The LiveWell Longmont Blog

Jul 17, 2017

Get to Know: Brie Michalik

Morning sunshine floods the airy, open room, dressed up with floating feathers. The gently drifting swirls are propelled by the exhalations of rosy-cheeked, sparkly eyed children, roughly ages three to five. It’s Kids Yoga at the Family Garden, and instructor Brie Michalik guides her students with captivating energy that matches and adapts to their every step.

Don’t be let Brie’s spirited playfulness or seeming ease in poses reminiscent of Cirque de Soleil fool you. The Wellness Consultant, Personal Trainer, Yoga Instructor, and Craft Yoga Founder is a powerhouse of tenacity, strength and drive. She has achieved a vast wealth of skills, knowledge, and the entrepreneurial lifestyle she set her sights on through diligence, intense focus, and hard-earned experience.

Upon graduating high school early with a 4.0, many expected Brie to follow a university track, but she was determined to carve her path her own way. She moved to Frisco, where she went snowboarding everyday, and also read up on accountancy, earned an associates degree in business. A few years later, she launched herself as an independent contractor as she was about to become a single mom. “We learn in life that the easy way and the right way aren’t really the same,” Brie reflects. “You need to be true to what you actually want out of your life. I’ve definitely had my share of setbacks and difficulties, but I wouldn’t change it. I love what I do, I love being a single mom, I love my life. Planning out logistics is always important, but leaps of faith are more important.”

Since she was ten years old, yoga has been a meaningful part of Brie’s life. What initially drew her was the practice of meditation. “There was this little store where I saw these buddha statues that really intrigued me. They cost a lot, about $40, but I started saving up for them and eventually earned enough to buy some. I didn’t know what they were about, but they calmed me. They made me focus on a peaceful life, something I was aware even as a young child that I was after and that everyone deserves.”

When Brie was thirteen, her mother took her to her first official yoga class. “It was hot yoga, and summertime in Arizona,” she reminisces. “I hadn’t realized yoga could be physically intense like that. It was not what I expected.” Brie’s focused yoga and meditation practice became an anchor over the years, supporting her through injury, pregnancy and recovery. “I’ve had a decent amount of injuries,” Brie says, “and every time, yoga is what gets me back. I also had an amazing experience with prenatal yoga and and an amazing labor experience that I think was really impacted by my practice.” Now, Brie’s daughter Evelynn (Evey), age seven, enjoys yoga too, and the bonding shared experience is truly priceless.

Yoga may have been established itself in Brie’s life early on, yet she confesses she didn’t see herself becoming a yoga teacher until she realized she already was one. “I don’t really wear earth tones, for one thing,” she says jokingly. “I’m certainly unconventional in my approach. Now, I realize that my non-traditional approach is a big part of the healthy attendance in my classes. It’s like a Bruce Lee quote I love, ‘Always be yourself, express yourself, have faith in yourself, do not go out and look for a successful personality and then duplicate it’. It’s uniqueness that brings people back.”

Last year, Brie established Craft Yoga, the seed of her nonprofit, to help create community and change through yoga. Craft Yoga classes consist of 45 minutes of all levels yoga flow. They are always free, but donations are accepted and benefit different causes each time. She has teamed up with local businesses including Left Hand Brewery and The Roost, the site of her first official Craft Yoga session last June. “Oftentimes the classes are not what people expect for their Sunday morning,” Brie says. “The poses and sequencing are hard, but there are lots of smiles and laughs, and everyone leaves feeling powerful.”

Inspiration for Craft Yoga has deep roots drawing from longtime volunteerism, and an unexpected catalyst that stemmed from tooth pain. Growing up, Brie and her brother volunteered for Project Angel Heart in Denver. The moving experience compelled her to volunteer at various organizations independently from the time she was sixteen. Then one day, in 2014, she was hit with extreme tooth pain and ended up getting an appointment with a dentist in Brighton. “He didn’t charge me anything,” she says. “I was so grateful and blown away, and he said, ‘we all have something to give.’ I never forgot that. He planted a seed. I realized, I don’t have a lot of money to donate to causes I support, but I can teach free yoga classes and apply any donations to them. That is something I can do. I’ve taught a lot of free yoga since then, and I never feel like it’s a waste of my time, ever. It’s so much fun, and I notice a lot of pay-it-forward energy from it.”

This summer, Brie is offering two free family yoga sessions at Thompson Park, as well as Craft Yoga at Left Hand. Find out more at briescraft.com and follow her Facebook page for more events info plus tips and tidbits.

Thank you for sharing, Brie, and for the many seeds you are continually planting in our #HealthyLongmont community!

LWL: What does your personal fitness routine look like?
Brie: I practice yoga every day, but it always looks different. It has to–I’m self-employed and a mom. I make it a priority to practice meditation every day. Meditation is my number one. You can actually make a lot of physical changes, changing patterns and habits, by not moving at all. It’s amazing. Physically, I practice asana 5 times a week, go for a run or to the gym or do a workout DVD once a week. I always like to pick new poses to learn. Practicing what you preach so important. But it has to be adaptable.

LWL: How do you prioritize healthy eating and active living as a family with your daughter?
Brie: We do a lot of partner yoga. Evey is a little yogi. I’ve never forced it on her, but she loves it. Yoga sparks her interest, and it’s such great connection for us. She is so strong. Eating is so, so important. It’s disheartening how many kids can’t name vegetables. Evey loves to eat tomatoes like apples. She has a lot of choice–she doesn’t like Brussel’s sprouts so I don’t push it on her. She’ll eat asparagus, all kinds of different vegetables. Options are important. And family dinner–every time we eat together we have conversations. We ask each other, what was the best part of your day, and what was the worst? Sometimes we can’t think of a worst part, which is so great, but both are important avenues of communication.

LWL: What is your favorite healthy food?
Brie: Lately I’ve been just loving GT’s Synergy kombucha. Something I always have in the house…mushrooms, kale and gala apples. Those are my staples.

LWL: What do you treasure most about Longmont?
Brie: When I first found out I was moving here, I was not enthused. It didn’t take even a year to really fall in love with this town. It’s such a great community. I see so many people I know everywhere I go. There’s so much support for small business owners.

LWL: What would you like to see develop in Longmont’s healthy future?
Brie: One thing that kinds of bums me out regardless of where I go is littering. Our children deserve a clean place to play. The city is doing a great job of setting us up with great resources. Keeping them that way is up to all of us.

Jul 10, 2017

Promotora Spotlight: Erika Leon

Over the past year or so, you may have noticed we’ve been a bit excited about ongoing developments with a little project we call One Healthy Longmont. As part of this great initiative, we are actively bringing together resources to support community members in successfully advocating for health where it matters most. Notably among these community supports is a remarkable group of promotoras. Over a year ago, we put out calls for promotoras. In recent months, we’ve glowed with congratulations for their hard work. And now we’re realizing, we never really explained…exactly what is a promotora?

We could try to explain our interpretation of  this significant, dynamic term, but we’d really rather show by stellar example. So we’ve asked a few of our generous, charismatic and passionate promotoras  participating in special trainings offered in conjunction with Cultivando to share in their own words a little of what it takes. This month, meet bold, magnetic mother of three from Mexico, Erika Leon.

Erika was drawn to the role of promotora from an early age. She was inspired by her dearest, most influential role model, her mom. “My mother worked for Social Services in Mexico,” Erika says. “Much of her work took place in hospitals. I watched and admired her work. More importantly, I learned her passion. She is selfless and tireless when it comes to helping people. And I especially admire her great vision for improving family welfare and her courage advocating for change. She gave me support in understanding how to navigate the system.”

When Erika’s husband, an engineer, was transferred from Mexico to Longmont seven years ago, her life was turned upside-down. In Mexico, she worked as an attorney, and felt happy with her work-life balance. It was exceedingly comforting that her first child was cared for by family during her work hours. Coming to America, she was faced with the daunting task of learning English, setting new roots, and getting to know whole new government and education systems. Most of all, she was faced with a mammoth task of providing her daughter with a positive outlook and stability even as internally she felt shaken. Seeing her daughter overwhelmed, Erika’s mom joined the family for their first six months in their new world, helping her find new ground. She would later visit another 6 months following the birth of the Salas family’s third child. “She said to me, OK, you need to look and find your community,” Erika says. “She helped me get settled, and she helped fuel my motivation to keep moving forward, get to know my community and continue on a personal path of continual improvement.”

LWL: How do you define, “promotora?
Erika: A promotora intimately knows the needs of a community, promotes and provides information to the community. She serves as a bridge between community and organizations and facilitates collaboration and helping of one another.

LWL: What does it take to be a promotora, and what draws you to that role here?
Erika: To be a promotora, you need to start knowing yourself, then family, and finally community. Your need passion and the desire to help others.

Leaving behind my law career in Mexico, I gave up so much. I cried, so much. Yet I am very grateful for opportunities I have here. I think of others who immigrate here who are not as fortunate when it comes to opportunities and resources as I am.

LWL: What drew you to take the training offered by LiveWell Longmont and Cultivando, “Cultivando mi vos”?
Erika: I have a passion for my community, to learn new things, to help meet needs. I wanted to know more about LiveWell and the training was a great opportunity. My mom really inspired me early to treat training opportunities as gifts–they always bring about improvement, self, for my children, or opening up awareness of resources.

I feel proud to volunteer in organization, to be part of this group of women interested in promoting physical and mental health, welfare of families.

LWL: What would you describe as your greatest passion when it comes to community work?
Erika: Family welfare. Anything that helps families–health, nutrition, resources. Family is what life is about.

LWL: What are your goals and hopes for once the second training, “Cultivando nuestra accion” is completed?
Erika: I would love to work for an organization wherein I can apply my skills and help community more efficiently. I will always work to impact and improve physical and mental health within families.

 

Working Together for One Healthy Longmont (One Healthy Longmont) works collaboratively to increase the health of our community by supporting those living in Longmont most impacted by health disparities and chronic disease. This compelling initiative is made possible thanks to generous funding in the amount of $600,000 awarded through The Cancer Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Disease (CCPD) Grants Program.

Jul 10, 2017

Promotora del mes: Erika León

A lo largo de este año, habrán notado que hemos estado muy emocionados con el desarrollo de un proyecto llamado “Un Longmont saludable”. Como parte de esta gran iniciativa, estamos uniendo recursos para apoyar a los miembros de la comunidad a que aboguen por la salud donde más lo necesiten. Entre estos grupos comunitarios, se destaca un importante grupo de promotoras. Hace más o menos un año, estuvimos buscando promotoras. Hace algunos meses las encontramos y desde entonces hemos estado recibiendo felicitaciones por su gran trabajo. Sin embargo, recién nos hemos dado cuenta que nunca hemos explicado ¿qué es exactamente una promotora?

Podríamos tratar de explicar este término tan importante y dinámico, pero preferimos mostrarlo con un excelente ejemplo. Así que les pedimos a algunas de nuestras generosas, carismáticas y apasionadas promotoras que participan en los entrenamientos de Cultivando, que nos expliquen con sus propias palabras, qué se necesita para ser promotora. Este mes, desde México, conozcan a la valiente y magnética madre de tres niños, Erika León.

Erika se sintió atraída por el rol de promotora desde muy pequeña. Su inspiración vino de su más amado e influyente modelo, su mamá. “Mi mamá trabajó en el Servicio Social de México”, cuenta Erika. “Trabajaba principalmente en hospitales. Yo observaba y admiraba su trabajo. Pero lo más importante es que aprendí su pasión. Mi mamá es extrovertida, amigable, locuaz, también abnegada e incansable cuando se trata de ayudar a los demás. Sobre todo, admiro la visión que tiene para mejorar el bienestar de las familias y su valentía para generar cambios. Ella me ayudó a entender cómo navegar en el sistema”.

Cuando el esposo de Erika, que es ingeniero, fue transferido de México a Longmont hace siete años, su vida se puso de cabeza. En México, Erika trabajaba como abogada y estaba feliz con el balance de su vida profesional. Era muy reconfortante que su hija estuviera al cuidado de sus familiares mientras ella trabajaba. Al mudarse a los Estados Unidos, tuvo que enfrentar el reto de aprender inglés, formar nuevas raíces, y llegar a conocer un nuevo sistema de gobierno y de educación. Pero sobre todo, tuvo la enorme tarea de tener una actitud positiva frente a su hija, aun cuando ella se sentía perturbada. Al verla abrumada, su mamá vino a vivir con ellos los primeros 6 meses en este nuevo mundo, para ayudarla a establecerse. Más adelante, volvió a visitarlos otros 6 meses cuando nació el tercer hijo de la familia Salas. “Mi mamá me dijo, OK, necesitas buscar y encontrar tu comunidad”, comenta Erika. “Ella me ayudó a establecerme, a conocer mi comunidad,  me impulsó a seguir avanzando y continuar creciendo como persona”.

LWL: ¿Cómo definirías ser promotora?
Erika: Una promotora conoce perfectamente las necesidades de su comunidad, la impulsa y comparte información. Sirve como puente entre la comunidad y las organizaciones, facilita la colaboración y ayuda a los demás.

LWL: ¿Qué se necesita para ser una promotora y qué te llevo a serlo aquí?
Erika: Para ser promotora necesitas conocerte a ti misma, a tu familia y luego a la comunidad. Necesitas pasión y un deseo de ayudar a los demás.

Al dejar mi carrera de abogada en México, perdí mucho. Lloré demasiado. Sin embargo, estoy muy agradecida por las oportunidades que tengo aquí, pues me pongo a pensar en otros inmigrantes que vienen aquí y no tienen las mismas oportunidades y recursos que yo tuve.

LWL: ¿Qué te hizo participar en el entrenamiento “Cultivando mi voz” que ofrece LiveWell Longmont y Cultivando?
Erika: Me apasiona mi comunidad, aprender nuevas cosas, ayudar a satisfacer necesidades. Quería saber más sobre LiveWell y el entrenamiento fue una gran oportunidad. Desde pequeña, mi mamá me enseñó a tomar las oportunidades como regalos, ya que nos traen mejorías, para mí, para mis hijos, o crean conciencia sobre diversos recursos.

Estoy orgullosa de ser voluntaria en esta organización, de ser parte de este grupo de mujeres interesadas en promover la salud física y mental y el bienestar de las familias.

LWL: ¿Cuál es tu mayor pasión cuando hablas de trabajo comunitario?
Erika: El bienestar familiar. Cualquier cosa que ayude a las familias, en temas de salud, nutrición, recursos, etc. La vida se trata de estar en familia.

LWL: ¿Cuáles son tus metas y expectativas una vez que termine el entrenamiento “Cultivando nuestra acción”?
Erika: Me encantaría trabajar en una organización donde pueda utilizar mis habilidades y ayudar a la comunidad de manera más eficaz. Siempre voy a trabajar en impactar positivamente y mejorar la salud física y mental dentro de las familias.

Trabajando juntos para un Longmont saludable (Un Longmont saludable) trabaja conjuntamente para aumentar la salud de nuestra comunidad apoyando a la población más afectada por desigualdades de salud y enfermedades crónicas en Longmont. Esta inspiradora iniciativa es posible gracias a la generosa donación de $600,000 otorgada por el Programa de subvenciones para el cáncer y enfermedades cardiovasculares y pulmonares (CCPD en inglés).

 

Jul 3, 2017

Supporting Action for Mental Health: Join the Conversation

There’s a conversation opening up across our country and the world over. It’s all about mental health, and you might say it’s well overdue. It may not always be the most comfortable, but this conversation is one we cannot afford to quit, and something we owe to ourselves, our loved ones, and our communities to be a part of. Here in Longmont, the conversation comes with a boatload of supports that go beyond talk. What’s developing can positively change countless lives.

Supporting Action for Mental Health is a movement of local community groups, organizations, faith communities and local government working together to explore how we can all raise awareness of and take action to address mental health needs in Longmont. Following two shocking incidents in in March of 2015, our shaken community rallied with compassion and support. Questions abounded: how to cope with grief, how to heal, and ways we might proactively prevent future tragedies. Local leaders were quick to support community calls for conversations regarding mental health following these events, and just as quick to back up their words with action.

When The Colorado Health Foundation learned of Longmont’s initiative to coordinate community-wide discussions, they expressed interest in offering support. Longmont’s Community Services Director Karen Roney spearheaded putting together a grant application, a joint effort by City of Longmont, Longmont United Hospital, and Mental Health Partners. Longmont was awarded a generous $200K mental health education grant. “I think The Colorado Health Foundation was interested in our community-based approach,” Roney says. “We’re inviting community members to come together and have meaningful discussions about this important, but often unspoken topic that affects us in many different ways.”

With grant funding, Supporting Action for Mental Health was able to hire Project Coordinator Julie Phillips, who energetically dove into her role coordinating efforts to achieve key goals: providing Mental Health First Aid Training to 2000 people in the Longmont community; engaging 1500 in community conversations about mental health to increase our community’s understanding of mental health issues and needs, and continue building our community’s capacity to take action and offer compassionate support to each other; launching a public awareness campaign to make it okay to talk about mental health and reduce stigma and misconceptions about mental health; and creating an online service where people can more easily access a variety of mental health resources when they are looking for information, support and help. “Our goals, and action plans to reach them, are very much community member and volunteer driven,” Phillips says. “Our work is fluid and evolving. We want to keep connecting everyone involved, to guide and build a proactive support network. We’re always thinking, what else can we offer, what partnerships can we bring to the table.”

The positive reactions to Longmont’s efforts were immediate and significant. “We heard many rich stories and ideas about how each one of us can have a positive impact on mental health in our community,” Roney says of several community conversations held in 2016. We repeatedly heard from participants that they were inspired by each other and what they heard, and that they had a renewed sense of hope that these conversations would lead to concrete action.”

An exciting, crucial component of Supporting Action for Mental Health’s Work is offering free mental health first aid training for adults 18 and over, held weekly at various locations throughout the city. One training has been offered in Spanish, and others will be scheduled soon. Recently, fifteen new instructors just completed a three-day certification course, four of whom are bilingual. Classes are typically taught by two instructors, and take a full day, 8 am to 5 pm with an hour break for lunch. The day is comprised of varied presentations on different types of disorders, including mental disorders, psychosis, and substance abuse. Participants develop understanding of how to recognize situations and safely intervene. “The tools provided are basic but insightful, says instructor John Kellow, Psychiatric Triage Clinician at Longmont United Hospital. “Anyone can participate, and everyone can benefit.” Kellow, who has been in the field for twenty-five years, says he is impressed with the response from individuals taking the class with no mental health background. “The level of insight they’ve achieved in one day is remarkable,” he says. “They leave more comfortable and informed.”

Mental Health First Aid is much like CPR or other first aid training, Kellow explains. While physical ailments may seem on the outset more straightforward in terms of diagnosis and procedures, there are multiple components involved with both. With any illness or condition, it’s as important to consider preventative education, self-esteem issues, lifestyle factors, and more in addition to basic treatment. “It’s the same with mental illness,” Kellow says. “There is no one go-to answer. But providing individuals and communities with skills for recognizing, identifying, managing, and responding to crises goes a long way. The more people involved, the greater the awareness, the more we empower our whole community.

Mental Health First Aid is about becoming more aware of circumstances as well as response, Kellow says. When people achieve a more scientific understanding of mental health and mental illness, we begin to dispel the surrounding negative stigma. “What we need to all be mindful of is that mental health is a continuum,” Kellow says. “It is a process that depends on many factors, numerous stressors including socio-economics, fluctuating personal circumstances, our daily moods.”

Want to be involved in the growing, positive momentum? The great news is, if you’re talking, you already are. This conversation is one in which there is no such thing as “just talk”, and where talking alone is of paramount importance. Attend a Mental Health First Aid class, or host a conversation, and your involvement goes even further. “You can always help,” Kellow says. You can always intervene. That intervention may not be a direct response. It may be calling someone else, such as various practitioners, but you can always help.”

Visit the Supporting Action for Mental Health page on the City of Longmont website to learn more about upcoming training opportunities and other ways you can be a part of the ongoing meaningful conversation aimed at increasing understanding about mental health, reducing stigma, and supporting those in our community with mental health challenges. 

Jul 3, 2017

Free Throwdown Challenge: Stay motivated this summer with Rumblesum!

We’ve arrived! Here at the height of summer, with endless temptations for getting out, getting moving, and enjoying the season to the fullest. Problem is, hot weather is so darn hot! Could you use a little extra motivation to keep on keeping on? Don’t let the heat beat up your workout routines. A little playful accountability (plus the right, well-timed fuel, good hydration and sunscreen) could be all you need to keep your mojo going for optimal summer flow. And Rumblesum founder Sara Epstein wants to offer up just that (accountability, that is…you take charge of nutrition)…for FREE!

After working with athletes all over the world focused on a range of challenging events, Epstein had a vision of a simple site offering an easy way for athletes of any ability to interact with one another. Her ideas became reality in 2014, when the Golden-based company was born. “I didn’t really realize what I’d created at first,” she shares. “Friends suggested it would make a great corporate wellness platform, so I put it out there to companies. At the end of the first challenge, people were literally crying over the standings, they were so engaged.”

For the past several years, Rumblesum has provided the technology behind the LiveWell Colorado Get Moving Challenge and hosts numerous challenges globally. Participants are able to log points based on activity (all activities count), time, and intensity. The simple interface provides motivation and accountability. While comparing activity rankings within challenge time frames is generally a key part of the fun, participants can choose to hide specific workouts if they choose.

Typically, Rumblesum kicks off challenges with $100, and participating companies add in their own prizes, such as an extra day off or charitable donations. This year, coming off the energizing fun of a successful Engineering Throwdown Challenge, Epstein has decided to offer the first public challenge open to everyone, from July 11 to August 11. For a team of four to ten friends and/or coworkers and go head-to-head with other active teams. Leaders are based on a per-person average, so more is not necessarily better! If your team comes out on top, you’ll get to designate a donation to your favorite charity. Regardless of results, you’ll get to dive in to shared fun that gives that extra bit of accountability to keep you powering through and making the most of summer!

For more info, or to sign up, visit  http://www.rumblesum.com/summer, email [email protected] or call  303.503.4756.

Jun 20, 2017

Rusty, Dusty Riders

Happy Bike Month, Colorado! We know, you’re wheelie, wheelie excited about celebrating (even if you’re not half amused by tire-d attempts at being punny). After all, we’re in Boulder County, a cycling mecca. Not only is our superb location at the foot of the Rocky Mountains a magnet for pros, we have amazing access to bike paths, mountain passes, bike sharing, teams, tours, singletrack, dirt jumps, cyclocross…you name it.

Here in sunny, active Colorado, the lure of the bike is undeniably magnetic, right? Of course, depending on your perspective, it can also be a bit daunting. Even for the most experienced cyclists, there can come a time when roads feel a little less welcome. In fact, some days the very fact that our community is such a draw for athletes is the very thing that causes reluctance. If you’re not geared up in slick spandex for an intense time trial, do you still fit in?

The answer, of course, if a hearty YES. Here in our bike-friendly #HealthyLongmont, opportunities abound for getting out and riding for fitness, fun, and pure transport. Between our 158+ miles of greenway paths and bike lanes, our new Bike Share program, group rides and the celebrated, casual, family-friendly G’Knight Ride from Bicycle Longmont, and more, there’s indeed many a something for everyone. If you’re feeling a little out of practice, perhaps a little rusty, Rusty, Dusty Riders may well be one of those somethings for you.

Art in Public Places Administrator and Traffic Safety Coordinator for City of Longmont, veteran cyclist and accomplished endurance athlete Lauren Greenfield has been actively assisting others in becoming more confident, capable cyclists since she took off on her own two wheels. Offering numerous bike maintenance and safety classes through the City and privately, she noticed a standout trend. The most heavily requested classes were those that drew primarily mature women. “I saw a lot of enthusiasm for riding coupled with hesitation,” Greenfield says. “People were held back by uncertainty–where to go, how to get from the house to the bike path, what to do in case of a flat. They were all levels, interested more in the camaraderie and the route than competition.”

In response to the demand, Greenfield began leading the Rusty, Dusty Riders group last summer, continuing through the winter but modifying sessions to be strictly classroom-based when it was too cold. The sessions offer a blend of information, instruction, and camaraderie on the bike. Topics vary, but the format stays the same. The first hour is education, with a flexible focus based on participant needs and interests. Everything from road safety, route planning, what to wear, buying a bike, finding “cute” accoutrements for the bike, and maintenance is discussed. Following are bike and helmet safety checks, possible skills and drills practice, and casual group riding on the paths and quiet roads.

“I moved to Longmont two years ago from Illinois,” says participant Sue, attending the group for the second time. “I used to ride a lot when I was younger and am just getting back into cycling. This group has been a great opportunity to meet people and find out where to ride.” At the first group, Sue sought advice on where to purchase a bike locally. Upon arriving at her second session, bike in the back of her car, she was on the lookout for a bike rack that would suit her needs.

“I love riding, and encouraging others,” says Katie, who assists Greenfield in leading rides. Katie, an experienced cyclist and newly retired, moved to Longmont from Fort Collins four years ago. She joined in on group rides Greenfield was leading, Girls and Gears, and became involved with Bicycle Longmont. “I can’t stand the elitist culture that exists in sport,” she says. “For cycling, the impression that can be falsely given that you have to look a certain part, be a racer, to be entitled to share in the enjoyment. It’s for everyone. I’m in my 60s now, still riding, and I plan to keep on riding and loving it for as long as I can. This group is the kind of thing that can make that happen for anyone who wants it. Our aim is to get out, relax, enjoy.”

Interested, but not feeling too keen to claim “rusty” as a personal descriptor? Don’t be fooled by the name. There is no age requirement. “Self-imposed seniors is who we’re comprised of,” Greenfield says good-naturedly. Do trust that the humorous title is indicative of the laid-back feel of the group.

“I love riding, and encouraging others,” says Katie, who assists in leading rides. Katie, an experienced cyclist and newly retired, moved to Longmont from Fort Collins four years ago. She joined in on group rides Greenfield was leading, Girls and Gears, and became involved with Bicycle Longmont. “I can’t stand elitist culture in sport,” she says. “For cycling, it’s easy to feel you have to look a certain part, be a racer, to be entitled to share in the enjoyment. It’s for everyone. I’m in my 60s now, still riding, and I plan to keep on riding and loving it for as long as I can. This group is the kind of thing that can make that happen for anyone who wants it. Our aim is to get out, relax, enjoy.”

Greenfield posts sessions on Meetup, and plans to offer them the second and fourth Wednesday of each month schedule permitting. Location may vary, most likely alternating between the Longmont Senior Center and Izaak Walton Clubhouse to begin. While specifics may evolve, one thing for certain is Greenfield’s commitment. “I love it,” she says. “I just love sharing a role in connecting others, helping build excitement and confidence about getting people out there enjoying their bikes, feeling prepared with the information they need.”

Photo credit: <a href=”http://www.kennett.co.nz/uploads/rusty-bike-600×400.jpg”>Co.nz</a>

Jun 13, 2017

Get to Know: Graham Fuller

Summer of 2015, and Graham Fuller didn’t have any reason to question his health. Life was good.  Successful civil law attorney and devoted father of (now) two young children, he is a lifelong vegetarian who had always been active. Growing up in Boulder, he played baseball, soccer, and basketball. Family outings frequently meant hiking, and he was passionately involved in theater.

Although the intensity of coursework and studying in law school led to a reduction in exercise, perhaps falling out of some healthy habits nutritionally, once life settled down into professional routines Graham determined to get going again with some fitness goals. Upon signing up for a half marathon, he scheduled a physical to make sure he was good to go, reading to tackle training. “That was the first hint there might be an issue,” Graham recounts. Routine blood work revealed a slight, but surprising, elevation in triglycerides, fats in the blood that are used to provide energy to the body but which are linked to heart disease at high levels.

Graham’s triglyceride levels were such that the physician he was seeing at the time didn’t see much cause for concern, and advised supplements and caution. By 2015, however, he discovered they had continued to rise, reaching uncomfortably high levels. “I went to a friend’s wedding, and a bunch of us fellow groomsmen were carrying tables up a hill,” Graham says. “While we were doing so, I experienced what I thought were chest pains. That scared me.”

Graham scheduled a medical appointment, and his doctor’s questions shed light on the full picture surrounding the presumed chest pains. The busyness of the wedding, an acidic drink prior to physical strain, the stress of traffic and other factors preceding the incident, all were indicative of basic heartburn.  It turned out to be a minor scare, but one which precipitated reexamination of healthy habits nevertheless. The doctor further advised Graham to consult with a cardiologist, just to rule out larger potential issues.

“Seeing the cardiologist was something of a come-to-Jesus moment,” Graham shares. “He told me, ‘you’re fine, but this triglyceride number will become a problem if we don’t get it in line’.” A natural problem-solver, Graham’s immediate response was , ‘OK then, let’s do what we need to do to fix this’. The cardiologist put him on three months of a strict diet consisting of vegetables and lean protein. Graham embraced the guidelines as he does all things, with wholehearted commitment. As a result, by the end of those three months, his triglyceride levels had completely returned to normal. “It was impressive, the power of diet alone,” he says. “The diet was so strict, I couldn’t really up exercise without suffering over fatigue. Once I was able to start adding a little more variety nutritionally and I was able to increase exercise, I felt even better.”

Continuing to work with his cardiologist, Graham has become more aware of what he now knows is a genetic condition he can have positive control over. Striving to maintain a healthy balance, he goes in for checkups every six months; with guidance from his cardiologist he keeps striving to reach a happy medium that balances maintaining a healthy plan with enjoyment and a relaxed but conscious attitude. He typically spends his lunch hour at the nearby gym, earning a little less stringency when it comes to a nutrition regimen. “Things fluctuate, and sometimes life gets so busy I sense myself falling into old lax habits again,” Graham says. “It’s important for me to have those check-ins, and to check in with myself. One thing I really gained from the journey is how key the mental element is regarding any resolution. Being mindful is the biggest component of achieving goals. When I have a mental framework in my mind, I can stick to resolve.”

Outside of focusing on diet, Graham’s health scare led him to reflect on ways of reducing stress. At work, he examined appropriate places to delegate, hired new employees, and found programs that offered better streamlining. “Rather than taking a toll on my work, reexamining priorities in fact made business more efficient,” Graham says. “Making more time for myself to exercise each day and eat right makes me mentally clearer for giving my best, in everything.”

Another area that posed a unique stress Graham examined was family, but not in the way it might sound. “I have this incredibly gifted wife who put so much on hold so we could live here and raise our family,” Graham says of his wife Kristina, a voice teacher and accomplished vocalist. “I really want to make sure she’s not artistically limited.” Graham and Kristina, who first became acquainted in middle school, have both been active in theater since they were five years old. Performing is a passion they both share, but one that is difficult to nurture with two small children (Daniel, 4, and Sophia, 18 months) and typical rehearsal schedules. In taking stock of things, however, Graham and Kristina came up with a creative plan to fulfill their mutual desire to keep performing arts a part of their lives while continuing to prioritize their family first. The couple decided to produce Jason Robert Brown’s The Last Five Years, one of their favorite shows featuring thirty-somethings Jaime, a rising novelist and Cathy, a struggling actress through their five year marriage. The story unfolds with two alternating timelines; Jaime’s progression is seen chronologically while Cathy’s is told in reverse. With a cast of only two people, the show is rarely produced.

“This performance is a lot of work,” Graham says. “Outside of actual prep and rehearsal, there are so many logistics that had to be covered. We had to create an LLC, open a bank account find musicians, space, etc. But it’s been amazing.  It’s time spent with Kristina. Our hearts are fullest when we can perform together, and it’s really special our children can be part of this journey with us.”

Graham and Kristina will be performing The Last Five Years at The Dairy Center for the Arts in Boulder Friday August 4th through Sunday August 6th.  “It’s such a momentous undertaking, with everything else going on right now,” Graham says. “But it’s part of our balance. That’s what I’ve come to appreciate the most when it comes to being healthy, the significance of finding your right balance. You can’t just crash diet and go back to the same habits, or completely cut yourself from what you enjoy. Balance rounds out life. There are happy mediums everywhere, and life is about discovering the ones that work for you.”

Thank you for sharing, Graham! We love the art and creativity your family’s unique balance is bringing to the community!

LWL: Congratulations on finding ways to keep fitness a part of your busy schedule. What does that typically look like?
Graham: Mostly, it’s the gym. It’s convenient and reliable, and I can get a good workout in efficiently. As a family, we also really enjoy bike rides and walks.

LWL: You really committed to a specific dietary regimen and made it really count. What are some ways you and Kristina prioritize healthy eating as a family?
Graham:  Part of our weekend routine definitely involves going to the Farmers Market. The kids really look forward to it. Kristina takes care of our family meals mostly, and does an amazing job. She’d so conscious of making sure we have delicious, colorful plates of whole foods.

LWL: What is your favorite healthy food?
Graham: I’m not sure I have one favorite, but breakfast is easily my favorite meal, especially when I’m being fairly strict with myself. Eggs are so versatile. You can do so much with huevos rancheros with lots of vegetables and no sugar.

LWL: What do you treasure most about Longmont?
Graham: I love the sense of community here, the momentum we have. There are so many young families, and I really appreciate the City’s efforts to create a really healthy, accessible community…the crosswalks, the bike paths and underpasses.

LWL: What’s your favorite local place to be active?
Graham: Right now, that would have to be Gold’s because it is the most realistic place, the way I can make it happen. But I’ve also got to say, I love jumping around on my trampoline with my son, Daniel.

LWL: What would you like to see in Longmont’s healthy future?
Graham: Wouldn’t it be cool if one day Longmont could have it’s own Bolder Boulder? Or a similar kind of event. There’s such a strong athletic community here, and it’s really growing in that direction even more.

Photo credit: Katherine Forbes Photography

Jun 5, 2017

Happy Birthday, Ollin Farms!

Local treasure Ollin Farms is coming up on an anniversary this summer, and it’s a big one. To celebrate, owners Mark and Kena Guttridge and their team are busily embarking on a season brimming with everything they always offer our fortunate community, and then some. From its vibrant CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program to its educational programs and festivals, everything about this bustling family farm is resonant with its philosophy. From the beginning, Mark and Kena Guttridge knew they wanted to nourish community by producing top quality farm products while simultaneously increasing the health of the surrounding environment. Now ten years in, this beloved farm and family have not only exceeded their goals, they continue to broaden their unique mission as an invaluable, beloved community resource.

Neither Mark nor Kena ever intended to become farmers. In fact, growing up on the family farm, which belonged to his grandmother, Mark’s goal was to ‘get the heck out of here’. And for a time, he did. He left Colorado to attend university in Texas, becoming a water resource engineer. Upon his return, he met and married Kena, originally from Mexico and whose background was in accounting. “It wasn’t even in our brains to start a farm,” the couple recount. But things changed.

It seems appropriate that the catalyst for Mark and Kena Guttridge to take on what is now Ollin Farms was rooted in altruism. Mark’s grandmother became ill and showed signs of developing Alzheimer’s. They didn’t want to put her in a retirement home, and it was strikingly clear how much the farm meant to her. “In Mexico, people die in their homes,” Kena says. “It was a culture shock to me how different things are here. We could see what sustenance the farm was to her, and how that love kept her holding on to life. For me, it was obvious. I told Mark, ‘Why don’t we live on the farm? We have to take care of your grandma’.” So began a great adventure.

It took a full year for the Guttridge family just to clean the farm up.  At the time, the couple’s two older daughters, Sophia and Maria, now 22 and 21, were 11 and 10 respectively, and thrilled to be starting a real farm. “We wanted a little garden and animals they could grow up with,” Mark shares.  Daughters Amber and Koral, now 9 and 8, have spent their lives loving their working home. From day one, locals recognized a special gem in the farm. At first, the family took the abundance from the garden and shared it with friends and neighbors who were quick to applaud the rich, fresh flavors unlike any they had ever tasted.

In 2007, they decided to launch the farm as a business and began attending farmers markets.  They spent a full week choosing the name. “Ollin is an Aztec word meaning constant motion or transformation,” Kena explains. “The Aztecs were very efficient, farming successfully in the face of challenges, like difficult locations and population needs.” Mark adds, “A farm is a living, changing organism. We’re always in progression. No two days are ever the same.”

The generous spirit epitomizing Ollin Farms’ beginnings has continued and grown as the family has developed and expanded the stunning range of programs, outreach, and services. Neither success nor extreme busyness results in a single moment of complacency (Mark continues to work as an environmental engineer, and Kena is a full-time teacher in addition to both managing the farm). They are always looking for ways to improve, as a community resource and connection point, with regard to products, services, and sustainability.

One of many striking aspects of Ollin Farms is the fusion of cultures that is evident everywhere. Like yin and yang personified, Mark and Kena each bring individual strengths to create radiance in all they do. Bold, outgoing Kena is a dedicated educator who thrives on getting out in the community. On the farm and throughout Longmont, she offers classes that develop skills and awareness in English and Spanish, on culture, Spanish language, salsa dancing, geography, planting and growing, cooking, and more. “Give me one hour with ten kids, and I’ll plant seeds for a lifetime of healthy awareness and connection,” Kena says. As she speaks about the interactions she shares with community members of all ages, she is moved to tears.

Possessing a quieter nature, Mark passionately applies his science background to create and refine systems for promoting resilient, climate-smart farming practices. A key component of this is growing a healthy topsoil, a byproduct of which happens to be the most flavorful, nourishing food. “I used to get so frustrated when I came to this country, because so much produce looked so perfect and tasted so empty,” Kena says. Coming back to the farm, Mark fully appreciated for the first time how much better their home-grown garden foods tasted. “I realized, wow I love this farm,” he says.

Mark’s concentration on developing a healthy topsoil led to an exciting merging between his engineering and farming careers, bringing about intent exploration of carbon sequestration, which is another byproduct of growing healthy topsoil. Imagine being presented with a super cheap, beneficial way of sucking the excess carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere…the idea is awfully appealing, right? There is such a vehicle for achieving that, Mark says, in plants. Not only do plants take in carbon dioxide through photosynthesis, a healthy plant will actually send upwards of 60% of all that carbon directly out through its roots where it feeds the soil food web. For the first time scientists and farmers are beginning to understand and measure agriculture’s role in mitigating climate change and performing other ecosystem services.

Each growing season, Ollin Farms hosts several educational festivals honoring areas related to farming and the environment as a whole. This summer kicks off with the 2nd annual Bee Festival June 4th, and concludes with a Fall Harvest Festival in October. Sandwiched in between, July 16th, is an especially intriguing, 2nd annual Carbon Sequestration Festival. “We’ve had lots of scientists involved in working on this,” Mark says. “We’ll have a ton of information booths, activities for the whole family, and opportunities to learn from and talk with top scientists, from NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), NRCS (National Resources Conservation Service), and more.”

Chances are, Ollin Farms has already been woven into your lives in more ways than one. Perhaps you participate in the CSA program, attended a farm-to-table dinner along Left Hand Creek, or look forward to picking your own raspberries with the kids. There are summer storytimes, camps and classes, not to mention all of Kena’s offerings around the city. If you’ve been to the Boulder County Fair sometime over the past eight years, you may well have come across the Guttridges, who have been running a Kids Day activity the full duration. Today, even more opportunities to get to know these local farmers are budding. This summer, Ollin Farms has collaborated on a pilot Farm-to-Hospital program. A Farmers Market will be launched beginning in June at Longmont United Hospital. “It will be pop-up market style,” Kena says. “The plan is for the food to be available CSA style for hospital patients and employees. Doctors are always saving lives, but so often they have no time for self-care.”

Expanded volunteer opportunities are coming, such as assisting with planting and harvesting on the farm or helping with carbon sequestration research. Kena is working on new ways for seniors to volunteer and connect with one another. “Society often misses out on the wealth available by paying attention to our elders,” Kena says, describing how she visited a senior living facility offering fresh vegetables for Colorado Gives Day. “They dressed up for me,” she says. “I gave them tomatoes, they gave me the gift of amazing stories. I came away with so much. It was incredible.”

Over ten years, Mark and Kena have created exactly what they envisioned, incorporating community within their family farm and thereby making it a therapeutic haven in more ways than one. What will the next years bring? The couple would like to see progress that offers small farmers greater opportunity to thrive. Regulations such as land use restrictions frequently block progress. In fact, in the last six years, Kena says, nineteen local farms have closed. “Farming is a huge gamble, an economic risk,” Mark says. “But the value it brings can’t be quantified. It needs a support system to make sure it’s viable.” What can our #HealthyLongmont community look forward to seeing at Ollin Farms? Hopefully a lot more of the same. With Mark and Kena at the helm, same means ‘always better’.

Learn more about the farm, its programs and offerings, and how you can be involved, at the Ollin Farms website

Jun 1, 2017

Your Zip Code, Your Life: Presentation from Dr. Tony Iton in Longmont

Where does health happen? Is it engineered in a bottle of pills, a vitamin rainbow? Is it stitched together in a doctor’s office, in hospitals? We already know the answer to these questions. While medicine and medical resources are a crucial part of  quality healthcare, most often our system addresses symptoms more than root causes. Where health is truly influenced, disease prevented, growth nourished, and happiness encouraged, is everywhere outside of the trusted, sterile walls to which we turn when afflicted. In fact, research shows that health care and genetics are responsible for less than 30 percent of our health outcomes. Seeds of health have chances to flourish or perish every day everywhere within every community–in our neighborhoods, our streets, our workplaces, our schools. Significantly, each one of us can play a part to ensure the most positive outcomes possible.

At  a special April presentation hosted by Boulder County Public Health, supported by City of Longmont and LiveWell Longmont, Dr. Tony Iton, M.D., J.D, MPH, emphasized the power of community organization as key to building health. Collectively, we can work to eliminate health disparities, Dr. Iton says, by focusing not on the traditional medical model but on root causes. Healthcare today is fraught with debate, contentiousness, and inequity.  it’s all too easy to become overwhelmed and anxious over healthcare issues. The stress alone involved in obtaining and dealing with healthcare options, including limited access, sky rocketing expenses, denied coverage, and paperwork, is enough to compound any illness.  But we are not powerless, Dr. Iton reassures. Listen. His word carries the weight of such an impressive, growing body of data, evidence, and systematic guidance, one can’t help but be awe inspired, compelled to action.


Soft-spoken and magnetic, Dr. Iton’s illustrious career is resonant of purpose and passion. He is Senior Vice President of the Building Healthy Communities program, The California Endowment, the mission of which is to expand access to affordable, quality health care for underserved individuals and communities and to promote fundamental improvements in the health status of all Californians. Dr. Iton also served as both director and County Health Officer for the Alameda County Public Health Department, overseeing the creation of an innovative public health practice focused on eliminating health disparities by addressing root causes that limit quality of life in many low-income communities. Prior, he also served as director of Health and Human Services and School Medical Advisor for the City of Stamford, CT; as a physician in internal medicine for Stamford Hospital’s HIV Clinic; as a primary care physician; and as a staff attorney and Health Policy analyst. In his work, particularly through Building Healthy Communities, Dr. Iton has consistently striven to support and renew communities most fraught with health disparities.

Your zip code shouldn’t be a determinant of how low you’ll live or how healthfully, Dr. Iton asserts, but it is. Low-income communities and communities of color face particular barriers. Seventy percent of health outcomes in fact stem from the social, political, and economic environments that shape our choices. Our social systems determine where business owners can open, types of retail, which parks are maintained, levels of air and water pollution, who receives accessible care, and what options are available. The obstacles are mighty, but Dr. Iton’s leadership and work has shone a light, revealing ways of triumphing over the odds through the sheer power of people. Community organizing, he stresses, is the cornerstone for action, for building social, political, and economic power.

Building Healthy Communities is a 10 year, $1 billion comprehensive community initiative launched by The California Endowment in 2010 to advance statewide policy and transform fourteen of California’s communities most devastated by health inequities into communities where all have opportunity to thrive. The grassroots work that has been accomplished, and continues to grow, as a result of this great initiative has been astounding, its impact often reaching well beyond the specific areas targeted.

“We have to work together to change the narrative,” Dr. Iton urged throughout his compelling presentation. “There is a narrative in this country that fortifies impressions that not all are equally deserving.” There is a narrative, he explains, about specific populations, those who have been previously incarcerated, people of color. There is a narrative about what produces health. Too often the means to achieving health has been focused on individual responsibility and on medicine. The implications are huge. This narrative shapes policy, and policy in turn creates conditions. What needs to happen, Dr. Iton says, is to broaden that narrative to encompass grocery stores, bike paths, active transport, healthy schools.

Growing up in Montreal, Canada, Dr. Iton felt society invested in him. He enjoyed well maintained parks, high quality community resources and recreation opportunities. He attended prestigious McGill University for free. When he left Canada to attend medical school at Johns Hopkins, he was in for a culture shock. He was stunned at the juxtaposition of slums immediately adjacent to what’s described as the best medical facility in the world. “When was the war here?” he asked. “What did you expect? It’s the inner city,” was the response he received. “That attitude conveys, you don’t matter,” Dr. Iton muses. “The message is, you might as well give up. I wondered, how different would I be if I’d grown up in Baltimore?”

In his role as health director for Alameda County, California, Dr. Iton began investigating and expanding an incredible database of death certificates detailing age, race, location, and cause of death. The compilation underscored the shocking reality of health disparities in our country. Analyzing cities by zip code, a pattern emerged, one which was repeated in city after city. It was repeated in Baltimore, Clevelans, Los Angeles, New York, and it is apartheid-like, separate and unqeual. It has profound health implications. There are places where we live which we pay for with a loss of life. “Essentially, every $12,500 in household income buys one year of life expectancy,” Dr. Iton says, adding that benefit appears to plateau at incomes of $150,000.

What is behind the numbers? Stress is one big factor that policy can go a long way in eliminating. “When you walk into a low income community,” Dr. Iton says, “cortisol levels are high. People have chronic stress. They’re worried about crime, housing, healthcare, healthy food access, children’s risk in the environment, employment. Chronic stress–in physican terms, allostatic load–is associated with high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, insulin resistance, inflammation, decreased immunity. There are physiological differences in people as a result of our policies.”

Where can we go for help finding solutions? Quite simply, it starts with us. People who care, are committed, are willing to be involved in community, working to reshape the narratives.

Through Building Healthy Communities, Dr. Iton’s team organized 2682 core leaders, mobilized close to 50,000 local community members. Their efforts continue to yield staggering results. As he shares a few of the many highlights, Dr. Iton is clearly awed himself. There is Fresno, where health care for undocumented people was threatened; the community organized and stood up. Not only did Fresno reverse the decision, more resources were added to support people. The is Long Beach, where a port was spewing particulate emissions, impacting schools and neighborhoods. The community organized and stood up, and a freeway was re-routed. There’s Coachella, struggling with lack of clean water. The community organized and clean water stations were created; district elections within the Coachella valley were changed to bring in a regional commissioner to advocate for the need to bring in potable water. The examples are endless, and growing. They stretch to matters of restorative justice, school lunch, parks and resources. They exemplify, organization is power.

Chronic stress means a loss of agency, sense of control, Dr. Iton says. Organizing is the antidote. Today, feelings of powerlessness are common among the great majority of us. Know, we are not alone, and there are solutions. Taking action can be as simple as getting out there in the community. Let’s organize together, and stand up. For more information and inspiration, please visit www.buildinghealthycommunities.org. #ChangeTheOdds

Photo credit: Enrique Jimenez, Communications and Mutimedia Specialist, LiveWell Colorado

May 27, 2017

5 Easy, Healthy Summer Goals from Weigh and Win


The days are longer, the weather is warm and fresh fruit and vegetables are abundant. Summer is a great time to commit to healthy behaviors. Here are five easy, healthy summer goals to accomplish. Let’s make this summer your healthiest one yet!

1. Challenge Yourself: Set a health goal outside your comfort zone: join a running group, hike a 14er, try a new exercise class, walk every day – the options are endless.
2. Cook Colorfully: Strawberries, zucchini, tomatoes, watermelon – there’s an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables. Make your meals as colorful as possible. 
3. Disconnect for a Day: According to a study, 20 percent of smart phone users check their phone every 10 minutes! Take an entire day and disconnect from technology.
4. Get Outside Every Day: Don’t let summer slip away, make it a point to get outside every day and do something active. Try a daily lunchtime or post-dinner walk.
5. Make H2O Your Go-To: Drinking water is a healthy habit to maintain, especially during the summer. Make H20your go-to beverage of choice. Try a refreshing fruit infused water for a treat!
Weigh and Win is a free community wellness program that PAYS to achieve a healthy weight. For more information or to join the Weigh and Win program, visit www.WeighandWin.com or call 800-694-0352.