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Rocky Gorge Wellness February 2021 Newsletter

Happy, Healthy Heart Month!

Winter Walking…Again!

Because access to public gyms is still limited for many of us due to public health precautions, and we might not be able to hit the treadmill or elliptical, let’s return to last year’s topic on winter walking. It’s the middle of winter here in the mid-Atlantic states, but don’t let that keep you indoors all day. Even cold weather walking is safe and doable.

A recent piece in the New York Times by Kelly DiNardo points out that the long health crisis is “motivating many people to get off the couch and get out in the brisk air: Sales of outdoor winter sports equipment… have been spiking,” adding that these activities provide a way to socialize safely. DiNardo suggests greater intake of essential fatty acids, which increases production of brown fat that “is packed with energy-creating mitochondria that produces heat and helps the body maintain its core temperature.” We’ll talk a little more about mitochondria below in our section on CoQ10.

Walking is a brain and body booster. After a brisk walk you probably find that your mind is clearer, giving you more mental energy. According to the Harvard Health newsletter, 30-40 minutes of moderate walking improves mental acuity for people of all ages. Reaction time picks up, memory retention improves, and decision-making and problem-solving skills are sharpened.

As with other kinds of exercise, walking raises endorphin levels. These feel-good neurochemicals reduce our sensitivity to pain and stress, improve cognitive health, and make us feel euphoric.

Not only does walking improve cognitive focus and raise endorphins, but the more predictable advantages are increased metabolism and weight loss, muscular strength, cardiac vitality, improved balance, and chronic disease management.

In addition, winter walking banishes cabin fever: it gets you outdoors and exposed to UV rays, which stimulate Vitamin D absorption even on these short, cloudy winter days. Counteracting light deprivation is a proven therapy for SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder).

Breathe Deeply. Inhaling cool winter air is invigorating! When you exercise in cold temperatures, your heart works harder to increase blood flow and maintain internal heat. The result? You burn more calories. Unless you have a respiratory condition compromised by very cold air, lung function improves with winter walking. While really cold air can dry our respiratory passages, lower humidity levels mean more oxygen is available. If you’re concerned about the effects of cold air on your lungs, check with your medical provider before launching on a winter walking regimen.

Protect Your Core. When your core gets too cool, your body burns more energy to protect your internal organs, leaving your hands and feet at a disadvantage.

Dress warmly but don’t overdo it with bulky outerwear. A heavy down or poly-fill jacket guarantees overheating. Choose layers, wearing textiles closest to your skin that will absorb your perspiration. The advantages of fleece are much appreciated. Vests, pullovers, or full jackets are excellent insulating garments. Fleece pants or leggings insulate while wicking away moisture, and a light scarf can be wrapped securely or removed as needed.

Keep Your Head and Ears Covered. We lose heat from our scalps when we walk in cooler temperatures, but don’t swaddle your noggin in a heavy wool cap or hood. If your scalp perspires, you can actually get chilled. Choose lighter materials made of thin-gauge merino wool or fleece.

Hydrate and More. Your cells will appreciate moderate liquid intake before your walk. Just as important but not often mentioned: Empty your bladder before your cold weather excursion. Winter hikers and campers know that your body will resist cold more effectively if you do.

Fit Fingers and Feet. It’s common knowledge that if your extremities are comfortable, the rest of your body will more easily tolerate cold. Fingers and toes have lot of blood supply and nerve endings, allowing heat to escape more easily. Keep your core warm enough, and you’ll prevent your body from redirecting heat to your internal organs. Make sure to wear mittens or gloves that don’t constrict your blood flow.

You appreciate your athletic running and walking shoes, which are built for speed and agility. They are lightweight but often light on cold protection. Fortunately, there are many options for well-insulated walking/running shoes that provide stability and reliable traction. And make sure you’re wearing moisture-wicking, insulated socks.

Warm-Up at Home. Once you’re back indoors, your skin starts to cool and your muscles tighten, so remove your sweaty layers and put on something dry. And don’t forget to stretch those muscles to restore blood flow.

Remember that it’s all about a mindful balance among all areas of your body as you powerwalk through the cold!

Time for Hot Soup: Heart-y Minestrone!

Walking outdoors in the cold makes us hungry. It’s nice to come home to a warm, robust broth brimming with flavor. Minestrone is our choice, in honor of National Heart Month. This meatless heart-friendly soup is loaded with fiber from veggies and beans, lycopene from tomatoes, garlic and onions for cardiovascular vitality, and a complex but homey flavor.

Note – minestrone lends itself to variations, so feel free to experiment with ingredients. Just be sure your base vegetables include carrots, celery, onions, garlic, and beans.

2 tablespoons olive oil 
1 can (15 oz.) cannellini beans, rinsed and drained (substitute with red or navy beans or chickpeas)
1 can (15 oz.) diced tomatoes ½ a small can tomato paste
1 medium chopped onion
3-4 cloves sliced garlic
2 sliced carrots
2 sliced stalks celery
1 large or 2 medium chopped (unpeeled) thin-skinned potatoes
1 quarter head of green or savoy cabbage (or sliced kale, chard, or escarole), thinly sliced
2 bay leaves
2 quarts fat-free chicken or vegetable broth Salt, black pepper, dried or fresh oregano, rosemary, and basil to taste
Optional: The rind of a parmesan wedge (gives the soup a creamy consistency and robust flavor)
Optional: 1 cup cooked whole grain pasta or brown rice

Grated parmesan or Romano cheese to serve

Steps: Sauté the onions and garlic on medium heat for 4-5 minutes; add the carrots and celery, stirring often, for another 5 minutes on low heat. Sprinkle with salt and sauté 1 more minute.
Add the tomatoes, paste, potato, bay leaves, parmesan rind, and broth. Add seasonings. Bring to a boil and simmer on low, covered, for 25-30 minutes.
Add the leafy vegetables and simmer another 15 minutes. Adjust seasonings to taste. Add more water if needed. If using rice or pasta, add now and simmer 5 minutes more. Before serving, remove the bay leaves. Serve with grated parmesan or Romano and a warm, crusty loaf of whole grain baguette.

Botanical Hero of February: Tea Tree (Melaleuca alternifolia)

Extracts from the leaves of Tea Tree, a native plant of Australia, have been used commercially for more than 100 years to produce a concentrated essential oil. Its unmistakable aroma has often been described as camphor- or eucalyptus-like.

Tea Tree has been used for thousands of years by indigenous peoples in Australia. The leaves were crushed or soaked in infusions and applied as poultices for wounds and skin afflictions. The vapors were inhaled for lung ailments. Oral histories relate the use of leaves steeped in lagoons to create “healing lakes.”

Tea Tree has drawn the attention of many rigorous clinical studies, and the reports are truly impressive. Tea tree oil (TTO) is most appreciated for its antimicrobial, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory properties. Research has focused in particular on its anti-fungal actions, but studies also show its ability to inhibit E. coli, staph, and MRSA bacterial infections.

TTO is so versatile that it has become a familiar ingredient in many products that we use today, from body care, such as lotions, soaps, and shampoos, to first aid, to oral care and much more. For these reasons, TTO has become a fixture of first aid kits in homes worldwide.

Tea Tree products should not be taken internally. But as a topical application, it’s hard to find a more reliable plant ally. In an article published by the American Society for Microbiology, “Anecdotal evidence…suggests that topical use is safe and that adverse events are minor, self-limiting, and infrequent” (Carson, Hammer, Riley, 2006).

Effective Uses of the Magical Tea Tree:

Skin Care: Tea Tree is an outstanding ingredient in body and facial washes, as well as moisturizers, deodorants, lip gloss, cosmetics, and other products. Try a few drops in your portable bottle of hand sanitizer for added protection against the bad guys out there.

The most favored use of TTO is for skin problems, such as acne and rosacea, which respond well when TTO is used to reduce scaling, inflamed lesions, and oiliness. Add a few drops to prepared witch hazel to dab on the skin as a toner. TTO can also alleviate herpes sores and has been used to treat scabies. You should always dilute essential oils in a carrier oil or other liquid, with some exceptions. For spot treatment for blemishes, a dash of pure TTO on a cotton swab will dry up zits. The Mayo Clinic advises avoiding application on eczema outbreaks.

Hair Care: TTO alleviates dandruff, which is often caused by fungi. It is said to stimulate hair growth by unclogging the scalp’s follicles. Many high-quality over-the-counter hair products are available, but you can add a few drops of TTO to your shampoo. Combine with a few more drops of peppermint oil and go for that extra *tingle*!!

Pet Care: TTO is used in some pet products, such as shampoos, to relieve itching, ear irritations, hot spots, and flea and tick bites. Do not apply TTO directly to your pet’s coat or feet as it can be toxic if ingested.

Oral Health: Add a couple of drops to your mouthwash or in a cup of warm water to ease gum pain and irritations and to counteract fungal infections like thrush or bacterial overgrowth, such as the one that causes gingivitis.

Yeast Infections: Antifungal properties of Tea Tree can inhibit candida overgrowth and associated irritations.

Foot and Nail Fungus: Fungal and bacterial infections of the feet and fingernails get a boost from TTO products, without relying on harsh chemicals or prescription remedies.

Pest Control: Add TTO to your DYI insect repellents. TTO is used to control body lice and ticks.

Plant Diseases: If you’re a gardener, a spray made of water with added TTO can help control fungal diseases like blight (a fungus) and mosaic (a virus). Cleaning products: TTO is found in several commercial solutions for cleaning floors, bath and kitchen surfaces. Add a few drops to your preferred product.

Heart-Friendly Supplement: CoQ10

What better supplement to feature in recognition of National Heart Month?

CoQ10 is shorthand for Coenzyme 10, an antioxidant that inhibits free radical production and cell damage. According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (of the National Institutes of Health), CoQ10 “is naturally present in the human body, with the highest levels in the heart, liver, kidneys, and pancreas.” CoQ10 is most concentrated in our cells’ mitochondria, which produce ATP, the primary source of our cells’ energy. It is essential to the function of growth and maintenance. Levels decrease with age and are negatively affected by heart disease and by certain kinds of statins for blood pressure control in patients who experience muscle weakness.

CoQ10 has been studied over the years for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. It has been scrutinized for effects on diabetes, migraines, Parkinson’s Disease, and other conditions. One such trial looked at patients who have heart failure, which is an “energy deprived state,” and found that “supplementation in patients with heart failure not only improved functional capacity, but also significantly reduced cardiovascular events and mortality” (National Library of Medicine, NIH).

Food sources include poultry, eggs, nuts, and fatty fish, like salmon, albacore tuna, mackerel, and sardines. Supplements are often used to support heart health in managing coronary artery disease. Consult with your medical provider to determine if CoQ10 supplement is right for you and what dosage would be recommended.

From Our Hearts to Yours: We’re Here for You

Here at Rocky Gorge Wellness, we continue to practice CDC safety guidelines to ensure a healthy exercise environment for all participants.

We continue to offer classes virtually and in-studio (with appropriate precautions). Please check out our updated class schedule and join us for one of our well-rounded fitness programs!

We still offer individual sessions, so please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to schedule an appointment or if you are interested in learning about or ordering essential oils.

Letter to my resilient clients

Dear Resilient Clients,

This has certainly been a long and challenging season for all of us…and I do hope you are all doing well.
Currently, Howard County is in Phase Three, which allows gyms and private studios to open—under CDC guidelines.
I want to assure you, again, that I am being extremely cautious in how I schedule clients/classes and am taking all necessary precautions to ensure a safe and healthy exercise environment.
I will continue to do virtual trainings/classes and am also doing sessions on my large outdoor patio!
I totally respect and understand each individuals’ personal concerns and restrictions, but I want to let you know that I am here and am ready to support you with your health and fitness goals.
I would love to hear from you and hear how each of you are doing; I do hope all is well with you and your family.
Please take time to get outside and enjoy this wonderful sunshine, wear your masks, and stay away from crowds!
Let’s continue to do our due diligence to safeguard the welfare of all of those around us.
Also, please remember that I plan to do a “reset,” with each of you as you return: a fresh fitness assessment, updating all intake forms—including any current medications/injuries—as well as addressing any newly occurring issues since the March 2020 shutdown.
To your robust health,
Be sure to read our latest Rocky Gorge Wellnews newsletter here.

Abby Dixson, MES
ACE Gold Certified Health and Fitness Coach
Rocky Gorge Wellness/MediFit, Inc.
Body and Soul Fitness Instructor
MES, Post Rehab Conditioning Specialist/AAHFP
Member of ACSM, IDEA, Wellcoaches

“Movement is Medicine”
Dear Resilient Clients,
I hope all of you continue to do well, during this challenging time!
Although I have been in touch with many of you, I wanted to reach out with an update, regarding opening Rocky Gorge Wellness Studio in the weeks ahead.
For those who have been doing zoom sessions, I am happy to continue virtual training/small group classes for as long as each deems necessary, for their own individual health restrictions.
As we look towards the State of Maryland (Howard County) opening up in its various phases, I want to assure you that we are taking all the necessary steps to ensure a safe exercise environment!
As in-person appointments are scheduled, I will be spacing clients so there is no overlap, to limit individuals’ contact with each other and to make sure all equipment and surfaces have been thoroughly cleaned and sanitized.
I plan to do a “reset,” with each of you as you return: a fresh fitness assessment, updating all intake forms—including any current medications/injuries—as well as addressing any newly occurring issues since the March 2020 shutdown. Remember, we also have warm weather coming and outdoor sessions are also an option!
I will have a full supply of disposable masks and gloves, but will ask for you to be prepared to have + bring your own initially. Gloves, masks, and hand sanitizer will be available in the Studio.
As all of you know, my passion is to help each individual achieve optimal health through safe and effective exercise and balanced nutrition! I am proceeding cautiously and will comply with the State of Maryland and CDC guidelines for all operations.
FYI: We have a monthly wellness support group focused on nutrition, diet challenges, and overall support. Please let me know if you would like to join us this Saturday, May 23, 2020 at 11:00am via zoom.
Please let me know any thoughts or concerns you may have, as I would love to hear from each of you!
Let’s stay Safe! Let’s stay Strong😁💪🏻🌡
Remember: “Movement is Medicine,”

Calendar of Classes - 2021

Virtual via Zoom:

5:00 pm–6:00 pm. Gentle Pilates Stretch and Tone

9:30 am–10:30 am. Body & Soul Fitness® Cardio Strength

6:30 pm–7:30 pm AbbyStrong Fusion

10:30am–11:30am. Golden Girls
5:00pm–6:00pm. Gentle Pilates Stretch and Tone

Please contact us to register for classes. Classes are virtual, in studio is by reservation. 

Join Zoom Meeting: **  ** Meeting ID: 755 787 2713

Contact Abby for password

For more information and class fees, please contact us!

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