Movement is Medicine ™
Welcome to our November newsletter! This month we’re putting our gardens to rest, adjusting to cooler weather, preparing for days of gratitude, and making plans to stay active despite spending less time outdoors. We are grateful for our clients and readers and praise your efforts to maintain your health and wellbeing.
Pumpkin’ It Up
Ah, pumpkins! It’s pretty obvious why pumpkin is our focus in November, when we simmer squash soups and serve pumpkin pies at Thanksgiving.
Pumpkins (Cucurbita pepo), of which there are many varieties, originated in Northeastern Mexico and the American Southwest and have been cultivated for at least 7,000 years. Its thick skin makes it a winter squash, which stores well and remains fresh long after its vines have withered from the cold.
As a squash, pumpkin can be included in the “Three Sisters” trilogy of plants sacred to native farmers and their ancestors: corn, squash, and beans. Pumpkins are beloved for the delicious flavor of their flesh, the versatility of preparation and preservation, their abundance of protein-rich, oil-rich seeds, their edible flowers, and their durability.
We might be fond of pumpkin for instinctive reasons. While we appreciate their vibrant color and flavor, our bodies also appreciate that those orange carotenoids – provitamin A compounds – are converted to Vitamin A. They contain Vitamins C, E, and riboflavin, essential fatty acids, and several minerals. The flesh is high in fiber. A cup of raw pumpkin racks up just 30 calories and eight grams of carbs. As mentioned before, the seeds (pepitas) are packed with protein and oils. And traditional native medicinal practitioners valued pumpkin to alleviate urinary conditions and intestinal parasites.
We’re crazy about pumpkin’ it up, but remember that if fresh pumpkin isn’t available, many of its remarkable nutritional properties can be found in other winter squashes, such as acorn and butternut squashes.
Pumpkin’ Up Your Meals
Pumpkin is an ingredient in dozens of cuisines worldwide, finding its delicious way into both savory and sweet preparations. We’ll list some ways you can play with pumpkin – see below.
Helpful Pumpkin Hack
But first: Here’s a method for pre-cooking fresh pumpkin by roasting it in your oven or on your gas grill.
You will need a sugar pumpkin, grown for cooking. You can also substitute butternut squash or other orange-fleshed winter squash. Slash the squash in multiple places with a sharp knife. Not too deeply, just enough to perforate on all sides of the squash.
If using an oven, preheat to 350 degrees F. Place the squash on a cookie sheet covered with foil to catch the drips. If using a grill, preheat on high, and then lower to about 350 degrees F and then cover the grill.
Roast the squash, turning over about every 10 minutes, for about 30 minutes. Poke the squash with a knife to test for tenderness. After it’s cool, cut in half and scoop out and discard the seeds. You can puree or chop up the softened squash to use in a variety of dishes.
Delicious Ways to Use Fresh Pumpkin
Cookies, Cupcakes and Pies – Oh my! We hope you enjoy your sensible portions of pumpkin desserts on Thanksgiving.
Quick Breads – Pumpkin breads and muffins
Pancakes – Add some puree for a colorful, nutritious breakfast, topped with a spiced cider syrup.
Soups – After cooking with sauteed onions, ginger, and your favorite spices, puree in a food processor or with an immersion blender. Season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Serve with spicy roasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds). Or add a dollop of sour cream or plain yogurt.
Curried – Make a vegetable curry with pumpkin chunks, adding chicken or shrimp or, of course, turkey.
Roasted – Instead of precooking the squash, slice raw squash, coat with vegetable oil, coarse salt, and fresh garlic (optional). Roast slowly at 335 degrees F for about 30 minutes, turning occasionally.
Beverages – If all of this prep work is too much…go for a healthy pumpkin-spice smoothie!
Note: Although fresh pumpkin is preferable, if unavailable, you can use unsweetened canned pumpkin, too.
Here’s a recipe for a creamy, protein-rich beverage.
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1/3 cup plain yogurt
1/3 cup milk
2 teaspoons honey, agave syrup, maple syrup, or sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon, a pinch of nutmeg. For an anti-inflammatory kick, add one teaspoon of fresh grated ginger or a pinch of ground ginger.
Optional: Add one ripe banana and/or 2 tablespoons of peanut butter or sunflower seed butter
Your dairy products can be whole-milk, low-fat, or fat-free, or you can substitute with a plant-based milk. If you prefer a really cold smoothie, partially freeze the pumpkin puree before blending or add a few ice cubes.
Whirr in the blender and enjoy!
Turkey Talk Time
Before you gobble up your next serving, here are some facts about the versatility and nutritional benefits of turkey.
Before they were domesticated, wild turkeys were a valued game source in North America, where several subspecies originate.
Turkey meat is high in protein and low in fat and cholesterol compared to beef and pork. As such, it has become popular all year as an affordable, versatile ingredient in many dishes, from cutlets to meatballs, from chili to burgers, and of course, those beloved post-Thanksgiving turkey sandwiches. We recommend fresh roasted white meat, rather than deli meat, which is typically high in salt and additives. The other day, we made turkey breast stroganoff, which we prefer over the beef version. In addition to complete protein and only 100 calories per three ounces, turkey meat contains omega-3 fatty acids, zinc, iron, phosphorus, potassium, and B vitamins.
Turkey gets a bad rap for its tryptophan content, blamed for the grogginess that follows that grand meal. According to James MacDonald (JSTOR, 2015), “turkey does not have significantly more tryptophan than other meats. While tryptophan does induce drowsiness, it does not typically have that effect when consumed as part of a meal.” Instead, the culprit is insulin, which “is produced to help moderate blood sugar” and which spikes after a meal. “The larger the meal, and the more carbohydrates and proteins it contains, the higher the blood sugar spikes.” So that sleepy holiday coma is large due to “carb crash” after all those mashed potatoes, stuffing, yams, and pies!
Happy Feet: Time to Stretch!
We’ve been sharing stretching routines all year, working our way down from neck and shoulders to hips and back. It’s time to get to the lower extremities as we prepare to stride into a new season and a new year.
Fun Facts About Feet
- One fourth of all of our bones are located in our feet, 26 bones per foot!
- You may not love being tickled, but lowered sensitivity could signal nerve damage (peripheral neuropathy). The feet are good messengers in your neural network.
- The foot’s 33 joints and over a hundred muscles, tendons, and ligaments are crucial for bearing weight and maintaining balance and stability when we walk, run, climb, and dance.
- The flexor and extensor muscles in our feet work in harmony with structural and nerve tissue, playing a large role in balance and movement.
- The Achilles tendon stores the elastic energy needed for activities.
- The arches support shock absorption by reducing the amount of energy moving up your legs and hips. Choose footwear and inserts that improve arch support to benefit back and hip health.
- Speaking of footwear, we have been protecting our feet with shoes for thousands of years, helping us adapt to harsher regions and expanding our movement about the planet. We could say that in part, we owe who and where we are now…to our feet!
Therapeutic Selfcare and Stretches for Ankles and Feet
Conditions that affect foot health include plantar fasciitis, Achilles’ tendonitis, ankle sprains/strains, cracked skin, as well as bunions and hammertoes. Fortunately, many treatments are on hand to correct and care for these conditions, but in general we want to reduce inflammation and ease discomfort by soaking the feet in a warm Epsom salt bath.
Try massaging your feet for a few minutes before going to bed, gently stretching the muscles, tugging your toes, and flexing your ankles. Use a favorite lotion or therapeutic oil, especially one containing arnica, to reduce pain, restore blood supply, and retain moisture, and soften the skin.
Before you put on your socks, apply a moisturizer to minimize painful cracks, especially on the heels.
Time to Stretch!
This stretch is essential for maintaining good circulation in the lower extremities. Lie on a bed or exercise mat. Flex the ankles, stretching your toes upwards towards your knees. Relax, then point the toes downward. Flex and point each foot individually ten times each. Repeat two more times. This exercise can also be performed in a seated position with the legs extended.
Ankle or Toe Circles
Wiggling your toes is helpful for loosening stiffness in metatarsal joints. Try to spread your toes apart. Before you do toe circles, gently tug your toes to stretch the spaces in the metatarsal joints. Lying on your back, rotate your foot at your ankle, first clockwise, then counterclockwise. Do three sets of five reps. Try wiggling your toes in any position (imagine playing a piano with your toes!) periodically throughout the day.
Heel raises are great for stretching the arches, strengthening the ankles, and increasing circulation in the calves. Standing while holding onto a chair or a counter, feet shoulder width apart, lift heels while balancing on the balls of your feet. Do three sets of five reps.
Arch raises help with fallen arches and flat feet. Stand barefooted, feet shoulder-width apart. Engage your muscles to lift the arch off the floor by rolling the outer edges of your foot, lifting your arches as far as is comfortable. Keep your toes in contact with the floor. Do three sets of five reps.
As we all enter into the holiday season, we at Rocky Gorge Wellness-Medifit Inc. are so grateful for all who have continued to attend classes and private sessions throughout another challenging pandemic year. Again, we encourage you to maintain caution as we celebrate with friends and family, staying healthy by supporting immunity with good nutrition and consistent exercise.
Finally, a big shout-out to my beautiful, patient big sister Amy Metnick, Managing Editor and Content Developer of these newsletters!
Dear Resilient Clients,
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,”
These sessions are offered both in-studio and virtually via Zoom. Please contact Abby to register for classes.