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Bug Off! Tick Season Safety Tips and Tricks

Written on May 16, 2014 at 10:44 am , by

Tick. The 4-lettered word alone gives me the heebie-jeebies—and for good reason. These creepy crawlers are the perpetrators of one of the fastest growing epidemics to date, Lyme disease (LD). And now that the temps are finally warming up, ticks are back in full swing. (I’ve already pulled two of the little buggers off my pup. Not cool.) Are you prepared? We talked about the nasty pests with A Twist of Lyme author Andrea H. Caesar, who has battled chronic LD since she was 11-years-old. Here are the must-know dirty deets to bite back.

The No-Zone Walking Fido around the block? Catching up on the newest FITNESS issue poolside in the shade? Risky business, girlfriend. “You can get a tick [bite] in a parking lot…anytime of the year,” warns Caesar. Like us, ticks are most active from April to September. Steer clear of wooded, shady areas as much as possible; in particular, stonewalls and moist leaf piles are their playgrounds. Hitting the open trail? Stick to the middle of the path, away from weedy edges.

Play It Safe Sport light-colored clothing to your next outdoor BBQ so you can easily spot the bad guys and tie long locks back into a tight ponytail. “Then they can’t crawl right up into your scalp,” says Caesar. (Your fave baseball cap will do the trick, too!) Swap out the shorts for leggings or pants tucked into tall socks when tackling yard work. The latter is a total fashion faux pas, we know, but hey—wouldn’t you rather be safe than sorry!? And don’t forget the repellent sprays/lotions. The CDC suggests products with 20 percent or more DEET, although Caesar—who lives a non-toxic life—prefers catnip oil. “It can be ten times more effective [than DEET]!” Her fave: Ava Anderson’s Natural Bug Spray ($19.95, avaandersonnontoxic.com).

Check Mate “In my house, we do a tick check morning and night from head to toe,” says Caesar. “The problem is that deer ticks are the size of a piece of dirt so you’re not only looking—it’s a sensory test, too.” Thoroughly comb through your hair with your fingers and be sure to examine your, err, nooks and crannies (where they unfortunately love to take cover). According to the CDC, it takes more than 24 to 36 hours of attachment for ticks to transmit LD bacteria…hence the hide-and-seek urgency. Found one? Start by disinfecting the area with an alcohol swab. Next, use tweezers to grab the tick “head” as close to the skin as possible. Pull straight out and disinfect the bite site. “Put it in a plastic bag with a damp cotton ball if you want to send it away for testing,” advises Caesar. “It’s much more effective and easy to test a tick than a person!”

Tick’s Best Friend You may follow all of the prevention rules, but your pooch? Doubtful. Animals are LD carriers, which includes those not-so-welcome houseguests. “Set mouse traps to keep them under control!” says Caesar. As for pets, discuss repellent products with your vet, inspect their coats daily and reduce tick habitats in your yard, if possible. “My dogs are crated downstairs [at night] because of LD,” Caesar says.

Ticking Time Bomb “In its chronic form, Lyme disease can represent a complex set of infections involving the nervous system and its most basic functions,” says Caesar. “But it really also represents all of the body systems.” Translation: There is a seemingly endless rap sheet of symptoms, making the illness difficult to diagnose. Some general indicators to be aware of include achiness, headaches, tingling or numbness in extremities, fatigue and fever, which can have severe implications if undetected or ignored.

Learn more about LD at CDC.org and be sure to pick up your copy of A Twist of Lyme today.

Photo courtesy of Andrea H. Caesar

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Adventuring in North Carolina’s Crystal Coast

Written on July 23, 2013 at 9:30 am , by

Climbing to the top of Cape Lookout is roughly the equivalent of climbing to the top of a 12-story building!

In our July/August issue (on newsstands now!), we explored the best sporty activities in the top 10 most visited cities across the country. But that doesn’t mean others don’t have something fun to offer! After visiting North Carolina’s Crystal Coast, it’s safe to say there are plenty of fit activities to take advantage of if you’re looking for more than a “lay on the beach and drink all of the margaritas” type of getaway. Here, some of our personal faves:

Surfing. Hang ten in these waters and you can definitely call yourself a surfer. The waves vary from two- to three-feet high—perfect for beginners—and can get all the way up to 19-feet during a tropical storm (obviously better for those well-versed on the board). We loved our lessons from Mike over at Hot Wax Surf Shop, but if the adrenaline rush isn’t quite your style, they also offer more low-key stand-up paddleboarding (SUP).

Beach Running. Rent a house from Emerald Isle Realty and you’ll only have to take a few steps before you’re at the beach. Perfect for lounging and getting in a quality workout! We were hosted by the company in one of their beachfront homes, and had a personal walkway leading straight onto the beach—no crazy maneuvering required! Waking up to the sound of the ocean each morning had us leaping out of bed and lacing up the sneaks for a quiet, peaceful jog along the water before diving into the day. If your feet are ready for it, head closer to the water and forgo shoes for some barefoot running so you can really feel the sand beneath you (and burn up to 60 percent more calories!). Watch the sun fully rise post-run and indulge in a little seaside yoga for a true feeling of bliss.

Lighthouse Climbing. If you want to see the Southern Outer Banks from a higher perspective, head over to Cape Lookout National Seashore over on Harkers Island. Accessible by ferry, we suggest packing a picnic to enjoy by the water, then climbing the 207 steps to the top of the lighthouse! The breathtaking 360 views allow you to take in miles of uninhabited territory, except for the wild Spanish mustangs over on Shackleford Banks. The park is a sea turtle nesting area, too, so keep an eye out for hatching nests. Once you’re finished, ask the ferry driver to slowly bring you over to the Banks, where you can get a closer view of the elegant horses. If you’re extra lucky (like we were!), you may just get a little show from the wild dolphins while you zip back to land.

Sightseeing in Beaufort. A short drive away, this quaint little town is not only voted America’s Coolest Small Town, it’s also the famous location of Nicholas Sparks’  A Walk to Remember (and we know you’ve seen that movie!). Stroll the waterfront docks while the sailboats and yachts come in and out, spot the wild mustangs from across the water, or tour the historic area of town. Definitely a walkable town for those who love window shopping, this is a fun way to take in a cool movie location, soak in a little American history and log those 10,000 steps!

Now you tell us: What’s your favorite way to explore a new place while on vacation?

Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro to Solve the Water Crisis

Written on February 19, 2013 at 3:34 pm , by

The Summit on the Summit crew conquers Kilimanjaro. (Photo courtesy of Chase Jarvis)

Written by Rachel Torgerson, editorial intern

Melissa Arnot is a professional mountain climber, gracing the peaks of the most prestigious mountains (nabbing the women’s world record for her Everest ascent) and for two years in a row, she’s led celeb do-gooders up the slopes of Kilimanjaro with Summit on the Summit to raise awareness (and funds, naturally) for the Matt Damon-founded charity, Water.org, and the clean water crisis.

“There are more people in the world who can access a mobile phone than a toilet, says Chevenee Reavis, fellow Kili-climber and Director of Strategic Initiatives for Water.org.  “It’s really an incredibly large challenge, but one that we actually have solutions for. We know how to deliver safe water and sanitation—it’s about raising awareness and beginning a movement around the cause.”

Among the celebs to face the climb this year were Justin Chatwin (War of the Worlds) and Beau Garrett (Tron: Legacy). “This group had never camped, never been without shower water. Then you add the altitude—19,340 feet is higher than anyone had been. At the end, everyone summited Kilimanjaro; a testament to the passion these people have for educating themselves and other people,” says Arnot.

Want to scale the slopes, too? We asked Arnot how to train and what to expect on the mountainside.

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A Week of Roaming the Grand Tetons

Written on October 16, 2012 at 2:48 pm , by

A few weeks ago I got the chance to stash my Brooks running sneakers for some hiking shoes as I headed West to the Jenny Lake Lodge nestled in the Grand Teton National Park in Jackson, Wyoming. As a self-professed cardio queen, I was excited to tackle mountains instead of asphalt for four days of trekking. And trek we did! With tons of hiking trails ranging from 2 miles to 19 I definitely got a glimpse into what life in the mountains is really like.

After arriving in the afternoon, I got a chance to meet with some of the super friendly staffers that work for the Grand Teton Lodging Company. We took a short hike (though as my first hike ever, it felt like it lasted days!) around String Lake, with sights that looked like they fell right off a postcard. I was a bit panicked starting out, as one of my hiking materials was an actual can of bear spray (!) but within minutes I was too busy checking out the view to worry about anything else. This may explain why the above-mentioned staffers are so friendly. It’s hard to be in a bad mood when you’re looking at this every day:

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Actress Keesha Sharp, Star of “Are We There Yet?” Talks About Health

Written on September 17, 2012 at 4:20 pm , by

Keesha gets sassy on the set of Are We There Yet. (Photo courtesy of Eric Liebowitz)

Written by Deanna Cioppa, editorial intern

For most of Hollywood, taking care of your body is part of your job as an on-screen presence. For Keesha Sharp, it’s a passion and a calling. Sharp stars as Gigi, a serial dater offering insights from the singles’ scene in the TV series Are We There Yet, which is based on the 2005 film of the same name and launches today in syndication. When not entertaining us on the small screen, Sharp runs her own health and wellness site, Fishers of Health, which tackles everything from natural makeup and skincare to nutrition, fitness and spirituality.

“My goal is to inform people about their health,” Sharp says. “To be the best you can be, you need to be healthy.” And that includes mental and physical health, she notes. A voracious reader and researcher when it comes to health topics, Sharp often buys multiple copies of books she likes to give away to family and friends.

We sat down with this health-conscious actress to find out more about Fishers of Health and what she does to keep her health in tip-top shape.

There’s a lot of research on the Fishers of Health website. Do you do all the research yourself?

I do! I’ve considered becoming a certified nutritionist, too. Not necessarily to follow it as a career path, but more so because people know you’re qualified to give them advice when they see your credentials.

What topics interest you most? 

I want to venture out to both sides of Eastern and Western medicine. I don’t think you have to immediately go to Western medicine practices first; there are alternatives you can try if you’d like. More so than anything, though, I think changing your diet can improve or change your health.

How do you avoid fads?

I read a lot. There are different ways to approach health and you have to decide what works for you. For me, I use organic products whenever possible and limit my meat intake.

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Explore the National Parks for Free on Saturday!

Written on June 6, 2012 at 12:10 pm , by

Take a break to soak up the amazing views! (Photo courtesy of Grand Canyon NPS)

Here’s advice you don’t often hear from us at FITNESS: skip the gym. That’s right, we’re giving you permission to erase your name from the treadmill list or take a day off from your exercise class because this Saturday is National Get Outdoors Day!

As part of Let’s Move Outside, included in First Lady Michelle Obama’s health intiative, Saturday, June 9 has been designated as a day to promote healthy activities in the great outdoors. One of our favorite nature-filled ways to stay fit? Hiking! Not only will the average 140-pound woman burn 384 calories on the trails, but she’ll also tone her lower body and will be able to take in some breathtaking views and fresh air.

For Get Outdoors Day, you can try hiking out yourself and explore your national parks for free this Saturday (learn more about fee-free day here). Before you go, download the Happy Trails guide—which is also free—to find 25 can’t-miss hikes across the country. Maybe you can check one off your list this weekend!

If you enjoy yourself and want to support these beautiful parks, click here to find out how to do so. And for more about hiking, don’t miss our July/August issue, which hits newsstands on June 26!

Now tell us: What are your favorite ways to exercise outside?

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Fit Inspiration: Five Tips From Hiking Record Holder Jennifer Davis

Written on August 9, 2011 at 11:37 am , by

Written by Theresa K. Brady, editorial intern

(Photo courtesy of Maureen Robinson)

Staying fit in nature, like Jennifer does, can help put life in perspective. Just check out that view! (Photo courtesy of Maureen Robinson)

On Sunday, July 31, history was made on the Appalachian Trail. Jennifer Davis is now the fastest person ever to complete the 2,181-mile hike, finishing in 46 days, 11 hours and 20 minutes—and we thought spin class was rough! (Andrew Thompson was the previous record holder, completing the trek in 47 days, 13 hours and 31 minutes.) We caught up with Davis after she stepped off the trail to hear more about her values, her family and the hike that changed her life.

Five lessons she learned along the path:

Step off the grid. “Once the adjustment is made, it becomes really nice to unplug,” Davis says. “The trail is your home. You can’t think about your warm bed or nice shower.” But how do you live without cell service? Davis enjoys being disconnected from her phone, social media and the constant stimulation of modern life.

Allow yourself to recover. Walking and running all day for weeks takes a toll on your body. “You have to allow your body to rest,” she suggests. The length and rigor of your hike will determine how long you will need to recover. After this hike, Davis will be taking it easy for a while. “I will be doing very light physical activity for the next six months.”

Find energy in food. While on the trail, Davis was burning 6,000 to 7,000 calories a day, or the equivalent of 11 to 13 Big Macs! “It’s hard to chew as much food as you need to take in,” she says. While on the trail, Davis munched on energy bars and energy chews, but really looked forward to the occasional evening treat. “My husband was so supportive. Sometimes he’d bring me a high-calorie dinner from a nearby town,” Davis says (most days she ate freeze-dried camping dinners). What a guy!

Value simplicity. “We feel like we need all these ‘things,’ but the trail teaches you to be content with what’s in your backpack,” Davis says. She also found that it was easier to build quality relationships with the other hikers without technology and all the distractions of everyday life. “It’s a skill I try to carry over into everyday life.”

Focus on family. Davis is onto her next adventure: children. “We really want to focus on family,” she says. Does she plan on teaching her children to hike? Absolutely! “That’s the best part about trails. You can set a speed record or take a toddler out there. It’s perfect for anyone.”

Check out Jennifer’s website to read more about her hike or to check out pictures from her trek.

More from FITNESS: Blaze your own trail with our must-have hiking gear.

7 Reasons to Try a Trail Workout

Written on June 23, 2011 at 9:00 am , by

green lush trail to hike on

Flickr photo by Luke Wisley

In a post a few weeks ago about The #1 Predictor of a Happy Marriage, you saw how one FITNESS editor got a fabulous new point of view from demanding hike. But you can still get the health benefits of hiking–or trail running!–on tamer paths, too. Spark People gives offers seven good reasons to put on your trail shoes and get closer to nature this weekend…

1. Burn More Calories
Whenever you change up your workout routine, you will challenge your muscles in new ways and burn more calories. The changes in terrain of a trail will cause you to recruit more muscle fibers to balance and find your footing.  And many trails  are embedded with inclines, steps, bridges, stones, downed tree trunks, puddles, creeks—all sorts of obstacles you need to navigate, which means you’ll burn 10% more calories than walking or running on a flat surface.

2. Protect Your Joints
One good thing about walking or running on a hard surface is that it can help encourage the development of strong bones. But for anyone with existing joint problems or previous joint injuries, all that pounding on a hard surface can really give your body a beating. That’s why trails are a great alternative. Grass and dirt are far softer than cement and blacktop, making walking or running on a trail much easier on your joints.

3. Stay Cool
As the mercury rises, sometimes it is just too hot and sunny to work out comfortably when you’re outside. Instead of letting the heat stop you, hit the trail. It’s noticeably cooler in the shady environment surrounded by towering trees that provide cover from the intense sun.

4. Breathe Easier
Even if you can’t always see it, there is pollution all around us, and you breathe it in when you walk or run next to a road traveled by vehicles. Not cool. One study found that exercising too close to traffic can actually increase your risk of cardiovascular disease because of the inhalation of pollution. So whenever you can, get away from high-trafficked roads. The trail is perfect for that!

5. Beat Boredom
Tired of the same old routine? There is so much beauty and interest in the natural world that you may find the minutes fly by as you look at the trees, animals, birds, and other plants along your trail.

6. Lift Your Spirits
More and more research shows that spending time in nature isn’t just fun—it’s essential for our well-being. Getting away from the hustle and bustle, basking in the sun, slowing down and smelling the roses: It can help us reduce stress, ward off depression, get our daily dose of vitamin D, and generally feel healthier.

7. Bond with Your Buds (or Your Kids)
Going for a hike is a great way to hang out with your friends and do something active. Trail hiking is great for pets and kids, too. They’ll have a blast exploring the plants, insects and animals they see. It’s a family-friendly activity you can add to your “fun” list that gets everyone active!

Read more from Spark People’s Coach Nicole Nichols…

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