1st Boomin Body of 2016!

IUnknownt’s fitting that Wendy is our first Boomin Body of the year! If each of us has a positive attitude like hers at the beginning of each year, each month, each day,… good things will happen! I am always happy when Wendy walks in. She has been coming for about 4 years, always bubbly and cheerful. She brings great energy to Zumba, Strong and Yoga classes, and I love it! Thank you Wendy for making classes even more fun and for sharing your thoughts and words with us:

“ZUMBA!  Zumba is such a beautiful combination of art and exercise, dance moves partnering with aerobic steps.  And the music!  What a delightful bonus!!” 

I had enjoyed step aerobics in the past; but, much to my dismay,  my knees complained after half a year.  For the longest time, elliptical trainers were my best choice until I tried Zumba 3 years ago.  I must say that enjoying the workout is key to sustaining a regular exercise regimen.  Zumba truly fits the bill!!

“I believe in taking care of the body, mind, and spirit in order for a person to be utterly healthy.”

My profession as a physician convinces me that addressing all these aspects is integral to health and happiness.  Besides the tangible physical benefits, regular exercise can have an effect on the channels that produce neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine and possibly others, thereby improving cognition and sense of well-being.  One can even extrapolate that to stress management,  THAT we all can benefit from as I’m sure that you, like most of us, have a full plate.

WIMG_5549ork, family, and church life fill my days.  I got my husband into day hikes; then later, we got our kids to do the same.  Hiking up Shirley Canyon Trail at Squaw in Lake Tahoe has been a birthday tradition for my teenage daughter for the past 7 years.  My son enjoys, yes, the nature!  We appreciate the beauty of our national parks and the opportunities they provide us to reconnect within ourselves, with others, and with the nature.  National Park Service is an organization worthy of our support: http://www.nps.gov/getinvolved/donate.htm

“Classical music is another love of mine.  I know, it’s old fashioned.  But it is beautiful!  KDFC is on my car radio’s preset button.”  



Now, don’t get me started on my passion… cooking!  Given time constraints, I only do simple (not multi-step) and hopefully healthy
dishes, something that is a delight to the sight, smell and taste.  “What a blessing that I get to work on my hobbies everyday!”

IMG_6024Now, I must mention here that I have an identical twin, I mean, identical!  She taught at Los Altos High School for 10 years before she got married and moved to Colorado.  Her former students still mistake me for her nowadays.  If you wave at me or say hi to me only to see a blank expression on my face, please allow my sister to introduce herself.

 “Here’s to ZUMBA!”

Have you ever been so afraid or nervous that you fainted? I have. I’m not proud of it – after all, when it comes to the “Fight or Flight” instinct, I’d like to think I’m a strong fighter or at least fast enough to run to safety. But in this case, I didn’t fight or take flight. I just dropped.
I’d come close to fainting twice before. It’s a bit morbid (fitting for Halloween I suppose), but my first close call was in the cadaver lab in college. I must have thought too much about the man whose soul once occupied the lifeless body in front of me. While thinking about his life and his family, I started sweating and feeling light-headed. Luckily I snapped out of it by reminding myself that I was here to study and learn.
Fast forward a couple years. I was observing a neuro-stimulator being implanted into a patient’s spine. I thought, How can they operate in such a complex and delicate area of the human body? They have to be so precise, because with one slip of the surgeon’s hand… ugh. 🙁 I was making myself paranoid! As nervous thoughts raced through my head, again I felt sweaty and light-headed so I sat down. Thankfully, I held it together and stayed conscious.
But then I found myself in the operating room in a hospital in San Francisco, in the final stages of an interview process to become a medical sales rep. I really wanted this job. The surgery was an ACL reconstruction, which I could personally relate to. Again, I must have become too emotionally involved, partly because of my own experience and trauma. It pushed my brain over the edge. I felt sorry for the patient, and  I noticed the surgeon’s hands seemed shaky and nervous. Does this doctor know what he’s doing? Maybe he’s new and inexperienced? I started feeling hot and short of breath. My vision was quickly going black around the edges. Very quickly, my tunnel of vision shrunk smaller and smaller until there was complete blackness – peacefulness, stillness, quiet – like the best, deepest, most pleasant sleep I’d ever had in my life.
Then, (cue music) like a damsel in distress, I was rescued by a strong, brave, handsome man. He swiftly lifted me up and said
“This woman needs a doctor!”
Oh but wait, I was already with the doctor!?!
Just kidding!
Here’s what really happened: …Within a few moments, my blissful beauty sleep was interrupted by urgent, loud voices:
“Get her to the ER!”
“Check her for a concussion!”
“She’s going to need stitches!”
Reality swept in. I slowly came to and realized I had fainted during this surgery/interview. 🙁 I was mortified. I figured I could kiss this medical sales rep job goodbye. My first words were,
“I’m so sorry, doctor.”
And the man who was standing next to me when I fainted said,

“I’m sorry! I usually catch people before they fall!”

At least I knew I wasn’t the only one.

maxresdefaultTo add to the chaos and my embarrassment, while falling to the floor, I’d clobbered my head against the IV Stand and slashed my forehead open. I was bleeding profusely. It took 3 layers of stitches from a plastic surgeon to repair, so I walked around like Lady Frankenstein for several weeks. No need for a costume. But I was fine, and I was very relieved when the stitches came out and the scar slowly healed into a super fine line. Great work by that plastic surgeon. Now my fainting episode makes for an intriguing, funny, character-building story! And hopefully, great blog material! Please comment if you think so. 😉

To me, the most interesting thing about all of this is how powerful my brain was over my body. It was like an emergency shut-off switch. The information it was gathering from my senses and my emotions correlated to danger. Skipping breakfast that morning – and likely having a low blood sugar level – probably contributed too. My brain resorted to a kind of defense mechanism – granted, fainting was not the most ideal solution. 🙁 Thankfully, it hasn’t happened again since then. For a quick and quirky explanation of this kind of fainting, check out this video.

The brain – and my episode of fainting – is still a big awesome mystery to me. While putting this blog together, I discovered an amazing National Geographic documentary called Brain Games hosted by Jason Silva. I watched several episodes, and I highly recommend it. Here is a quick glimpse of the episode on Fear:

My advice to you, especially in this Halloween season, is
  1. Don’t be afraid! Please don’t ever psyche yourself out and faint, like I did!
  2. Always eat breakfast and take care of your brain – it is your body’s control center.
  3. Only “drop it to the floor” when you’re dancing or doing Zumba to Pitbull! You just might hear that catchy song when you come to an upcoming Boomin Body class! In that case, I say go for it!
Happy Halloween!

IMG_9185Meet Sarah Brown, our Boomin Body of October AND Boomin Body Yoga Instructor. Perhaps you’ve seen her in a Boomin Body Zumba class. You know, the beautiful girl-next-door-looking one with a Zen vibe? The one who often brings her gorgeous blondie children to class? Well, she is also a remarkable yoga instructor and a nurse.  Her first 3 years of being a traveling nurse took her to Virginia, Hawaii, San Diego and New York City which delayed her relationship with Drew, the man of her dreams. They met at a bar on New Year’s Eve shortly before going their separate ways to pursue their career ambitions. But they reconnected in Denver 4 years later, got married and moved to San Diego, where they worked, enjoyed surfing and beach-going and started their family. Lucky for us, Drew is a Bay Area native, and in the Spring of 2014, his job opportunity at Stanford brought them back. After settling their family of 4 in Los Altos, Sarah’s new neighbor Abby brought her to my Zumba class, and she was hooked!

Through her work as a nurse, Sarah has developed a strong sense of compassion for those in ill health, both physical and mental. Nursing has given her an appreciation for her own health. About 10 years ago, her work in the in-patient psychiatric unit was particularly stressful, so she decided to try yoga and quickly discovered its therapeutic benefits – better sleep, feeling more grounded and more physically fit. She became “addicted” to the way she felt by the end of each class. With the dizzying multitude of drugs used today (both prescriptive and recreational), Sarah strongly believes that a holistic approach to human health is best. She says Yoga is her “drug of choice”.

In 2005, while still nursing, Sarah certified as a Yoga instructor so she could share her newfound love and its healing power with others. She teaches her favorite style of Yoga, Vinyasa Flow, which means “breath with movement”. It is a faster paced yoga which trains your breath and your body to rhythmically move through various poses with occasional holds to lengthen and enjoy the position while maintaining a state of grateful self awareness. Sarah says,

“For me, Vinyasa Flow Yoga is the perfect workout.  I feel the cardiovascular benefit, and truly am able to tap into my breath and calm my mind.”

When asked what students get out of her yoga class, she said hopefully, it helps them develop a positive self body image – contentment, confidence and appreciation of their own bodies. In her own words,

“I hope people can simply enjoy moving their bodies in ways that feel good…at the very least, a smile on someone’s face because they were able to laugh, appreciate, get
lost, let go, even for a few breaths. …Yoga is a constant reminder that everyone is built
differently and looks differently. I think there i
s so much beauty in that alone.”

IMG_9456-EditIn addition to her Yoga practice, Sarah stays strong and healthy by regularly running and doing Boomin Body Zumba. She enjoys hiking, camping, kayaking, swimming, and leisurely bike rides. Also, this past year, Sarah participated in Cycle for Survival at Equinox in Palo Alto and the Tahoe Tough Mudder.
“I believe in a healthy diet and a healthy relation to food.”
Sarah eats well as a pescatarian and enjoys trying out new recipes with and for others. She’ll eat any recipe from Heidi Swanson’s Super Natural Every Day cookbook, which she often recommends and gifts to friends and family. She seems to share a green thumb with her husband as they have a plethora of fresh herbs growing in her garden, of which I am quite envious and very thankful that she has been willing to share. 😉
“Besides yoga, what are your favorite ways to meditate and center yourself?”
“It may just sound like housework, but I really enjoy cooking, folding laundry (please don’t tell my family), working in the yard, and finger knitting.  Essentially anything that slows me down and connects me to the earth.”
I’ve become fast friends with Sarah, and I am delighted that she is now leading the most exhilarating Yoga classes for Boomin Body members to enjoy. Sarah is one of the best instructors I’ve ever seen. Her unique background as a psychiatric nurse brings an authenticity to her class. She truly wants to help people. When yIMG_9207ou come to her class, she respects your body and your space and makes you feel comfortable. You can sense her genuine intention to help you learn and strengthen your mind and your body. She helps you get the most out of each yoga class with her calming voice, helpful verbal cues and gentle adjustments or enhancements. I hope
you get to experience one of her upcoming classes for yourself. If you’d like to sign up, just click here.

To be able to Move – it is a celebration!

photo 4 (15)
Greeting her 4-yr-old twin grandchildren

It has been such a joy having Debby Hagenmaier in Zumba and Strong classes for almost 5 years now. She is our boomin body of September! You’d never guess it by the way she moves and dances, but Debby is a Grandma! How many Grandmas do you know that worked at Disneyland? Debby did! When I have grandchildren of my own, I hope to be as vivacious as Debby. She is beautiful, classy, fun and fit! So inspiring!

Debby has a master’s degree in Psychiatric Nursing. She cowrote the curriculum for a stress management course called Heart Matters which she currently teaches for El Camino Hospital and for Palo Alto Medical Foundation (PAMF). Working closely with heart disease patients, Debby recognizes the importance of exercise for the prevention of cardiac and other diseases. But her real motivation for staying fit is that “…I simply feel better—in body and soul—when I can move! My husband says I am nicer to be around on the days I’ve exercised.” 😉 I can’t imagine Debby being not nice, but I can totally relate! You too?

Speaking of Debby’s husband, she has been married for 37 years! Wow! Her advice for a good long marriage (all of us could use it, right?) is to express appreciation for each other in even small ways at least once a day. She and her husband have two remarkable daughters. One was once a lead ballerina for the San Francisco Ballet School and now dances around her Madison, WI home with her 3 children. Debby’s second daughter works as the digital archivist for Georgia Tech in Atlanta. It’s difficult for Debby to be so far away from these women, but I imagine the close relationships she has formed with friends and neighbors, having lived here in Los Altos for 29 years, make it easier.

Debby and her fellow boomin bodies, ready to move at Zumba!

In Debby’s free time, she likes to “..move in one of Shannon’s classes, of course!  I can’t imagine not dancing in some way! …when I hear music—any music– I want to dance!” She also enjoys reading and good conversation. She brings out her creative side while setting a table for small dinner parties. And when inspired, she gets out her watercolors and paints. “Painting can be like dancing for me—I’m in the zone.” 

Debby hiking in Yosemite, 2013

When I asked Debby if she had any personal health stories to share, she said this: “Breast cancer has left its mark on so many in my family—my mother, my uncle, my older sister. So when my younger sister and I were diagnosed with an early stage breast cancer, we both took the plunge and opted for mastectomies.  That was ten years ago, and we seldom look back. Recognizing this family history, my two daughters vigilantly care for their own health, and I’m so grateful.”

Inspiring words from Debby: “Each time I dance, hike or do a sit-up, I’m reminded of just how fortunate I am to be able to move. It is a celebration!”

Will I recover? Can I do what I love again?

Getting injured stinks.
I was just a beginner snow-skier when I injured my knee. Somehow I’d found myself on the Austrian Alps with Steve, the man I would eventually marry. I was looking down a black diamond run before I even knew what that meant. The town was Bad Gastein, Austria. Everyone there sounded like Arnold Schwarzenegger. 🙂 I didn’t know how to turn and I didn’t know how to stop. Lucky for me, Steve wasn’t interested in me for my skiing skills – he would surely have been turned off by my spectacular wipe-outs. I loved skiing – even falling was fun! – in soft, forgiving terrain. But now in Bad Gastein, I was in way over my head.
Ski conditions were bad (mostly ice), my bindings were too tight, and I was nervous. Steve was trying to help. He was a much better skier than I was. We were on a patch of ice. My ski caught and I fell awkwardly, folding over sideways. Bindings didn’t release, and my bodyweight torqued and twisted my knee. I felt it rip, and I knew it was “bad pain”. It swelled and throbbed, but I did not see a doctor. (Big mistake.) About 8 months later, I was dancing with my friends, having a ball. Suddenly, I felt my knee SNAP! I grabbed the railing to keep from falling. It was too painful to bear any weight. My friends had to carry me out and drive me to the hospital. I’m sure I was not the first, nor the last, to be carried out of that college bar – but most others for different reasons.

I learned that the skiing incident caused a lot of damage, and my funky dance moves dealt “the final blow”. I now had a fully torn ACL (anterior cruciate ligament). The scar tissue had to be forcefully pulled apart. Excruciating! Besides the torn ACL, surgery revealed torn cartilage and a stretched LCL (lateral collateral ligament). I was so happy when that Godforsaken cast came off and I could move my leg again – even as beat-up, deflated and flaccid as it looked. I wondered, how well can I recover from this? and how long will it take? Will I be able to do what I love again?

Pain killers and ice helped almost as much as flowers from Steve!
And so began the strengthening process. Besides the physical pain, it was a mental challenge too.  I was used to feeling strong, active, athletic, healthy, competitive, independent, a team player. Unable to run or play sports or work up a sweat like I used to, I’d lost my way of relieving stress. Sound familiar?

FullSizeRenderMy way of getting through this was by listening to my body – being ultra-aware of the position of my knee, what kind of pain I was feeling – was it good pain or bad pain? I remember feeling so refreshed and relieved when I was finally able to run and dance again. It felt wonderful!

I have a soft spot in my heart for people with injuries – knees in particular. When I heard about Kailani’s, I felt especially bad. “Miss Kailani” is one of our babysitters. She is an excellent soccer player and has played competitively throughout high school. Summers, she works for Coach Ken’s soccer in Los Altos. She probably always envisioned her last year at Saint Francis including lots of soccer practices, games, wins, bonding with teammates, recruiters and soccer scholarships for college. But Kailani recently suffered 2 knee injuries – one on each leg. She had her second knee surgery and is now working hard to recover. Kailani doesn’t complain. She is tough, and she is handling all of it extraordinarily well. But I know she is heartbroken about not being able to play soccer in her senior year.

Kailani with her Mom, Kim. Last year, Kailiani had 2 Prom dates: 1 young man + 1 crutch.
Kailani, ready for surgery.

To me, it’s most impressive that instead of dwelling on the negative, Kailani has taken action. She has created something very positive that helps others – Goals for Girls, an after-school soccer program for girls in lower socio-economic areas. She feels strongly that sports are very valuable for children’s development and confidence, but many kids are not able to play. Kailani is rising above her setback, challenging and strengthening her mind while her body is recovering. What a dynamo! It will be a great experience for her and the young girls who participate. Please click here if you’d like to contribute. I think Kailani’s senior year is going to be even better than she imagined!

Here are some tips to prevent and recover from injury:
  • Listen to your body. No one knows your body better than you do. If something feels awkward or uncomfortable, or if you feel you are in over your head, stop!
  • Strengthen and condition your muscles.
  • In recreational sports and exercises, choose a partner that has a similar level of skill to yourself.
  • Try to learn the difference between good pain and bad pain.
  • Always see a doctor or therapist if you think you might have injured yourself.
  • Spice up your exercise regimen with things you really enjoy.
  • Always stretch before and after exercise. Gradually warm-up so your blood is flowing before you begin the most strenuous/dynamic parts of your workout. If you have knots, tightness or pain and you are participating in a group fitness class, get to class early enough to do your own stretching (in addition to the group stretching).
  • Always use proper form during exercises. Quality is better than quantity.
  • During standing exercises or stretches, keep a slight bend in your knees to prevent over-extension and allow proper blood circulation.
  • Get better at balance. Progress your exercises from 2-legs to single-leg, then stability balls or BOSU balls, etc. Add plyometrics gradually.
  • For skiing – Start with a lesson from a professional! Don’t ski in icy conditions unless you are an experienced skier. Make sure bindings are loose. Consider snowboarding instead of skiing. Falls on a snowboard are much less dangerous for your knees since both feet are on the same plane and there is little risk of the knees being twisted.
  • Exercise on smooth surfaces with proper footwear. In classes that involve fast footwork – turning, spinning, shuffling, etc. – wear shoes that allow your foot to swivel on the floor without catching or sticking. For Zumba, I recommend Zumba shoes – click here to shop. Use “boominbody” as the coupon code to get a 10% discount.
  • For existing knee pain, consider wearing kinesiology tape. Rocktape is one company that makes it. Use a foam roller and read this article for how to use it.
  • If you are injured and feel depressed, get moving in any way that you can (safely). Also find exercise for your brain.
  • Might sound cliche’ but… Have a sense of humor! If not about yourself, find something you can laugh about. It’s the best therapy.
I hope these tips are helpful to you. Please comment or share your own inspirational stories. Let me know if you would like my help to get/stay fit, prevent or recover from injury.

1st Boomin Body of the Month

Boomin Body is made up of so many incredible people! I would like to help us all get to know each other better. We can inspire each other to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Also, I’d like to recognize members who have been dedicated to their fitness goals. So I have decided that each month, I will announce a “Boomin Body of the Month” beginning in August. I am pleased to announce our first official Boomin Body of the Month (drum roll, please…) – Abby Stucker!

I can not take credit (though I would like to) for Abby’s boomin’ body – she had that before she joined the Boomin Body Family – but I think, and I hope she would agree, that Boomin Body has ignited even more BOOM within her. She came to her first Boomin Body class about 2 years ago, after we’d just met at Grant Park for a Children’s Center playdate and then bumped into each other again at Gold Star Gymnastics. After telling her only a little bit about Boomin Body, I was thrilled that she actually came to Zumba, was even brave enough to stand in front with me, and when the dance party was over, she said “I loved it!”

Since then, she comes regularly to Tuesday and Saturday classes, bringing along her bright smile, 1-3 of her sons when necessary and sometimes her mother, sister or friend from out-of-town, and always promising her husband to make pancakes as soon as she gets back on Saturday mornings – as it is Stucker Family tradition. You see, although Abby is dedicated to her workout regimen and her newfound love for social fitness, she is and always has been a die-hard Family Woman – an amazing mother, a wonderful wife and an exceptional homemaker. She gives so much of herself to her children, especially her creativity and fantastic story-telling skills. Abby tells the silliest, most suspenseful stories to these kids – made up right off the top of her head and delivered with such dramatic fun and conviction. In today’s world of kids’ eyeballs staring at smartphones or iPads, it’s very impressive the way she captivates her child audience – they hang on her every word! She’s also a fabulous cook – always looking for new, healthy recipes to serve to her family and friends. She completely transformed her kitchen in record time – much faster than the gazillion other remodels currently underway in Los Altos – and it is absolutely gorgeous. And with all her spare time 😉 , she manages to volunteer regularly for her children’s schools.

So you’re probably wondering – what is her workout regimen? Having just joined the 40-year-old club last month (Happy Birthday Abby!), how does she keep that boomin’ body? On most days of the week, she has already done a workout before 7:30 AM which includes 3-6 miles of running or 40-minutes on her Nordic Track, lots of ab crunches and push-ups, weight-lifting once per week, Zumba twice per week, boot camp on Fridays and occasionally Yoga on Sundays. This program works for her, and coming to Zumba has been a great compliment to her routine. She admits that dancing, laughing and letting loose with our group of friendly women is much more fun than working out alone.

Abby recently completed a Tough Mudder with a group of Oak Elementary parents. I remember that Abby was a great sport when she first told us she was going to do it. Having never heard of it before, we were teasing and giving her a hard time because it sounded like a young mothers’ mud-wrestling match which may or may not involve white tank tops and spraying water hoses. To be clear, it is absolutely NOT that! Tough Mudder is an endurance event including 10–12-mile-long military-style obstacle courses, designed by British Harvard post-grads to test mental and physical strength. Not knowing for certain what to expect, Abby prepared for and completed the 5-hr event in Tahoe and was emotionally moved and visibly invigorated by the whole thing. I commend Abby for taking that risk and persisting, despite some hesitance. Clearly, it was a very positive, respectable, healthy experience. In addition to her fitness endeavors, Abby consistently keeps an active lifestyle for herself and her family – heading out to parks, beaches, swimming pools, whenever possible, and she is very supportive of her husband’s love of tennis.

Lastly, I want to point out that Abby, like myself, has developed an outlet for her passion. Abby is very crafty! Her passion is sewing and crafting, and she is so good at it! She owns her own business, Phoebe & Claire, where she designs and sells her hand-made tote bags (perfectly sized for water bottle, hand weights and towel), aprons, cute hair bands (for keeping hair out of your face while you exercise) and tooth-fairy pillows. Click here to check out her Etsy site. You’ll see her products are bright, colorful and stylish – a fitting representation of Abby’s zest for life!

So, thank you Abby for being a strong woman, a dear friend, a healthy, cheerful person, a loving mother, a dedicated wife, an avid supporter of Boomin Body, and an inspiration to all of us! You are the perfect first Boomin Body of the Month!

Happy August (Back-to-School Month) to all of you, Boomin Body Friends and Family! Click here to view or sign up for your next Boomin Body fitness class. Please comment, share and check back with this blog for weekly health and fitness posts and to find out who will be the Boomin Body of September!?11220140_10204884976674261_9150692219475924521_n