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Exercise advice, tips and workouts

Over the big pond on a small island called Britain, there’s a city in England called Sheffield. On Sunday 15th June 2014, this city will play host to the first ever American Sports Day in celebration of international Green Gym Day.

As the happiest city in England and the greenest city in Europe with over 2 million trees and 83 parks of all shapes and sizes, Sheffield is the perfect location to promote the Green Gym Day movement with an event to draw attention from around the world.

The American Sports Day falls a week after Green Gym Day but will strongly emphasise the importance of getting the community together to enjoy the beautiful outdoor space that the city has to offer and the need for people to be active in nature.


“Sports teams and families from across the city will congregate in a celebration of community and local parks. These sports teams won’t be the more popular and well-known Football, Rugby or Cricket clubs– the typically British sports, but will showcase associated ‘American’ sports including American Football, Baseball and Lacrosse. The first sports day of its kind in the city, if not the country. Very few inhabitants of Sheffield will have ever watched these sports, let alone tried them,” says Kate Hill, Founder of FunMeFit, community organiser and Sheffield mother of two.

It seems that American Sports are becoming increasingly popular in the UK, particularly in the universities. Sheffield’s own American Football Club – Sheffield Predators alongside one of the first academies, Leeds Academy of American Football will be coming along to support the day and run sessions for people of all ages who want to give the sport a go. The local baseball and lacrosse teams will also be in attendance to showcase their sport and encourage visitors to ‘give-it-a-go.’

“Stannington Park in the semi-rural suburb of Stannington, Sheffield is not well-known for its events aside from the annual Stannington Carnival so this sports day should really shake things up for the community and for the city alike,” adds Kate.

“Outdoor fun and exercise is not so common here in the UK. We are often consumed by the comforts of the gym instead of being out, connecting with nature and the people within our community. It’ll be great to see who gets involved and who goes forward to enjoy a more active lifestyle with a non-mainstream sport.”

The community American Sports Day is also being held to raise money for the local charity, Jack and Jill Pre-School in Stannington. It is hoped that with the funds, new sports equipment can be purchased for the children at the nursery to use.

For more information about the event, go to Green Gym Day’s Facebook Page: www.facebook.com/GreenGymDay or find the event on FunMeFit: www.funmefit.com/groups/stannington-american-sports-day-2014/

Contact Kate Hill: info@funmefit.com for more information. www.funmefit.com

Green Gym Day Is Almost Here!
The second annual Green Gym Day is only 2 weeks away!
Green Gym Day Is a Day for Everyone to Get Outside and Play.

Green Gym Day takes place every year on the second Sunday of June. This year, Green Gym Day will be on June 8, 2014.

Green Gym Day 2014

Join the Green Gym Day Movement!


The idea behind the day is to invite people all over the world to think about what they can do in their local park or other outdoor space.
You can do your own thing or join a local activity already organized by your Parks Department or other organization. For example, Meet Up has many many outdoor activities
Let us and other know what you’ll be doing by registering on our Green Gym Day web page: www.greengymday.org

And, if you are active on social media, also list your activity on our Facebook page:www.facebook.com/greengymday

And twitter feed: www.twitter.com/greengymday

Take pictures and short videos of your activity and them to us so we can include you in this year’s video. Here’s last year’s video:

Yay! It's Green Gym Day!

Yay! It’s Green Gym Day!

This year in New York City, Nancy Bruning will be leading a group as they Hike any or all of the Giraffe Path–5 parks, 5 miles, 5 million gorgeous views.
For more NYC activities, email us at info@greengymday.org or check our Facebook page.

What WE will be doing: Hike along the Giraffe Path
Here’s the schedule for this exciting free event:

9:00 AM – Meet at Jackie Robinson Park; 145th Street & Edgecomb Ave.
Stretch/warm up.

10:30 AM – Highbridge Park; 174th St. & Amsterdam Ave.
Stretch / dance break.

11:30 AM – Swindler Cove; Dyckman St. & 10th Ave.
Stretch / dance break.

12:00 – RING Garden; Dyckman St. & Broadway
Look at the fishies!

12:30 PM – Fort Tryon Park, Cloisters & Heather Garden.
Stretch cool down; BYO picnic lunch or get a bite to eat at New Leaf Café.

Bring water & snacks; dress comfortably.
There will be stairs to climb, as well as hills. That’s why the views are so spectacular!

Who is Green Gym Day for?
Regular people! Families, individuals, couples, groups of friends and co-workers. Individuals who want to get out and have some physical fun solo or as part of a family, or community or work group. Athletes are welcome to inspire us all! Our champions, partners, and supporters include organizations interested in supporting people’s health by helping them become more active while having lots of fun outdoors and businesses with a mission to contribute to their communities and to improve health.

Why do we need a Green Gym Day?
All over the world, people are getting too little activity and spending too much time indoors. Who says you need a fancy gym to be fit? The answer is “right in our own backyards!” Parks offer many fun opportunities to be physically active while providing the extra health benefits of being outdoors in nature. Green Gym Day is all about the idea that parks are great places to move our bodies in ways that are not necessarily “exercise”—from walking to playing catch—in our own “green gyms.” It is a simple, understandable, do-able first step and is part of the larger and growing movement to help people of all ages and abilities to be more active and to get outdoors.

How does Green Gym Day work?
Whether you’re an individual, a parent, a group, a business, or a nonprofit organization–you’re invited! June 8th is your day to get out of whatever box you’re in and get outdoors. Take advantage of the freedom and opportunity to spend time moving your body around in a park. Invite others and be part of the movement to get parks on more people’s radar as a place to take a walk, play a game of catch, take part in a class, or join a team sport.

How you celebrate Green Gym Day is up to you.

How you celebrate Green Gym Day is up to you.

You can interpret the Green Gym Day as you wish.
• If you’re in NYC, you can join Nancy Bruning as she hikes the 5 northern Manhattan Parks (more information on the website and Facebook Page).
• Or use the idea and hike from one park to another in your own community.
• You can use the opportunity to enjoy activities that exist and are ongoing in your park. Have you always wanted to play volleyball or ping pong? Now’s your chance!
• You’ll find plenty of park games (both American and British) on our website’s “How to Participate” page
• Or you can organize an activity especially developed for the day–a local 5k run, maybe?

Happy Green Gym Day! Join the Movement! Make every day a Green Gym Day!

"Everyone likes a walk in the park."

“Everyone likes a walk in the park.”

About two weeks ago, I was delighted to get a phone call from Brian McMahon, a student at City University of New York’s Baruch College. Would I be willing to have my Fort Tryon Park class videotaped for his school project? Of course, I replied–this will be the third student film of the class! The two other shorts were filmed by Columbia University students, whose school is in the neighborhood.

Fitness begins with a walk in the park, snow or shine.

Fitness begins with a walk in the park, snow or shine.

After getting the necessary permissions, Brian came our class on a grey but brisk Saturday morning. He unobtrusively followed us through the park, carrying his own tripod and camera.

I think he managed to capture the essence of Nancercize in his interviews, footage, and commentary. He called me “charismatic”!
See if you agree. Click here to see it.

Winter warm up in Fort Tryon Park.

Winter warm up in Fort Tryon Park.

(All photos in this post are from the video.)

The Partnership for A Healthier New York City selected my program as one of its group of Neighborhood organizations to receive funding through the Community Transformation Grant. This grant, called CTG for short, was received by the Department of Health and Mental Services from the CDC. Nancercize is collaborating the Friends of Morningside Park; Brad Taylor, the group’s president, is a fan of Nancercize and has ben taking my classes for several months. He’s also become rather fond of bicycling and has been to the class all winter! Our map maker and graphic designer, Kaja Kuhl, is an urban designer and principal of youarethecity. Kaja and I are also working together on a parks map for Hike the Heights, another project involving the amazing escarpment parks of Northern Manhattan. Kaja runs and loves basketball!

Walthrough Morningside Park

Walkthrough Morningside Park

Here’s a photo of the three of us and parks staff, after a chilly walk through of the park to get the lay of the land for the mapping.
Stay tuned for more news about our Fitness Mapping and Exercise Signs Project.

The grant specifically mandates a focus on reducing the onset of chronic disease, and has four domains: Tobacco-free Living, Healthy Eating, Active Living and reduction of underage and excessive Alcohol use. Most chronic diseases are acquired due to the choices we make in these four domains.

My sketches for possible routes

My sketches for possible routes


And here’s my first sketch of what we are thinking of doing. A Serenity Stroll, with relaxing stretches; A Power Path, with strengthening exercises; and An Energy Circuit, full of aerobic activity to strengthen your cardio system and give you energy. Just wait until you see Kaja’s transformation of my funky little sketches into elegant, sophisticated graphics.

Valentine’s Day or everyday, you might have candy on your mind. But there are all kinds of candy.

Who says exercising is a chore and a bore? It's a sweet treat!

Who says exercising is a chore and a bore? It’s a sweet treat!


Exercise and moving around in general is good for us, we know. In fact, it’s so effective at preventing and managing illness, there’s a group called “Exercise as Medicine.”

Their hearts are in the right place.

But I wonder if this idea really attracts us to exercise?

In my world, exercise makes us feel so good, it’s as much of a pleasure and reward as candy. And, it’s a gift to yourself that goes on giving, even after you’re done.

So, that’s my Valentine’s Day gift to you. The idea of exercise as a treat–as something you GET to do as a welcome change from the sitting, sitting, sitting of modern life, as opposed to something you SHOULD do to stay healthy.

It’s not too late to gift someone the sweet little book, “Nancercize: 101 Things to Do on a Park Bench.” Isn’t the cover romantic?

And check out my new video, “Nancercize is Like Candy”.

Nancercize is like candy.

Find out how Nancercize is like candy.

“I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.” Martin Luther King

Which emotion do you most equate with physical activity—love or hate? Think about it.

As I write this, it’s Martin Luther King Day, and although we don’t automatically think of him when we think of fitness, I find his wonderful quote quite inspiring in every aspect of life, including fitness.

I LOVE to ramble around outdoors with my friends.

I LOVE to ramble around outdoors with my friends.


Let me explain.

So many people say they hate to exercise. Or they do it because they hate the way their bodies look when they slack off, or they hate the thought of dying of a heart attack. And so either they don’t do it or they grit their teeth and do it anyway, wishing the whole time they were somewhere else, doing something else.

I’ve always been of the mind that if you do something to be “healthy” even though you hate doing it—hate Brussels sprouts, hate the treadmill—how could that possibly contribute to your overall well-being? Doesn’t that just add to health-blasting stress? Same thing for doing something you hate just because you hate the idea of being stricken with bad health.

Although I’ve seen a study that shows that people can benefit from exercise even if they hate it… my thoughts are: why not find something you LOVE TO DO? We’re boxed into the idea that exercise has to be sweating and grunting in a gym, or endless hours on a treadmill to nowhere, staring at a TV screen giving us the bad news of the day. And why not do it out of LOVE FOR YOURSELF and the more vibrant, generous, kind, productive human being that you are when you’re active?

I think she's LOVING this!

I think she’s LOVING this! How much are you loving your physical activity?


And let’s re-define fitness and exercise. If you’re the perfectionistic, highly competitive type, fine, I get it. But most of us just want to be fit enough to get on with our lives and be able to do the things we want to do. Fit enough so our bodies don’t hold us back, but push us forward. And we don’t want to waste time doing something that makes us feel crappy while doing it.

During one of my weight loss group meetings, a member came up with a brilliant solution… She was in the habit of saying to herself, “Ok, now I HAVE TO go to the gym, or HAVE TO take my yoga class. One day, she just flipped it around and said to herself, ”Oh boy, now I GET TO go to the gym, or I GET TO go to my yoga class.” Actually, she made an even bigger change—she stopped going to the gym, and opted for going for regular brisk walks in her local park.

An activity that she LOVES! and that gets the fitness job done well enough.

So, how can you flip it and transform any hate of exercise and yourself to love of a fun activity and your amazing mind and body? What will you GET TO DO today?

As for my GET TO DO—today is one of my non-teaching days, so I GET TO go out and take a walk in the park!

"I can't wait to get outside again!"

“I CAN’T WAIT TO GET OUTSIDE AGAIN!”

Since I’m in the frigid, slippery northeast and many of my readers are too, it seems brilliant to do write a blog post about an indoor alternative to my usual outdoor exercise class.

Indoor Workout

You can do this all at once or spread it out throughout the day to help counteract the bad effects of sitting for ours on end. (Your end!) Try getting up every 30 minutes or hour. Do one of these stretches or exercises. Add some stair climbing if you have stairs.

Aim for a total of 20-30 minutes of activity at least. You’ll burn between 200-300 calories, minimize the harmful effects of sitting frozen for hours and hours, and still have a lunch hour to waste on the web.

Start out with this simple warm up; if you’re pressed for time, the warm up by itself is a neat little fitness break.

1. Side Stretch

Then, move into with this delicious side-stretch, resting your hand on a chair, countertop table, or wall. Hold for about three long inhales and exhales. Both sides, now!

2. Yoga Warrior

Then go for this balancing exercise, starting out by steadying yourself on a chair, table, or counter, etc. Eventually, let go and see how long you can hold it on your own. Aim for one minute; then change legs.

3. Pumping Air

Next, work your core muscles and legs with the pilates-based exercise. Keep one or both legs raised at a right angle, and pump your arms up and down for total count of 100. Change legs midway if you’re elevating one leg at a time.

4. Dips

Dips are a classic equipment-free way to strengthen and beautify your upper body.

Dips are a classic equipment-free way to strengthen and beautify your upper body.

Get that upper body happening with simple dips on a chair. Place your hands hip width apart, bend and straighten your elbows. You can have your legs bent, or go for the gusto with legs straight.

Tip: This simple indoor workout is a great way to stay in shape while traveling too!

A meal together.

Holiday food makes us happy, and hopefully not too hippy.

According to the American Council on Exercise, the average American ​takes in 3000 cal​ories​ at the typical Thanksgiving dinner. Some of us ​vacuum up even more… Kind of a disaster when you consider 2000 calories a day is all that most of us need. That’s a lot of turkey trotting to stay in balance and take care of that “energy surplus.”

​No worries… ​keep reading…here’s how to gobble without the wobble.

First of all, holiday foods can actually be quite healthy, if you know what you’re doing. And holiday get-togethers can be a great ​excuse to encourage others to join you in getting in some physical activity together. ​It’s not only fun and a change of pace from sitting, but a new study shows that “a daily bout of exercise should erase or lessen many of the injurious effects, even if you otherwise lounge all day on the couch and load up on pie,” ​a​ccording to the New York Times.

Here’s ​the food plan:
​​
​1. ​Start the meal with soup. Soup fills you up for a tiny amount of calories. Bean soup is especially heart healthy. Pea soup is my personal favorite.

​2. ​Pile on the sweet potatoes. If you emphasize colorful vegetables such as orange sweet potatoes, squash, pumpkin, and yams you get more nutritional punch for the calories.​ Roasting brings out their best.​

​3. ​Make the cranberry sauce fresh. You’ll get more vitamin C and more fiber to boot. To reduce the sugar needed I add chopped apples, oranges, and raisins for natural sweetness.

​4. ​Brussels sprouts are one of my least favorite foods, to tell you the truth. But along with other cruciferous vegetables such as cauliflower and broccoli, they are packed with powerful nutrients.​ Here’s a recipe that even I might like.

​5. ​Apples, apples, apples–in cider, in applesauce, in pies… in your mouth. “An apple a day keeps the doctor away” is based in fact.

​6. ​Why not go meatless? In this day and age ideas abound for turkey instead-ofs. My personal favorite emphasizes portobello mushroom “steaks.”​ The New York Times has started a database of Thanksgiving vegetarian recipes.

​7. ​Ha​ve​ a nice crisp salad of deep dark greens. Kale, as we know, is all the rage. But there are lots of other healthy tasty greens to chop up and toss in the bowl.

Now for the activity​ plan​:
It’s been found that exercise not only burns some excess calories but it also has physiological effects beyond that. By staying active during the over-eating of the holidays you can actually improve your blood sugar control. It can also improve metabolism because exercise affects the way your fat cells express your genes. According to one of the researchers, “Exercise seemed to completely cancel out many of the changes induced by overfeeding and reduced activity.” In other cases it “softened” them so exercise​r​s were still at least better off than the​ ​nonexercisers in the study.

So, ​m​ake the effort to get off the couch and invite people you care about to come along with you. You’ll be doing yourself and others a big favor, and it’s just more fun to be out and about together. Here’s an example of a simple outdoor exercise routine that anyone can do.

​1. ​Warm up. Here’s a warm up video:

​2. ​Do bicycles for stronger, toned abs.

While on your walk, you can bicycle on just about any bench.

While on your walk, you can bicycle on just about any bench.

​3. ​Walk​ briskly.

​4. Stretch for relaxation and flexibility.

Benches and railings are convenient stretching equipment.

Benches and railings are convenient stretching equipment.


​5. ​Walk​ briskly.

​6. Do dips for your upper body.
Dips on a bench.

Dips on a bench… how many can you do?



​7. ​Cool down ​–you can just repeat the warm up!

Ok kids, that’s it–go enjoy yourself, and don’t forget to get outside and play. For more outdoor exercise ideas, click here.

Traveling is no obstacle to feeling energetic and relaxed. I’ve been walking the talk during my travels in Europe this summer. Here’s a quick guide to my strategy–so easy even a child can do it! In fact, every age and fitness level can play along. The basic plan: visit one park each day. Here are 5 tips to help that happen easily.

I’m going to keep it short because I am using a French keyboard and lots of letters are in different places.

Here’s my method for visiting a park a day:

1. Do a bit of research beforehand, either via internet or via a traditional guidebook. I found one on Secret Parks and Gardens in Paris, for example. I read through and found parks that interested me.

2. Do more on the ground research while you are there … I asked my family and friends about their favorite parks. This worked out particularly well in Holland, the first country I visited. But as of this writing, I’ve been in Paris for two days and have been to more than one park both days.

3. Be open to happenstance. While walking to the River Seine on my first day in Paris, I stumbled upon a fascinating neighborhood park in Chinatown that was in no guidebook. I’m proud to be a flaneur.

4. Don’t hesitate to re-visit a park; a park’s character changes from day to day depending on who tends to use it at the time. It might be full of children one day and quiet as a church the next.

5. Be creative! Walking or jogging in a park is always a good thing, but in some of the pqrks I visited I let myself be inspired by the park’s features or history. For example, in a war menorial park, I practiced my warrior pose (#91 in “Nancerize: 101 Things to Do on a Park Bench”) out of respect for the brave soldiers who lost their lives. And of course Tree Pose (#92) happened a lot!

I’ll be posting again with some additional tips, but right now, another Parisian park is calling me … hey, what are your favorite parks?

Watermelon tomato gazpacho

This sweet and savory blend will perk you up and cool you down.  It’s a little taste of heaven on a hot summer day, especially after an outdoor workout.

For this year’s 4th of July roof party, my friend Amala and I co-created a watermelon and tomato salad that was to die for! The next day I used the same ingredients in a smoothie.  Exquisite!  Try it both ways. You likely won’t need to add any liquid to the smoothie because the ingredients are so rich in water. But, if you find your blender gets stuck, add a few tablespoons of cocoanut water. It’s especially soothing & cooling after an outdoor workout.

To make approximately 4 servings:

• 1 cup cut up watermelon, with juice

• 2 plum tomatoes, seeded and chunked

• 1/2 peeled cucumber, chunked (or jicama for the salad version)

• 1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar

• 2 leaves each fresh mint and basil

• 1 tsp. coconut oil

• salt & pepper

For the adventurous: Add a drop or two of a hot sauce.

Watermelon Tomato Salad

Here’s the salad version, with watermelon, tomatoes, and jicama. Hot sauce adds zip. Isn’t that watermelon basket handle something, thanks to Amala Lane, sculptress!?

Watermelon smoothies are a great way to quench your thirst and restore much-needed water and electrolytes to beat summer temperatures.

Nutrition: Melons are the great source of anti-oxidants. Paramount is beta-carotene, (precursor to vitamin-A) essential for vision and immunity, and for maintaining healthy mucus membranes and skin. Consuming fruits rich in berta-carotene may help protect you from certain cancers.

Did you know? Watermelon originated in southern Africa.

Watermelon and tomatoes are also rich in anti-oxidant flavonoids lutein, zeaxanthin and cryptoxanthin, offering protection against colon, prostate, breast, endometrial, lung, and pancreatic cancers. Watermelon is an excellent source of carotenoid pigment, lycopene, as is raw red tomato. Also a good source of potassium; vitamin-B6 (pyridoxine), thiamin (vitamin B-1), vitamin-C, and manganese.
Bottoms up!

What’s your favorite cooling smoothie? Let us know!