Author: Marcus Yancey

It’s that time of year again: TAX DAY!

Tax Day Stress

by Jenny Gaal, Fitness Director

If you are like many people, you feel increased stress around April 15. Tensions can run high from the pressure of getting the forms filed on time or coming up with the funds to pay your (hopefully not too big) tax bill.  Now is the best time to find a healthy way to manage stress.  You owe it to yourself to keep your stress under control as much as possible. When your body is subjected to ongoing stress, unhealthy changes occur at the chemical level, and these changes can lead to food cravings and weight gain.

How does your body react to stress? When you experience stress, your body releases a hormone called cortisol. In small amounts, cortisol does not present a problem. But when the stress is chronic, such as during the weeks surrounding tax season, the concentration of cortisol in your body stays elevated with undesirable results. For example, you will crave foods that will give you quick energy, such as candy bars and potato chips. And the presence of cortisol will cause many of these extra calories to be stored as abdominal fat. It is hard to eat in moderation while stressed, because cortisol interferes with the chemicals in your body that control appetite.

Good news… While you can never get away from all stress, there is a lot you can do to manage your tax time stress!

  • Exercise. You can reduce cortisol levels in your body by exercising just thirty minutes each day. To make the most of your workout time, try intervals. Alternating between lower and higher intensity periods of exertion allows you to achieve an overall more challenging workout than exercising at a consistent pace. • Eat Well. During times of stress, fuel your body smartly. Be intentional about eating nourishing foods such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean protein and nuts. If you eat these foods, you will keep your blood sugar level steady, and you will be less likely to give in to the cravings that cortisol causes. • Don’t skimp on sleep. By getting at least eight hours of sleep each night you can reduce your cortisol level by more than half of that of people who get less than six hours. You really can sleep away your stress! • Identify your stress. Generalized anxiety can be paralyzing. Take the time to sort out exactly what is causing you to feel stressed. Rather than saying, “My taxes are causing me so much stress,” figure out the specifics. Perhaps you are stressed because you can’t find a form that you need or you are trying to do your taxes alone without the skills that you need to pull it off. Once you pinpoint exactly where the stress is coming from, you can take steps to take care of the problem. • Make time to relax. Taking time to unwind is not a luxury; it is a necessity if you are going to master your stress. Find something that makes you laugh and smile, get a massage or just breathe deeply. Your mind has a profound impact on your body; take advantage of this by finding time to relax every day.

Fitness Checklist for Spring/Summer


by Jenny Gaal, Fitness Director


Wow!  It is already getting hot outside.  Staying alive during the coming sweltering months is hard enough, let alone being able to exercise without melting into a pool of sweat. Speaking of pools, though, we’ve come up with a list of places you can exercise this spring/summer, and on top of that, I’ve suggested some ideas that will help you get through the hot temps relatively stress-free.

  1. Work with the heat Find activity and time of day that works with the temperature. No matter how hot or cold, there’s always a sport that you can take up that suits the temperature. Swimming maybe the obvious choice of exercise for the summer months, however, running, walking and biking are great forms of exercise year around. Fitness classes at Fun & Fitness Gymnastics are always held hot or cold, rain or shine.
  2. Have a heat chaser to cool down After a boiling run or bike ride, there’s nothing better than splashing around in a pool. Even just a large refreshing glass of ice water or a nutritional smoothie can do the trick.
  3. Sun Protection It can be easy to forget sun protection when going out for a brief workout. If you’re not working out indoors than it is always important to wear some sort of protection when going out in the sun, no matter how long for. A little bit of inconvenience now saves the massive inconvenience of wrinkles, sun spots, and (the worst of them all) skin cancer later. Also, investing in some zinc, to at least be applied to your face, is a good idea. Zinc really is a miracle against the sun.

6 Sweet Tips for a Healthy Valentine’s Day


by Jenny Gaal, Fitness Director

February is American Heart Month. What better time to highlight the importance of good heart health than in February! This day is traditionally celebrated with expressions of love for one another through the presentation of chocolates, confections and other sweets. However, by incorporating some healthy changes into your traditional Valentine’s Day routine, you and your loved ones can celebrate together without sacrificing your health. Best in Fitness, Jenny Gaal

  1. Limit Sugars

The return of sugar…. Didn’t we just get through the holidays?  I know the packaged chocolates in heart-shaped containers are almost irresistible!  Keep in mind most of these candies are chock-full of preservatives, trans fat and chemical additives. Instead of giving these traditional gifts try a heart-shaped cookie cutter and whip up a few batches of your loved ones favorite cookies using all natural  and heart healthy ingredients, such as, apple sauce instead of butter/oil/eggs. If

  1. Get Active

Who says your Valentine’s Day has to include dinner and a movie? Try incorporating activity with a nature hike that ends with a healthy picnic, walking the local zoo or challenge the family to a game of dodge ball or miniature golf to keep the blood flowing and your metabolism.

  1. Express Yourself

Emotional and mental health is equally as important as physical health. Learning how to express your emotions is not only good for your relationships, but can improve your overall health in two ways.

  • The brain is a muscle, and just like other muscles in the body, the brain needs to be exercised to stay healthy. Tapping into emotions and learning how to communicate them effectively works those brain muscles, helping to keep them alert and healthy.
  • In addition, expressing your emotions will help you maintain a healthy emotional balance, which will have a positive effect on your relationships with others. Instead of browsing through cards in our local stationary store, write your own Valentine’s Day sentiment or poem.
  1. Prepare A Home-Cooked Meal

A healthier Valentine’s Day home-cooked meal from fresh, natural ingredients is a treat your loved ones will appreciate.

  1. Volunteer

Nothing makes the heart feel better than doing a good deed and helping others who are in need. There are many places where you and your loved ones can volunteer your time together, such as:

  • Homeless shelters
  • Hospitals
  • Nursing homes
  • Foster care homes
  • Churches
  • Food kitchens
  • Domestic violence shelters
  • Non-profit agencies such as Goodwill or Salvation Army
  • Assisted living facilities for adults with disabilities
  • Local charity groups
  1. Give A Favorite Food A Healthy Make-Over

Instead of omitting favorite dishes altogether, implement healthy cooking techniques and substitute healthier ingredients. Some examples of ways in which you can create a healthier version of your favorite meal include:

  • Bake, broil and grill instead of frying.
  • Avoid canned vegetables and use fresh or frozen instead.
  • Skip premade marinades and dressings and make your own.
  • Purchase lean cuts of meat to reduce fat.
  • Use fresh ingredients in place of prepared ones (fresh lemons instead of lemon juice concentrate, fresh garlic cloves instead of dried garlic, etc.)
  • Opt for fresh herbs and seasonings instead of jarred varieties.

Surprisingly Unhealthy Foods to Avoid

Eat Clean

by Jenny Gaal, Fitness Director

Think these “healthy” foods are helping you lose weight or eat better? Here’s why they’re not as nutritious as you think.

Package Turkey:

Yes, turkey is good lean protein, and on a sandwich with whole-grain and lettuce, tomato, and other veggies isn’t a bad lunch choice. The problem here is sodium; a two-ounce serving of some brands has as much as nearly one-third of your recommended limit. Try to buy low-sodium slices (look for less than 350 mg sodium per two-ounce serving) or roast and slice your own meat.
Energy Bars:

If you’re going to eat them, pick ones with fewer than 200 calories and 20 grams of sugar per serving. Also key: Read labels to choose bars with as few ingredients as possible. Some bars from brands like KIND and Larabar contain just nuts, dried fruit, and seeds.


Bran Muffins:

Many bran muffins have more calories and sugar than a donut. While bran itself is a healthy whole grain source of fiber, it becomes less nutritious when baked into a muffin with heaps of sugar, flour, and fat. If you’re really craving a muffin, make them yourself and look for recipes that use whole wheat flour and substitute applesauce for butter.

Flavored Instant Oatmeal:

Flavored packets have more sugar and sodium than regular rolled or steel cut oats. A better option: Dress up regular oatmeal with fresh fruit or a small amount of honey.

Reduced-fat Peanut Butter:

The fat from nuts is good for you! The reduced-fat versions add more sugar to make up for the lack of fat. So choose the regular kind, and stick to 1 to 2 tablespoons per serving.


Trail Mix:

Most nutritionists will advise you to snack on a combination of carbs, protein, and fiber for sustained energy—and trail mix seems like a perfect example. Try to avoid the versions with yogurt-covered raisins, deep-fried banana chips, sesame sticks, or salty nuts or make a healthy mix yourself with mainly nuts and seeds and a little high-cacao dark chocolate and dried fruit.

With fewer calories and fat grams than most chips, pretzels seem healthy. But nearly every brand of pretzels is made from the same basic nutrition-less ingredients: white flour—wheat flour that’s been stripped of its nutrients and fiber—yeast, salt, and maybe some vegetable oil or corn syrup. Try looking for a brand made with whole wheat flour or eating whole grain crackers, soy crisps, or popcorn instead.


Spinach Wraps and Pasta:

Don’t let the green color fool you. The actual amount of spinach in these green tortillas and noodles is trivial compared with what you would get if you added your own spinach leaves to your wrap or pasta dish.

Bottled Green Tea:

Many brands of bottled tea sold in stores contain almost no ECGC, the potent antioxidant linked to cancer prevention and weight loss. If you are drinking tea to lower your risk of cancer, heart disease, osteoporosis and a whole list of other degenerative conditions, brew your own.


15 Reasons Competitive Sports Are Great For Kids

from Gymnastics News Network via Anne Josephson – Jag Gym Blog

Why should kids compete? Is competition good for them? Is it necessary to get them prepared for their grown-up lives?

I don’t think that competition is either good or bad. It just is. Rather it is how we think about it and cope with it makes it good or bad. How much we stress the importance of it that gives it a larger space in our lives than it deserves. And, when we place it as the most important objective of youth sports, then competition is toxic.

I also don’t ascribe to the belief that competition sets kids up to experience the “real world.” It’s been my experience that competition is not as prevalent in the “real” world as people deem it to be. Success is not a zero-sum game. There is plenty of room for more than one person, product or company to be considered successful and the truth is the “best” is often more subjective than objective. Finally, the most useful kind of competition that I’ve experienced in my life is the competition I have within myself to be the best version of myself that I can be.

All of that said, I think that there is a place of competition in the lives of kids, one that can teach them tremendous life lessons.

So here are my 15 reasons why experiencing competition is good for kids:

Preteen child gymnastic girls 01

  1. Competition drives us to learn at a faster rate and perform at a higher level. When the meet is on the horizon, we work harder and faster. We push a little harder.
  2. Competition teaches us to bring our best effort. Keeping score gives us extra motivation to do our best.
  3. Competition teaches us to manage the butterflies in our stomachs. When something is out of our comfort zone or pushes us to perform, it’s normal to feel fluttery in our tummy. Competition brings those butterflies out, and we can work on managing them.
  4. Competition does not have to be feared. Often kids fear competition, making it into something scarier or more important than it needs to be. When they compete, they realize that it wasn’t so scary after all.
  5. Competition teaches us to take risks and deal with failure. Once kids realize that competition is not a terrifying thing, they can take risks. No one is perfect. Everyone can and will make mistakes in performances. Competitions provides a platform for children to experience failures and learn from them. They learn that failure is a natural part of life and necessary to making progress in any endeavor.
  6. Competition teaches us to cope when things do not go our way. Sometimes you work hard, and you still lose. Sometimes you win but still didn’t perform as you wanted to. Kids learn resilience and grit in these moments. Resilience and grit are two traits that most certainly are essential in adulthood.
  7. Competition helps us with goal setting. Setting goals and making a plan to reach them can be done outside of competition. But competition helps provide deadlines and progress checks on our goals
  8. Competition teaches us to play by rules. Learning to operate within rules and developing strategies to use those rules to our advantage are great things competition teaches.
  9. Competition helps us to learn to win and lose with grace. Nobody likes a boastful person, and nobody likes are pouter. Competition gives kids the opportunities to cope with feelings of pride and disappointment and to learn to process them in healthy ways.
  10. Competition can be fun. Most people enjoy games. They have fun playing them. Being a part of team makes us feel like we belong.  Taken correctly competition is fun for kids.
  11. Competition can build self-esteem. Self-esteem cannot be handed to kids; they have to earn it. Competition is one-way kids earn self-esteem. When you develop a talent and work hard for a result, it feels great. When you fail and can bounce back, you feel better knowing that you have resilience.
  12. Competition teaches commitment. There is a saying that says “Successful people do the things that unsuccessful people don’t want to do. That is why they are successful.” Building the habit of commitment is a wonderful by-product of being involved in competitive sports.level_8_boys_from_usa_gymnastics_world
  13. Competition gives kids another community.When you are part of a team, you are in a network of peers and adults who have interests and values similar to yours. It is always great to have another village in your life or that of your child’s.
  14. Competition presents opportunities to travel.Maybe it’s just within your state, or maybe it’s national or even international. But being part of a competitive team often gives kids an opportunity to visit places and interact with people that might not otherwise meet.
  15. Competition causes kids to perform better in school.Data shows that high school students who play sport are less likely to drop out. Furthermore, participation in sports also has been associated with completing more years of education and consistently higher grades in school. Not surprising that the discipline and goal setting that is learned in competitive sports helps in school.

Of course, many of these 15 benefits can also be achieved through other means, including non-competitive sports, the arts or faith-based activities.  Nevertheless, there is no doubt in my mind that when done purposeful and developmentally appropriate manner that places the needs of the children well ahead of winning, competitive sports can and should be a great experience for kids


Healthy Snacks


by Jenny Gaal, Fitness Director

Losing and maintaining weight can be challenging enough, especially if you are short on free time to prepare meals or hit the gym.   Stocking these 10 healthy foods in the house is a great way to insure healthy meals and snacks.  They can even increase your metabolic rate.   Always remember to eat mindfully!

  1. Apples

Apples are quick and easy to grab even if you’re rushing out the door to get to work. They are high in fiber and good carbohydrates, which means that you won’t have to deal with sugar crashes as a result of excessive insulin spiking.

  1. Almonds

Nuts are an excellent example of how nature does fast food. When eaten in moderation, almonds can provide a host of health benefits such as promoting satiety and reducing the risk of heart disease.

  1. Broccoli

It’s tasty when eaten steamed, blanched or even raw, and is rich in vitamins and minerals such as vitamin A, vitamin D and vitamin K. This helps detoxify the body of toxins and free radicals that could cause tissue damage. Since it contains dietary fiber, it helps boost the metabolism by keeping you full longer which prevents excessive snacking.

  1. Low-Fat Plain Yogurt

Low-fat plain yogurt is a great snack option because it’s versatile and tasty not to mention loaded with probiotics. Probiotics are ‘good’ bacteria or ‘live cultures’ that are essential to a healthy digestive tract. Low-fat plain yogurt is also high in protein, which boosts the metabolism.


  1. Blueberries

Blueberries have long been considered a superfood and anti-cancer in one. They are high in antioxidants which help rid the body of unwanted toxins and free radicals, and they have weight loss benefits as well since they promote satiety and gut health.

  1. Asparagus

Asparagus is a weight loss staple because it is considered a negative calorie food item, meaning you burn more calories chewing and digesting them than the nutritional value of the item itself. This is great for boosting the metabolism while still being able to absorb its antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.

  1. Egg Whites

Egg whites are packed with protein and contain zero fat, making it one of the best protein sources around. Separating the egg whites from the yolks cuts down on the cholesterol content of eggs, as well as the fat.


  1. Spinach

Popeye was right about spinach—it’s so good for you and offers a host of health and weight loss benefits. It can protect you against arthritis, colon cancer, heart disease and osteoporosis. It also contains very little calories so you can eat boatloads of it without causing a dent in your caloric intake. Consume spinach as a way to add volume to your meals and to get your fill or iron, potassium and dietary fiber.

  1. Oatmeal

Oatmeal is yet another weight loss staple because it contains dietary fiber and is considered a heart-healthy food.   Oatmeal promotes satiety and helps regulate blood sugar levels.

  1. Canned Tuna

Canned tuna is another weight loss staple because it’s quick and easy to prepare. It’s loaded with protein, vitamin B3 and vitamin B12. Try to find albacore tuna—which is a white tuna—because it has a better nutrition profile than other fish.

Increase Your Emotional Health

body, mind and spirit in vintage wooden letterpress types, stained by ink in different colors, isolated on white

by Jenny Gaal, Fitness Director

How exploring and nurturing emotional health can increase your happiness, joy, and fulfillment with the following 9 practices:

  1. Spend Time in Nature

Spending time in nature can help you disconnect from your usual routine and receive a boost of energy, clarity, and gratitude. Nature is a happiness prescription and could provide you with a much-needed perspective shift.

  1. Keep a Gratitude Journal

Taking the time each day to reflect on the things that you are grateful for can help you maintain a positive outlook on life. When you choose to focus on positive things, such as family, health, having a roof over your head, and a beautiful day, you can come closer to a state of pure joy.

  1. Meditate

Time spent in stillness and silence can unplug you from the hustle and bustle of your busy life and invite you inward for a mind-body reset. Spend at least 15 minutes in centered-deep thought every day and notice how it can help you to gain a new perspective, shift your mood, and even provide you with more energy.

  1. Surround Yourself with Positive People

The people you surround yourself with can have an effect on you, either positive or negative. Surrounding yourself with positive people can greatly enhance your ability to maintain cheerfulness.

  1. Try a New Hobby

What activities make you come alive? Having a passionate activity can unplug you from responsibilities and connect you to inner happiness. Maybe you enjoy writing, knitting, horseback riding, golfing, gardening, or creating art. Find something that you enjoy doing so much that lose yourself when engaged in it.

  1. Exercise

Exercise is one of the fastest and most effective ways to positively shift your emotional state! Low energy can contribute to depression. The endorphins that are released during exercise increase your energy levels, boost your mood, and reduce symptoms of stress. Find some form of physical activity that you enjoy doing regularly to maintain your emotional health.

  1. Review Your Day Each Night

Recapitulation is a process of reviewing your day just prior to going to sleep each night. The purpose of this exercise is to become keenly aware of how you’re living your life and to observe your own behavior patterns.

  1. De-clutter Your Environment

Having a clutter-free, organized environment can lead to clarity of mind and relaxation. Take time each day to put things back in their place when you’re done using them, file paperwork in a desk, tidy up living spaces, and put away clothes.

  1. Practice Forgiveness

One of the biggest sources of emotional toxicity is holding onto grievances toward self and others. No one is perfect. Forgiveness is not about approving a particular behavior; instead, it is about cultivating peace.


Your potential is limitless with a strong emotional foundation.

Best in health and fitness,

Jenny Gaal

Resolutions For The New Year? Here Are A Few!


by Jenny Gaal, Fitness Director

Yes, it is that time of the year: the time when we all reconsider the reality of the past year and how we may not have been quite as good to ourselves as we had wished.  Many of us make resolutions for better health, fitness or losing weight.  How did you do in about that promise in 2015?

Only 46% of us maintain our resolutions past 6months.  Therefore, creating a specific strategy to get and keep us going is always a good place to start.  Before we start we should consider what has been holding us back in the past. The most common excuse tends to be lack of time. There are things you could do including getting up earlier (admittedly not for everyone) or choose to drive less and walk more. Setting an appointment with yourself can make a great difference.

Another idea is to replace a habit: for example, watch less TV or surf a little less online or do it while you’re on a treadmill. Alternately, you could use every commercial break for a few sit-ups, squats or jumping jacks.  It all adds up.  “Exercise is boring,” is another often heard complaint. Start by choosing an activity you enjoy; get some friends to join in; or explore new options like a fitness class. Other popular complaints include “I’ve always failed in the past,” and “I can’t afford gym fees.” Fun & Fitness Gymnastics has many effective and affordable fitness options.

How can you set yourself up for success? It’s not as complicated as you think. Here are some simple steps you can take, tips actually, to make a difference in your life. The first, and most important, is to commit yourself to consistency. That is, commit to sticking with your plan. If you find you are not able to meet your goals, change them to make them more possible. Don’t try for the Olympics right off the bat – take baby steps and you’re less likely to be intimidated out of your plan. Over time you will find yourself pushing a little harder and doing a little more without even noticing.

As for what your activity will be, pick something that’s fun for you. Like walking, trying a new fitness class or even shooting hoops- start with fun stuff, and then add in some friends.   Consider making it competitive including a fitness challenge with your friends.  Closed Facebook groups are a perfect way to communicate, share and inspire each other.  Joining a team is another great option. Finally, reward yourself (not with food, please). Doing something consistently is an accomplishment, even if your actual task seems small and insignificant. If you have been exercising regularly, don’t forget to pat yourself on the back.

Starting a fitness program is one of the best things you can do for your health. Physical activity can reduce your risk of chronic disease, improve your balance and coordination, and help you lose weight – even improve your sleep habits and self-esteem. Give it a try – you CAN do it.

But, I Don’t Have Time To Exercise…….!

Make time to Exercise

by Jenny Gaal, Fitness Director

Finding a full 30-45 minutes free every day to devote to exercise can be a challenge for anyone- Especially during the holidays!  Time is one of the biggest barriers for everyone in finding fitness.  We tend to view being active as an “all or nothing” condition.   There is no right or wrong way to move more-anything that gets your heart beating faster and you breathing heavier counts as physical activity. Everything from a brisk walk to gardening, housework and body weight exercises, like squats, push-ups, or planks anytime, anywhere. The best choice of activity is whatever works for you!

It All Adds Up…  

Fortunately for all of us busy folks, your 30 minutes of exercise doesn’t have to happen all at once. It is works equally as well to fit it in throughout the day in 5 or 10 minute increments until you hit the 30-minute (or more) mark.  It’s best to be active throughout the day and since walking right after a meal helps with digestion, you can use your meals as reminders to take an activity break.

Myth: You need to sweat for 45 minutes to get a health benefit.

Fact: Even if you’ve got just half an hour to spare a day—or a mere 10 minutes—you have enough time to bolster your cardiovascular health. More and more studies are pointing to the power of short workouts—consistently improving lower blood pressure readings on average when they split their daily walk into three 10-minute segments rather than tackling one 30-minute stroll. However, to drop some pounds you’ll still need to get more active most days of the week. Aim for at least 250 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise a week for the ultimate slim-down success.

But I work…

In many workplace settings, finding ways to stay active throughout the day can be challenging without utilizing specific fitness tips. Even if you spend most of your time behind a desk, there are ways you can break away and incorporate some mild physical activity into your daily office routine. The fitness tips listed below are all things that can realistically be squeezed into your workday; no need to worry about changing into different clothes or looking goofy doing office exercises.

  1. Don’t Sit during Your Entire Lunch Break

Make a point not to stay seated during the 30 to 60 minutes you’re allotted for lunch. Instead, take half of the time to eat and use the other half to squeeze in a mini, but mild, workout. Go outside and take a short walk. You can also walk up and down the stairs in your building. Walking at a moderate or slow pace is still more beneficial to your mind and body than sitting around for an hour. The change of scenery and the little bit of activity is a good way to break up the day.

  1. Pack a Bag and Work out right after work

Face it, when we make it home the last thing we want to do is get up off the couch and go work out.  Make it part of your routine after work, even just for a quick 30 minute workout, to stop by the gym or park to fit in some exercise before heading home.  At the end of the week that is 2.5 hours of exercise!

  1. Say “No” to the Elevator

Speaking of elevators, make it a habit to start taking the stairs instead. Begin your work day by walking up the stairs to your office and then ending the day by walking down the stairs to the exit. Start to think of the elevator as a non-option.

Remember with fitness than every bit counts. Just because you don’t do pushups or sprints during lunch doesn’t mean your body still isn’t benefiting from the movement.

Best in Fitness,

Coach Jenny

Managing STRESS during the Holidays!


by Jenny Gaal, Fitness Director

Many will admit that the holidays are a very stressful time. So it is no surprise that most Americans will gain between 1 and 3 pounds during the holidays—and most will not lose this extra weight. Finding healthy ways to manage stress is imperative! Here are 10 effective tips:

  1. Focus on the Positive.
  2. Let Go of the Past- Stay in the Present
  3. Maintain Your Routine, especially Exercise
  4. Hold Realistic Expectations 
  5. Breathe
  6. Start making Healthy Family Holiday Traditions
  7. Drink Warm Water-To maintain an active digestive system, drink half your body weight in ounces of water each day. You can boost your metabolism by drinking warm water so your body has to work to bring it to your core body temperature.
  8. Eat Mindfully
  9. Replace Emotional Eating with an Activity

Quickest reminder, keep the definition of holiday in mind…. a day of festivity or recreation when no work is done.

Have a really wonderful and restful Holiday Season!!