by Jenny Gaal,Fitness Director

“It’s not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.” — Mother Teresa

The holidays are a time for gratitude, celebrations, family, friends, and, of course, gifts. However, most of us are bombarded with heavy advertising trying to convince us that we need the latest and greatest, it’s easy to lose sight of what really matters and overlook the art of thoughtful gift giving.  Thoughtful giving comes from a practice of mindfulness. Being mindful means paying attention to the present moment without judgement, bringing greater clarity to the mind and more insight and creativity into life.

The holidays are the best time to practice the gift of giving. The concept of giving and receiving gifts is closely tied to compassion, love, and gratitude. When you give someone a gift, no matter how big or small, you convey that you were thinking of him/her—it’s a type of caring.  The true gift of giving is how you make someone feel when you offer heartfelt energy. Mindfully considering the person to whom you are giving is a wonderful way to express care and deepen connections.  Here is a list of the top tips for joyful giving:

1. Plan Ahead

The holidays can be crazy enough so plan ahead.  You don’t have to wait until the holiday frenzy begins. Start early!  Planning well ahead of the holiday rush season allows you the time and energy to brainstorm ways to make your gifts meaningful. It also reduces the stress of last-minute shopping or reaching for a quick, but not so meaningful choice.

Consider these questions to dig into the meaning behind your giving:

·         How do you measure the value of a gift?

·         What do you hope to convey to your loved ones?

·         How can your values be transformed into holiday gifts?

·         How do you want to share your energy with people you care about?

2. Give the Gift of Presence

We each have unique skills and talents. Offering someone your time and expertise can be a truly thoughtful gift and also deepen your connection. Material items don’t last forever, but the memories of sharing an experience or learning something new can last a lifetime.  Think about a skill you can share by providing lessons for a loved one. It’s a heartfelt way to spend time with a special person and share your passions. Teach them how to:

·         Cook

·         Play music

·         Paint

·         Take photographs

·         Practice yoga

·         Fish

You can also give your time and energy by creating a gift certificate for:

·         Babysitting

·         Gardening

·         House cleaning

·         Meal preparation

·         Lawn mowing

·         Massages

3. Share from the Heart

A heartfelt note can be a gift in itself. Offer forgiveness, gratitude, or love to remind someone you care about them and that they are cherished.  Letters that come from the heart show a mindful connection.  Similarly, gratitude or memory jars can be thoughtful gifts. Here’s how to put one together:

1.      Contact friends and family members of the recipient and have them submit special memories, a favorite photo, or something they appreciate about the person.

2.      Place these all in a jar, decorated box, or special journal.

3.      Give the jar to the recipient and encourage him to choose one memory each day during the upcoming year so he can see what other people cherish about him.

4. Personalize It

When planning a gift, think about who the recipient is and what he/she values. Recall what he is passionate about or what makes him laugh.  Use this to inspire heartfelt, personalized, and thoughtful gifts.  If your mom hates to run to the grocery store, consider a healthy meal delivery service, membership in a CSA for organic produce, or providing regular grocery runs for her.

You will find that a little mindfulness adds tremendous value to the process of honoring your loved ones during the holidays or anytime throughout the year.



Having a tough time motivating yourself to work out? Just imagine if exercise was your job. Here is a list of the top tips to stay motivated from athletes in the know….


  1. Workout buddies are key. Group classes at the gym—kick boxing, weight training or yoga—can not only help you stay committed it can also motivate you to work harder. Social engagements afterward- coffee, tea or just conversation- is a nice post workout treat!
  2. Put it on paper. Keep track of your workouts and progress. Jot down what you plan to accomplish at the gym before you go, bring a pen or pencil and keep track as you go.
  3. Schedule it. SO important!! We are all busy and if you don’t schedule and prioritize chances are it probably will not happen. Even if it is only for 20 minutes- it all adds up!
  4. Rest doesn’t always mean sedentary. Just because you’re taking a day off from working out doesn’t mean you should sit on the couch for the next 24 hours. Take a walk and get the blood flowing!
  5. Always have a goal in mind. Always be working toward a new goal.   If you don’t have something to work for, it’s easy to get distracted. You might not be reaching for a gold medal, but you can sign up for an exercise challenge, like a 5K or a mini-triathlon.
  6. Take vitamins as insurance. In ideal conditions, everyone would get the necessary vitamins and nutrients from food, but sometimes that’s not possible, so taking a multivitamin as a backup plan might be a good idea. Talk to your doctor about your daily diet and see if it could help you.
  7. Stay hydrated. Besides the obvious need for water when you’re exercising (and sweating) a lot, keeping yourself hydrated can help you stay energized. It is recommended to drink half your body weight in ounces of water.


by Jenny Gaal, Fitness Director

Joints are located throughout your body and play a key role in your mobility and overall well-being. While a variety of factors can affect your joints, such as injuries, inflammation, muscle atrophy, and overuse, there are things that you can do to protect your joints and prevent degeneration. The following lifestyle, diet, and supplement recommendations could help keep your joints healthy for as long as possible.


Do daily physical activity. Movement increases the circulation of synovial fluid (a liquid that protects and lubricates joints) and nutrients through joints and strengthens bones and muscles—which, in turn, protects your joints. It is best to include stretching and strengthening in your exercise routine.

Maintain good posture. Sitting with a straight spine while in front of a computer screen or driving, using an ergonomic chair, wearing flat shoes rather than high heels, and carrying your book bag or purse with the weight balanced equally on each shoulder can go a long way in protecting your joints. Poor posture can misalign your bones and put unnecessary strain on your joints.

Manage your weight. Just 10 pounds of extra body weight can increase the force on your knee by 30-60 pounds with every step you take. Shedding extra pounds through exercise and a healthy diet can not only prevent future knee problems—it can also help reduce pain if osteoarthritis has already developed in your knees.

Exercise safely. While staying active is important, it is possible to push your body too much. Moderate your activity levels. Whether you are stretching in a yoga class or training for a marathon, be sure to always warm up before exerting yourself, practice safe alignment, and listen to your body. If your joints are painful, they’re telling you something!

Sleep deeply. Falling into a deep, relaxed sleep for at least seven to eight hours each night can allow your body to more fully repair itself, including your joints. Before going to bed, practice stress management techniques, such as deep breathing or warm baths, to help your body slip into a more relaxed state.


Inflammation is a huge contributor to joint problems, and fortunately there are several dietary strategies that can help reduce inflammation systemically.

Eat an anti-inflammatory diet. An anti-inflammatory diet focuses on fresh, whole foods, including a lot of green leafy vegetables. Load up on your alliums—garlic, onions, and leeks—because they contain bioactive compounds that can help protect against osteoarthritis. Cherries are also highly anti-inflammatory.

Avoid inflammatory foods. These include foods that are processed and contain and artificial additives, sugar, and alcohol. Work with your doctor to determine food allergens, such as gluten, which may be contributing to inflammation.

Drink enough water. Water helps to lubricate your joints. Aim to drink at minimum eight glasses of water—preferably filtered or purified—each day.


There are a few supplements on the market that can help lower inflammation and protect your joints. Always check with your doctor before beginning a new supplement. Helpful supplements include:

  • Boswellia Serrata. This anti-inflammatory tree extract has historically been used for prevention and treatment of arthritis.
  • Vitamin C. This vitamin can help prevent arthritis when taken within the, key word, recommended daily allowance. Too much can harm your joints!
  • Vitamin D. According to researchers, vitamin D may help lower your risk of rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Curcumin. An extract from turmeric, curcumin has high anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Glucosamine, chondroitin, and MSM. These agents can be taken in supplement form individually or in combination, and can have a positive effect on overall joint health.



by Jenny Gaal, Fitness Director

Exercising early in the morning “jump starts” your metabolism, keeping it elevated for hours, sometimes for up to 24 hours! As a result, you’ll be burning more calories all day long—just because you exercised in the morning.

Exercising in the morning energizes you for the day—not to mention that gratifying feeling of virtue you have knowing you’ve done something disciplined and good for you.

Studies have shown that exercise significantly increases mental acuity—a benefit that lasts four to ten hours after your workout ends. Exercising in the AM means you get to harness that brainpower, instead of wasting it while you’re snoozing 

Assuming you make exercise a true priority, it shouldn’t be a major problem to get up 30 to 60 minutes earlier—especially since regular exercise generally means a higher quality of sleep, which in turn means you’ll probably require less sleep. (If getting up 30 to 60 minutes earlier each day seems too daunting, you can ease into it with 10 to 20 minutes at first.)

When you exercise at about the same time every morning—especially if you wake up regularly at about the same time—you’re regulating your body’s endocrine system and circadian rhythms. Your body learns that you do the same thing just about every day, and it begins to prepare for waking and exercise several hours before you actually open your eyes. That’s beneficial because:

Your body’s not “confused” by wildly changing wake-up times, which means waking up is much less painful. (You may even find that you don’t need an alarm clock most days.)

Hormones prepare your body for exercise by regulating blood pressure, heart rate, blood flow to muscles, etc.

Your metabolism, along with all the hormones involved in activity and exercise, begin to elevate while you’re sleeping. As a result, you’ll feel more alert, energized, and ready to exercise when you do wake up.

Many people find that morning exercise has a tendency to regulate their appetite for the rest of the day. Not only do they eat less (since activity causes the release of endorphins, which in turn diminishes appetite), they also choose healthier portions of healthier foods.

People who consistently exercise find, sometimes to their great surprise, that the appointed time every morning evolves into something they look forward to. Besides the satisfaction of taking care of themselves, they find it’s a great time to plan their day, pray, or just think more clearly—things most of us often don’t get to do otherwise.

Exercising first thing in the morning is the most foolproof way to ensure that other things don’t overtake your fitness commitment, particularly if you have a hectic family life. (It’s so easy to wimp out in the evening, when we’re tired or faced with such tasks as rustling up dinner and helping with homework.)




gymnastics life lessons

Someday they will perform their final cartwheel, back tuck or giant swing.

There will be no more achievement ribbons to earn, compulsories or optional routines.

No coaches wrangling kids into classes, and no judges in blue handing out scores.

And the leotards will be tucked into storage or passed on to former team members.

Someday, for all kids who do the sport, gymnastics will come to an end. For some it may be after a few months, others after years and still others will only put down the grips when college is over or even beyond.

But this I guarantee: at some point everyone who does gymnastics retires.

So, while I am committed to making sure all the kids in my programs get awesome instruction and have a wonderful gymnastics experience, I am even more committed to ensuring that they take with them life lessons that will serve them far beyond the years that they spent in the gym.

After all, if all goes, as it should, a person should spend significantly more time in the post-gymnastics phase of life.

Gymnastics carries young people forward with a number of skills that aid in making them a successful adult. Here are some of them:

  1. Resiliency. You learn the art of resiliency, falling down and getting up over and over again, literally and figuratively. Being passed over for a promotion is disappointing, but so was seeing your best friend get moved up a level ahead of you. You survived that and you will survive this. It won’t cause you to quit, it will cause you to double down and work that much harder.
  2. Hard work. Speaking of hard work, you understand that hard work is the necessary ingredient to getting what you want. Sure talent is a nice thing to have and so is a little good luck, but you know that in order to reach your full potential hard work is the key ingredient.
  3. Determination. You have a resolute determination to be your best. You’ve developed your grit by staying the course with your long term goals even when frustrated. And, you’ve cultivated your willpower muscle by developing habits that keep temptation at bay.
  4. High Pain Threshold. Not just physically but also mentally. You can endure short-term discomfort for long-term gain.
  5. Patient (but not apathetic). You understand that success does not happen overnight and that there are no short cuts. You also are edgy about the time things take, always trying to work a little harder to speed up the process. In short, you are patiently impatient.
  6. Brave. Being brave does not mean that you have no fears. Rather it means you know how to overcome your fears.
  7. Goal Setting. You understand the importance of setting goals and know how to set them. You aren’t afraid to set big, lofty goals and you know how to break them into smaller manageable bites to ensure that you are making progress. You re-evaluate your progress from time to time, never taking your eyes off the final destination, but rather tweaking the steps to get there.
  8. Action-oriented. You know the difference between wishing and doing. You goals are set and then action is taken.
  9. Thick-skinned. After having coaches telling you what you did wrong repeatedly in practice and having judges attach a score to your efforts, you can take criticism. You can separate someone giving you critical feedback from someone attacking you as a person. As a result you don’t get flustered with someone doesn’t simply gush about your work. You listen and incorporate the feedback just as you have been doing since you first step foot in the gym.
  10. Reflective. All of those years of having your coaches ask, “What do you need to fix on your next turn?” has turned you into a self-reflective person. You can self-coach.
  11. Internally motivated. You learn to work not for rewards or awards, but for the satisfaction of doing the work. You know that the value of your work isn’t in a trophy or medal or even the positive acknowledgement of another; but, rather comes from within.
  12. Self-efficacy. After spending years learning new and difficult things, you believe in your ability to learn things.
  13. Growth mindset. And even when you are unsure as to how to learn something, you know that you can learn how to learn the things that you don’t yet know how to do.
  14. Confident. Standing in front of judges and an audience on a four inch wide beam while wearing a leotard has taught you much about confidence.   Even when you are nervous you know how to hold your chin up and continue.
  15. Physically fit. Gymnastics is the basis for fitness. By doing gymnastics you have a foundation for exercise that will serve you will throughout your entire life.
  16. Balanced. Literally, but also metaphorically. You learned from a young age how to balance your “gym-school” life so that now you effortlessly do the same with your “work-life” balance.


by Anne Josephson reprinted from Jag Gym Blog

Gym Parents1

  1. Successful sports parents know their role. They are the parent. They are neither the athlete nor the coach.
  2. Successful sports parents know to watch their pronouns.   “We” do not have a meet this weekend, and “we” are not trying to go elite.
  3. Successful sports parents know to keep their eye on the big picture. A bad meet or bad season is feedback toward the larger goal.
  4. Successful sports parents know to respect their child’s coach. Even when they disagree.
  5. Successful sports parents know not relinquish their role as parent to the coach. Parents retain responsibility for their child’s health and well-being.
  6. Successful sports parents know to value their child-the-child more than their child-the-athlete.
  7. Successful sports parents know to make sure their child leads a balanced life. Their sport is important but so is their education, their family and friend time, downtime.
  8. Successful sports parents know how to be appropriately involved in their child’s sport.   They are supportive but not intrusive.
  9. Successful sports parents know to be the soft place for their child to land.
  10. Successful sports parents know when to allow their athlete to struggle and when to intervene.
  11. Successful sports parents know how to work out their own stress regarding their child’s Being a parent is not easy. Being a sport parent makes it that much more complicated.
  12. Successful sports parents know to take responsibility for their own choices regarding time, money and energy expended on behalf of their child athlete. They do not expect an Return            On Investment for their kids’ efforts. They do not make kids feel guilty for the financial choices that they as parents make.
  13. Successful sports parents know how to balance high level training needs and the needs of the other members of the family. The elite athlete child cannot take precedence over the other kids.
  14. Successful sports parents know how to enjoy their child’s time in sports. Sports are fun for children and that joy should bring pleasure to the parents as well.
  15. Successful sports parents know not to offer quitting as the solution to every difficulty their athlete encounters.
  16. Successful sports parents know to remain open to the option of their athlete moving on from the sport.
  17. Successful sports parents know how to behave in the car after practice.
  18. Successful sports parents know how to celebrate their child no matter the result of any individual meet.
  19. Successful sports parents know not to live vicariously through their children.
  20. Successful sports parents know to let their child’s coach give coaching feedback.
  21. Successful sports parents know to let their child be responsible for her own work.
  22. Successful sports parents know to be wary of advice from other sports parents.
  23. Successful sports parents know to be polite to all officials, staffers, parent volunteers etc.
  24. Successful sports parents know not to engage in psychological games with their athlete. They are the parent, not the amateur psychologist.
  25. Successful sports parents know to limit their negative feedback to their parenting obligations, never to discuss sports difficulties.
  26. Successful sports parents know to use the greatest of all therapeutic tricks: silence. Let there be silence and allow your child to exist in that space or have the space to talk.
  27. Successful sports parents know to let their child and the coach to set the goals.
  28. Successful sports parents know to focus on getting better rather than being “the best”.
  29. Successful sports parents know to have grit. They are willing to commit to a long-term goal.
  30. Successful sports parents love their kids unconditionally and without reservation. They want to have a happy, healthy good relationship with their child long after their child’s sports career ends.