The LiveWell Longmont Blog

Mar 19, 2018

Sharing Is Caring, Educating, Preserving & Learning: Eagle Crest Elementary Food Share Table

 The daily lunchtime rotation at the Eagle Crest Elementary Cafeteria is in full swing. Seeing her classmates assembling at the doors, Sophia Asbury nevertheless takes time from her own lunch break to enthusiastically provide an overview of the school’s popular recent addition known as the Food Share Table. “Food Share Table is really fun,” she says, pointing out the various color-coded bins, and highlighting their importance. The red crate is for whole fruits, she notes, the blue for unopened packages. Unopened cold items, such as milk and yogurt, are placed in the cooler. The ‘rescued’ food is then opened up for shared use throughout the day, and beyond.

“First students who are still hungry can take extra food from the table,” Asbury explains. “Then teachers can use it, like for snacks for kids. Then the cafeteria takes what they can use the next day.” Throughout the day, a bin with rescued food is left out in the cafeteria during the day; teachers may send students to it for snacks at their discretion. While to this point Eagle Crest has been using all its extra food, Asbury shares the team’s vision of providing any future surplus to Boulder County’s BackPack Program, providing backpacks with non-perishable, child-friendly and nutritious food to children who are food insecure.

Eagle Crest Elementary is one of 47 schools in Boulder County known as Green Star schools, partnering with Eco-Cycle to move toward zero waste through increased recycling, composting, and special activities. Sophia, a fourth grader, is one of many of her school’s Green Star Ambassadors, students who voluntarily assist with supporting waste reduction efforts, often giving up recess time to set up, clean up, and assist with activities. Recently those activities have expanded to include supporting the Food Share Table, a pilot initiative that builds two-pronged awareness, simultaneously highlighting key issues of food insecurity and food waste.

Planning for the Food Share Table, students identified roles needed to keep things flowing seamlessly, such as setting up bins daily. They evaluated ways to improve cafeteria efficiency, determining a key cause of food waste being that, by the time kids got through the lunch line, they found themselves short on time to eat. To mitigate this, they created a visual menu board, allowing students to mentally make their selections while waiting in line, and speeding up the process. They developed spreadsheets for tracking food items. “We picked a graph template in Excel,” says fourth grader Ryan Courtney, A Green Star Ambassador in charge of tracking items along with peer Blake Gorr. “We put in the date, and name the items. Every day we go to the cafeteria to count. We set a timer to remember going.”

Before winter break, the Food Share Table Team worked tirelessly preparing presentations, first to be shared at grade-level, and finally school-wide at special grade-level assemblies along with one specifically for faculty. Assemblies focused on the importance of keeping food out of landfills, awareness of hunger and food insecurity, and how the program would work. All their efforts were—excuse the pun—not wasted in the slightest. Eagle Crest launched the Food Share Table upon students’ return from break on January 2. Within nine school days, they had already rescued 505 food items: 264 pieces of fruit, 61 packaged items, 199 cartons of milk, and 16 other cold food items, all untouched, unopened, and otherwise thrown away.

According to the USDA, food waste is estimated at 30-40 percent of the food supply. Such waste has far-reaching, deplorable significance impacting other pressing issues, notably food insecurity and environmental conservation. Here in Colorado, nearly one in six children live in households suffering from food insecurity. While it was of the greatest importance to Eagle Crest’s Mighty Mighty Food Share Table Team to develop awareness of the big picture issues, they were equally committed to doing their best to ensure there would be no stigma associated with taking the rescued food. “We talked as a school about hunger, and how everybody feels hunger,” Potter says. “About how that feels. This program has really brought in such a level of awareness and compassion.”

Touring the halls, cafeteria and classrooms of Eagle Crest, the thriving Food Share Table program is clearly not associated with stigma. It is a source of pride. “I made that poster,” one student says in the hallway, pointing and smiling as he walks by.” When numbers are shared over the intercom, announcing recused items, students buzz with excitement and a little disbelief, Potter says. “One day we rescued 308 oranges and one apple,” says Blake Gorr. “That’s really crazy! Before, when we didn’t have the Food Share Table, that’s probably about .50 per orange. That would really add up to a lot of money.”

What’s next for the Food Share Table team? Given the success of the pilot, chances are good they will be resuming their industrious work developing, or adapting, presentations before long. In the meantime, they continue to build upon and refine their operations. Menu cards are developed. The tracking spreadsheet is being revised to incorporate cost. The sign-up sheet showing student helpers brims with names falling off the page. “I personally think every school should have a Food Share Table and compost program,” says May Gherardi, one of the students to attend the food waste workshop with Potter back in September. Judging from the spirit that comes across in the posters, bulletins and displays throughout the building, the whole of the school community would agree.

*Please see this month’s issue of Longmont Magazine for the full article and more details on how this wonderful program evolved!

Mar 19, 2018

Get to Know: Alison Zemanek

Breakaway Cycle & Strength Studio owner and instructor Alison Zemanek didn’t exactly picture herself running a business, nor did she quite identify particularly as being a role model for fitness, once upon a time. Her journey to launching Colorado’s first performance-based cycling studio–founded on an ethos of universal welcome and respect–was more a merging of both motivation and chance. A combination of keeping drive alive while adjusting for the evolving demands and responsibilities of family, work and school, and an openness to take on board what life offered up along the way.

“As a child I was always very active,” Alison shares. “Then, in high school, there was a shift. Partly hormonal, partly friend groups. I stopped regular structured exercise and kept eating the same way. I put on weight, and I struggled mentally and emotionally. That’s part of why I left Buffalo.”

A few years after graduating high school, Alison moved to California for university. She didn’t yet have clear goals, but she did have a lot of internal questions, and found quietly encouraging answers from simply giving herself a fresh start and new location. “I didn’t have a car, and started riding my bike everywhere,” she says. “I added a lot more vegetables into my diet, going vegetarian for awhile. But the biggest, most significant change was, I stopped thinking about health in terms of diet or structured workouts. It became a lifestyle–just living and eating well. That’s when I settled into a healthy weight for my body and a healthy outlook for me.”

At school, Alison tried out different concentrations in seeking a major. She thought about business, and had an aptitude for it. She was drawn to exercise physiology as a discipline, but says the chemistry classes were not her bag. Upon trying out a philosophy class, however, she fell in love. “I loved it and was good at it,” Alison says. “I remember I had a counselor who recommended getting out of it, because there wasn’t a clear career path connected to it. But I kept at it. And it was worth it for me, because I’d found something I was good at. That’s important–finding things you can excel at and enjoy.”

Alison may not have turned her philosophy studies into a profession, but she did apply them all the time, and continues to do so. It took great strength of character and dedicated self-awareness and reflection to keep forging her way forward, balancing not just school, but full-time work managing a Border’s Book Store, and a growing family. Alison met and married her husband while studying at Sacramento State; the two moved to Colorado so that Alison could attend graduate school at CU Boulder.  While working full time and attending grad school, she became pregnant with the couple’s first of two boys. At that point, while developing her thesis, she made a bold choice to discontinue graduate study for the time being to spend her non-working hours home with her baby.  “It was a tough decision, but it was the right thing for us,” Alison says. “And it was the beginning of when I started to really get into and appreciate fitness.”

After the birth of her second child four years later, Alison left her retail management position and opted to piece together small jobs that would allow for flexibility while raising her two boys. She looked after her own fitness, starting a run-walk program with her husband four mornings a week at nearby Coot Lake. After the program was finished, she continued running. She joined a moms’ group that focused on riding the Venus de Miles together, and also took up swimming. It wasn’t long before Alison set the goal of completing her first triathlon, which she did at the Longmont Tri in 2010. During her prep, she became certified to teach spin classes, first teaching at the Longmont Recreation Center, and later adding in classes at Centennial Pool.  While seeking out strength options for her own training program, Alison came across TRX suspension training   “What initially inspired me to learn more about suspension training was a video of a man in a wheelchair who was able to access so many of the benefits of strength training using the TRX suspension trainer.  I was just impressed at this tool’s versatility and accessibility and decided that I needed to learn more. I tried it, and loved it, so I took a certification class, and also got my NASM personal training certificate around this same time.”

While teaching at Centennial Pool, she convinced Karen Charles, Recreation Area Supervisor, that TRX would be a perfect addition to the limited space available for group classes there.  Karen agreed and added the TRX equipment, and so through that program at Centennial Pool, Alison had the opportunity to introduce group TRX training classes to Longmont for the first time.

As Alison become more engrossed in teaching a range of fitness classes gauged for a broad span of abilities, she found her business-minded mentality from Border’s days coming increasingly back to her. “While online one day, I came across this guy who had a studio that was just for cycling, and I thought how awesome that would be,” she says. ” His was one of the first cycle studios to exist in the country. I reached out to him, and he helped me draw up a business plan.”

Alison sat on that business plan for two years, letting the idea simmer. It continued to develop in her mind, and she pondered it with growing excitement. “I was really into cycling, but specific cycling, more performance-oriented,” she says. “And I felt like people in my spin classes would really appreciate more specialized options.” In 2011, Alison and her husband decided to take the chance and fund the project. She began looking at real estate, finding the Main Street Studio.

“Everything was so perfect,” she says. “The space was move-in ready. The owners were excited and had a vision of using their space to help build up and improve the downtown area.  I liked them right from the start!  One of the owners of the space even said that he and his wife would attend classes if I opened the studio, and they did. They still do.”

Upon opening Breakaway in 2012, Alison looked purposefully looked to her expert instructors, and to the community, for guidance. “I thought, nobody knows me, I don’t  have a following. What matters to get this off the ground is getting the best people to offer what our community wants and needs.”

Alison reached out to and integrated with the local cycling community, supporting Peak to Peak cycling group out of Lyons, St Vrain Chain gang and others with special discounts, classes and more. She made a point of welcoming instructor feedback in every area, from specific offerings to decor. She continued to add to her own personal certifications, and continuously researched developing performance oriented technology. Breakaway became the first group cycling studio in Colorado to have leaderboard technology offering external feedback. Before long, the studio became a test facility of sorts for  Stages Cycling, the brand that supports Tour de France competitor Team Sky, and which has an R&D base in Boulder. A year and a half ago, Alison added an additional studio on Sunset Street specifically for TRX, Kettlebell, and Pilates. “I loved them personally, and felt the classes would really complement cycling,” Alison says.

For evidence that Alison’s hard work and experience has paid off through Breakaway Cycling & Strength Studio, one only has to chat a minute with any of the many loyal community members who are regular clients. Or, to any of her instructors, for that matter. “I started with Breakaway when it first opened,” says client Denise Thomas. “I went away for a few years because of teaching commitments, but I came back. The culture drew me back. It’s like family.” “Instructors are very experienced,” says client Barbara Veal. “They give us little tweaks so we don’t get hurt. Classes are intimate. You have ultra athletes and beginners side by side, but everyone gets what they need. They encourage you to keep on and try.”

Client Dessie Willie found out about Breakaway through Alison’s support for the Lyons school cycling team when Willie was an assistent coach. “She was a special part of kids’ growth, many of whom were newbie mountain bikes,” Willie says. “I was so drawn in by the way she gives back to the community. And the instructors–Erika [Ruge] is a world-class athlete. We’re so lucky to have her.”

What does the future hold for Breakaway, and for Alison? She’s not sure, and that’s just how it should be. As a general rule, progress means change. “I just want to be better and better,” she says of both personal and business growth. “That can mean change, but we’re going to keep reaching for the stars and being innovating.”

Thank you so much, Alison, for reaching and innovating! Thank you for sharing and all you give to our community.

LWL: You’re so busy yourself. How do you stay active as a family?
Alison: At this age, we’re all kind of doing our own thing. But we support each other. Both my boys play basketball, and we love to go to the games. My husband plays soccer several times a week.  And I’m a kettlebell sport athlete, which provides me with competition goals and the structured training that I need to keep fitness a priority when so many other things demand my time.

LWL: How do you prioritize healthy eating?
Alison: I’m a strong believer that food is medicine. I believe the way you eat affects everything in your life. In my field, I see lots of extremes around the topic of food, but I believe that true health can only come with a more moderate approach to nutrition.  Focusing on what your body needs to be healthy and strong is much more important than focusing on what you weigh. It’s important to me that my kids eat lots of vegetables, I see their future and I feel as a mom it’s so important to me to set them up as best I can. It would be easy for me to be very restrictive with them, but I try to remember moderation here as well, so I’ll never completely take their sugar away.

LWL: What is your favorite healthy food?
Alison: Probably salads. I love making gigantic salads with all different stuff in it.

LWL: What do you treasure most about Longmont?
Alison: I love that it’s so family-focused. Being a family in Longmont, it just feels like this is the right place to raise my kids.. And I love the people. I probably wouldn’t know the community as well if I didn’t run the studio. So I feel very grateful. The people I’ve met through my business are all so kind and driven and focused, they inspire me every day!

LWL: What would you like to see in Longmont’s healthy future?
Alison: It would be so nice if we could utilize Main Street for more active things. Also, continuing in the direction they’re going–connecting trails, making it easier to ride commute.

Mar 12, 2018

The Couple That Trains Together, Stays Together: Meet Ruth Ann and Gordon Hodgson

This past Valentine’s Day, Ruth Ann and Gordon Hodgson celebrated the love that has bound them through 67 years of marriage and counting with an hour of cardio at the United Health and Wellness Gym inside Longmont United Hospital. And why not? What better way to spend an afternoon, after all, than with sharing activity that feels good, does good, and is encouraged by doctors and loved ones? Besides, this year Valentine’s Day fell on Wednesday.

For the past twenty years, Gordon Hodgson has been showing up to exercise at LUH every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday—since he was 74, in fact. Several years ago Ruth Ann began joining her husband, and today the couple enjoys iconic status at the gym. Ruth Ann’s warm smile envelopes everyone in her radius with a kiss of pure kindness. Gordon’s sturdy shoulders and humble bearing give hints to his character–his committed work ethic, patience and modesty. Their presence bestows a lift to their surroundings.

Colorado natives and longtime Longmont residents, Ruth Ann and Gordon met in their twenties at a roller skating rink south of town. A year later the couple, who have two children and four grandchildren, were married. “He was a nice man, a good man,” Ruth Ann says, tenderly patting her husband on the shoulder. “Still is.”

Neither Ruth Ann nor Gordon considered themselves “exercisers” until later in life. They did, however, lead active lives, from childhood on. Ruth Ann grew up on a farm with nine brothers and sisters. “It was a good place to be active,” she reminisces. Later she worked in soil conservation, which involved skiing and snowshoeing in the mountains to take snow surveys. Her work was training enough to propel her up Long’s Peak with girlfriends as a young woman.

Gordon also led an active lifestyle, through hard work. Before meeting Ruth Ann, he was in the navy, trained in welding and metalwork. In 1956 he started his own welding shop, Hodgson Welding, which did business in Longmont for a solid 35 years. Ruth Ann assisted with the bookkeeping. “Back then, you either farmed or did coal mining,” Gordon says. “I made farm machinery. That kind of work, welding and working with machinery, is hard.” Upon retiring, Gordon was offered and accepted a position to make lab equipment for the astrophysics department at CU Boulder, which he did for seven years. “That was a good job,” he says with fondness.

Outside of work, Gordon and Ruth Ann enjoyed active pursuits together, albeit casually. They skied, played golf, did gardening in their backyard. So it came as something as a shock when in 1998, Gordon’s doctor became concerned during a routine checkup. Gordon felt fine, but further examination ultimately resulted in Gordon undergoing bypass surgery. The ensuing recovery was tough, but he emerged from it determined: it was time, he decided, to start getting serious about exercise.

Ruth Ann may have felt called to take on Long’s Peak, but she attributes adopting regular physical activity to Gordon’s dedication and tenacity. “I could think of lots of excuses,” she says. “It’s too windy, I’m too tired, it’s too cold. But he keeps us going, and we’re always glad of it.”

For two decades now, Gordon’s consistency is an inspiration to the community he and Ruth Ann have cultivated at LUH. They are in turn inspired, looking forward to the friendliness and camaraderie that comes along with what they describe as doing the right thing for their bodies. “There are many people who actually admire us for exercising,” Ruth Ann acknowledges, her eyes sparkling. “We’re following doctor’s advice more than anything else,” Gordon adds pragmatically. “We’ve been told to exercise, to we do. They tell us every year to keep on doing it. Our kids encourage us to do it. And we enjoy it.”

Ruth Ann and Gordon clearly do enjoy their time working out at the gym. At ages 90 and 94 respectively, simply showing up is nothing short of success. What are their secrets? Luckily for us, they’ve offered a few tips:

Just do it. No excuses. They don’t say it that way, but the example they set sure does. “No one has ever told us we shouldn’t but a lot of people have told us we should,” says Gordon. “It’s the right thing to do, to be healthy and happy.”

Find a community. “[The LUH United Health and Wellness Gym inside LUH] is a social place,” Ruth Ann says. “That’s part of what makes it nice–the people. We enjoy them, and they’re good to us. It’s kind of nice to belong to something so you’re more encouraged to go.” It’s nice to have a workout buddy for that same reason, she adds, gently nudging her husband. “We look forward to exercising because it’s not only good for you, you enjoy the people. Sometimes you don’t even know their names but you know the face, and it’s nice to see,” she says.

Gratitude. They aren’t prone to boasting–ask Gordon how he’s doing and chances are you’ll receive his trademark response, “good enough”. But don’t let their modesty deceive you. They make a point of being ever conscious and thankful for what they have. Gordon shares that he has outlived both his parents combined. His father died of pnuemonia in 1947, his mother of a blood clot in 1954. “Back then there was nothing they could do,” Gordon says. “We’re living in a good time. We tell each other quite a lot how fortunate we are, that we can do the things we do.”

Thank you, Ruth Ann and Gordon, for sharing and encouraging! You are inspirational!

Mar 1, 2018

Longmont Multi-Use Corridor Survey: Two Minutes to Build a Safer, Healthier Longmont for Cyclists & Pedestrians (and everyone)

Isn’t Longmont lovely? We have so much going for us–access to everything, small-town feel, caring community, and progressive local government that truly prioritizes livability. Walking and biking here is a beautiful way to be active, supported by our 158 miles of greenway paths and bike lanes. For short trips around town, our Bike Share program is an innovative way the city encourages active transport while also supporting mitigation of traffic related issues, such as congestion and parking availability. Now, if only there were a cohesive system connecting our various paths for even greater safe, enjoyable active options citywide. Wouldn’t that be great? The City thinks so, too, and you’re invited to help guide what next steps can make that happen for the biggest impact.

LiveWell Longmont is currently conducting surveys to supply the City with informative data to help prioritize projects focused on making cycling and walking in Longmont safer and more pleasant. Central to ongoing inquiry and study is identifying corridors with specific needs. Enhanced Multi-Use Corridors are street corridors that provide safe, comfortable, low-stress bicycle and pedestrian facilities and opportunities. Much like multi-use trails, the ultimate aim is to provide connectivity within the City’s trail system and multi-modal transportation network. In working to that goal, the City is looking at various corridors, such as 21st street, the Lamplighter/Oligarchy Ditch area, and others, both noting improvements that can be made–such as adding bike lanes– and seeking to determine which areas would be most highly used, as these will have priority.

“By completing our survey, Longmont community members have an exciting opportunity to inform potential infrastructure improvements for pedestrians and cyclists,” says Christina Edstrom, who has been coordinating survey efforts, managing a team to reach out to businesses, churches, and other organizations as well as individuals. “It’s a great, simple way to give your opinion on how to make Longmont an even better place to bike, walk, and run. And your voice will be heard. We’re looking at every comment seriously.” (As an added bonus, simply filling out the survey includes the chance to earn a $25 gift certificate at Target or Lowe’s.)

LiveWell Longmont will continue to conduct survey work through the end of March. Our goal is to collect 2000 surveys–and the more the merrier. Please follow this link to share your voice:

If completing the online form isn’t an option, we have paper available. We will be at numerous events throughout the month, and will frequently be represented at Longmont Recreation Center. You can also contact Christina Edstrom at [email protected]. Thank you for helping build our healthy Longmont future! It’s true small things can add up to big progress. Two minutes of your time could mean a lifetime of more healthy options.  

Photo credit: Nathan C. Pulley Photography

Feb 26, 2018

Nourishing Community: Silver Creek Leadership Academy Capstone Project Combines Love of Food with Love for Longmont

Growing up as the daughter of a dietitian, Silver Creek High School Senior Madeline Karr remembers being conscious of the power and potential of food from an early age. In her household, a wide variety or nutritious ingredients, plentiful fruits and vegetables, and accessible healthy snacks was always the norm. And while Karr’s mother, Kaiser Permanente registered dietitian Sue Heikkinen, Ms, Rd, CDE, took care to emphasize the importance of a healthy, balanced diet, Karr didn’t grow up feeling restricted or overly managed with regard to her food choices. Rather, she recalls growing increasingly conscious of the possibilities offered by food, and empowered to personally make –and create—healthy food choices.

Karr’s experience learning about nutrition and combining that knowledge with a love of cooking made the task of developing a concept for her Silver Creek Leadership Academy Senior Capstone Project a fairly straightforward one. Since the beginning of this 2017-18 academic year, Karr’s Capstone project, For the Love of Food, has continuously evolved in exciting and meaningful ways. The project’s focus, promoting healthy cooking and eating to Longmont children and their families, remains the rock solid core. However, as she progresses in her work, Karr’s project has steadily developed to include a broad variety of channels through which to support community with lasting stamina. Throughout the fall, Karr supported and assisted with healthy cooking after school enrichment classes for students grades K-5 at Burlington Elementary School. She intends to continue her involvement with cooking classes at Burlington for the spring semester, and is also working on a cookbook containing simple recipes and activities designed for kids and their families to be distributed at Burlington Elementary and through the OUR Center. For this month, however, her focus is putting together a Little Free Pantry for use by the Burlington school community.

The Little Free Pantry movement applies the Little Free Library® Concept to activate community engagement in addressing food insecurity. The message is simple: give what you can, take what you need. Neighbors help neighbors. “I read an article in the Times-Call this past September, about the first Little Free Pantry installed in Longmont outside the First Evangelical Lutheran Church,” Karr says. “I loved the concept. It felt like a true community initiative with no stigma. It also helps reduce food waste. I wondered right away if I could somehow incorporate something like this into my project.”

Karr recalled how, last school year another student had begun building a cabinet intended for use as a Little Free Library as part of his Capstone Project. A location was never finalized however, and that intended portion of the project was not completed. Recognizing the potential, Karr sought permission to complete the cabinet and turn it instead into a Little Free Pantry. Permission granted, next step was to determine a location. Given Karr’s experience working with Burlington students, the school seemed a natural fit. She proposed her idea to Burlington Principal Kerin McClure, who responded enthusiastically.

In January, the Little Free Pantry was successfully installed at Burlington Elementary for use by the Burlington community. Karr isn’t resting on the laurels of accomplishment, however. She is now turning her focus to development of a kid-friendly, healthy cookbook to be distributed to cooking class students, and also through the OUR Center. Want to lend support, or simply learn more? Follow For the Love of Food on Instagram, under the handle scla_love_of_food. Contact Karr by email at [email protected]. Your feedback and involvement is welcome: every bit counts. “I am feeling so many emotions as my project comes to fruition,” Karr says. “Surprise, relief, excitement. It is wonderful to know my project has evolved from the earliest brainstorming phases to having a solid legacy, something that will continue to support our community into the future.”

For more information, read the complete story in the January/February issue of Longmont Magazine. 

Feb 20, 2018

Mindful Music: Heal through the Songs Within You

Think about your favorite movies, or most memorable events. Now imagine them minus the soundtracks. Whether it’s the foreground or the background, music makes has a way of elevating everything, doesn’t it? When it comes to your health (happiness, and wellbeing), your body would agree.

We’ve all experienced the effect of music on mood. It can enchant, inspire, comfort, empower. We can come away from a musical experience feeling equally soothed and revved up. But increasingly, research backs the potential of music to offer significant benefits to our health, well-being, and overall capabilities. Longmont Music therapist, instructor, and founder of  Soundwell Music Therapy, PLLC, Faith Halverson-Ramos has seen the impact across numerous settings, and all walks of life; she in turn is passionately devoted to helping people harness the power of music to heal and expand their lives.

Merely listening to music has been shown to improve energy levels, heighten focus, boost memory function and cognition, improve sleep quality, reduce anxiety and more. It’s no wonder findings associate regularly listening to music with healing. Accessing music in a more involved manner, such as through music therapy, findings are all the more impressive, with results spanning from restored speech to offering pain relief and reducing the side effects of cancer therapy. In fact, with brain-imaging techniques such as functional MRIs, music is increasingly used in therapy for brain-related injuries and diseases.

Perhaps what is most striking about the power of music is its power to help everyone, regardless of personal circumstances. “One thing music can do for people, particularly when they are creating for themselves, is provide a means of better understanding themselves,” Halverson-Ramos says. “They become not only more aware of emotions, but they develop greater body awareness as well, which offers its own insights–where we hold tension, how our breathing feels, how we connect with others and our own thoughts. Often in relating to each other, we try to deflect what’s going on inside, either by talking too much or not at all, retreating. But with music, whether we’re drumming, vocalizing, listening, we become better able to drop what’s going on, open up to a larger perspective and to one another.”

Halverson-Ramos grew up immersed in and enamored with music. Her earliest memories involve an old pump organ and a player piano at her grandparents farm in Wisconsin. For many years, she worked toward a career in musical performance, though she was also interested in psychology. She earned her BM in vocal performance and vocal pedagogy, and went on to receive her Master’s in Transpersonal Counseling with a Music Therapy focus at Naropa university in Boulder. “My career goals really clicked my senior year in college, when I was preparing for a senior recital,” Halverson-Ramos says. “I realized that while I enjoy aspects of performing, the reality of the lifestyle, the competition and the auditioning, didn’t really resonate. What I truly was interested in was the internal psychological process that you have to go through to learn a piece of music, connect with and perform it. I have always had so much empathy for people who are struggling. I wanted to be able to help others connect in that powerful way.”

As a licensed counselor and Board Certified Music Therapist, Halverson-Ramos has worked and continues to offer her services across a range of settings, including schools, hospitals, and hospice centers. summer camps. At each venue, certain stories stand out amid great progress. “One of the most moving moments for me was working in hospice,” Halverson-Ramos says. “I was working with a woman in the late stages of Alzheimer’s. Her son was there, and he explained that his mother didn’t speak anymore but that she loved gospel hymns. I sang to her, and on one visit, with her son present, she started singing along with me. After the song ended, she was able to share a few short sentences that were clearly related to the experience. Her son was floored. He hadn’t seen his mom that way in years. I was just so struck by the healing in that experience, for both mother and son.”

Through the Longmont Recreation Center, Halverson-Ramos offers four-week singing groups monthly: Singing for the Health of It. “Our focus is developing good vocal technique, enjoying singing with others, and trying out different things,” she says. “There is no set agenda; we go by the needs and comfort level of the group. Sometimes it’s all someone can do just to get there.”

What if you’re not ready for a group, or even an audience in the form of a teacher? Remember that listening carries a world of benefits of its own. And when you’re ready, there is always another level to explore. How to start making the most of music in your life? “I am a big proponent of just making musical sounds,” says Halverson-Ramos. “Have fun making sounds in the privacy of your car, or in the beautifully humidified environment of the shower–those are great acoustics. Just embrace your voice. It will be a key to embracing yourself.”

Feb 12, 2018

Get to Know: Nayah Murphy

On meeting Altona 6th grader Nayah Murphy, one can’t help but be drawn in by her cheerful demeanor, warm smile, and bubbling laughter, not to mention friendly amber eyes and voluminous curls. Spend a little time chatting with her, and guaranteed it won’t take minutes before other, less overt and equally striking qualities reveal themselves, not least intensity of focus, committed work ethic, and fierce internal drive balanced harmoniously with approachable sincerity. Nayah Murphy possesses poise and a certain worldliness that defies her twelve years. Celebrity status has a way of inspiring that in a person, though in this instance, motivation clearly comes foremost from within.

Like any typical sixth grader, Nayah has her plate full with the demands of schoolwork, navigating evolving social scenes, the ups and downs of friendships. Atypically, she somehow manages to fit all of it in alongside the rigorous demands of high level training and racing, frequent travel, and oh yes, the occasional film shoot. Nayah isn’t likely to be caught complaining about the burdens caused by lack of time, however. She doesn’t have time for that.

When Nayah was three years old, she determined she wanted to start karate after watching “Scooby Doo and the Samurai Sword”. “It looked fun,” Nayah says. “I went to my first martial arts class and it kind of just went from there.” By ‘it’, Nayah means her progression from wide-eyed preschool martial arts student to five-time North American Sport Karate Association (NASKA) world champion. Her mastery and athleticism became so standout, she landed a role as one of the stunt doubles for “Laura”, played by Defne Keen, in the 2017 Marvel Entertainment film, “Logan”. Many of those stunts were done alongside actor Hugh Jackman. In addition, Nayah was given a secondary role in the movie, acting the part of a Mutant Child.

Nayah’s mother Stephanie had submitted a demo reel of her daughter’s martial arts skills after hearing about film auditions from Nayah’s karate teacher. “We didn’t expect in she’d actually get called,” Stephanie says. “We figured a billion kids would try out for it.” Perhaps a billion kids did try out indeed, but Nayah and her family were flown out within a week. “Literally, we’d get notice in less than 24 hours to be on location,” Stephanie recounts. “It was insane.”

It takes a strong person, not least a young person, to meet the demands of a rigorous, unexpected schedule head-on the way Nayah did. It might be said that it takes even more strength to then give it up. Nayah thrived on set. She made friends, gained knowledge, and was offered shining glimpses of a potential future she may not have otherwise envisioned. But while she loved the experience, and would like to do further work as a stunt double, she came to realize that her heart was with something else altogether: barrel racing.

As a toddler and preschooler, Nayah didn’t care for horses. As she grew, however, she began spending more time with them alongside her mother, watching, and caring for them. At age eight, she began taking up riding seriously. It wasn’t long before she began competing in barrel racing, a rodeo event in which a horse and rider attempt to complete a course around preset barrels in the fastest time. She loved it. “I’m not really drawn to most team sports,” says Nayah. “I’m good at barrel racing. I love how with barrel racing, it’s just me and the horse, working together, doing our best. I love the thrill, running really fast. I love training the horses, riding them, getting them calm, making sure they’re healthy. There’s just so much involved, and it’s really special.”

Needless to say, Nayah throws herself into all her pursuits with determination and drive. Ultimately, she found herself pulled too taut in two directions, having to compromise between barrel racing and karate. A farm-girl at heart, she chose the horses.

Ironically, Nayah’s decision to stop her karate training and focus solely on barrel racing came following the earning of her fifth world title. “I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished, and I’ll always hold onto martial arts skills and lessons,” Nayah says. “But I wasn’t enjoying it anymore. It was pulling me away from the horses.”

Nayah’s decision opened up new worlds. For one thing, she was able to begin attending Altona Middle this past fall. In order to accommodate filming for ‘Logan’, and travel for regular NASKA competitions, she had been homeschooling for the previous year. Given the space for enhanced focus, Nayah has also improved significantly in her chosen sport. “There are four different divisions in barrel racing,” she explains. “1D is the fastest, going down to 4D. I went from 3D to 1D in six months.” “She even outruns some of the professional barrel racers,” Stephanie, a competitive barrel racer herself, adds proudly.

What’s next for Nayah? Day to day, she’s focused on working hard at school, maintaining grades, enjoying time with her friends and family. Long-term, she’s open-minded, but no doubt the future will involve horses. This past year she qualified for the Junior National Finals Rodeo, in which she competed early December. This year she will attempt to qualify for the RFD-TV American Barrel Race competition, hoping to compete in 2019. “Maybe one day I’ll be an equine vet, or something else that involves working with horses,” Nayah says. “But I also want to try to be a professional barrel racer. I want to see where I can go.”

We are looking forward to seeing where you go too, Nayah, and are thrilled with your adventures so far. Thank you for sharing some of your journey with us!

LWL: You’ve certainly got a packed schedule! How do you fit it all in?
Usually I wake up, go to school, then ride after school for about two hours. When I don’t have school, I’ll do Insanity (high intensity interval) workouts for about an hour. And I do trampoline and tumbling class at Airborne Gymnastics for an hour and a half twice a week. It’s hard but not really too bad. I just have to make sure I’m always being productive and efficient. At free period in school, I can get a lot of my homework done, and finish up the rest at home in the evenings.

LWL: Barrel racing isn’t exactly a commonly known sport. What kind of training is involved?
Barrel racing involves a lot of core strength. You have to be strong to pull yourself up when the horse is riding–sometimes 40 miles an hour around a turn, heading into a barrel. A lot of training is of course riding the horse. But I’ll do some running too–it especially helps when I’m frustrated.

LWL: You mentioned how your experience as a martial artist has helped you in barrel racing. Can you share a little more?
I think it helps me channel defeat well. I had a lot of practice–with karate, things don’t always go your way, but you have to turn it around and perform your best again within about five minutes.

LWL: How do you face competition? Do you get nervous?
Nayah: Oh yes. Once I get in the arena, I’m fine, but I get really nervous beforehand. But when I pet my horse, I calm down. Calming him calms me, too.

LWL: You’re all so busy. How do you share active activity together as a family?
It’s fun how my mom and I get to share barrel racing together. We both love it and compete at the same races. And my Dad [a former adventure racer] comes to watch. We also do just fun stuff, like going bowling, roller skating, all kids of stuff.

LWL: How do you prioritize healthy eating as a family?
Nayah: My mom has to eat gluten-free, and she works hard to help us all eat healthy home-cooked meals.

LWL: What’s your favorite healthy food?
Nayah: My favorite meal is steak and vegetables.

LWL: What would be your biggest tip to other young people discovering their dreams and potential?
Nayah: Do what you love to do.

Photo credit: Boaz Elkes



Feb 5, 2018

Winter Biking Wonderland: Tips for Making the Most of Cold Season Cycling

Brrrr…baby, it’s cold outside! At least, it can be. We certainly rang in the new year with some frosty, frigid temps, and day-to-day, you really never know, right? After all, it’s Colorado. We’re used to Mother Nature’s predictable unpredictability–it’s even part of the fun. But when it comes to cycling, cold weather can really put the brakes on momentum. That said, it doesn’t have to. Winter Biking can be wonderful! With Winter Bike to Work Day coming up February 9th, what better time to find out for yourself?

Of course, though days are getting longer again, it still gets dark and cold quickly. Roads may offer more than the usual hazards, depending on the weather and temps. And, bundling up can take some time and adjustment. Fortunately, with a little knowledge and preparation, winter biking can be awfully rewarding, and even rather comfortable. We’ve gathered a few tips for making the most of winter cycling.

Gear up. There are certain essentials you’ll need to brave the cold, whether or not the sun is shining. “Wind resistant cycling gloves are super important,” says BreakAway Cycle & Strength Studio Owner and Instructor Alison Zemanek. “It’s tough to hit the brakes when your fingers are frozen! Another key is shoe covers–those toes will get cold!” Zemanek further recommends investing in a winter cycling jersey and/or jacket and a face mask, adding, “Even though it’s winter, be sure to put sunscreen on that exposed face and lip balm to help protect your lips from the cold wind.” (See some of Zemanek’s personal pics for winter layers here.)

Dress in layers thoughtfully, being sure to keep your core warm. “While it’s important to dress warmly, it’s equally important not to overdress,” cautions Lauren Greenfield, Art in Public Places Administrator, Traffic Safety Coordinator and veteran cyclist who leads numerous bike groups in Longmont. “Overdressing will cause sweating, making your underlayer wet and could lead to hypothermia.” To help strike the just-right balance, Greenfield recommends wearing a moisture-wicking base layer.

Dress up your bike. You’re not the only one who may need some new outfitting in winter. Before venturing out, give your bike a good tuneup. Make sure your brakes are in good working order, and everything’s functioning as it should. Tires will provide more traction with a little less pressure than you’re used to for summer riding. If you’re anticipating slush or otherwise messy roads, mud guards are a good idea. Finally, lighting can make magic. Be sure to be prepared for darkness as needed with bright lights for front and back, and reflectors.

Safety first. “Be visible,” Greenfield advises. “Be prepared with bright lights and clothings, whether day, dusk or night. Always have a plan B in case weather moves in. Remember, we live in Colorado. Buses in Longmont are free, and they all have bicycle racks that are easy to use.”

Winter poses different hazards depending on conditions. Be vigilant for melted snow and icy patches. “If you encounter ice on a road or trail, keep pedaling,” Greenfield says. “It may sound counter-intuitive, but it could be the difference between staying upright or not.”. And watch out for those curbs–they are likely to be more dangerous with debris and ice. Drivers tend to give cyclists a wider berth with cluttered curb sides, but be sure to keep them in the know with proper hand signals.

Take your training indoors. When riding outdoors, consider taking fitness goals out of the equation so you can focus on safety and scenery. You can make up for any lost intensity indoors. “Winter training indoors is the ideal time to grow your aerobic base,” says Candice Schwartz, founder and coach with Paceline Elite Performance Gym. “We love training on a Wattbike indoors because it mimics real cycling feel and the amount of data feedback you receive is immense. Roughly speaking a 60-minute session on a Wattbike is equivalent to around 90 minutes outdoors. Train smart and with focus and you’ll arrive into spring in fine form.” (Read more of Schwartz’s insights on how to make the most of indoor training here.)

Know when to say when. “There are a lot of days in a Colorado winter that are outdoor riding safe, but there are also days when there’s very high wind, freezing rain, or snow,” Zemanek says. “On those days, the safest bet is to take your ride inside.” Lucky for us, centers like BreakAway, Paceline, our Longmont Recreation Center, Ed & Ruth Lehman YMCA, and others offer a range of indoor classes perfect to supplement outdoor training, keep fit, and have fun!

Enjoy! Winter riding is sure to offer a whole new perspective of the roads. Make the most of it. You can start by taking part in Winter Bike to Work Day! Click here for more info.

Ride on, everyone!

Photo credit: Jim Heuck

Jan 16, 2018

Keeping the Momentum Meaningful: Mountain View’s ‘Movement’ Movement

There is much that stands out about the movement program at Mountain View Elementary. As with all SVVSD schools, physical activity is valued and respected as an integral, and influential, part of students’ whole health, availability to learn, and education. But perhaps what best characterizes this close-knit, hardworking Title 1 school’s approach to physical activity is the spirit behind it: there is teamwork, camaraderie, and a heartfelt caring for others.

There may be no more poignant example of the supportive nature of the Mountain View community than at a special end of year ceremony for the school’s 100 Mile Club celebrating the club’s first year. In January of 2016, 10-year old Mountain View student Priscila Acosta tragically passed away as the result of a car accident. Physical Activity Leader and Mountain View PE teacher Josh Law was haunted by the incident. “I kept thinking about it, and even think I had a dream about it, where I just kept wondering, what can we do to honor her,” he says. “I thought, maybe there’s a way we can do so through 100-Mile Club.”

Priscila wasn’t a student who always logged lots of miles, Law says, but she always participated without fail. At the time of her death, she had recorded 33 miles. Law approached principal Jennifer Piccone, and received approval to allow students to donate miles in Priscila’s name. “We didn’t have scanners yet at that point,” Law recounts. “So we logged miles with sticks. At the end of a session, kids would count their sticks and give them to me. When I told them they had an option to donate sticks for Priscila, they all jumped on board. We got her to her 100-mile goal in less than two weeks.”

At the year’s all school assembly, with Priscila’s family present, Law announced all students who donated miles, inviting them to stand up. “That was a really special, impactful moment,” he says. “The biggest takeaway was the selflessness, the power of selfless acts. That was felt significantly, even for the youngest kids, I believe.” Priscila’s family was presented with a shadow box, a T-shirt, and a medal.

Of course, few moments are so stirringly resonant as what took place at that assembly. But even in the regular day-to-day, Mountain View is a role model for teamwork, not in small part due to their physical education teacher and activity leader, himself a graduate of St. Vrain Valley Schools. Law, now in the middle of his 13th year of teaching, all at Mountain View Elementary, didn’t set his sights on teaching particularly early. His journey into the profession is part coming of age, part love story. “I always loved sports, and I had a dream of becoming a professional athlete,” he says. “My senior year of high school, though, head basketball coach Jeff Kloster and head football coach Doug Johnson [of Longmont High School] both suggested I’d be good at teaching. I helped with sport camps throughout high school, and they saw the way I worked. They felt I had the right mindset and temperament. Each was a positive role model for me, each being both my teacher and coach. I had and continue to have a lot of respect for them, so held onto their advice, if just in the back of my mind.”

Law went to college in Kansas where he pursued his baseball dream for a semester. At that point, he changed schools, moving to Oklahoma, where he pursued a degree in education, thinking back to the encouragement of his teachers. After graduating, he moved back to Longmont, where he started to explore coaching options at the college level while substitute teaching. He was just getting serious in his search when he met his future wife, Amber, also from Longmont and whose younger brother he happened to be coaching. “I never looked back,” Law says. “I always wanted to play sports, and I do. I just apply my skills in a different way than I expected. I tell people, I get to share my skills with kids from Kindergarten to 12th grade. That’s pretty cool. ”

Law may not have planned to become a teacher from childhood, but without even realizing it, his teaching was trendsetting. Prior to 100-Mile Club’s implementation, Law and co-leader Joan Maher, a Mountain View first grade teacher, formed a running club at the school. Students participated in run sessions offered twice a day for two days each week, 12 weeks a year, earning trinkets for necklaces. The club was an immediate hit, with the necklaces becoming like status symbols, Law says. “When 100-Mile Club began, we were basically provided more resources and structure for what we were already doing,” he says. “Now we meet year-round.”

In addition to leading 100-Mile Club, Law supports and facilitates all school movement. Teachers are encouraged to take frequent movement breaks, every hour when possible. Each Friday, the school participates in all school movement. “At first it was just me jumping around leading movement to music,” Law says. “But this year I started a google doc, where teachers sign up to lead, outside if it’s nice. Our Spanish Liaison going to start setting up a coffee table for parents to increase involvement and build community.”

Teachers at Mountain View are quick to back the importance of movement at school. They can see the difference activity makes, positively shaping students’ behaviors, focus, and overall outlook. “I sense a real shift in behaviors on 100-Mile Club days,” says 4th grade teacher Courtney Groskin, who participates in the club with her students. And it’s great for goal-setting, too. Kids have an intrinsic desire to better themselves and reach their goals, but not in a competitive way. Everyone is genuinely excited about each other’s milestones.”

Law always makes a point of trying something new each year.This year, one of those things was stacking, with students participating in the World Sport Stacking Association Championships this past fall. Law says the students really enjoyed stacking, and he may well continue. But no matter what or how many new activities are introduced, some things will continue at Mountain View without doubt, such as the wholehearted team approach to movement for the the good of students.

Hanging on the wall outside of the Mountain View gymnasium is a plaque showcasing student recipients of the Priscila Acosta Spirit Award. Above it, a photo of its namesake.This small corner of the elementary school is a compelling reminder of the selflessness and supportive ethic that is fostered here. “There’s a lot to manage in schools these days,” Law says. “It can be overwhelming. But I look forward to it every day–because we get to change lives, and it’s not a short-term thing. It’s for a lifetime.”

Jan 16, 2018

Get to Know: Kendra Miguez

Every ending has the potential open up new beginnings. Kendra Miguez, Founder and Director of the Colorado Women’s Center, has learned this–one might say the hard way, and perhaps she would agree; more likely, she would emphasize that a winding path of self-discovery is radiant with challenge, exhausting and empowering.

When she was 28, Kendra Miguez moved out to Colorado seeking a recharge and new beginnings following a stint in New York City. Having earned her bachelor’s in theater, she’d been pursuing a career as an actress. The pursuit was tough, nearly destroying her self-esteem. She grew tired of the hustle and bustle of it all. She had an aunt who lived in Louisville, a welcome invitation, and a craving for change. As soon as she arrived, Kendra knew there was no going back. “I fell in love with Colorado,” she enthuses. “The open spaces, the mountains. I felt like I had come home.”

Kendra moved to Boulder, where she became involved with the father of her oldest son, Caleb. The relationship didn’t work out, and she found herself raising Caleb on her own, evaluating her future. “I thought, I have a son who depends on me and a Bachelor’s in theater,” Kendra says. “I determined that I needed to pursue other skills for my family.” Drawn to the field of psychology, Kendra went back to school, earning two Master’s degrees in four years as a single mother, one in educational psychology from CU Boulder, and the other in Transpersonal Counseling from Naropa University. “I’m so grateful for the support of my family, those four years,” Kendra says. “My aunt helped me with childcare, and my family was able to offer some financial support. I was ‘on’ round the clock. I was everything–student, nurse, mother, cop…it was hard, it was revealing, and ultimately it was special and meaningful and so worthwhile. Caleb and I have such a strong bond from it.”

After completing her studies, Kendra offered counseling in a variety of settings with the goal of finding her optimal fit. For a time, she provided therapy for convicted felons, holding her sessions in prisons. She worked with a range of ages, from children on up.

Ultimately, she concluded what that she really wanted to work with and support women. “My experience acting, having to present myself as confident while full of self-doubt, found common ground with my experience as a single mother, and simply as a woman,” she says. “There are so many common obstacles presented to all women, regardless of age, race, social standing.  There is so much insecurity, guilt, and shame.”

“My experience of embracing the role of a single mother, despite the stigma and the pain, allowed me to find the strength to break free from it’s limitations. I remember being so proud of this title and I still am, because I was able to discover the greatest form of empowerment through it. And as I began to achieve, when the odds were against me, I developed an internal confidence that I had always been searching for. Once I discovered this form of self-belief, I became deeply dedicated to helping all women discover it. And, it led me to my greatest passion, which is helping women find true empowerment, despite their circumstances. There is nothing that we can’t achieve, if we truly believe in who we are.”

Upon determining the area in which she wanted to specialize, Kendra wasted no time in opening her own practice, Kendra Miguez, Therapy & Counseling for Women, with offices in Boulder and Longmont. During this time she also met her now husband, Hardy Kalisher. “The timing felt so right,” she says. “I grew so much as a person, I feel I attracted the right match.”

Hardy took to Caleb immediately; his son Owen, then 7, bonded with Caleb and Kendra. The family moved to Longmont five years ago, following the birth of their son, Landon, now four. “We’re a blended family,” says Kendra. “We’re a family with elements of ‘mine’, ‘yours’, ‘ours’, but we’re all us. We’re a tribe.”

Longmont proved a happy fit for the family, and for Kendra’s business. She found that as Longmont steadily grew, so did her practice.  Before long, she became so busy, she decided to make a new move. This past fall, Kendra opened the Colorado Women’s Center on 4th and Main, and has expanded her practice to include three additional therapists. Although all four are equally comfortable working with women of all ages, each tends to specialize in a different generation, from children and teens to seniors. The team is in sync with one another, and devoted to offering women a broad range of support options, including sliding scales and various evening groups typically guided by two therapists. The Girls Empowerment Group, for instance, meets weekly for two hours over the course of 6 – 8 weeks, helping teens get together to discuss issues and realize they’re not alone. Some workshops revolve around books, such as a recent one on Brené  Brown’s “The Gift of Imperfection”, which navigated topics such as guilt, shame, and judgment.

To kick off the new year, Colorado Women’s Center is offering a workshop entitled ‘A New Year & A New You’, set to begin Jan 10th. The workshop for women will focus on self-empowerment, self-actualization and creative energy. “We want to guide women in identifying what they want to change about their lives and why, in determining their goals, and in developing their tools to achieve them,” Kendra says. “This is an exciting time for us as women. All the guilt, shame, inequities…these are societal issues coming to light. And we have the power to effect change.”

We can take control of our own destinies, Kendra stresses. A key, most rewarding means of doing so? Opening up to the support of community. “My girlfriends were and are everything to me,” Kendra says. There is such an importance in community and women coming together. Women need each other! My closest friends were there for me during my toughest times in a way that I can’t even describe. We laughed and cried, we cooked, we danced, and we shared the darkest and happiest moments of our lives with one another. That level of support and understanding is irreplaceable. Their unconditional love for Caleb and me, helped us grow and move forward. My girlfriends are my family.”

Some things we can’t change, Kendra says, and that makes us feel disempowered. But we do have choices in addressing things we can change. We do that by facing fears, and by letting people in to help. By the very acknowledgment, there is power in community.

Thank you, Kendra, for the support and believe you instill in our #healthyLongmont community! Thank you for sharing your story, and helping women to take charge in the writing of theirs.

LWL: Where does fitness fit into your busy schedule?

Kendra:  I do yoga religiously. I usually fit it in early morning. Evenings are out, between kids and groups, so if I can’t fit it into mornings then I try to fit something at lunch. Community really helps me with this–it’s harder to do on my own.

LWL: How does your family share active activity together?

Kendra: All my boys play soccer and love it. They take after Hardy, who is head coach at Boulder High in addition to running a digital marketing agency. They all play together. We go skiing and snowboarding together.