Make Your Steps Matter with the Steps Foundation Team Competition

March 15th is an important day for professional runners Ryan and Sara Hall. The fleet-footed couple will compete in the USATF Marathon Championships at the L.A. Marathon, an event that will mark Sara’s highly anticipated marathon debut. But Ryan and Sara are more than just runners. The husband and wife team are also founders of the Hall Steps Foundation, a nonprofit movement that has turned their remarkable running into a tool to fight global poverty through better health. Sunday, March 15th will mark the beginning of the first Hall Steps Foundation team competition.

High school and collegiate teams throughout the nation have the opportunity to make their steps matter by fighting global poverty as part of their daily training routine. Athletes will seek out supporters to make monetary pledges by the mile, up to a predetermined amount (see FAQs for details).

Miles will be tracked and sponsor dollars accumulated through Frundraise, a fundraising website where runners log miles to raise money for their favorite organizations. Donations to the Steps Foundation team competition will go toward a clean water project in Ethiopia. To see a list of other projects Steps has sponsored, visit the What’s We’ve Done page.

Logging miles to fight poverty is a simple way to make your miles matter, but what makes this a competition?

Each participating team will have it’s own webpage set up through Frundraise, where miles and monies will be tracked and charted weekly. The team that raises the most funds during the competition wins a visit and practice with everyone’s favorite Olympian and American record holder, Ryan Hall!

The eight-week competition will begin when Ryan crosses the finish line on Sunday, March 15th, and will end on Sunday, May 10th. Getting involved is as easy as emailing your team information More information can be found here.

Log miles, fight poverty. #MyStepsMatter

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Health-a-bet: G is for… Gym Etiquette

The new year means lots of new year’s resolutions, AKA crowded gyms. In light of the spike in gym memberships, here are some tips to not become that person that everyone wishes would leave.


Comfort is more important than looking sexy. Wear stuff you can logically workout in. Don’t wear jeans. (Yes, I see this all the time) Cheap K-mart sweats work ten times better, and the buttons won’t catch on weight machines and tear the seat. Ladies, if you jiggle, it’s OK, if you’re popping out all over the place… get a new top or you’ll only feel self conscious.

I understand that you want to look nice when you go anywhere public, including the gym. For your own sake, don’t go spend an entire paycheck on If you’re working out hard enough you’re going to look like hell by the end anyway. Make sure you have the basics (including a nice sports bra for all the ladies), but don’t overdo it or you won’t be able to afford that gym membership anyway. And, if you’re a rewards person, waiting to buy that new pair of yoga pants is more fun after you’ve put in a month straight without skipping any workouts!


For this, I’ll be brief. Pick up your damn weights!!!!!!! Not only does leaving out your weights make it hard for the next person to find them, but it’s not safe, and gyms don’t want to be liable for broken toes, broken arms, and missing teeth caused by people tripping over your mess.

Another area that many of us are simply not aware is the matter of indoor tracks (same rules apply to outdoor tracks).

First, look before you cross. It can seriously save your neck. Many tracks alternate the direction run, so pay attention to that too. If it’s not posted then go the direction everyone else goes (generally counterclockwise).

Here is the number one rule of the track: Fast people use the inside lanes, slow people use the outside. There is nothing wrong with walking laps until you get in the way of someone running fast, then there is a problem. Stay to the outside and you’re going to be just fine. Additionally, if someone yells “Track!” it means “I’m coming up behind you and I am not moving from my lane; therefore you have two options: move or die.”

Chatty Cathy’s

There is something to be said for strength in numbers. Having workout friends makes you less likely to skip workouts and more likely to enjoy it. Go ahead and let yourself have fun with your gym friends, but don’t be obnoxious. Despite what you and your posse may think, nobody cares how drunk you got last night, how ugly her boots are, or what a hottie your boss is. If you have a really juicy piece you’re dying to share, find a little corner to set up your yoga mats where you won’t bother anyone else. The hottie bosses wife will be especially grateful.

Also with the whole noise thing I’m going to bring up grunting. I get it guys, you need to grunt to lift heavy weights. Everyone knows that the force produced by grunting allows men only to boost testosterone and lift an average of 20kg more. But if everyone stops what they’re doing and stares, and subsequently a team of paramedics shows up you are probably being a little too loud.

Keeping it Clean

Most gyms have the spray bottles and rags all over the place for a reason. That being said, every gym has a different policy. Some gyms ask that you wipe down everything used after every use. Typically, these gyms have signs on the things they really want you to wipe down. Other gyms provide disinfectants for use before you use a machine just in case you’re a germ freak, but it’s optional to use them after use. “Green” Gyms that don’t want their stuff wasted ask that patrons wipe it down if sweating, but otherwise leave it for the potential germ freaks. If you don’t know where your gym stands, observe others, and when in doubt, wipe it down.

Also keep an eye on your footwear. Not everyone has a pair of “inside only” shoes, and most gyms to do not expect that you do. That being said, if it’s snowy, slushy, or muddy, try to bring clean shoes to workout in. Dirty shoes can really do some damage on indoor tracks, treadmills, and ellipticals not to mention that dirty floors just look gross.

Another note on cleanliness that seems pretty obvious is spitting. Just don’t do it, it’s disrespectful. And if you do, use a trash can, not a drinking fountain. Nothing makes your stomach churn like someone else’s loogie staring you down while you’re just trying to take a drink. Seriously.

General Respect

I’m not putting this at the bottom because it isn’t important, because it is. Gyms are crowded this time of year. If there are obviously not enough treadmills etc. to go around, get off after 30 minutes and switch machines or find another activity to do until the next person in line is done. If you wanted a 45 minute elliptical session and you realize you have to get off after 30, increase the resistance and pedal faster to burn more calories.

If someone is hogging the recumbent bike and you’ve noticed they’ve gone over their 30 minute time limit, it’s OK to politely ask them if they would mind giving you a turn. Oftentimes people will agree to that, they probably just got in the zone and didn’t notice the gym was so busy. Just don’t hover. If someone is nearing the end of their workout with a vulture in spandex breathing down their neck, said vulture is going to get some very dirty looks.

The same personal space bubble applies to stretching mats and physio balls. If someone is working out their core, don’t put your mat or your physio ball two inches next to them. These exercises often involve a large range of motion, which requires space. People like their space, and if you can smell what they had for lunch you are probably too close.

Finally, don’t stare at people in the gym. A lot of people have social physique anxiety and going to the gym is scary for them, don’t make it worse. It’s rude to stare anywhere, so don’t do it. Ladies, guys go to the gym to workout. It’s distracting and they are on a mission, don’t get in the way. Same goes for the guys. Women are not pieces of meat so regardless of how nice our booties look in spandex capris, don’t stare at us. Grunt until you feel macho enough to go talk to her.

Perhaps this post was a bit of a rant, but last time I was at the gym I really “felt the burn” and it wasn’t in my glutes.

Health-a-bet: F is for… Feast!

Thanksgiving is here, which means family, football, and food. Lots and lots of food. Since probably anyone taking the time to read this is health conscious, Thanksgiving is the oxymoron of holidays. Healthy eaters celebrating by taking in 3,000-4,000 calories of sugary potatoes, meat doused in gravy, and pie covered in whipped cream seems more frightening than festive, but it’s the holidays, so it’s just what we do, right?

Right. And wrong.

Holidays are celebrated with an abundance of food for those of us lucky enough to afford it. And there is nothing wrong with partaking in the festivities by loosening your belt a little and chowing down on your holiday favorites. In fact, you’ll have a much happier holiday if you aren’t counting calories in every single morsel. That being said, there are smarter ways to eat. First, eat breakfast and lunch and don’t try to save room for the big meal. There are always leftovers anyway. And if you fast for too long your metabolism is going to take all that turkey straight to the waistline. Second, since you’ll probably be taking seconds anyway, so pay attention to portion size and don’t overdo it on your first time around the table.

After the meal, convince Aunt Becky to take Fido on a walk with you, or gather the cousins for a game of touch football. Staying

active through the holidays is key to erasing the damage done. And finally, remember that it’s just one day. You won’t have another day of feasting for a month at Christmas, and not everyone is lucky enough to sit at a loaded table surrounded by family and loved ones. So eat, drink, and be thankful.

PS, check out my Flavors page for a few healthy holiday options!My best friend, Ej, and I love to eat!  My best friend, Ej, and I love to eat!

Health-a-bet: E is for… ExerCYse!

No, this is not a typo. ExerCYse is Medicine is a health initiative started at Iowa State University devoted to promoting exercise prescription for a healthier life. Everyone knows exercise is good for you, but most don’t know just how good for you it is.

To start, let’s look at exercise as preventative medicine. Exercise keeps the body physically stronger, flexible, and more balanced therefore reducing the risk of injury or falls. Research has also found regular exercise helps ward off dementia and memory loss. Exercising patients who are diagnosed with Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s disease suffer fewer falls and are less likely to be put in a nursing home than those who do not exercise.

Regular exercise is also linked to a decreased risk in heart disease, gastrointestinal disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, and certain cancers. Much of this is due to exercise being a very effective method of weight management, but also due to improvements in blood pressure, blood flow to vital organs, and done density.

Ok, so exercise is preventative medicine, and it can help with Alzheimer’s Disease, but how is it actually as good as medication?

While you should definitely talk to your doctor about any major changes in medications or lifestyle, exercise can actually be treatment for conditions. The old way of thinking was that diabetics and asthmatics shouldn’t exercise, but research is telling us that respiratory function improves in asthmatics who are physically active, and can actually reverse the effects of type II diabetes.

It’s not only physical conditions that are improved by exercise. Exercise can be used as a prescription for conditions like depression or insomnia as well, so next time you see your doctor, ask him or her about exercise before reaching for the prescription pad.

See to learn more about ExerCYse is Medicine and the exercise prescription public health initiative.


Health-a-bet: D is for Dumbbells

There’s a definite time and place for all different types of weight training, but dumbbells are one of my favorites. They’re relatively cheap, and it doesn’t take more than a few different weights to get the job done. Dumbbell exercises don’t require a lot of time or space, and the injury risk is relatively low. In fact, because you work each side of your body individually, dumbbells can help decrease injury risk by fixing muscle imbalances.

Here is a link to a dumbbell workout by Men’s Health. A message to the ladies: exercises designed for men work the same for you, just use less weight! Physiologically you WILL NOT get bulked up and manly from lifting weights. Just toned and healthy. So go crazy ladies and gentlemen, and be the first smartie that picks up a dumbbell!


D is also for… Doughnuts!?
Yes, I said you CAN have doughnuts. By making your own baked doughnuts using this low-fat recipe you can enjoy one of the world’s cruelest inventions without making your waistline pay the price.

Makes 12-14 mini doughnuts, only 70 calories each!

1/2 cup whole wheat flour*
1/2 cup all purpose flourdoughnut*
1/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 teaspoons baking powder
dash of nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg, beaten
1/3 cup milk
1 tablespoon honey
splash of vanilla
1 tablespoon melted butter

*To make this gluten free, I use buckwheat flour and rice flour instead.

Simply mix the dry ingredients, then whisk in the wet. Pour into doughnut pan or doughnut maker, depending on what you have. (I love my BabyCakes doughnut maker- about $15) Bake.

Deliciously simple ideas:

  • Mix 1 tablespoon cinnamon and 1/4 cup sugar, coat over warm doughnuts.
  • Whisk 2 tablespoons lemon juice and 2/3 cups powdered sugar, glaze doughnuts when cooled.
  • Melt 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips in microwave until smooth, drizzle melted chocolate over cooled doughnuts.

Health-a-bet: C is for Coffee

Coffee drinkers have heard both sides of the health controversy from “it will stunt your growth” to brain boosting benefits. The truth is, more research has to be done on this topic, but lately, signs point to brew.

Coffee drinkers can breathe a sigh of relief knowing they can feel good about their morning cup of joe. New studies suggest a decreased risk of Parkinson’s, liver cancer, and type II diabetes associated with a daily dose of caffeine. That being said, even a good thing can be dangerous in moderation. In order to prevent sleeplessness, anxiety, and gastrointestinal issues, it’s advised to keep consumption limited to a maximum of four cups per day.

Coffee brewed at home with a paper filter is best, but there is something to be said for the local coffee shop as well.  As with all things delicious, it can come with a calorie-laden price. Here are my best tips for keeping the guilt low with all the joy of your beloved beverage.

  1. True Americano- It’s just espresso and water. It’s got some kick, but it’ll get the job done, without any extra fru-fru.
  2. Lean-o Cappuccino- not completely innocent, but still a wiser choice than a latte, which is made up of mostly steamed milk.
  3. Café au lait all the way- (pronounced “oh-lay”) This steamy option is simply coffee with steamed milk, and comes at only around 50 calories, as opposed to a latte, which can pack about 300.
  4. Go Topless- Skip the whipped cream and caramel sauce on your drink and avoid needing an extra 30 minutes on the bike to make up for it.
  5. Ice is Nice- Iced coffee is a great choice, because you can add a splash of skim milk and a teaspoon of sugar for a refreshing dose of caffeine, and avoid the 400-700 frozen calorie bombs.
  6. Stick to the basics- When requesting a pump of syrup, stick to the basic flavors like caramel, raspberry, chocolate, and hazelnut, because you can usually ask for the sugar free option in these flavors.


Health-a-bet: B

B is for… Balance!

Balance is one aspect of fitness that gets completely overlooked.

We have all seen the guy who skipped leg day, and we all know the person with the six-pack but know back muscles to speak of. Not only does this not an impressive look, but it puts us at an increased risk of injury too.

It’s all about that relationship of muscle length and muscle strength. Hence the importance of flexibility exercises. Ligaments, which attach muscle to muscle, and tendons, which attach muscle to bone, must be flexible enough to withstand both loading and torque on the joints.

Simple dynamic stretching before a workout, or some beginners AM/PM yoga can be a super benefit to the workouts we are already doing. Here are a couple YouTube clips that provide examples:

Dynamic warmup:

Yoga for beginners:

There is no “exact ratio” for strength training, but here are a few good rules of thumb:

  • For every two abdominal exercises, so one low back exercise.
  • When you work the shoulders, work the upper back too.
  • Remember to use proper form- if it’s a hamstring exercise but you’re quads are doing all the work, something is wrong.
  • If you work biceps, work triceps too.
  • Keep an equal ratio of quad to hamstring exercises on leg day (which you’ll never ever skip, right?!).
  • A little junk in the trunk is OK, but don’t neglect the booty!
  • Calf raises are not for wimps, they’re for people who want strong calves.
  • The amount of time you spend lifting should ALWAYS exceed the time you spend checking yourself out in the mirror.


Health-a-bet: A

A is for… Active!
How to turn a popular fall activity into exercise.


Autumn in Iowa brings more than just crisp fall leaves, but crisp fall apples. Local orchards provide the perfect place to pick up healthy and delicious snacks, while getting exercise. You can even bring the kids!

To make apple picking a workout, skip the hayrack ride and walk to each destination. Wear comfortable shoes and bring a couple of sturdy tote bags. Your bags will get heavier as you fill them, therefore giving you an arm workout of increasing resistance. Reaching for the apples at the top is a fantastic flexibility exercise, and all the tiptoe work is ideal for toning your calves.

If you have small children, pulling them in a wagon provides some extra work on your walk. Lifting them onto your shoulders to pick the apples that are higher up is a resistance workout for you, and it gives your little ones a chance to help out too!

Nutritional Spotlight:A Healthy Alternative to Traditional Caramel Apples

What is fall without caramel apples? Less fattening! Traditional caramel dip contains calorie heavy cream, saturated fat laden butter, refined sugar, and no nutritional benefit whatsoever. Luckily, you can still indulge without paying such a price. This alternative caramel dip has no saturated fat, natural sugar, and contains fiber and protein.


2/3 cup almond milk, rice milk, or another non-dairy milk.caramelapple
1/3 cup smooth peanut butter (or another nut butter)
1/2 cup honey (may also use pure maple syrup or raw sugar)
Pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract


1. Blend milk and peanut butter until very smooth (you may want to use a blender)
2. Stir honey into mixture
3. Heat mixture slowly on stove-top, stirring often
4. Reduce heat when mixture comes to a gentle boil
5. Stir constantly for nine or ten minutes
6. When the caramel is finished it will be thicker and stretchy, but still fairly thin
7. Remove from heat and stir in salt and vanilla extract
8. Allow to cool for an hour or more so the caramel can thicken
9. Drizzle caramel on whole apples, or dip slices in the dip and enjoy!


Use a heavy bottomed pan to avoid scorching
Have patience, the slower you go the less it will scorch
Spray measuring cup with cooking spray before measuring peanut butter, it will slip right out!
Longer cooking time yields thicker caramel dip
Sprinkling caramel coated apples with your favorite type of nut increases the protein and fiber content!