to 100 miles. He has successfully completed 40 ultra-marathons since 1995, finishing in the top 3 in his age group in all but one. In August 2005 he placed second in his age group in the USATF National 50k Championships.

Danny has lived a lifestyle steeped in holistic living, meditation, and personal wellness for over 30 years. Healthy eating, physical exercise and rejuvenating activities are mainstays in his life and the foundation of what he teaches.

He empowers his students to live pro-active lives. Whether coaching a runner or a corporate executive, he teaches techniques that tap into one’s inner strength and power.

Danny resides in Asheville, NC, with his wife, Katherine and their daughter, Journey.
(Courtesy of

The Danny Dreyer Interview

CG: So You’ve trained under two T’ai Chi masters and I was wondering if there were any lessons you learned from them which specifically guided you in creating Chi Running?

DD: Well I remember my very first day of Tai Chi class and my first master, as he spoke about posture. That’s what really started me on the search to blend the too. He was teaching me about moving the body and how the posture needs to be aligned nice and straight, so when you rotate your body, it’s rotating around a nice axis. If your posture is twisted or bent over anywhere, it’s not going to rotate as easily, and you won’t move your body as easily, nor will you be supported by your structure. So the whole structural support is what really intrigued me. As soon as I started integrating some of the posture techniques into my running, it all of the sudden became a lot easier. When most people run or walk, the support stage of their stride is where all of their injuries happen, not when you’re in the air. They happen when you come down on the ground, and it depends on either how you impact the ground, or how you support your body while you’re on the ground. Is it efficient or not, and if it’s not, that’s going to cause a problem and become a repetitive stress injury.

So posture is one of the biggest ones. The other is making sure that all of my core muscles are engaged and all of my moving parts are relaxed, that my arms and legs, hips and shoulders were actually swinging while running. That follows the same principles in Tai Chi. You want to have your core engaged but the moving parts need to be very free to move. So you have these two things going on that are really Yin Yang. The Yin is the engagement of your alignment, your core, and everything internal. The Yang is the expansive, easy flow of the moving parts, your arms and legs, etc, so it becomes a really nice blend. Those were probably the two main lessons of Tai Chi that I’ve spent the last twelve years trying to expand upon.

CG: Well I can say from firsthand experience that ever since I read Chi Running last year, my running practice has improved in all areas.

DD: Yeah and the whole new thing is really making running a “practice”. I don’t know of anybody who’s really thought of it like that outside of Tibet, Nepal or China. The western guys are more into power, performance, speed, and fast times.

CG: Right, so can you elaborate more on how Chi Running differs from the more common form of “power running”?

DD: Well power running is called that because it literally takes power to run that way. How Chi Running differs is that it takes the effort out of running, and that’s really been my goal, finding a way of running where I really don’t feel much effort? So anybody who’s practiced Tai Chi at all realizes that the whole idea is to be able to move your opponent through cooperating with their forces, and also through allowing energy to move through your body to move your opponents. So Tai Chi isn’t about moving your muscles at all. It’s really about regulating the flow of your energy, learning how to relax your body, and align your body so all the Chi can move through you, and that’s what happens when you approach running with those principles in mind. Instead of thinking like a power runner and believing you have to push yourself, to actually push with your legs and kick with your feet, and swing your arms hard to move your body down the road. Well you can do it that way, but it takes a lot of muscle to do that. It burns a lot of fuel and tires your body out.

Or you can use a different set of rules, and that’s what Chi Running is all about. These rules incorporate having your body well aligned so you can relax. The other part which people often forget as they get older, and is a very practical part of running, is allowing your body to just gently run forward as you run. That’s how we all ran as kids. I don’t know if you remember, but I remember running as a kid, and I would always lean with my head. If I wanted to run somewhere I just “fell” that way. More often than not, if you’re a younger kid, you fall down when you run. I ask in my running classes all the time “Is there anyone who never fell down when they ran as a kid?” and nobody has ever raised their hand, yet. You fall down because you’re constantly trying to balance yourself in this forward fall. Little kids don’t have very strong legs.

Even now, you can go to a playground and see little kids run leaning forward, and the Kenyans and other great runners of the world who run leaning forward. What happens with power running is that as you get older, people tend to not want to fall down when they run, so they run vertically, and once you run vertically, then your center of mass is right over your point of contact with the ground, and gravity is pulling down with you and not forward. As you fall, gravity wants to pull you further forward, so if you’re falling into gravity, then you’re really allowing gravity to assist you in your forward movement. That means whatever amount of force of gravity you allow to pull you forward with, you can subtract that from the use of your legs. Does that make sense?

CG: Absolutely, it makes perfect sense actually.

DD: Yeah, so you don’t have to push anymore. It’s learning to constantly balance yourself in this nice forward lean. It’s very much like trying to ride a unicycle. A unicycle rider doesn’t go forward by pedaling. He falls forward and then he pedals to keep up with his fall. The proportion of a unicycle doesn’t come from the fact that you’re pushing yourself forward with your legs, it comes from you falling forward and keeping up with yourself.

CG: That actually correlates with another question I had for you regarding our body movements, and how they should be in-sync with the laws of nature, as you discuss in your book. So what exactly are the laws of nature and how do they affect a runner’s performance?

DD: Sure, well I’ll name two laws of nature. One is the pull of gravity. It’s always there, and it’s always going to be pulling you towards the center of the earth. There’s a downward force in your body all the time. In Tai Chi, one of the basic ideas is that you learn to cooperate with forces, you don’t go against them, that’s really sort of crazy, you know? When someone throws a punch at you, you don’t want to punch them at the same time because that doubles the force of their punch. So if somebody is punching you and throwing their fist in your direction, you want to move in the same direction of that force, so you reduce the impact to as little as possible. If someone is throwing me a punch, I’m moving backwards because I don’t want to move into the punch, and if somebody is pulling me I don’t want to pull against them, I want to move with their pull so I can stay in balance and use their force. So if gravity wants to pull me all day, I’ll let it. I’ll just fall into it and cooperate with that force. I’m not fighting gravity by trying to push against it, I’m letting it do its work.

The other thing that every runner or walker has to consider is, whenever you’re moving laterally across the earth, there’s a force always in the opposite direction of that movement, of any movement. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction, that’s just simple physics. So say you’re running down the road at a ten minute mile pace, that means there’s always a six mile force coming at you and that’s called the road, the oncoming road (laughter). So I’m moving down the road in one direction, and the road is coming at me, it’s just like a big treadmill. It’s like I’m running on a six mile an hour treadmill and I need to learn how to cooperate with the force that is coming with me, and the last thing I want to do is stick my foot out into that force. The problem with how a lot of people run, is that they lead with their legs. They throw their leg out in front of them, trying to pull themselves forward. What that ends up doing is when you’re swinging your legs forward, and landing with your foot out in front of you, you’re actually throwing your leg against that oncoming force. That doubles the force of the speed of your body, which then has to absorb it, by your ankles, shins, knees, your hips, your pelvis, lower back, whatever you weak spot is, it will be what goes out first, and for most people, that is their knees.

That’s how runners knee is developed, by people landing with their heal out in front of them. It’s called a heal strike. So those are the forces, and in order to cooperate with this oncoming road, your legs need to land in a way that they’re already swinging towards the rear, so they’re already moving in the same direction of that road when they land. That completely reduces or eliminates the impact of going against that force. So you have the force of gravity and you cooperate with it by falling into it and letting it pull you, and then you just balance yourself within that force. The other force is the force of the road coming at you, and you cooperate with that force by having your legs always swinging to the rear. I never think about my legs as swinging forward. They swing to the rear and then they return back to where they started, which is underneath me, not in front of me. My foot strike is either underneath my center of mass or behind my center of mass, which is even more ideal.

CG: Right on, I think that breaks it down in a user friendly way. Something else I think is often overlooked, but equally important, is our diet. In Chi Running, you write about this and how it will improve one’s running. So what foods and eating practices acutally make a difference?

DD: Well part of it is the food and part of it is the types of foods. For example, I had a track coach once tell me, if you want to run fast, you have to burn high octane fuel. So if you have a very fast, highly tuned car, a big fancy BMW, you can only put premium gas in it, it needs that premium fuel. If you wanted to be an average or competitive runner, you wouldn’t want to be burning low octane fuel, because your body would have to work that much harder to process it and get any energy from it. So one of the basic rules I follow is that I eat a mostly organic diet. I don’t eat pre-packed, or canned, or processed foods. I don’t eat any of the fast food stuff. All of my families meals are prepared fresh the first time. I don’t eat leftovers, only fresh food that is cooked from scratch, and just that, even if it’s not organic, is better than foods that are already processed. Those foods have way more salt than you need, they always have high fructose corn syrup which you don’t need, and all kinds of extra ingredients like colorings and preservatives etc.

So I think the healthiest diet is one that consists of the cleanest possible food, as clean as you can make it. The more natural the food, the cleaner the energy supply will be. Any additive, or preservative or processed foods all take away from the natural Chi that’s in the foods. So ideally, you want to have it cooked as close to its normal, original state as possible. Culturally, we’re a culture of over eaters, so my family always eats out of a bowl, that way we always eat the same amount. That’s our practice of portion control. We don’t do seconds, you know how much your body needs, and that’s how much you eat during a meal. If you have a big pile of food spread out over a plate, you don’t know how much you need, but you’re more likely to eat the right amount if you eat the same amount. It won’t be more than you need. It will be enough to make you comfortable, where you’re not going away hungry.

That brings me to another principle, which I learned from Tai Chi, which is body sensing. Body sensing is really just tuning into what your body feels like, the sensations, the thoughts, the feelings, all of the stuff that makes you a human being. It’s there for a reason, it’s there to give you information. The only way you’re able to exist on this planet is because you have a body, so it’s really important to pay careful attention to your body, it’s your message system. Tai Chi really teaches you how to listen to every part of your body, so you learn to listen and feel for tension, feel for when your body is, or isn’t, moving efficiently. You learn to listen when thoughts are not really appropriate, and are just a drain of energy. When you’re obsessing it’s worthless mental work. So you really learn how to feel and sense your body, and that’s part of the practice of Tai Chi, and what we try to integrate into running and walking.

It’s called a mindful practice for a reason, but it’s not all mind. Mind and body are really two sides of the same coin. You can’t have one without the other. They’re both very interdependent. So this whole aspect of doing mind/body work, or spiritual work, you can’t do spiritual work unless you’re sensitive to the invisible world. Well how are you going to be sensitive to the visible world if you’re not sensitive to the physical world? You have to start somewhere. So running can be great training for spiritual practice because it gets you highly sensitive to your body. I brought that up because if you’re sensitive to your body, you’ll know what the right amount to eat is, you’ll know what the right amount of rest is, what the right amount of work is, or whatever the case may be. You really learn to be appropriate in your actions and how to live your life.

CG: Right, and you talk further about that in your book when you reference having a “beginners mind”, which is also a common saying in Buddhist teachings. Can you elaborate on this?

DD: Sure, when I think of “beginners mind”, I think of learning something in two different ways. One of my favorite phrases is “suspended disbelief”, that’s a beginners mind. You suspend your disbelief and you completely open yourself up to all possibilities. That’s a real beginners mind. A beginners mind isn’t someone who approaches running and says I ran a 3.51 marathon last year and this year I want to do a 3.45, and I want to finish third in my age group, and beat my neighbor, and win a medal. That’s somebody who already has a lot of consideration in their head. Adyashanti is one of my favorite spiritual teachers.

CG: Ah yes, me too. He has a wonderful approach to teaching!

DD: Yes, he always talks about living an uncontrived life, and that’s the epitome of a beginners mind, living an uncontrived life. He nailed it, right on.

CG: Agreed.

DD: Yes, so that’s the beginners mind. How much conditioning can you get rid of to actually see, what there is to see.

CG: Right. So one of my last questions was actually something my dad mentioned to me as he’s read your book (and loved it) but didn’t see this topic addressed anywhere. He wondered if there’s any differences in applying the technique of Chi Running between runners with good foot arch support Vs those who have flat feet?

DD: Oh good, I’m glad he enjoyed it. As far as the question I would say this, as with anything that is like Tai Chi, where you’re constantly working on improving the right parts and how you move your body, your stance, your body support, how you engage your core and how you relax other parts. The more you follow the “recipe”, the more your body will gradually, over time, adjust to what’s necessary and what’s required. So that means if you have flat feet, you should work at engaging your core, leveling your pelvis, and whatever other method you take to work at having a stronger core. All of your muscles, and in fact almost every part of your body is interconnected with the inner system of connective tissue, and that connective tissue is like the unity of the body. It’s the one thing that goes through everything, right down to the cellular level of connective tissue.

So as you work at strengthening the parts which need to be strengthened, all the other parts down the line will feel a certain increment of increase, and their own amount of tone and strength. And by the time you get all the way down to your feet, if you’re constantly working on core strength balance, like how to move correctly etc, you will actually begin to build arches. I’ve seen people do it. As they begin to run correctly, their feet take more of a correct position. So people have flat fleet generally, I feel, because their core is not strong enough to support all the connective tissue that runs all the way to support that arch. You can’t get a strong a strong arch from getting a strong foot. All the medial connections all the way up the inside of your legs are what you need to hold up that arch. So if you want to build up your arches, you need to start from your core, not your feet. Most people don’t think in those directions.

In Chinese medicine, they’re always looking for the reason why something happens, for the original reason. So if you trace an injury etc all the way back, you can usually find an original reason, and it’s rarely at the spot where the problem happens. If you look at somebody with flat feet, the problem isn’t flat feet, their problem is a weak core, or a misaligned spine. So you start working in those areas from just doing the basic exercises of running or walking or Tai Chi or whatever you do, and gradually all the rest of the body will start coming into alignment and playing the same game, having a mind of its own.

CG: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense, and I personally don’t think I would have made that connection.

DD: Well it also relates to something else. You’ll notice people who say running is such a dangerous sport. There’s shin splints and bad knees and Achilles tendon problems etc. All those injuries are in the lower leg, and they’re in the lower leg for a reason. That’s because the lower leg, for most runners, are required to do way more work than they are designed to. Your body wasn’t designed to be propelled by you pushing off with your feet, those are the smallest muscles in your legs, so there’s no wonder why they get injured. If you really want to run, you should use the largest muscles that you have, because they do the biggest work, they’re built for that, your core muscles are built to do that, not your toes, Achilles tendon, your calves. Those are the little tiny muscles way down at the bottom of your body. Get the work done where it needs to be done, and those little parts can proportionally do their part, which is way, way, way less, and then you won’t get injured.

CG: Yeah, that makes perfect sense.

DD: The whole idea of Tai Chi is so logical. The Chinese studied the body and realized how it really works. It’s simple.

CG: Right, I practice Reiki and have done a lot of work with Chi, and while it’s difficult to explain as it’s a formless energy, it’s just as real as anything we’re aware of with the five senses. Once someone learns to use it and integrate into their lives, it makes such a wonderful difference.

DD: That’s absolutely right. It’s great, and running and walking is an everyday way people can approach this stuff.

CG: Yeah. So in closing, I was wondering if you could offer a couple of suggestions for someone who wants to take up running for the first time, something that will aid them in having a good experience, so they’ll want to do it again.

DD: Yeah, I would say one important thing is to really take it slowly. Don’t think you have to run a marathon your first year. Really take it slow. In fact, one of the main things I would say is listen to your body. If you go out for a run, sure get some decent shoes, but when you go out, don’t start out fast, and try to go far. Just go however far your body feels it wants to go, and if you start feeling winded or tired, that means your body is telling you to slow down. So slow down for a bit and let your body recover and when you’re ready, run a little more. I would say that if you’re going to start running, start by running until you feel a little bit tired, and then walk for a bit and let your body recover, but only walk far enough to let your body recover, don’t get into walking for walkings sake. Once your rested, go back and run some more, and listen to what your body says. Run until your body says, you know what, that’s bout enough for right now, and then walk for a little bit. Go back and forth. A nice and gentle approach for yourself, no expectations, again, going back to a beginners mind. Really let your body tell you how far, because it’s way smarter than your brain any day.

So listen to your body, and if you start feeling like you’re really tired, it’s time to head home. Then the next day when you go out, do the same thing. If you keep doing that day after day, you’ll improve. In the beginning, you don’t need to do it more than three days a week. And really try not to let your mind get in there, that’s a big piece of advice. Try to make it a good, satisfying experience. Take your time, don’t worry about your speed, don’t run with other people, unless they’re slower than you to start off with. Don’t go out with other runners who are experienced that you have to try and keep up with, because you’ll end up frustrated and possibly injured. Take it slow, gradual and easy. Any progressive thing has to follow the law of gradual progress.

If you start off to fast, you’ll pay. And that’s one of the principles in the Chi Running book, you always have to do it gradually. The other thing ideally would be to get the Chi Running book, so you can get some good pointers on how to hold your body, and how to move the moving parts, what to focus on. If you go out and give it your best shot, you may do well, and you may not. So that’s why we’ve broken it down into really simple steps on how to start, but above all, have fun, and if it’s not fun, stop and walk. I tell people “run until you get tired and walk until you feel guilty” (laughter), then you won’t walk too far, and just alternate back and forth.

CG: Well thanks so much for your time. Your book has been a wonderful help in my personal running as well as much of my family. My uncle was the first person to pick up your book after a knee injury. He’s now 59 and after reading Chi Running, he runs marathons and hasn’t had an injuries since. It’s truly amazing.

DD: Oh, that’s so wonderful. Thank you Chris. I’m actually doing work right now on a book called The Pain Free Marathon which will be released in early 2012. It’s been fun talking to you.

CG: Awesome, and you as well Danny. Thanks for your time and your book!

To learn more about Danny Dreyer’s Chi Running & Chi Walking, or to purchase his books or DVD, please visit his website at:

Kids' Korner Gives Back

After school programs provide children with opportunities to participate in a wide variety of activities that provide children with the skills and support they need to develop into productive and healthy young adults. During the past two months, Kids' Korner sites have participated in a variety of community service projects that were developed by the children and facilitated by our caring staff members. These service projects have created opportunities for children and staff to positively impact the local community and are an excellent example of the YMCA mission in action.

To celebrate Veterans Day, the staff at Bielefield Kids' Korner read the book "A Veteran's Day Visitor" to the children. The book was about a young girl's grandfather who speaks to her class about Veterans Day and why the holiday is observed. The children then created cards to honor troops who were arriving home from Afghanistan. The students then asked if they could get all Kids' Korner sites involved in order to make sure that there were enough cards for all the troops coming home. The site staff made some phone calls and all the other sites agreed to help with this project. In November 400 cards were delivered to Camp Rell in Niantic to Connecticut Army National Guard troops that were back after being deployed in Afghanistan for the past year. Thank you to Ceara Ladue, site director at Bielefield Kids' Korner, for making all the arrangements for this project!

Snow and Spencer School Kids' Korner programs both held a Penny Wars Challenge at their sites during December. Penny Wars is a competition where the site is broken into teams. Each team has a container to collect change in. The point of the game is to have the highest amount of points in your container at the end of the competition. It sounds easy, but there are a few tricks to it. You want to put pennies in your container and silver change in your opponents container. Each penny is worth one point toward your end total. Silver change subtracts points from from your total according to their amount (-25 points for a quarter, -10 points for a dime, etc). Once the competition is over, the children and staff empty their containers, add up their penny points and subtract the silver change points from the total. The winner is the team who has the most points after all the silver change has been subtracted. The real winners of this competition were local Middletown families; the money raised was used to buy gifts for multiple families who were on the Middletown Park and Rec holiday needs list. Congratulations to all the children, staff and families at Snow and Spencer who helped raise around $350.00 to help local families during the holiday season.

Wesley School Kids' Korner took advantage of three early dismissal days to hold a bake sale at their school. For the past two years, the children at the program have held different events to raise money for local organizations that help animals. The kids created signs and fliers to advertise for the bake sale and Kids' Korner families donated all the cookies, cakes, breads and other delicious treats for the sale. The older children at the program worked the bake sale, perfected their sales pitch and raised $284.00! After the event was completed, the children had to decide what to do with the money. They decided to buy food for the animals at the Wallingford Animal Shelter because "animals don't need money, they need food". This project was truly a group effort and could not have been completed without the generosity of the Wesley School teachers and parents. Thanks to all the Kids' Korner families and children who made this a great success!

We are so proud of the fantastic staff, children and families at our programs! Check back with us periodically to see what's new at Kids' Korner. You can also find out more information about our Kids' Korner programs on Facebook by searching for Middlesex YMCA Kids' Korner.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Introducing FREE Wi-Fi

We are very pleased to introduce our new FREE feature available for Members: Wi-Fi.
Now your Wi-Fi enabled device will be able to connect to the internet quickly and smoothly. Currently our Wi-Fi HOTSPOT are in the main lobby, the Fitness Plus lobby, the family center and in the pool bleachers.

Enjoy this new service.

Monday, January 3, 2011

My NEW New Year's Resolutions

I have rarely committed myself to New Year’s Resolutions in the past. If there was something new I wanted to try or a new routine I wanted to start, I would start my new thing that Monday, sort of a New Week’s Resolution. This year however, I found myself reflecting a lot about this past twelve months and all that happened; the birth of my second son Lucas, my first summer back at YMCA Camp Ingersoll, and all of the New Week’s Resolutions that were made. So I decided that I would make a small list of overall resolutions to help guide my New Week’s Resolutions throughout this year. There’s nothing ground breaking, all pretty much fall into the most popular resolutions people make, but I wanted to share them anyway.

  1. Spend more quality time with my family – now that my family has grown in size, my wife and I find ourselves more and more taking some short cuts trying to get things done fast so that we can move one to the next thing. I realized when we may only have an hour to go sledding, it’s not about the number of time we go down the hill, but taking time to lay on our backs in the snow looking at the clouds and planes that go by; that’s what my son Michael enjoyed the most. I would like to look at more clouds with my family.
  1. Learn, read, and reflect more – there are many ways to learn but the one I am choosing to focus on is reading. There are many ways to obtain books and information nowadays, sometimes it can be overwhelming when searching through a book store, in person or online. To help narrow my search I made a quick list of topics that interest me, which also helped me reflect on what is important.
  1. Participate in some sort of organized race – my health resolution. Last year I intended to participate in the Northeast Warrior Dash, a 5K adventure race held in upstate New York. I waited too long to register, and it sold out! So like any other health seeker, I simply stopped training. It was a poor excuse, but now I intend to register early, and if I am unable to attend that one particular event, I will find another.

If you have not made your resolutions yet, it’s not too late. There are many articles, including Patrick’s blog entry last week, that provide tips to creating goals that you can keep and make a difference. Also remember, there are also 52 opportunities to start New Week’s Resolutions this year.

I hope you and your family have a great healthy, safe and fun New Year!