About Renee Blodgett

Renee Blodgett

Renee Blodgett is the founder of We Blog the World. The site combines the magic of an online culture and travel magazine with a global blog network and has contributors from every continent in the world. Having lived in 10 countries and explored nearly 80, she is an avid traveler, and a lover, observer and participant in cultural diversity.

She is also the CEO and founder of Magic Sauce Media, a new media services consultancy focused on viral marketing, social media, branding, events and PR. For over 20 years, she has helped companies from 12 countries get traction in the market. Known for her global and organic approach to product and corporate launches, Renee practices what she pitches and as an active user of social media, she helps clients navigate digital waters from around the world. Renee has been blogging for over 16 years and regularly writes on her personal blog Down the Avenue, Huffington Post, BlogHer, We Blog the World and other sites. She was ranked #12 Social Media Influencer by Forbes Magazine and is listed as a new media influencer and game changer on various sites and books on the new media revolution. In 2013, she was listed as the 6th most influential woman in social media by Forbes Magazine on a Top 20 List.

Her passion for art, storytelling and photography led to the launch of Magic Sauce Photography, which is a visual extension of her writing, the result of which has led to producing six photo books: Galapagos Islands, London, South Africa, Rome, Urbanization and Ecuador.

Renee is also the co-founder of Traveling Geeks, an initiative that brings entrepreneurs, thought leaders, bloggers, creators, curators and influencers to other countries to share and learn from peers, governments, corporations, and the general public in order to educate, share, evaluate, and promote innovative technologies.


Latest Posts by Renee Blodgett

Inner Waves Organics Yoga Gear is Comfy, Stylish & Functional

February 2, 2016 by  

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I love new discoveries of brands I’ve never heard of, particularly ones dedicated to holistic living and all things organic and sustainable. Meet Inner Waves Organics, a family-owned clothing company who caters to yoga, yogis and wellness addicts around the world.

I came across a fun colored jacket on the web, which is what initially drew me to their site. They call it the Lokahi Jacket, which they’re discontinuing (it’s on the short side which doesn’t work for average sized folks), although it’s a cute fit for the petite among us. They offer a similar jacket which is a little longer in length and hangs comfortably at your waist. This super soft, jacket is made from a 100% organic French terry fabric and is designed to be worn as a perfect cover-up for after class or as a stylish, carefree, comfortable jacket, complete with flat lock seams which accentuate the cut and fit. (this was what I most loved about it btw).

Their mid-way workout tops are also fun and come in four colors. I must admit, I can feel the difference in the quality of the material — the organic cotton feels much softer than traditional cotton and after six washes so far, it still feels new. They call this the Maha Bra, which I wear over a sleeveless t-shirt during aerobic classes. It’s also great for yoga, dance and running and if you do wear solo, you’ll be able to show off it’s great racer back design and narrow shoulder straps. Apparently it was designed by women athletes for women athletes. Let’s be honest – we know what we like and what we want, and both design and comfort went into this great cotton half top offering.

Like the Maha bra, the Mohala Camisole is made of organic cotton but with a touch of lycra for movement. Through a little digging, I learned that they spent seven years tweaking the design to get to the current version.  Because the team behind the company are also yogis, they “get” that it not only needs to be comfortable but practical whether you’re standing or upside down. The cami has a shelf bra and light shoulder straps that meet in a racer back. You can also pair the Mohala Cami with a contrasting color Maha Sports Bra, which I tried when I hit the gym last week.  It comes in four fun colors as well, including my favorite, the elegant eggplant purple below.

 

Anyone out there frustrated with the straight and boxy cut of most workout pants, even ones you find at many yoga boutiques? I find that they’re either too boxy, don’t lay at the ankle the way they should or are too tight in the back. Inner Waves yoga pants are designed for a yoga body (balanced and toned) but what I love about them most is the way they fall at your ankles. One thing to note is that their sizing is a little on the small side, so if you’re typically a small, I’d opt for the medium. I’m 5’5″ and while the medium did fit, the large left a little extra room for padding in case of shrinkage after a few washes. That said, if you like your clothing very tight, order truer to your normal size.

Remember the cut is for yoga workouts, so the design is meant to hug your waist and thighs, and for comfort, flare just below your knee, which I love. The Inner Waves signature waistband can be worn rolled up (for more coverage) or rolled down to your hips to bare your belly.  You know we love color over here and they have great choices, from more conventional and safe choices like deep black, brown and crater grey, to seasonal colors such as Ceyenne, Lava Black, Crushed Blackberry and Pomegranate.

When I first hit the site, they were sold out of the creatively designed and artsy Moana Origins Pants and it’s easy to see why. Simply put, they’re a whole lotta fun! Like the other clothing in their line, the pants are made in the states and from super-soft organic cotton with just a touch of lycra for movement. (90 /10). They’re available in two 2-tone colors: Midnight Dove and Indigo Mystic.

If you love creativity and color as much as we do, you’ll love the dynamic combos you can create with their tops and bottoms.

While we didn’t try out any of the men’s gear, they do offer a few tops and pants options, including my favorite, the Mana Pants, which come in four colors. I love the super comfortable, casual fit and the fact that like everything else they do, they’re made from soft organic cotton so it feels so great on the skin.

Inner Waves Organics has a great mission with sustainability at the forefront. Their primary focus is yoga clothing — yoga pants and yoga tops for women and men that are “born from the earth” so to speak, that is, made of eco-fabrics from honest, sustainable sources.  They offer incredibly rich colors for most of their offerings as noted above, using special dyes that are not just fun and colorful but also easy on the environment. The low impact dyes they use for their fabrics are done in facilities that recycle their water. The Inner Waves Organics team uses recycled paper for their hangtags, veggie-based inks and natural jute cords and their production facility is in the process of converting to solar. Love it!

Their clothing is available online, in select yoga studios, eco-boutiques and active wear stores throughout the US and around the globe. For a list of store locations click here and more info on Inner Waves can be found at http://www.innerwaves.org.

BRAVO!!!

Take a San Francisco Hornblower Cruise for Fabulous Bay Lights and Fireworks

February 1, 2016 by  

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I’ve lived in San Francisco for quite awhile now and still had never taken a cruise on the bay. Recently, I was invited on a Hornblower Cruise to celebrate the lighting of the Bay Bridge, which is an event that happened the weekend before Superbowl Sunday. Fireworks are part of the evening’s festivities and Hornblower offers cruises where you can also have dinner, dance to live entertainment and and view the fireworks and other festive lights from the deck. The views are spectacular as you leave the Embarcadero’s Pier 3, which is where you board, right at Washington Street.  I’d recommend taking the bart to Embarcadero to avoid having to find parking or taking an Uber or taxi to take the stress out of your evening.

I love sunset cruises since you can catch a glimpse of late afternoon sun and of course catch both bridges in perfect light.

Later in the evening, the ambiance changes yet again….

Bear in mind that the above shots were taken on an iPhone, so they’re a bit grainy but it will give you an idea of the magic of the night.

Hornblower Cruises have been around for awhile, but under a different name in its earliest of days and today, they have a fairly large fleet. Many years ago, John Wayne used the restored 1942 minesweeper as his private getaway and Hornblower Cruises & Events continues to operate the same historic yacht in Newport Beach.

The company’s fleet topped 30 vessels in 2001 with the addition of the 2,200-passenger San Francisco Belle and it remains the largest dining yacht on the West Coast. Since then, the company has introduced the nation’s first hybrid ferry, Hornblower Hybrid, as well as Hornblower Infinity, a 1,000-passenger gem with private event spaces and an open-air deck set 65 feet off the water.

Hornblower Cruises & Events’ leaders also chartered a successful course by adding new port cities including nearby Lake Tahoe and parts of southern California. What’s nice is that you can charter your own cruise if you’d like with 20 or more people (great for anniversaries, birthday parties or corporate events) and they have specialty evening and brunch (day time) cruises as well throughout the year.

The Bay Lights and Fireworks Cruise is particularly special because of the vibrancy of the bay, the fireworks of course and the festive environment in downtown San Francisco on January 30.  It’s a fabulous way to take in the city skyline and the glittering lights at night.

Their evening cruises vary of course, but generally you’ll get a three hour yacht cruise, a 3 or 4 course seated dinner, coffee, water and tea (wine, beer and cocktails available for purchase), live entertainment and dancing and of course, unique views of the Bay and in the case of the Bay Lights cruise, the extraordinary lights that come alive in late January. Our dinner came with a Wedge Salad with blue cheese dressing, smoked bacon, copped eggs, tomatoes and scallions, a creamy Clam Chowder with thyme and smoked bacon, and a choice of Grilled Mahi Loin with soy ginger glaze, barley risotto, and roasted vegetables, an organic Pan Roasted Chicken breast with roasted red bell pepper coulis, cannellini bean ragout, and bloomfelt spinach, a Stuffed Acorn Squash with cranberry apple quinoa and grilled veggies or their Porcini Crusted Petit Filet Mignon with porcini sauce, parmesan truffle mashed potatoes and Watsonville late harvest vegetables — Yum!

More information can be found at https://www.hornblower.com/.

Little River Inn, a Romantic Getaway in Mendocino County

January 30, 2016 by  

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Those of you who live in the San Francisco Bay Area are likely familiar with Mendocino although you may never have thought of it as a weekend escape. I’ve been a few times now over the years and it is always lovely regardless of what time of year it is. We hit the area over the holidays and stayed at the Little River Inn, a mere two miles south of Mendocino Village. It made for a lovely getaway given it’s old fashioned charm and authenticity.

The dining room was decorated to the brim and the staff was incredibly hospitable and accommodating despite how busy it was during late December. Perched on the Pacific Ocean, Little River Inn has dramatic and ever-changing ocean views from the main lodge sitting area, bar and outside porch. We arrived in the evening and the entire property oozing all things Victorian, was lit up like a Christmas tree but in elegant white lights. Its architecture isn’t the only impressive thing as you make your way up the driveway — the peaceful gardens and wrapping porch embraces you with enough warmth, you could easily imagine calling the inn home for a few days or even a week or longer.

Many of the rooms have private decks which face the ocean and fireplaces inside if its too cold to sit out in the evening, which is an added bonus for winter months.   That said, it never gets that cold and we found ourselves on daily walks along the cliffs and on other trails nearby.

The porches are my favorite part about the rooms however, a godsend and must have if you’re there during warmer months. Imagine having tea or coffee on your deck as the sun greets you and a new day.

The architecture of the inn is about as old fashioned as it gets for the west coast and as an East Coaster, executing on charm is a must for me. Note that there are rooms in and around the main property (pictured below), most of which face the ocean, and there are standalone condos if you want a little more room and privacy or if you’re traveling with your family.

Off property, a less than 5 minute drive down the road sits the Van Damme, Mallory House, and the Llama Barn. Below are examples of a Mallory House cottage to give you an idea of what to expect, although each one is a little different — they all have luxury bathroom amenities however and a fireplace. Electra sits on the second floor and faces the ocean. (below)

During our stay, we were in the downstairs cottage at Mallory House, which they call Hannah Madison. Our cottage faced the ocean and had a lovely hot tub outside on a flat deck, which was surrounded by Adirondack-like wooden chairs.

Below is the view of Mallory House (the ocean was behind me as I took this shot), and Hannah Madison is in front on the ground floor. You can see the hot tub right in front of the property both on the ground and second floor (the Electra cottage) – it’s pure bliss lounging in a jacuzzi at night after a lovely meal.

Other cottages, which are all romantic and tastefully appointed, with fireplaces, Jacuzzi bath, king size beds, ocean view decks and hot tubs are available as well. These exclusive units are situated on the spectacular bluffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean, so you’re guaranteed privacy and uninterrupted ocean views.  The options include Coombs Cottage, Van Damme South, Brackenwood, Alice Abbot, MargaretBullard, Electra, Hannah Madison and White Cottage — visit the Seaside Luxury part of their site for more details and photos.

The sky can get moody and dramatic in the Mendocino area during winter and while you can do get overcast days, we had plenty of crystal clear blue mornings for our walks.

The beach area a couple of minutes from the main lodge…

Below is a view of the ocean and rocks, a mere five minute walk from the Mallory House cottages.

What we loved most about the property was its authentic family hospitality. The fifth generation, including Innkeeper Cally Dym and her husband, Executive Chef Marc Dym, are currently at the helm, and personally welcomed us when we arrived. The property now occupied by the Little River Inn and its Golf Course was originally three hundred acres of rolling wooded pastures in the 1800′s. In 1934, fifty acres were sold and eventually became what is now Van Damme State Park which includes some of the last remaining protected stands of pygmy forest.

Apparently, much remains the same as it was when it first opened although they’ve obviously made some improvements and updates like fireplaces, modern luxury bathrooms and wifi being among a few.  They have golf, tennis and a day spa and pet lovers will be happy to know that the property is pet-friendly and fees are only $25 per pet, per night for a maximum of two pets per room.

Their nine hole golf course is on the coast and it’s so scenic and natural, don’t be surprised to find a deer crossing the putting green. The course extends to 5,458 yards and is surrounded by redwoods and pine trees on all sides. They also have a driving range, putting green, and a fully stocked Gold and Tennis Pro Shop for the more serious among you. Rental clubs and golf lessons are also available and you can even have lunch in the Pro Shop for those who want to hang around for awhile.

Speaking of food, dining is also a special treat at Little River Inn, which has garnered high Zagat ratings thanks to five star chef Marc Dym on board. Breakfast was a delight, with traditional meals like Swedish Hotcakes, Huevos Rancheros, Crab Cake Benedict, Eggs Florentine, Flat Iron Steak and Eggs, omelets and their to-die-for Roundman’s Thick Sliced Bacon (YUM!!!)

Outside the main dining room is the Ole’s Whale Watch Bar, which dates back to the beginning of the inn — 1939. Back then, it was just called The Bar of course, and today, it is nearly as it was – unpretentious and relaxed. We found it cozy and like the restaurant and hotel staff, the bartenders were welcoming and warm.

In the evening, the ambiance of the old fashioned dining room changes and we had a hoot for two nights in a row chatting about wine with their on-site sommelier. We were there for long enough to sample a pre-fix four course meal with wine pairings and off-the-menu. A huge call out goes to their Roasted Red Pepper Soup which is served with spinach cream. A tip from the chef – roast them (which he did with shallots) but do not blacken them. Oh so delish!

We had to try the to-die-for Green Lip Mussels, which were tangy but not too spicy — the texture was very silky in their finish. They were broiled with wasabi tobiko mayonnaise and ponzu sauce and served over a seaweed salad. Other options included steamers, baked brie, shrimp cocktail, deep fried calamari, oysters on the half shell, Dungeness Crab Cakes and Billionaires Bacon Sliders (wow!)

On the lighter side, they had plenty of salads as well, from a classic “Wedge” Salad and a Gulf Shrimp Salad to traditional Spring Greens with cured red onions and tomatoes, Caesar, and my favorite — the Roasted Beet Salad. They served this with Baby Spinach, local “Boont Corners” aged goat milk cheese and a cilantro ginger vinaigrette, which we loved.

On the holiday menu, they offered a House Smoked Prime Rib with crisp red onions, smashed red potatoes, green beans almondine, whipped horseradish and roasted shallot au jus and a delicious Center Cut Pork Chop with savory cornbread stuffing, roasted Brussels Sprouts, mashed potatoes, cranberry apple chutney and grain mustard sauce. For veggies, there was a scrumptious Roasted Acorn Squash stuffed with local chanterelle mushrooms, chestnuts, wild rice, spinach puree and pumpkin seed oil. You could tell that the ingredients were organic and likely locally sourced as much as possible given the season.

Their standard menu featured  Scallops, Beef Tenderloin Bourguignon, Pork Chops, Confit Pork “Osso Bucco” with fennel marinara sauce and roasted garlic red chili broccoli, Pinenut crusted and pan seared Salmon with spinach puree, Bouillabaisse which is perfect for a cold evening, Vegetable Torta, New York Steak and a Flat Iron Steak Diane, which we had to try. They served it with green peppercorn mushroom sauce, crispy red onions, smashed red potatoes and green beans almondine.

As for wine pairing, they had plenty to choose from, but between our appetizers, salads and steaks, we opted for the 2011 Trujillo Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and I paired my fresh oysters with the Navarro Premier Reserve Chardonnay from Anderson Valley although the Seghesio Pinot Grigio or the Saracina Sauvignon Blanc from Mendocino may have been a better choice.

For dessert, we died and went to heaven over their Bread Pudding, which they serve with warm caramel sauce and whipped cream. Two Thumbs up! I’d recommend dining at Little River Inn even if you don’t stay there, but the combo is a blissful choice and makes for a great romantic getaway. And, it’s only a 4 hour drive from the San Francisco Bay Area.

DETAILS:

Little River Inn

7901 N. Highway 1

Little River, CA 95456

707.937.5942

5 Hawaiian Beaches That Can’t Be Beat

January 29, 2016 by  

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No trip to Hawaii would be complete without a visit to these five beaches; from Oahu to Maui, these beaches can’t be beat.

The islands of Hawaii are known around the world for their remarkable beauty. One of the things that makes Hawaiian beaches so special is the amount of variety you’ll find from one beach to the next. Whether you are looking for soft, white sand to relax on, a fun beach to take your family to, or a thrilling spot to surf, Hawaii has the perfect beach for you.

Waikiki, Oahu

Perhaps the most famous beach in Hawaii, Waikiki beach is located on the south shore of Oahu. Waikiki is the main hotel and resort area in Hawaii, with a lot of incredible hotels, popular bars and restaurants, and high-end shops to visit. Despite there being so much to do, it’s crucial to spend some time on one of the most relaxing and beautiful beaches in the world. Waikiki is a great place to learn how to surf and there are always great teachers on the beach offering lessons to visitors. Be sure to stick around after dark, since Waikiki has an incredibly vibrant nightlife!

Lanikai, Oahu

No trip to Oahu is complete without a visit to Lanikai Beach. Often rated among the most beautiful beaches in the world, Lanikai is considered by locals to be the best swimming beach in Hawaii. Lanikai is also a popular spot for kayaking, canoeing, sailing, and windsurfing. The water at Lanikai is perfectly warm, clear turquoise, and often calm. The sand is powder-soft and clean. It’s such a beautiful beach that it’s common to see photographers and models at work. While Lanikai is definitely worth a visit, it’s important to note that it’s located in a neighborhood and the residents appreciate a certain level of consideration.

Photo credit: Steven Worster via https://www.flickr.com/photos/stevenworster/.  

Hanalei Bay Beach, Kauai

Located on the North Shore of Kauai, Hanalei Bay is definitely among the most beautiful beaches in Hawaii. Set in an almost perfect semi-circle of white sand, this two mile beach is bordered by the Hanalei River and the Waipa River. In the water, you’ll find large and beautiful coral reefs to explore. People love to come to this beach for all kinds of different activities from boating to swimming. Hanalei is an extremely popular destination for serious surfers. If you’re concerned about the safety of serious surfing on the island of Kauai, rest assured, because there are medical transport services available. Emergency medical transport is offered by MedjetAssist, so make sure you’re secured with a membership. With a Medjet membership, if your emergency is non-life threatening, they will fly you back to your hospital of choice, which means you can be in the comfort of the hospital close to home.

Kaanapali – Black Rock Beach, Maui

Once named America’s Best Beach, Kaanapali Beach is an extraordinary place to visit. Kaanapali Beach sits in front of some of Maui’s most popular hotels and resorts. Spread out over three miles, this beach is known for its smooth white sand and clear water. While Kaanapali Beach is a breathtaking sight to see, there is also no shortage of activities available to you if you are lucky enough to visit. Whether you’re interested in shopping, golfing, or watersports, Kaanapali Beach has got something for you. Be sure not to miss the daily cliff diving ceremony off of Black Rock, the beach’s northernmost cliff. *Leave the cliff-diving to the professionals, or you’ll certainly need the aid of a medical transport!

Photo credit via Edmund Garman via https://www.flickr.com/photos/3cl/

Banzai Pipeline

If you’re looking for one of the most popular surfing destinations in the world, you should check out Banzai Pipeline. This world-famous beach is on the North Shore of Oahu. Pipeline, as it’s often referred to by locals, is popular with surfers because the massive waves form into large curls of water that are perfect for tube riding. These waves can be extremely dangerous and you should only attempt to surf them if you’re sufficiently experienced.

 

This post was made possible by partner MedJet Assist.

TEDxBerkeley 2016 Looks to Solutions to World’s Imperfections on Feb 6

January 26, 2016 by  

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From innovative surgery and extraterrestrial intelligence to reporting from war zones and Grammy-Award winning music, this year’s theme for TEDxBerkeley 2016 – Finding X, which will be held at Zellerbach Hall in Berkeley CA on February 6, will look to solutions to our world’s imperfections. Sixteen riveting speakers will address how we identify these problems and make sense of them in the larger systems where they belong.

Whether it be voyaging into uncharted technological or scientific territory, reconciling our diverse perspectives of the human condition, or unearthing the parts of ourselves that give our lives direction and meaning, we all hope to make an impact on this world by Finding X.

Now in its 7th year, this prestigious TEDx event will bring together thought leaders, visionaries, innovators and 54 performers who will enlighten and inspire more than 2,000 attendees across core disciplines impacting the world, from medicine and education to technology and diversity.

TEDxBerkeley strives to curate an outstanding group of inventive and provocative speakers who can shift global conversations in a way that makes the world a better place, central and core to TED’s mission. The goal is to get us all to re-think conventional ideas and the status quo so that we can all make a positive difference in our own communities. Tickets for TEDxBerkeley 2016 are on sale through Friday, February 5 or until they sell out.

Attendees or those viewing via Live Stream at http://www.tedxberkeley.org starting at 10 am PST/1 pm EST, can also participate in the conversation on social media by using #TEDxBerkeley on Twitter, Facebook and other popular social networks.

This year’s line-up includes:

  • Christopher Ategeka: Award-Winning Social Entrepreneur & Nano-Technology Inventor that identifies early detection and monitoring of chronic diseases.
  • Celli@Berkeley: a cellist quartet made up of undergraduate and graduate students united by the passion to express the uniquely rich possibilities of the cello.

Cello

  • Kathy Calvin: As President and CEO of the United Nations Foundation, Kathy works to connect people, ideas, and resources to the United Nations to help solve global problems.
  • Jacob Corn: Scientific Director of the Innovative Genomics Initiative & on faculty at UC Berkeley in the Molecular and Cell Biology Department, Jacob focuses on neurobiology, infectious disease, and oncology.
  • Stephanie Freid: An International Conflicts Journalist, TV correspondent for CCTV (China) and Turkish TV International networks, Stephanie reports from some of the world’s toughest conflict and war zones.
  • Rose Gelfand, Molly Gardner & Isa Ansari: this trio from Oakland School for the Arts Literary Arts Department, are performance artists who specialize in the spoken word and poetry on stage.
  • Rob Hotchkiss: Grammy Award-winning Musician for the Best Rock Song for five-time nominated “Drops of Jupiter”, and was the musical force behind hits such as Meet Virginia, Free, I Am and Get To Me.
  • Naveen Jain: An Entrepreneur & Philanthropist, Naveen is the founder of Moon Express, World Innovation Institute, inome, Talent Wise, Intelius, and InfoSpace.
  • Jeromy Johnson: An EMF Expert, Jeromy is dedicated to mitigating the negative impacts of Electromagnetic Field (EMF) exposure, helping to implement solutions that reduce and eliminate EMF pollution around the globe.
  • Reverend Deborah L. Johnson: Minister, Author & Diversity Expert, Deborah teaches practical applications of Universal Spiritual Principles and is founder of The Motivational Institute, which specializes in diversity.
  • Aran Khanna: As Computer Scientist & Security Researcher on personal privacy, he builds tools that empower users to discover the consequences of the digital footprint they’re leaving.
  • John Koenig: Creator & Author of The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, which fills gaps in language with new terms for emotions, some of which (‘sonder’) have entered the language outright.
  • Ellen Leanse: As Apple’s first User Evangelist, she brought Apple online in 1985 and has since helped more than 40 companies and policy makers increase their innovation and impact.
  • Susan Lim: As Surgeon and Entrepreneur, Susan broke through the gender glass ceiling in transplantation surgery by becoming the first in Asia, and the second woman in the world to have performed a successful liver transplant.
  • OSA Chamber Choir: the largest audition-only high school Vocal ensemble at the Oakland School for the Arts, this ensemble has performed for Governor Jerry Brown’s inauguration, Obama’s campaign tour and many other notable events.
  • Sonia Rao: A BMI Spotlight artist, Sonia is a singer and songwriter whose latest album Meet Them At the Door is a collection of heart-felt pop songs that showcase her piano skills and soulful voice.
  • Amandine Roche: A Human Rights Expert, Amandine’s focus is on civic education, democratization, gender and youth empowerment.
  • Sriram Shamasunder: Sriram aims to deliver comprehensive healthcare in resource poor areas of the world through his work at UCSF and as co-founder of the HEAL initiative.
  • Andrew Siemon: Andrew is an Astrophysicist, Director of the UC Berkeley Center for Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Research & lead scientist for the “Breakthrough Listen Initiative”, a $100 million effort that is conducting one of the most sensitive searches for advanced extraterrestrial life in history.
  • Joshua Toch: After being bullied because of Cerebral Palsy, Joshua founded Mind Before Mouth, which equips students to better deal with social aspects of life and get through times of hardship.
  • UC Berkeley Azaad: UCB Azaad is a competitive Hindi Film Dance team which motivates audiences to connect with Bollywood culture.

This year’s partners include Repertoire Productions, Vÿykn Water, Zola, Peet’s Coffee, Fast Imaging, 18 Rabbits, Larabar, Victor Hugo Winery and EthiCal.

I am proud to be a co-curator again this year, joining Chris Lew as TEDxBerkeley’s 2016 curator and co-curator R. Jennifer Barr together with an incredible team behind us, including Leilani Gutierrez-Palominos, Max Wolffe, Melody Jung, Aaron Chelliah, Mehdi Kazi, Sean Kelly, Krupa Modi, Aashna Patel, Andrew Veenstra, Alvin Wan and Joe West.

Transformational Guide to Getting Fit & Staying Fit Over 40!

January 26, 2016 by  

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Getting Fit and Staying Fit over 40 isn’t easy and what used to “do the trick” doesn’t seem to work anymore. Truth be told, I was born an athlete. I was obsessed with kick the can after dinner on school nights, rode a bike as early as 5 and played on teams with boys by the time I was 12. In high school and college, I played tennis and field hockey competitively and have participated in both dance and rollerskating competitions over the years. Growing up, I water skied, canoed and swam daily during the summer, adopted snow skiing in my twenties and turned to kayaking and cycling when I wasn’t doing something else. When I first moved to San Francisco, I danced in the park on Sunday afternoons, regularly attended the late evening skate on Friday nights and hiked with friends in Marin.

Then, suddenly something switched off, almost like a light bulb that stopped shining bright when its lifetime warranty said it always would. When I was younger, I found that I could participate in sports and be active on weekends, drink great wine in the evenings and eat plenty of carbs, then sleep for five hours and still perform like a Rock Star come Monday morning.

Photo source: Hercampus.com

Frankly, I don’t want to perform like a Rock Star anymore and I no longer have the same desire to hike the tallest mountain on Saturday come rain or shine — sometimes I just want to veg, write or get lost behind my Canon 7D. It doesn’t mean I still don’t yearn to get the heart pumping, but it does mean that it’s harder to fit extensive exercise into my schedule and still manage everything on my plate during a work week. “You are getting older,” a friend or two remind me every now and then. Rather than blame less exercise on age, I’d rather point to a combination of things of which age is one factor, but only one of several that matter.

Body Metabolism Changes

As we age, our body metabolism does change. The good news is that if you had a fast metabolism years ago, you likely still do, but you may require a little more exercise and a different diet than you had in your twenties. I was never heavy on the carbs, but I didn’t think twice about having a sandwich, a piece of chocolate cake when I had the craving or my favorite go to: a large pistachio frozen yogurt. Ever since we expanded our coverage of Food & Wine on We Blog the World, not only did we learn that it was among the top readership categories, but we discovered that people love reading about new restaurants, so suddenly the number of reviews increased. I also started attending more “foodie” events and shows and tasting became a past time, a bit like hiking used to be every weekend.

Photo Source: Butternutrition.com.

The good news is that the majority of my tasting came from organic farms, sustainably-minded chefs and the kitchens of some of the best restaurants in the world. In early 2015, we drove across country, taking 5 weeks across 14 states and later in the year, hit even more. Everywhere we stopped, we ATE. We ate in New York, Virginia, Memphis, Nashville, Oklahoma City, Baltimore, Lake Placid, Providence, Idaho, Lake Tahoe, Sedona, Santa Fe, Taos, Little Rock Arkansas, Clarksdale Missisippi, Kentucky, Philadelphia, and yes, even Amarillo Texas. Delicious carbs were thrown our way and especially in the south, we indulged far more than our bodies could handle, especially without regular exercise.

By the time April rolled around, I had put on 25 pounds, more poundage than I’ve ever known and the first thing I noticed was how much the weight aged me — I moved from point A to B slower and my pace was lethargic, my skin looked sluggish and tired, and frankly I had little motivation beyond getting digital deadlines done. When I could no longer wear my favorite jeans and leather coat, I realized it called for drastic measures. Where does one begin when metabolism has slowed down, exercise isn’t part of a daily routine routine and there’s no time to lose it? Or, so I thought.

Know that your metabolism changes, so you need to develop new patterns that work with you as you age….and they may differ from what you did earlier in your life.

Find a Routine That Works

While I’ve never been a gym addict, I became very fit in my thirties through regular lifting when I lived in Boston. Anthony has successfully remained toned and fit through a combination of heavy bag work, lifting and martial arts over the years and is a fan of integrating gym workouts into his  weekly routine. That requires discipline though right? Yes, it does, but here’s a few things I learned going through the hard process of “showing up” at a gym and continuing to show up every day.

Be okay with baby steps and don’t be hard on yourself particularly in the beginning. Third, find a few things you love to do at a gym and pick one that is a challenge, but that you could learn to love over ti

Photo credit: www.glittermeup.co.uk.

I started with CRUNCH Gyms, a national brand you may or may not be aware of — they have gyms across the country with a large number of options in New York State and California and given my east coast west coast travel schedule, it seemed like a good fit. I realized that doing weights without cardio wasn’t going to do much to shed the unwanted pounds. If you try a class and don’t like the pace, the music, the style, or the instructor, then try another one. The key is to not give up.

Humans are creatures of habits after all, so finding an instructor that gels with you is half the battle. I also tried a few yoga classes as well and while I love the power of yoga for building flexibility and body core strength, my core objective was to lose weight, then tone and strengthen.

Get Focused

It’s easy to get distracted when you try something new. With so many classes on offer, it was hard not to get lost in the volume of them. While it’s great to vary your routine, you need to get focused on a couple core classes or set of routines that you consistently do each week so you can build on what you learned and accelerate from there.

I found two instructors who combined dance and cardio with muscle toning so that during class, I could actually feel those calories burn in real time. Getting focused also allows you to be more disciplined even if you’re not great at the D word. Anthony had a much easier time sticking to regular muscle strengthening and toning exercises, something he’s been doing for years and that was relatively new for me at a gym.

Photo credit: www.bloodgym.com

Dance wasn’t new so Zumba was a bit like a side cousin to what I could already do well. When you’re shooting for such a large number (25 pounds was significant for me), it’s easy to get discouraged. Finding things you love to do makes it easier to get focused and stick with it.

Set Up Easy Win’s 

Having goals is great but if you set your goals so high that it’s easy for you not to just get defeated, but to feel defeated, chances are you won’t stick it out for the long haul. In the second month, I found that I was only losing a max of 2 pounds a week, and usually only one to one and a half pounds. Remember too that when I did exercise, I poured myself into the routine or the Elliptical Trainer to take full advantage of that solid hour of burning fat and yet it was taking longer than I had hoped to take the weight off.

Setting up easy win’s is much easier to do when you choose things with smaller learning curves. In other words, if you’ve never cycled in your life, don’t start an exercise regime that includes cycling. If you’ve hiked a lot over the years, running or fast walking around a track or up and down hills could be an easy add-on. Zumba is a nice extension of dance for me and I find the motion of the Elliptical to be a nice blend of running and cycling.

Photo source: www.eliterehabplacement.com

The other thing I did to increase my chances of success is to position myself in the front of the room when I took a class so I could feel more confident with the movies that much faster. By doing this, I could focus on making the moves count, increasing cardio as I improved and not on trying to learn something new. If I screwed up, I simply kept my body moving so I didn’t lose momentum.

Another suggestion is to find a “friend” early on to support you. Even if you don’t go to a gym to socialize (I’m one of those people who don’t), talking to other women in the locker room about their own challenges, made me feel more “normal” about my own.  It’s the soap opera effect.

This is also a great way to share best practices — by exchanging stories of what worked and didn’t work for you opens up a window for others to do the same. In this exchange, trust grows and so does community. A gym is a great place to build a community even if they don’t end up being close friends. That community can encourage you, even if it’s only at your weekly class, to keep going and not give up.

Drink Plenty of Water

You’ve probably heard this tip your whole life — from your mother at a young age and your doctor to Health Tips on The Today Show. Drinking plenty of water matters and it matters a lot. Not only does it improve your skin tone over time, but it increases your energy levels as well. If you’re feeling sluggish, you’d be surprised at how drinking a couple of glasses of water will give you an immediate surge of energy. Invest in a serious water filtration system or buy the purest of Spring Water you can afford — Fiji is a good one.

Photo source: www.euclidlibrary.org

Alkalinity of your water also matters so be sure to compare brands before you decide on one. Purified water in bottles sold at the grocery store is simply that – purified. If water bores you, then spruce it up with a squeeze of lemon or lime. You can also infuse your water with other low sugar fruits for flavor if you’d like as well but stay hydrated. Your hunger pains won’t feel as severe with more water in your system either. I’m astonished at the power of water — don’t underestimate its advantages. Simply add it to your “must” list and double your intake to see what the right amount is for you over time.

There’s No Time Like Now

It’s so easy to put things off. Trying to imagine how I would take off 25 pounds was overwhelming at first and it wasn’t until the third month that I saw some hope. I began to feel like my old self again even though I was only 9 pounds down and suddenly my metabolism picked up steam again as I continued on course. The key is not putting it off and not giving up after you start. Think baby steps, checking off little win’s as you go (see above on Setting Up Easy Win’s), and then progressing from there.

Photo Source: www.careerthinker.com.

Once you commit (NOW would be the time), then choose someone who is supportive in your life but firm who can hold you accountable. When you’re feeling like you can’t reach your goal or the routine is simply too hard, have them pep talk you through it. As silly as it sounds, leaning on a friend who encourages you that possible is not only possible but is a serious reality if you stay the course, can be the one thing that motivates you to get over a set back. We will always have set backs (we might get a cold in the middle and can’t work out for a week, have to travel for work or our child gets sick), but reminding yourself that whatever the set back is is just that, a set back, not a permanent excuse why you can’t get back in shape again. You can and you need to — your health is the most important resource you have. Without it, you’re useless to your children, aging parents, employees, employers, spouses and friends.

Diet Change: Take the Plunge

While no one likes to be on a diet or give up certain foods they love, I wish I could tell you that this guide has a workaround magic formula, but one simply doesn’t exist. Diet is a big deal, especially in the states where more and more of our available options are processed meal packages, processed snack bars with fructose corn syrup and so called healthy snacks that have more carbs and sugar combined in a small bag than you should have in two days.

Although I’ve mostly been thin for as long as I can remember, there were a few times in my life where I put on weight and had to take severe action to reverse the course. The most notable time was when I was an exchange student to South Africa, and like all the other exchange students who I ventured abroad with that year, I put on weight. We all did. When diet changes, you need to be aware of which foods affect you, how and where…

 Photo credit: communitytable.parade.com.

After 40, I found that carbs landed around my middle and didn’t come off quite so easily. Around the same time I started with CRUNCH, I significantly cut out carbs. The combination of a gym cardio and toning routine and a very low carb diet began to pay off. While the weight came off very slowly the second month (slower the second month than the first month in fact), I stayed the course. Remember earlier how I talked about being gentle on yourself especially at first? Being hard on yourself isn’t going to help, so taking baby steps is the only course of action that will work over the long haul. When you see little successes from one baby step, you are more likely to take another baby step. After each baby step, you will see a reward, even if small — all of those little rewards will add up towards your ultimate goal.

When you change your diet, be clear about what you can’t give up or you’ll slide. Having lived in Europe for so long, I love having a glass of wine with my meal at night which roughly has 3.5 carbs. Be sure to read our latest write up on 5 California Wines We Love for a few good suggestions.

For lunch after a workout, I’d typically have an Arugula Salad with goat cheese, a hard boiled egg, onions and a half an avocado which is incredibly low on the carb index scale. I found a refreshing sparkling probiotic drink with Lemon Cayenne from Kevita that you can pick up at a Whole Foods or a grocery store like it. An entire 15.2 ounce bottle only has two grams of carbs and two grams of sugar. For dinner, we’d stick to organic meat (alternating between fish, chicken, pork, lamb and lean steak), a low carb vegetable like broccoli and a salad. Sometimes we’d go for a wedge salad with goat cheese, other times a mozzarella and tomato salad and other times, carmelized onions over Arugula and tofu. The entire meal including the wine came in at around 12 or so carbs.

I’m not suggesting eating a ton of meat and cheese as an ongoing diet is the way to go. To be fair, I’m not advocating for an Adkins Diet although I’ve done it a couple of times and it does work. Over time, high protein with too few carbs can be unhealthy. That said, sticking with very low carbs and high proteins for 3.5 months consistently helped me accelerate the weight loss process while exercise gave me the discipline I would need to keep the weight off once I started integrating higher carb foods back into my diet. As for fast food and processed food, just say NO. Not only are they bad for weight gain but they’re unhealthy period! That includes sodas, diet sodas, anything with refined sugars or grains, white breads, salamis, milk chocolates, sugared drinks and hormone-infused meats. Kick them to the curb to increase your chances at keeping heart disease and cancer at bay.

Photo source: CareerThinker.com

I”m more of a fan of the Paleo Diet or a variation of it. It mainly consists of meat, fish, vegetables, and fruit, and excludes dairy or grain products and processed food. Early on in my regime, I was eating vegetables but not ones that were high in carbs. In other words, beans were off the list and beans are an incredibly rich source of fiber. For the first four months however, beans were off the table as was all bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, sweets and fruit.

Six months later, I’m still not eating fruit but beans are now back on the menu and dishes with sauces, like Indian food. Earlier on, if I did land at an Indian restaurant, I would only order a dry chicken kebab, a salad with lemon and nursed a glass of wine until it took the edge off the papadum and garlic naan staring at me from someone else’s plate.

Committing to wellness is a lifestyle shift, not an experiment, as much as my six month stint might seem like one. My commitment to a holistic life, from food and exercise to time in nature and to sit in silence is an integrated part of my life and will continue to be even though I’m back to my normal weight. Being well when you travel is even more important since we often get hit with bugs and incidents we don’t expect and our diets change. Read my write-up on 15 Tips for Staying Healthy on the go and be sure to see my round-up on Wellness Travel vendors who came to this year’s New York Times Travel Show, the first time they’ve had a pavilion solely dedicated to wellness. Bravo!

Build on Your Exercise Regime

While I love my Zumba classes and don’t really vary my Elliptical routine, I have started to build new exercises into the program six months later. For four months, I was fairly strict about what I ate, when and how often I exercised. I stuck with high proteins and extremely low carbs, limiting my dairy to organic sheep and goat cheese, tofu, organic meats, eggs, tea, fish and a ton of salad. Lemon was my best friend as was chocolate tea when I had a sweet craving.

I began to work on machines that would tone and build body strength in the fifth month, focusing largely on my inner and outer legs, my but (what woman over 40 doesn’t want a great but?) and a few machines that worked my triceps and biceps.

Photo source: www.healthwantcare.com

There’s always time to build and you’ll feel far more motivated to build when you see results. The most important reason to build on your regime is to increase your confidence and strengthen your heart. As we get older, cardio is more important than ever. Whether you’re doing fast walks around a track, running on a treadmill or taking a class, get out there and nourish that heart often. Your heart with its improved oxygen flow and stronger muscle will thank you as will your children. Being healthy means showing that you want to stay around for the long haul and that impacts everyone around you!!

Commit to a Personal Trainer

I’ve had a trainer a couple of times over the years and observed others in the exercise flow across the world. Some have amazing success stories and other feel it was a waste of money. Just like any teacher, whether it’s a fitness trainer, a tennis coach or a language tutor, you can find committed passionate ones and ones who merely show up and do a job. Don’t be afraid to interview a personal trainer — find out if their goals are aligned with yours. Do you like their style? The way they look? (how they train and tone their own body) Do you like the way they view the world? Do you agree with their value system on diet and exercise? Do you like their voice? As silly as some of these questions sound, getting aligned with the right personal trainer is 80% of the battle.

Photo source: Daly City CRUNCH

Once you find someone you’re in sync with, you’re more likely to be motivated and show up. You’re also more likely to listen to and respect what they have to say, which helps to accelerate the process. Don’t be afraid of changing trainers if you have a couple of sessions and it’s not working out — remember, it’s your money and your time.

There are also circuit training routines you can do on your own at the gym. The machines are lined up next to each other (above) and you simply move from one to the next spending an allotted period of time at each. This is particularly useful for people who are on a time crunch but want to get a nice combo of some cardio and toning into one session. I’d recommend alternating this with straight cardio over the course of a week. Repetition and building on what you already know is a great way to improve your spirit and increase your level of exercise. Suddenly, you’ll be able to do twice what you did the month before and hitting another milestone will start to feel more and more significant as time marches on.

Access to Nature is Vital

I’m a huge believer in getting as much access to nature as possible – it’s calming for the spirit and the mind. While I’d exercise outside rather than not if I had an opportunity to do daily, it simply isn’t feasible in our busy lives, particularly those of us who live in a city. While I have closer access to most (despite living in San Francisco, I can be on the ocean’s edge in 15 minutes and the top of a hill in ten), the weather isn’t always cooperative and I may not get the vigorous cardio I can get on an Elliptical Trainer or a spinning class for a fast paced hour.

Panoramic on my iPhone during a Northern California Hike

That said, as a society, we’re not connecting with the earth as much as we did in previous generations so I can’t praise this “must do” in your life enough. Go for a hike, take a leisurely walk through the woods, sit on a hill and look at a mountain, put music on and run in place at the edge of an open field, lie in a bed of flowers or tall grass and look at a clear blue sky — whatever you CAN do in your environment, DO IT! Even New York City has Central Park and I found plenty of opportunities to spend time with trees in Paris.

Photo credit: Iamthatgirl.com

If you live in more rural areas, rent a canoe and paddle down a river, have a picnic by the lake and tend to your garden more often than you normally would just to get your hands dirty. It feeds the soul and a healthy soul is critical to your overall well-being.

Mobile Apps & Connected Gadgets (IoT)

I found the iPhone app Lose It to be useful when I returned to a regular fitness routine since it allowed me to set a weight goal, log in my meals each day and track how many calories I burned over a given week to see if I was on target. It also kept track of the foods I ate regularly so I could easily add them to my custom foods and daily food log (above). After I met my goal, I find that the added work to log and track simply isn’t worth my time anymore, but I do think it’s useful for someone who’s just getting started so they can get an idea of their patterns and what needs to get modified and when.

The Results

Through a combination of diet and regular exercise, I lost the 25 pounds I put on from December of 2014 through March 2015. It took longer (and was harder) to take off than put on and remembering this will improve the likelihood of me not taking that path again. Awareness is critical to sustainable success.

From July through December 2015, I was on an extremely low carb, very high protein diet with almost no sugars. That meant no juice, fruit, candy or sweet drinks, not even an apple with peanut butter which I was craving from time-to-time. I exercised 4-5 times a week and only began to incorporate some low glycemic dishes back into my daily life in the six month. These included select foods that have a minimal alteration of circulating glucose levels. While I’ve never had a sugar issue in my life, I wanted to keep the Glycemic index (GI) and cemic load (GL) low, which are essentially measures of the effect on blood glucose level after a food containing carbohydrates is consumed. This meant that I re-integrated healthy high fiber foods like beans, artichokes and squash into my diet. I’m also a believer in some natural foods that do have sugars if they can help aid digestion and improve regularity to push toxins through your body, like figs and dates.

 Above, me on a trip to Jamaica in early December where I visited several yoga retreat centers, went on hikes and cycled during my stay. Read my Wellness in Jamaica article for some great suggestions along the coast.

I now feel healthier and am able to look at dishes differently, even when we do restaurant reviews. This might mean saying no to certain dishes but it also means occasionally saying yes to a slice of dark chocolate cake or pumpkin pie. I rarely have sweets but when I do, I opt for dark chocolate for the additional benefits that chocolate can provide, such as raising serotonin levels, which is particularly useful during rainy and overcast winter months.

Disclosure: I am not a doctor or a healthcare practitioner so this review is based on my own personal experience with diet and exercise over the course a couple of decades of trial and error, including the last six months of a diet/exercise regime with the primary goal of losing unwanted pounds and a secondary goal of improving my cardio and body tone.

I don’t work for or have any affiliation to any of the products or services I mention in this post. I reached out to CRUNCH Gyms letting them know I was interested in writing an article about Getting Back in Shape After 40, using their gym as my playground. I’m grateful for the opportunity to have had access to a variety of gym locations in their system as their standard membership tends to focus on one gym or a few gyms within a certain mile radius. They did not stipulate what to say or ask me to reference them in this article. The idea for the article was entirely my own — I did not use a trainer although would consider it in the future. All opinions expressed here are my own.

Getting in Shape Again With CRUNCH!

January 24, 2016 by  

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I embarked on a six month adventure to lose weight, get ton and feel more energetic with a goal of losing 20 or so pounds after dining out far too much. To be honest, I’ve always been thin — my nickname in high school by some was Twiggy (I think it was even written on the back of my Powder Puff football shirt in my sophomore year). I had skinny legs as a child with nobly knees and smaller than average wrists and for most of my twenties and thirties, I was on the average to thin side. It wasn’t until I hit my forties that things began to sag a bit more and a little weight appeared around my middle that was foreign to what I had always known.

Up until last year this time, I was still fitting in pants I wore in my twenties, until we drove across country. Over five weeks of food events and restaurant reviews with not enough exercise baked into the schedule and I ended up gaining close to 25 pounds. Quite frankly, I felt not just a little chunky but fat and the worst part was that none of my favorite jeans or shirts fit me anymore.

This called for drastic measures. I approached CRUNCH Gyms to begin my weight loss and getting fit journey. The road was a tough one — those of you reading this who are over 40 know what I’m talking about. Getting back in shape later in life after you let things slide for awhile isn’t easy. Because I had always been in shape, how I responded to being short of breath after 15 minutes on the Elliptical Trainer was more dramatic than someone who was brand new to exercise.

 Photo credit: communitytable.parade.com.

Be sure to read my extensive write-up about the nitty gritty details. Here, I share my routine over the 4-6 months, which includes a change of diet, the types of exercises I did, what I stayed clear of and why and little tricks to help keep you motivated should you want to try my method or a variation of it. Your body metabolism changes as you age, so you need to modify your diet and exercise to fit the less fit you until your body catches up again. Remember that your muscle has memory, so if you focus on things your body is most likely to remember, it will make it a little easier to get into the swing of it.

While I’ve never been a gym addict, I became very fit in my thirties through regular lifting when I lived in Boston.  The problem is that many of the machines I used back then no longer appealed to me. The good news about CRUNCH is that their network is fairly extensive and so is their gym equipment selection — from machines that work your abs, but, calves, thighs and strengthening your back to ones that firm up your triceps, biceps, pecs and more. It can be overwhelming if a gym hasn’t been part of your daily routine for a couple of decades.

I had to retrain myself how to work certain muscle groups and which machines would be most effective for my body type, metabolism and preference. The truth is, there are some machines I just don’t like and others I love.  I realized that doing weights without cardio wasn’t going to do much to shed the unwanted pounds and so I started with what I knew I’d love right off the bat — the Elliptical Trainer. The nice thing about the CRUNCH location where I spent most of my time — Daly City California — was that they have a ton of machines, so you rarely have to wait for a machine unless it’s during the two prime hours in the evening, immediately after work.

As I sadly wrote in my Getting Fit Over 40 article, for the first month, I felt defeated. Five pounds came off but I looked the same and my clothes still didn’t fit. I was about as disciplined as I could be — 4 or 5 times a week, I headed off to CRUNCH. spent an hour on the Elliptical Trainer or participated heavily in a Zumba class.  I had to try several classes before I found a couple of instructors I felt aligned with and know this before you get started. If you try a class or two and don’t like the pace, the music, the style, or the instructor, then try another one. The key is to not give up.

Humans are creatures of habits after all, so finding an instructor that gels with you is half the battle. I also tried a few yoga classes as well and while I love the power of yoga for building flexibility and body core strength, my core objective was to lose weight, then tone and strengthen.

I found two instructors who combined dance and cardio with muscle toning so that during class, Dance wasn’t new to me so Zumba was a bit like a side cousin to what I could already do well. When you’re shooting for such a large number (25 pounds was significant for me), it’s easy to get discouraged. Finding things you love to do makes it easier to get focused and stick with it.

I luckily met a few girls who began to motivate me along the way. Engaging with others is a great way to share best practices — by exchanging stories of what worked and didn’t work for you opens up a window for others to do the same. In this exchange, trust grows and so does community. A gym is a great place to build a community even if they don’t end up being close friends. That community can encourage you, even if it’s only at your weekly class, to keep going and not give up.

Diet was a big part of my program so in addition to regular exercise at CRUNCH, I focused heavily on proteins and nuked as many carbs as I could from my meals.

Photo source: CareerThinker.com

While I love my Zumba classes and don’t really vary my Elliptical routine, I started to build new exercises into the program six months later. For four months, I was fairly strict about what I ate, when and how often I exercised.

Photo credit: Daly City CRUNCH

I began to work on machines that would tone and build body strength in the fifth month, focusing largely on my inner and outer legs, my but (what woman over 40 doesn’t want a great but?) and a few machines that worked my triceps and biceps. Luckily my shoulders seem to still be tone, perhaps from carrying around heavy camera equipment for so many years or typing far too many hours on a keyboard monitor.

Frankly, CRUNCH has so many machines, you likely won’t try them all. The key is to start with 5-6 core machines you know that will effectively work the muscle groups you care about most. Then, build on your routine after you start seeing results from those muscle groups. As I’ve emphasized earlier, the idea here is set up easy win’s. If you try to do too much and fragment your time, you won’t see the kind of results you’ll get if you stay focused and start small.

Photo source: www.healthwantcare.com

Personal Trainers

Personal trainers can be great motivators and CRUNCH has a boat load of them. My recommendation: don’t be afraid to interview a personal trainer — find out if their goals are aligned with yours. Do you like their style? The way they look? (how they train and tone their own body) Do you like the way they view the world? Do you agree with their value system on diet and exercise? Do you like their voice? As silly as some of these questions sound, getting aligned with the right personal trainer is 80% of the battle.

Photo source: Daly City CRUNCH

Once you find someone you’re in sync with, you’re more likely to be motivated and show up. CRUNCH has a great page of useful personal training tips and their trainers use a wide array of personal training tools such as battle ropes, kettlebells, TRX Suspension Straps, Bulgarian Bags, and MMA equipment to name a few. These functional training tools help to provide an array of High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) workouts that are effective in getting results.

There are also circuit training routines you can do on your own at the gym. The machines are lined up next to each other (above) and you simply move from one to the next spending an allotted period of time at each. This is particularly useful for people who are on a time crunch but want to get a nice combo of some cardio and toning into one session. I’d recommend alternating this with straight cardio over the course of a week. Repetition and building on what you already know is a great way to improve your spirit and increase your level of exercise. Suddenly, you’ll be able to do twice what you did the month before and hitting another milestone will start to feel more and more significant as time marches on.

Crunch Fitness on Your Mobile 

CRUNCH has an app called CRUNCH Fitness which tracks your progress by week so you can get an idea of when you’re slacking off and ramping up. You can also make reservations on your phone, which is handy especially when you have a busy schedule.

For exercises and classes, you can also view them by category, such as Action Sports, Chisel, Mind Body Burn, Dance, spinning and more.

Then of course, you can monitor your workout progress by week, by month and so on, which is particularly useful for keeping you on track.

Want to find a class? The mobile app has a cool Class Finder feature so you can see what classes are on each and every day by location. If you want to see where there’s a spin class within a 15 mile radius, you can check all the classes in your immediate area and it will show you each location’s classes for the day with the times and instructors listed next to them. Handy is an understatement!

Classes: Add Some Fun To Your Life

While I’m committed to the routine that works for me, which is a modification of what I started with six months ago, I like to add new things to spice things up and keep things fresh. From a heartier yoga and pilates mat work to core work outs, spinning classes, Chisel and Killer X training, CRUNCH has a number of classes that will keep you enticed for months.

I found the class offering to be more comprehensive at CRUNCH than other gyms in my area, including Yoga, Spinning and Zumba classes and I found their instructors to be professional and fun. There are even fabulous swimming classes and aquatic classes that can add cardio to your day at certain locations. If you live in a warm climate, swimming can be an incredible way to increase the heart beat without putting any strain on your knees and joints and if you don’t, find a CRUNCH with a swimming pool and get started.

Photo credit: Yerba Buena CRUNCH Gym in San Francisco

Remember, it’s never too late to get your heart pumping again and while you may never be as buff as you were at 21, especially in a bikini, there’s no time like the present to tone up and have fun in the process. Here are some fun classes to keep you engaged regardless of your interest. More class choices below….

  • 360-3X: The 360-3X workout delivers a serious heart pounding, calorie burning workout designed to push you to the max using a signature formula of three 60 second work efforts grouped in rounds, 360-3X provides a total body workout.
  • AntiGravity Yoga: With the fabric as a soft trapeze, you learn suspension techniques to move into seemingly impossible inverted poses to relieve compressed joints and align the body.
  • Aqua Cross: This is a wet/dry cross-training class held in the pool with cardio intervals and butt-blasting kick-board work.
  • Barre Bootcamp: Inspired by ballet, this high intensity barre class targets your arms, core, thighs and booty to help you create a long, lean dancer’s body.
  • Barre Brawl: Here, you strengthen and lengthen at the ballet barre and then round out your workout with a cardio kickboxing brawl.
  • Bendable Body: This dynamic flexibility class will increase range of motion and mobility of connective tissue while targeting the hip flexors, hamstrings, neck and back.
  • Buff Yoga: With dumbbells as the prop of choice, Buff Yoga takes traditional yoga postures and adds a layer of targeted strengthening exercises to help you get stronger for yoga without weights.
  • Burn & Firm Pilates: Burn and lengthen muscles faster and more efficiently by combining fluid, large muscle, low-impact pilates-inspired standing moves with hand weights and body bars to get your best Pilates body.
  • Cardio Dance Blast: A hot and sweaty dance party with the best hip-hop, reggae and popular music, they offer a non-stop, 60 minute workout will melt away fat while boosting your dance skills like never before.
  • Cardio Kickboxing: Easy to follow, drill based kickboxing exercises set to music. This class is designed to elevate your heart rate as well as challenge your muscles and mind.
  • Chisel: Here, you’ll use weights and calisthenics to sculpt and shape muscles.
Photo source: CRUNCH Gyms
  • Flow Yoga: A challenging body/mind adventure incorporating asanas, breathing and mindfulness for a complete yoga experience.
  • Hatha Yoga: This yoga class integrates the postures, breathing exercises, relaxation and meditation to harmonize you on every level - body, mind and spirit.
  • Inflow w/ DISQ: Strap on, step in and flow with strength and grace in this Vinyasa inspired class using the wearable DISQ.
  • Iyengar Yoga: This traditional yoga system stresses precision, alignment and awareness of body mechanics in a variety of poses.
  • Killer X Training: Prepare to be taken to the limit in this bootcamp styled strength training class.
  • Mind BodyWeb TRX: Combine the TRX ropes with traditional Yoga & Pilates movements to bring a whole new dimension to your workout.
  • MOTUS: This class continuously moves you through flow cardio, yoga inspired strength, and deep tissue self-massage.
  • Off-the-Wall Yoga: Here, you use the wall as a prop to help you achieve deep stretches, balance, and inversions to improve your overall positions and posture. I loved this class.
Photo source: CRUNCH Gyms
  • Pilates Fusion: Based on traditional pilates exercises, this class also incorporates athletic training moves to provide a workout that will improve core strength, balance and flexibility.
  • Pilates Mat: A series of exercises based on the work of Joseph Pilates to strengthen and lengthen muscles with a focus on the body core.
  • Ride Yogi Ride: This spin and yoga combo session gets your heart pumping and limber you up all in one session.
  • The Athlete’s Workout: Going from station-to-station, each training you to enjoy better fitness while improving speed, agility, and power, all necessary components to be the best athlete you can be.
  • Top it Off: Shape and sculpt every muscle in your upper body in this two-part, heart-pumping workout. Using weights and isometric exercises, you’ll work through a series of sweat inducing exercises to tone and chisel your arms, shoulders, chest, and back.
  • Yoga Body Sculpt: This strength-building Vinyasa flow class focuses on sculpting your buns and thighs while flattening your belly and strengthening your core.
  • Vinyasa Yoga: In their Vinyasa Yoga classes, you focus on synchronizes movement with breath, linking the postures together into a dynamic practice.
  • ZUMBA: This class fuses hypnotic Latin rhythms and easy-to-follow moves to create a high energy, calorie blasting, total body dance based workout.

CRUNCH Live

They offer something called CRUNCH Live, which is an online extension of the collective energy that has been happening for over 20 years in their gyms across the country. It’s an approach to fitness that gives people the tools they need to reach their goals. No Judgments is their motto, which I love — we especially need to hear that over 40!!

I have to admit, I loved the fact that CRUNCH had a combination of cardio, sculpting, yoga, Zumba, dance and pilates all baked into their schedule, with classes as early as 6 am through around noon during the week and after work for those with a less flexible schedule.

I didn’t have a chance to try out CRUNCH Live yet, but my hope is to experience it now that I have reached my most critical goals and have a routine in place. It includes cutting edge fitness classes, where you can experience 75+ online workouts inspired by Crunch Gym’s most popular classes ranging from total body Bootcamp and dance cardio to pilates, yoga, barre and more. Workouts are led by Crunch’s top instructors and feature real members.

It’s mobile so no matter where you are in the world, you can access CRUNCH Live on any device, including your laptop, tablet, mobile device and more. I love this feature particularly before avid travelers and if you’re reading this, then you likely fall into that category. They offer customizable workout plans and playlists to keep you motivated, on track and having fun. They also have bonus 15-minute “Quickie” workouts to get you by when you’re in a time crunch, which we often are when we’re on the road.

So, Where Can I Work Out?

For U.S. travelers, CRUNCH has locations in throughout the United States. Currently, they are in the following states:

  • California
  • Connecticut
  • Washington DC
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Illinois
  • Kentucky
  • Massachusetts
  • Nebraska
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • Ohio
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • Puerto Rico
  • Virginia
  • Washington
  • Wisconsin
  • Texas

Note that they have a significant number of gyms in California and New York States and in the San Francisco Bay Area, there are several in the South Bay and in the city itself.

Disclosure: I am not a doctor or a healthcare practitioner so this review is based on my own personal experience with diet and exercise over the course a couple of decades of trial and error, including the last six months of a diet/exercise regime with the primary goal of losing unwanted pounds and a secondary goal of improving my cardio and body tone.

I don’t work for or have any affiliation to any of the products or services I mention in this post. I reached out to CRUNCH Gyms letting them know I was interested in writing an article about getting back in shape using their gym as my playground. I’m grateful for the opportunity to have had access to a variety of gym locations in their system as their standard membership tends to focus on one gym or a few gyms within a certain mile radius. That said, my experience with CRUNCH Gyms only included the following locations simply because I didn’t have time to test other locations out: New Montgomery Street, Yerba Buena and the Embarcadero in San Francisco, and Daly City and Redwood City in the South Bay. They did not stipulate what to say or ask me to write this article. The idea for the article was entirely my own as was using CRUNCH to meet my goals. I did not use a trainer although would consider it in the future. All opinions expressed here are my own.

5 Ways to Fly Around the World Without Overpaying

January 22, 2016 by  

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One of the quickest ways to travel also is one of the most expensive ones but it doesn’t have to be like that. In fact, you can find many great tricks how to get a flight around the globe and won’t overpay by using a few useful tricks.  Here are five ways that will help you travel fast, comfortable and, most importantly, at a a reasonable price.

Photo credit source: www.ikonmap.com.

Use Incognito Mode

You  may not realize it, but all those “cookies” you agree on collecting means that you are letting various businesses obtain your personal and searching information. Then, marketing specialists will use something referred to as “dynamic pricing.” Because of this, you won’t see all the possible price options, and you are taking a risk of overpaying.

Avoid this and search for tickets via incognito mode your internet browser should offer. After finding the one – turn off and then on your browser and then buy tickets. You will be amazed how much you can save by doing this!

Use Online Coupons

This trick is probably the easiest one. And you don’t even have to do much! All you need to find are online coupons you want to use. There are some useful Priceline deals and discount packages which will not only gift you discounts while getting a plane ticket but also let you get stay at a hotel around the globe without overpaying! This makes it easier to get a reduced fare and there are other advantages of couponing as well.

Fly to a Smaller City

Of course, we all want to go directly to a place we want, but that might mean more money spent as well. Try to find a city that is near the one you wish to visit and get a flight directly there. For example, you could fly to another city in France and then get to Paris is prices are over priced to fly direct. The same goes for many other continents and countries, so just spend some time online (and by using incognito mode!) and you will save money.

Fly Indirect

For a little bit longer journey, always try flying indirect. This might take some time, but the cost difference, comparing with direct flight route, will be surprising. Moreover, this way you can see not one foreign country but two or even more, if you have a pretty big gap between your flights. So this way you will see the world more, still get where you wanted, and receive more savings.

Book Early

And finally – don’t wait — the longer you wait, the higher the airfares tend to be. It is very hard to catch the last minute ticket, and that strategy might not always work. On one hand, if your trip is a few months ahead, you will surely get a less expensive ticket and won’t overpay.

 

This post is brought to you by partner ChameleonJohn.com.

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