Rocky Gorge Wellness Summer 2021 Newsletter

Welcome to our late summer 2021 edition. These days we’re thinking about keeping ourselves conditioned for the additional physical activity that summer throws our way, as well as feeding our bodies with nutritious, revitalizing refreshments that feed and heal.


Stretching: From Hip to Knee 

For most of us, summer means more walking…and running and squatting and bending and twisting and climbing and swimming and gardening. That’s why we’re introducing three stretches that will strengthen you from hip to knee and keep you conditioned throughout the year. In addition to stretching, a regular walking regimen is excellent for conditioning these three areas: quads, hamstrings, and hip flexors.



Our quadriceps femoris (or quadriceps extensor) is a large group of four muscles that extends from the knee to the hip, conveniently located on the front of our thighs for optimal walking, running, and dancing. They’re essential to our mobility, important for supporting our pelvic floor and knees, for crouching or squatting for many tasks, and for standing and sitting properly. Strong quads keep knee and hip pain at bay and improve our reflexes when we’re in motion.  


Position #1: Lying

On an exercise mat or padded carpet, lie on your side with your head resting on your outstretched arm. Your upper leg is stacked over the bottom leg for base of support. Slowly bend the top knee, grasping the top of your foot near your ankle. Pull gently towards your hip and hold for 5-10 seconds. Repeat the stretch 2-3 times and then do the same with the other leg.


Position #2: Standing

Stand at a barre, counter, or chair back. spine should be straight and not tipped forward. Bend your other leg at the knee and grasp your ankle near the top of your foot, with your foot angled upwards. Gently press the leg away from your body. Your standing leg should be soft, not locked at the knee. Hold the stretch initially for no more than 10 seconds. Release and rest for 10 seconds, then repeat 2-3 times. Repeat the stretch with the other leg. Note: we recommend doing this stretch after you have warmed up from a walk or run.



Located on the back of our thighs, between the hip and the knee, our three hamstrings are muscles attached to tendons that flex the knee and help propel movement in the thigh. They can be vulnerable to injury. If overstretched too suddenly or repeatedly, you may experience what’s known as strained, pulled, or in extreme cases torn hamstrings, an injury sometimes experienced by athletes and dancers. Non-athletes can also be susceptible from excessive sitting, which makes hamstrings tight. Injured hamstrings be very painful, so it’s especially wise to keep them toned by practicing protective stretching.


Position #1: Seated

Sit midway or at the edge of the seat of a sturdy chair, with knees shoulder-width apart. Extend one leg, with your ankle flexed, not relaxed. Slowly hinge forward at the hip and slide your hand down your shin. Stretch and hold for 5 seconds, then repeat 2-3 times. Each time you repeat the stretch, you should be able to reach further down your shin. Then repeat the stretch with your other leg.


Position #2: Lying

Lie supine (on your back). With knees bent, bring one leg towards the ceiling, supporting your hamstring or knee with your hand. Hold 5-10 seconds, then bend your knee as your foot returns to the floor. Repeat 2-3 times for each leg.


Hip Flexors

The hip flexors are a group of muscles, one of which is part of our quad group. Hip flexors are engaged all day long, whether you are mobilized in a variety of ways, or sitting, standing, and even getting out of bed. They are part of the pelvic psoas unit that involves extension of the hip. Hip flexors become particularly tight as the result of prolonged sitting or in athletic activities that include repetitive use of the hip extensors such as running, tennis, and even bowling!


Position #1: Standing Kickstand 

Stand at a barre, counter, or chair back, with feet shoulder-width apart. Your standing leg should be soft, not locked at the knee. Slowly slide one leg backwards, with your toes pointing towards the floor. Hold for 5-10 seconds, return to original position, and repeat 2-3 times. Repeat with the other leg.


Position #2: Floor Stretch

On an exercise mat or padded carpet, lie on your side as in quad stretch position #1. Extend the upper leg backwards, not bent at the knee, and hold for 10 seconds. Repeat 2-3 times, and then stretch the opposite leg.


Summer Essences: Resilient Mints

Summer gives us the perfect opportunity to partake of fresh herbs. This summer we’re setting our sights on plants from the mint family (Lamiaceae). While the five fragrant varieties we’re covering are also valued in dried form, let’s enjoy them now while they’re fresh. When you eat fresh herbs, you benefit from live enzymes as with in any raw plant. It’s easy to add these zippy fresh herbs to your meals.


If you keep a garden, even in containers, four of these five easy-to-maintain plants – mint, oregano, sage, and thyme – are perennials that will return each spring. (Note that container-grown plants might need protection in the cold months, so the roots don’t freeze.) These mints owe their intense scents and flavors to compounds that defend plants from pests and disease. We benefit from their resilience by enjoying their nutritional and therapeutic properties. We won’t concentrate on all of the different varieties of each of these plants. But if you’d like to grow them, check your local nursery or even your supermarket. Even if you’re purchasing fresh-cut herbs from the grocer, our little guide will help you decide what you’d like to use for additions to healthy, delicious dishes and beverages.



In our March 2021 newsletter, we focused on basil, so here’s a little encore. As an extraordinary flavor, basil imparts layers of warm spiciness. Therapeutically, basil has been used to treat fevers, coughs, and congestion; to soothe irritated mucus membranes and provide kidney support; to reduce agitation and enhance mental concentration and memory retention. It’s suspected to be a free radical scavenger, protecting genetic material from radiation damage. More familiarly, it’s used to flavor innumerable dishes and is used as a tea or in supplements. Many of us make sure we have fresh basil to add to Italian dishes. What’s more heavenly in summer than a fresh batch of garlicky basil pesto added to pasta and dressings? Keep a couple of pots growing on your patio, porch, or windowsill during these warm months. As the weather turns cold, you can harvest and dry the rest of them for future meals. 



Most of us probably knew mint’s cooling, mentholated qualities long before we actually tasted fresh mint. We’ve experienced mint flavor in candies and chewing gum, oral care products; its fragrance in topical products such as shampoo and body lotion; in medications for colds and coughs; and as curiously strong breath mints (Altoid™, anyone?). Mint is used to make products more palatable. Maybe too palatable when folks knock back more mojitos or mint juleps than are good for them!

The menthol in mint is a vasodilator, meaning that it opens up and relaxes blood vessels and bronchial tissues, bringing new energy. That’s why it’s great for chest rubs, cough syrups, nasal sprays, and other therapeutic products. Think about how that first bite of a peppermint candy cane starts to clear out your sinuses and you’ll know what we mean!

Mint is a stimulant that keeps nausea, vomiting, and indigestion in check. Ironically, it is a relaxant as well. Mint tea after a heavy meal calms us while also stimulating digestion. In concentrated forms, mint’s intense aroma is also effective in repelling pests, from insects to mice.

Many kinds of mints can be grown. Wild varieties can be foraged near the moist habitats that they favor. Fresh mint is often found at grocery stores year-round. Too often discarded as a garnish, it can be mixed into fruit salads, infused into teas, added to smoothies, dressings, cold cucumber soup, salads, and baked desserts.



Mama Mia! Oregano is celebrated in many cultures for its intense, pungent flavor, especially in Mediterranean cuisines. A popular flavoring and condiment, it’s ubiquitous in Greek and Italian fare and present in many spice blends worldwide, from Asia to Mexico. Oregano complements and brightens many dishes, especially those including olive oil and lemon. A little garlic and oregano go a long way to deepening the flavor and nutritional richness of grilled or roasted vegetables. And millions will argue that it’s a must-have on pizza.

Oregano’s therapeutic actions protect our cells, as it is “anti” all the bad guys: antibacterial, antifungal, antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant, with antiseptic influences on the respiratory system.

We have oregano planted 20 years ago that keeps on giving. A hearty plant that prefers a home in the ground or a raised bed, a summer companion of potted oregano will bless your meals with handy pinches of flavor.


Sage (Salvia)

The word sage is synonymous with wisdom, and we like to believe that including this marvelous, mysterious herb is a wise choice. Salvia derives from the Latin “salve,” which means “stay healthy.” Sage is applied medicinally for antimicrobial and antiseptic uses, as a digestive for suppressing gastric distress, and for bronchial health. It helps alleviate the effects of food poisoning. It’s used as a mouth rinse for sore throats, laryngitis, and gum infections. Sage tea helps calm down agitation from fever and suppresses the discomforts from sweating.

Sage leaves have a slightly fuzzy texture that holds onto its resins even when dried. We add sage’s pungent, earthy flavor to egg and poultry dishes, and it’s a must for turkey stuffing! Slip a few fresh or dried leaves with slivers of fresh garlic under the skin of a chicken before roasting, and the flavor permeates the whole dish. Fry a dozen fresh leaves in butter or oil until they’re slightly crispy, then add to eggs for a mouth-popping thrill or as a topping for a variety of dishes, especially cheese. There’s so much aroma in the leaves that you can barely tell whether fresh or dried leaves are flavoring a dish.



Tiny little leaves = big flavor! The word “thymus” means strength and courage. In midsummer, you might pass by lawns tinged with a purplish blush. Those are the blooms of wild or cultivated thymes that have naturalized. They’re tiny but tough. A mowing might cut them down, but they rebound quickly, and the mowing experiencing is seriously aromatic. Thyme is related to oregano, so it also contains phenols that protect the plants from harmful pests and disease. Like oregano, thyme is antibacterial, antifungal, antispasmodic, and high in antioxidants. This resistance makes it a valuable herb in preserving and protecting foods from spoilage. Thyme has long been used to protect respiratory health and defend against lung ailments. Like sage, it supports oral health. As a flavoring, it’s a delightful additive to savory quick breads, rice dishes, herbal compound butters, meat rubs, poultry dishes, and much more. If you’re using fresh thyme and it’s begun to flower, more’s the better! Sprinkle some on your Caprese Salad!


Caprese Salad

  • 8 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced in quarter-inch slabs
  • One large or two medium ripe tomatoes, sliced
  • Basil leaves, two to four per slice
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Balsamic vinegar

Lay the slabs of mozzarella on a platter. Top with the tomato slices, and then top each slab with basil leaves. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar to taste. Do not allow the tomatoes to chill. Serve at room temperature.



Lay the caprese stack on a bed of fresh arugula.

Add any of the following toppings: thinly sliced red onion, pine nuts (pignoli), fresh pesto, thyme and/or oregano blossoms, fresh mint leaves.


Mint Iced Tea

For the coolest iced tea ever, take one bunch of fresh mint and strip the leaves from the stems (the tender tops can be left intact). For an extra refreshing summer kick, you can add some fresh lemon balm (also in the mint family!) to the infusion.

Place the herbs in a heatproof 2-quart glass jar or a large teapot. Pour boiling water over the herbs and let it infuse for one to two hours.

Strain and store in a glass container in the fridge.

Serve over ice with a slice of lemon if desired. Delicious mixed half-and-half with lemonade!


Minty Bug Spray

With tick-borne diseases on the rise, even in urban areas, and with the general crew of mosquitos, gnats, and flies, it’s wise to have on hand something protective but free of harsh chemical poisons to apply before you venture outdoors. This do-it-yourself spray recruits the powerful phenols and other compounds of some mints by using their concentrated forms – essential oils – and combining with other plant oils to make you smell nice but not so pleasant to insects. Although the oils can be pricy, they will last for years and can be used for other purposes.


You will need:

  • One 4-ounce plastic or glass spray bottle
  • Distilled water or witch hazel
  • Vegetable glycerin
  • Essential oils of the following: Peppermint or spearmint, thyme, basil, rosemary and lavender (two more mints!), eucalyptus

Optional: Geranium and/or lemon grass oil; tincture of yarrow, which boosts tick repellent properties 

Pour 3 ounces of water or witch hazel into the bottle. Add ½ teaspoon of glycerin, which will help the solution stick better to your skin. Add 5 drops each of the oils and a tablespoon of the yarrow tincture, if using. Make sure you label your bottle and keep out of reach of children and pets.

Shake the bottle well before using and apply to the skin, under necklines, sleeves, and pants cuffs, and even on your clothing, socks, and headgear. If you’re out for more than two hours, a second refresher should be applied.


Take Care!

As we wrap up summer and keep aware of COVID variants that circulate in our communities, at Rocky Gorge Wellness we continue due diligence. Stay safe, strong, and positive. Safety protocols remain our priority as we uphold our high standards of safety to ensure a satisfying, healthy exercise environment.