Chamber Notes

FROM THE PRESIDENT

Balance – Not just for gymnasts and yogis

by on Oct.15, 2014, under CHAMBER UPDATE, FROM THE PRESIDENT

healthy-balance

I struggle with maintaining balance, also known as sanity, when it comes to my fitness and nutrition.

I really get in the zone sometimes and am on track with eating clean and working out dirty (don’t take that wrong, I mean getting sweaty and really getting it done!).  Other times, not so much.  And then?  GUILT SETS IN.  I don’t give up, but I definitely don’t feel good about myself and I beat myself up over it.

However, living healthy means living a life that is in balance.  Maybe for you balance is being very ordered and always eating healthy foods, working out and doing all of the prescribed things for being healthy each and every day. That is perfect for you and I congratulate you.   For me, not so much.  For me being in balance means I have to regularly remind myself that life is, well, life.  And life means my schedule won’t always allow for me to workout as I’d like to and that I don’t always take the time (carve out the time) to prep and plan so I have healthy, filling foods at the ready in order to eat as well as I know I want to.

It also means sometimes I just go ahead and have chocolate and wine for dinner with a handful or two of Lay’s Kettle Cooked Salt & Vinegar chips.  I acknowledge it, log in and know the next day is a new day for me to do the right things.    More often it means I have a few bites of dessert or snacks or a glass or two of wine and include it into my daily log.  I can do so and not go over my allowances for the day so I feel good about my bottom line.  Now, yes, I know.  Doing so isn’t the best choice for good training and optimal health, but it is fine to do so now and then.  Balance for me means I don’t live a life of denial and discontent because I’m not enjoying things I like.  I don’t do it every day.  But I do it.  And that is part of living a healthy lifestyle and as well as a balanced one.

I don’t want to be old and in ill-health and unhappy about it; but I also don’t want to be young, in good health and making everyone around me miserable because I am such a nag about my choices … and theirs … while also making myself manic with guilt.

So, balance means finding a middle ground between doing everything like you are supposed to and doing ALL the WRONG things all the time.  Let me know your progress and how you find *your* balance.

 

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Time away is healthy too

by on Oct.08, 2014, under CHAMBER UPDATE, COMMUNITY EVENTS, FROM THE PRESIDENT

When is the last time you took a vacation from work?  As in didn’t call in, check voicemail?  As in didn’t check email?

When you did, was it a long weekend?  A full week?  *gasp* 2 weeks?!

When was the magical mystery time you took?  A year ago?  2?  Longer??

You’ve probably guessed this is not a good thing if you haven’t taken time away.  But, don’t feel bad.  1/3 of Americans say they take vacations less than once every couple of years or never!

Here are reasons you should:

  • Vacations Promote Creativity: A good vacation can help us to reconnect with ourselves, operating as a vehicle for self-discovery and helping us get back to feeling our best.
  • Vacations Stave Off Burnout: Workers who take regular time to relax are less likely to experience burnout, making them more creative and productive than their overworked, under-rested counterparts.
  • Vacations Can Keep Us Healthy: Taking regular time off to ‘recharge your batteries’, thereby keeping stress levels lower, can keep you healthier
  • Vacations Promote Overall Wellbeing: One study found that three days after vacation, subjects’ physical complaints, their quality of sleep and mood had improved as compared to before vacation. These gains were still present five weeks later, especially in those who had more personal time and overall satisfaction during their vacations.
  • Vacations Can Strengthen Bonds: Spending time enjoying life with loved ones can keep relationships strong, helping you enjoy the good times more and helping you through the stress of the hard times. In fact, a study by the Arizona Department of Health and Human Services found that women who took vacations were more satisfied with their marriages.
  • Vacations Can Help With Your Job Performance: As the authors of the above study suggest, the psychological benefits that come with more frequent vacations lead to increased quality of life, and that can lead to increased quality of work on the job.
  • Vacations Relieve Stress in Lasting Ways: It should come as no surprise that vacations that include plenty of free time bring stress relief, but research shows that a good vacation can lead to the experience of fewer stressful days at least five weeks later! That means that vacations are the gift to yourself that keep on giving.

I’ve been taking a lot of extended weekends for my vacations this year and then took a whole week at Labor Day.  Wow!  Was that fabulous!  My brain and body felt so much better when I returned.  I can’t recommend it highly enough.  I remember years ago, I took my kids to Jamaica.  We had no phone, no internet, very little TV.  We swam, walked and read books.  However, it took my 15 year old daughter and I about 3 days to de-jitter and it was late on day 4 before we felt relaxed.  So, if you can – take more than just a 4 day weekend.  You don’t even need to go anywhere.  Just disconnnect and turn your brain off.  I typically take vacation at the Christmas holidays and hang out at home.  Wonderful time with family and resetting me for the new year.

Everyone will thank you!

If you are looking to get away, you should join us tomorrow night – Thursday, October 9th at our Chairman’s Gala.  Click HERE to register and for info.  As if Wisconsin Department of Tourism Secretary Stephanie Klett, Greater Green Bay Convention Visitor Bureau President Brad Toll Cvb and our 2014 Award Presentations weren’t enough to entice you to attend our Chairman’s Gala this Thursday at the Swan Club at Legends in De Pere? Well, there is an *awesome* door prize package that you must be in attendance to win.

Prize package: 2 Night Stay at the Heidel House Resort & Spa, Champagne and Chocolates delivered to your room, $100 Dining Credit and $200 Evansong Spa Gift Card! 

Hope to see you – but, if you are on vacation?  I’ll understand and applaud you!  Let me know how it was!

 

 

 

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Short attention span

by on Oct.01, 2014, under CHAMBER UPDATE, FROM THE PRESIDENT

I am a tremendous multi-tasker.  I am doing more than one thing at a time, most of the time.  I also have a very short attention span.  Which means I get bored pretty quickly.  I have talked to lots of people who do as well and they tell me that is why they don’t stick to an exercise program.  I completely understand!  *hand up* me too!  I don’t even take the dogs on the same route each day for their walk!

I’ve been pretty successful over the last 3 1/2 years at keeping boredom at bay by doing the following:

  • I’m very fortunate with my fitness club.  Western Racquet has a set class schedule but the content of the classes are always different.  (Other than Step class for which the choreography is the same for the month and it just takes a while to learn it … fortunately for me!)  They also add/drop classes depending on demand/response. But, finding classes that aren’t the same over and over is helpful.
  • When I can’t get to a scheduled class, or when I’m out of town, I have found MyFitStation on Facebook as well as mydreamshape.com.  They post a monthly workout calendar and each day is a different workout.  They are all planned out so I don’t have to do so, but they are varied without me having to figure out my own plan so I don’t get bored or frustrated.  Pinterest is also a great source for workouts you can do on your own.
  • I occasionally throw in something completely different to change it up.  Like Belly Dancing or a bike ride or something.  Just a curve ball to make it feel new.  I am thinking of going back to racquetball again and I haven’t tried that in well over 20 years!
  • While I, in general, like it better when I work out with other people (a friend or in a class), sometimes I just like to put the ear buds in and tune out the world. I hop on the elliptical or the Stairmaster and read while I work out on the machine.  That also takes my mind off how hard the workout is since I’m without the encouragement of a class instructor.
  • I have had a few personal training sessions and while I’ve enjoyed those workouts; I’m just not sure that is something worth it for me for either the workout value or for the cost value.  I sort of feel, well, a little picked on with most trainers!  The two I’ve worked with recently haven’t made me feel like that at all and I’ve benefited from their coaching in how to do some exercises correctly that I hadn’t been.  I think that will prevent me from injury and also give me the best benefit from the work.  So … jury out for me on personal training but if you need a push or a jump or a little snazz it up … maybe try it!

If you have trouble sticking to a workout schedule, it may not be you or even the specific workouts – you just may need some change up.  I know I would never have last 3 months let alone 3 years if I did the same 3 or 4 workouts all the time.  *ick* You know what they say about variety?  Well, it is the spice of your fitness life too.

Have a great week!

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The other side of the keep moving equation

by on Sep.24, 2014, under FROM THE PRESIDENT

I remember a few years ago when I started the Executive Edge program and I had my health assessment completed.  I was ready for weight (too high), waist/hip ratio (ewww) body fat percentage (don’t even get me started) and the look when I revealed how little I worked out.  I was NOT prepared for them to ask me how much I sleep.  I thought for a moment or two and then said, 5-6 hours a night.  The nurse doing my intake raised her eyebrows and said, “that needs to be 8-9 hours if you want to lose weight and gain health.”

Wait.  Really?  Take 3-ish hours OUT of my already far-t0o-full day and just sleep?  When on earth did she think I was going to get anything done as well as add 5-7 hours per week of exercise??  ummm.. right.  I’d get right on that.

I’m not much of a sleeper.  I’m rather like the Energizer Bunny, I keep going and going until someone ranks my batteries and then I simply … S.T.O.P.  I don’t run down.  I crash.  And then when I wake, be in 20 minutes, 2 hours or whatever, I’m wide awake and running again.  I’m infamous for emailing folks at 3am with an “I’ve been thinking …”  I just never needed much sleep, nor was I good at doing it for any length of time (unless I’m sick); so the idea of just sleeping 3 extra hours a DAY … like 21 less hours of my life available each week … suuuurreee.  But, I was committed to this whole living healthy thing, so I said, “okay.  I’ll see what I can do.”  And, like I do anything, off I went to research.

The sleep-diet connection is regular fodder for diet books and magazine articles. Maybe you have even heard about the sleep diet, which suggests you can lose weight while you catch your ZZZs.

And it’s true, sort of.

“It’s not so much that if you sleep, you will lose weight, but if you are sleep-deprived, meaning that you are not getting enough minutes of sleep or good quality sleep, your metabolism will not function properly,” explains Michael Breus, PhD, author of Beauty Sleep and the clinical director of the sleep division for Arrowhead Health in Glendale, Ariz.

On average, we need about 7.5 hours of quality sleep per night, he says. “If you are getting this already, another half hour will not help you lose 10 pounds, but if you are a five-hour sleeper and start to sleep for seven hours a night, you will start dropping weight.”

I found information, lots of it.

If you’re looking for a fairly painless way to lose weight (or at least not gain) researchers at Brigham Young University have a new solution for you: Put yourself on a regular sleep schedule.

People who maintain an unvarying sleep routine have a lower percentage of body fat than those who keep irregular sleep hours, says a new study, published in the American Journal of Health Promotion.

Led by Bruce Bailey, professor of exercise science at Brigham Young, researchers followed 300 female college students, ages 19 to 26, who were given activity trackers to monitor their movements and activities, including waking and sleeping times. The study participants were assessed for body composition before and after the one-week study period.

What the researchers found:

  • Getting less than 6.5 hours of sleep and more than 8.5 hours of sleep was linked to higher body fat

  • High quality sleep was associated with lower body fat while poor sleep correlated with higher body fat

  • Waking and going to sleep at the same time every day (particularly a consistent wake time) was most strongly linked with lower body fat

And even recently,

Insufficient sleep affects appetite and satiety hormones as well as fat cells, according to the nation’s top sleep experts.

If you want to lose weight, be sure to get enough sleep.

Most people know they should cut calories and exercise more to trim down, but there’s now significant scientific evidence that another critical component to weight control is avoiding sleep deprivation, sleep scientists say.

“There is no doubt that insufficient sleep promotes hunger and appetite, which can cause excessive food intake resulting in weight gain,” says Eve Van Cauter, director of the Sleep, Metabolism and Health Center at the University of Chicago. She has spent 15 years studying the topic.

Sleep deprivation probably affects every process in the body, she says. “Our body is not wired for sleep deprivation. The human is the only mammal that does this.”

This would be a pretty story with a bow on it, if I could say it was that easy.  It wasn’t … it isn’t.  I struggled and I still do.  Here is what I found helps me:

  • When I’m tired, I go right to bed.  If I get home and I’m feeling tired or sleepy (not a common occurrence, but still), I get to bed.  ASAP.  If I don’t, I get wired and I’m off to the races and probably will be up even later than I would have normally.  I know, I know, I’m odd!
  • I love love love Sleepytime Extra Tea by Celestial Seasonings.  Sounds silly, but I swear by it. Yes, yes, I know.  It has probably become a Pavlovian trigger for me, but I don’t care.  It helps.
  • If I find that I’m tired, but wired, I do some easy yoga.  No, not the pretzel-y, twist-y, gumby kind you may be thinking of, but like this, Yoga for Better Sleep, just 14 minutes long and very relaxing.  That site, DoYouYoga.com, has some great workouts for all the non-yogis in the crowd.  Good, good stuff.
  • If I’m still tired, but wired, I meditate.  You are now picturing me on a mountain top, sitting in a lotus position, chanting “Ohhhmmm” aren’t you?  Yeah, right.  Not so much me!  What I do is either find a comfortable seated, kneeling or laying on my back position, then I don’t “clear my mind and think of nothing.”  That just does not work for me!  But I focus.  Either on a series of thoughts that relax me or music (I really like Omvana. It is an app as well as a website.  Some tracks are free, some are for purchase.  I really like them).  If you have a mantra, focus on that.  Mine has changed many times over the years.  Find something positive and relaxing that works for you to close your day out.  Just something like, “Today was a full day.  I am thankful for what I accomplished and those I spent time with.  I forgive myself for anything I didn’t get done and I commit to start tomorrow on new, fresh ground.  Today was a gift. Tomorrow is a promise.”  Then, while thinking that (over and over), I focus on relaxing each part of my body from my feet up then I focus on breathing.  Just breathing in and out. Feeling my tummy rise and expand, then my ribs and finally my chest up under my collar bones. Slight pause while full of air.  Then, slowly emptying out, releasing any residual stress.  Then I repeat.  I have to be honest, often it takes me a good long while to stop the mental chatter.  But it works.  Stick with it.
  • If I get into bed and my mind starts to go again or I just need something else, I love Dormio.  It is both an app as well as a website. For me, their Urban Rain & Thunder is amazing.  It works nearly every time.  I set the timer for 20 minutes in the program and only for a handful of times have I still be awake at the end of the timer cycle.

Long story short?  Sleep and I have a twisted, difficult relationship.  However, in my journey to health and wellness, it is one I am learning to manage well!

Sleep well, y’all!

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This post brought to you by the letter “V”

by on Sep.11, 2014, under FROM THE PRESIDENT

“V” for vacation!  After my post on 8/27 about getting back in the healthy lifestyle saddle, I headed off to vacation with great plans for exercise.

However, I first spent 5 days with lots of girlfriends (6 of us in one condo) “Fangirling” at Dragon*Con 2014 (why, yes.  I am a geek, why do you ask?) and other than 15,000+ steps per day walking around downtown Atlanta plus standing in place and in line for hours on end and dancing (LOTS of dancing)?  Well, I didn’t workout.  I did take an intro belly dancing class and found some very enticing Belly Dancing clothing to incentivize me to actually take classes though, so that was something.   My eating was actually pretty good.  A few extra drinks those days (*ahem* “few”), but overall good.

Then, I went off to decompress for an additional 7 days (12 total days gone is a first EVER for me as an adult – I highly recommend it).  Those days I did better with 3 very solid workouts, lots of stretching, good food and sleep plus stress-be-gone.  Did I say I highly recommend it?

The workouts I did I gathered from fitstation.com- home of the monthly complete workout calendar that is my fall-back plan if I’m not taking a class at Western.  I like that the workouts are all planned and they keep track of what has been completed recently and upcoming so you don’t end up doing 3 straight upper body workouts. Plus, though they are challenging, you can scale them to whatever level you are.  Here is the Fit 4 Fall:  September Fitness Challenge calendar.

(I’ve been trying to add a pretty picture of it here, but Benny, a/k/a WordPress 4.0, is currently throwing a tantrum and resisting all of my standard remedies:  Mom-glares, counting to 3’s  and sending it to timeout … so, link it is!  Don’t make me stop this car!)

Summary statement:  I didn’t work the “plan” I had in mind when I left, but I did stay active and kept up with my healthy eating without depriving myself of some indulgences.

I’ve spent some time thinking about my summary and I am very comfortable with it.  I’m not on a diet, I’m on a long-term sustained journey to maintain wellness, continue improvements in flexibility and strength and feel better and better about my health and fitness.  “Missing” a week or so is not a end-all for me.  I didn’t “fall off the wagon,” I just parked the wagon and hopped on the horse for a bit for a different view.   Yes, I am in the midst of the Executive Edge 2014 Challenge so I’m pushing harder right now as I seek to win; but it isn’t a “be all” for me.  It is what any date-certain event should be when it comes to a health & fitness journey, an awesome push toward my goal that I am determined to reach and a great motivator.

In other words, I’m just moving along … and my best advice this week?  Just keep moving – you WILL get where you want to go.  Don’t quit and don’t give up.  You are worth it.

See you next week!

 

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Back to it – do you ever really leave your habits?

by on Aug.27, 2014, under CHAMBER UPDATE, FROM THE PRESIDENT

Back to it – do you ever really leave your habits beyond or do they just get put in a drawer to rear their head when you get lazy or life gets in the way?

For me, they have been in a drawer.  (if you have come to this post from the newsletter, this is the video from the newsletter, so if you watched it there … skip down!)

3 1/2 years ago, I made a decision to get healthy.  I was pushing 50 pretty hard and knew that  if I didn’t get healthy very soon, it was going to be more and more difficult if not impossible to do so.  In January of 2011, I started a program hosted and ran by  Prevea Health and Western Racquet & Fitness Club called Executive Edge.   It is a 12 week program designed to encourage corporate and community leaders to LeadWell by setting a positive example of health and wellness within their workplace. Each participant achieves a baseline score by undergoing a fitness and biometric health assessment.They then have 12 weeks to improve both both fitness and health scores. Winners are awarded for Best Overall Score and Most Improved in both Men’s and Women’s Divisions.  My first year I was very very very close to getting “Most Improved,” but I missed … though that wasn’t why I joined the program.

By the end of year one, I’d lost 12 pounds and whole mess of inches.  When I had my annual physical that summer, my biometrics were off-the-charts improved, so much so that my doctor asked me what I had done to make such a change. I told her she wouldn’t like it– no pill, no patch, no fad. I counted every calorie that went into my mouth and I moved into Western Racquet Club.  My cholesterol had dropped over 50 points, my resting heart rate had dropped, my BMI dropped from obese to just .1 above the  healthy range and I had gotten physically stronger than I had been in my whole life.  But I wasn’t done.

Since my goal weight was to lose 40 pounds and to get my bodyfat down into a very healthy lean range, I decided to join Executive Edge for the 2012 year as well.  It went well and I had great gains in strength, flexibility, endurance and in all of my health criteria. By the end of 2012 had lost a total of 30 pounds. I was working out regularly, not like I did during the Executive Edge program of course, but working out regularly at least 6-7 workouts per week.  Sometimes, when I worked out I did 2 workouts in a day, say yoga and then a strength or cardio class, but I was working out very consistently.  I would see people I hadn’t seen in a while and they would literally stop in their tracks (often with their mouth hanging open in shock) because of the difference they saw in me.  I had lost over 50 inches overall – I still wasn’t at my goal weight, but I really didn’t know if my goal weight was even correct or not.  I was seeing & feeling muscles I never had before. I can actually touch my body and feel my hip bones,  my pelvic bones and my ribs without pushing in.  Sometimes, when I wrap my arms around myself, I expect to have them stop, but they keep going because I am smaller.  A lot smaller.  It still surprises me.

You might have thought I had the whole habit change thing down, I know I did!

Unfortunately, life has a way of being – well – life.  So between stress and life, and life and, well, stress, I put back on 9 pounds from my low in November of 2012 and that was in addition to the 8 pounds I still wanted to lose.

Some people, when they get under lots of stress, lose weight.  NOT ME.  I would make it great through the initial stages of some major crisis or Ice Age or something because my body releases lots of cortisol and decides to not burn many calories!  Truth in advertising though, I do have to admit in addition to my workout schedule changing from 5-9 workouts a week to  3 or 4 workouts a week; I wasn’t eating as I needed to and had been doing.  As in:  I didn’t always eat breakfast and I didn’t eat a real dinner, I would just snack and have a couple of glasses of wine most days.  So my food choices changed which of course changed the mix of what I had going on with my metabolism.

I also wasn’t sleeping well.  Sleep is one of those funny things that you don’t think would make a difference to your health, but it does in a major way. What I’ve discovered is that when I sleep well, my entire system works better.  I know you experts out there aren’t at all surprised, but for those of us layman, that doesn’t always make sense.

So, I got to just a few weeks ago and seeing my 52nd birthday coming really soon – in November.  That has always been a goal point for me.  Don’t ask me why “52” is a big deal.  50 wasn’t, but 52 just seems like … I don’t know … less ahead than behind?  I can’t explain it, it is just a big deal for me and I decided I really wanted another push.  About that time, I was having a meeting with the marketing team at Prevea since they are the title sponsor for our upcoming Live Healthy Brown County Health, Fitness, and Lifestyle Expo, September 27th & 28th at the KI Center in Green Bay. I mentioned Executive Edge during the meeting.  On the way out of the meeting, Brian Lani, VP of Marketing for Prevea, asked if I wanted to be in Executive Edge again, it was starting the next week (last week!). I told him yes, he got me in contact with Brenda and within an hour I was scheduled to begin the 2014 session.  This is an unusual one in the timing as they are normally  the first four months of the year. But this is good timing for me – great timing in fact!

Last Tuesday, I did my initial assessment.  The initial assessment was, shall I say, not a happy time. But!  It really showed me where I am right now.  More than just knowing the scale number is higher (which I knew) and that my new smaller clothes are tight (which I knew), but what is happening inside my body.  My cholesterol is up, not into the unhealthy range – my ratios are still good but my bad cholesterol is higher than it should be; my resting heart rate is up as is my blood pressure, again neither of them are in the unhealthy range but they are up for me and that is unacceptable.  My body fat percentage is also up – which is an indicator of not just the weight increase but also the loss of lean muscle mass I had built up.  All of the things that I wanted to fix – and did fix – have gone the other way.  Those annoyingly patient and tenacious bad habits!

My goal this time  through Executive Edge is to win.  It isn’t like a race where I can see my competitors on the track, so it is really just a massive push and commitment to myself and if I get to my goals and still don’t win, I will be beyond thrilled.  But, I am a bit competitive.

Now all that said, I’m still in the healthy ranges on everything so the gains I made through changing my bad habits for better ones and creating a new lifestyle over nearly 3 years weren’t lost or for naught. I have nothing going on that would cause any medical professional concern. Well, other then my BMI and my body fat percentage.  Even those are very close to the healthy range. I am in a much better physical place than I was before I started this four years ago. The physical condition I am in now is miles ahead of where I was all through the first part of this century. In fact better than it was through most of my life back to my teen years.  But the fact remains, this it is not where I wanted to be – or where I want to be.   I don’t particularly care about BMI per se, it misses everything about body frame size, which of course plays a huge part in calculating healthy weight for a person; but, even if I ignore that number, I’m still not where I need to be and I know it.

I know I am going into my heavy health care years and the time in my life where things may start to go wrong.  Well, let’s face it, will start to  go wrong.  The body is a machine after all and mine is getting up there in miles.  So, now is the time.  Now is the time to fix it.  So I am.  We just finished week one of Executive Edge and I’m down 1.8 pounds, though I realize I haven’t been drinking nearly enough water to push through all the extra exercise I’ve have been doing and the good eating I have been doing.  I also have a very sore muscles. I’ve done some very hard workouts this week and last Saturday I was part of a Partner Play training session led by Kari Merrill, an amazing trainer and woman as well as the Group Fitness Director at Western, and three other great women. It was the hardest hour I have ever spent working out in my life.  Thanks, Kari, Vikki, MarLynn & Amy!

So my focuses are: maintaining the exercise schedule I have been doing this last week (3 strength training workouts a week, 3 cardio training workouts a week and 3 yoga workouts a week; staying within my calorie allowance by eating good food; getting enough proteins and potassium; and getting good quality sleep.  Strength, cardiovascular improvement and flexibility; proper portion control and food choices along with quality, plentiful sleep. I know those are the keys to long-term good health and reduced risk of injury.   Oddly enough, you would think with as much as I’ve been working out I would be exhausted.  But, I have had a terrible time sleeping this week. I think it is my body adjusting to all of the changes.  Last night, I slept 8 hours – that was exciting!

I invite you to join along with me.  You don’t have to be on the crazy train like I’m on, doing 9 workouts a week, but I encourage you to do what you need to do for yourself.  The national recommendation from ALL of the experts is a minimum of 5 days a week, 30 minutes minimum of good active exercise per session.  Eat fruits & vegetables, eat whole grains, eat good healthy fats (a non-fat diet is not healthy either!) a low and healthy fats diet is very appropriate.

Over the next 12 weeks, I will be sharing my journey, my struggles, my frustrations – I will also be sharing links and great information to help you, wherever you are.  I hope this helps and you will check back to see what is going on.  I encourage you to subscribe to our Live Healthy Brown County newsletter.  I will add a link to this week’s edition at the bottom of this post.  If you want to subscribe, there is a button to do so in the newsletter.  We will get you on the list.  It has articles for information & education, a healthy recipe of the week,  runs and walks coming in the Greater Green Bay area (some outside the direct area as well)  to get you and your family outside and active while we still can here in Northeastern Wisconsin.  It also includes volunteer opportunities.  I will spend a post in the next several weeks about the importance of volunteering.  It is all part of your mental/social health and those are key to good health as well.

Until next week … have a great week – a great healthy week.  Live healthy!

PS  If you like the LHBC newsletter and are new to it, you can catch up on previous editions HERE

 

 

 

 

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Small Business Week 2014 May 12 – 16 – Webinars

by on May.06, 2014, under CHAMBER UPDATE, FROM THE PRESIDENT

 

 

Smallbizweek2014

Next week, May 12 – 16, 2014, is National Small Business Week.  Watch this space for news and updates and watch our Twitter feed @DePereChamber to be part of the Twitter Storm each day during the week.  If you want to get caught up in the storm, use the hashtag #SBW2014

Throughout the week, you can also participate in our webinars and online events, including “Making It Big: Small Biz Success in a Mobile World” with Conduit Mobile on Wednesday, May 14 at 9am ET. Join to learn how you can better take advantage of the technology already at your fingertips to transform your mobile and digital experience and grow your small business’ bottom line.

And that’s just one of the great events you can anticipate! Check out other webinars happening throughout the week:

Monday, May 12

  • Growing Your Business with Direct Mail | 6-7pm ET | with the United States Postal Service
    Learn about the value direct mail offers as part of an overall marketing strategy. Gain insight on how mail can be used to acquire new customers, and establish relationships that keep them coming back.
    > Register now

Tuesday, May 13

  • Small Business: Big Benefits | 4-5pm ET | with Colonial Life
    Choosing between offering a robust benefits package or cutting back on total offerings is a challenge for many small businesses. Learn about “voluntary benefits” that can allow you to strengthen your existing benefits packages at little or no additional cost.
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Wednesday, May 14

This is a big week for small businesses – keep checking back for more information to build your business and your future!

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SBA Loan Fee Reductions Help Small Business Owners Nationwide

by on Feb.25, 2014, under CHAMBER UPDATE, FROM THE PRESIDENT

Happy Tuesday!

In this week’s SBA e-news I found this article.  I’m all about saving money and helping businesses be successful, so I hope you will both find this of interest as well as helpful.

In order for small businesses to remain viable in a recovering economy, access to capital must remain an SBA priority.  At the same time, applying for and getting a commercial loan involves certain costs that may make borrowers think twice before making that commitment.

Often times, small businesses that need loans with smaller dollar amounts –$350,000 and under- are usually either just starting or in their early stages. Attention to the bottom line is paramount at this critical time, and a lack of adequate financial resources may become an obstacle to growth.

Mindful of this situation and consistent with our mission to help small businesses start, grow and succeed, SBA recently introduced two initiatives aimed at eliminating certain borrower fees, thus making it cheaper and easier for small businesses to obtain much needed financing.

One of the initiatives, launched at the end of fiscal year 2013, set borrower fees to zero (0) on all 7(a) loans $150,000 and under originated on or after Oct. 1, 2013. This initiative is among SBA’s latest efforts to make sure we’re reaching more business owners and entrepreneurs to help them to tackle the next challenge in their businesses.

The 7(a) Loan Program is the SBA’s primary program to help start-up and existing small businesses obtain financing when they may not be eligible for conventional business loans .  In just three months after its implementation, fee elimination on loans $150,000 and under have saved small businesses nationwide more than $5 million. A small business obtaining a $150,000 loan now saves more than $2,500 in fees, which can be used for other business expenses.

The SBA has begun a similar effort to help small business owners who are veterans. Beginning Jan. 1, 2014, SBA launched the SBA Veterans Advantage initiative, which has zero borrower fees on all loans $350,000 and under made through this program.  This program is expected to yield significant savings for veterans looking to start or grow a business.  Of all SBA loans made to veterans during the last 5 years, 73 percent were below $350,000.

In the first 10 days (Jan 1 – Jan 10) this initiative saved veterans business owners almost $179,000.

While it is still too early to gauge the impact these initiatives will have on the success of small businesses, the initial numbers seem to indicate that savings will be significant.

These two initiatives are in place through the end of the current fiscal year, Sept. 30, 2014.

For more information about SBA loan programs and services or to find an SBA lender, visit www.sba.gov, or the SBA District Office nearest you.

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Making the Most of Your Local Chamber of Commerce

by on Feb.05, 2014, under FROM THE PRESIDENT, Guest articles

I was just out doing some research for topics for upcoming presentations and I found this article.  I know, I know it may seem self-serving but I found it really interesting … read on ….

JoAnne Berg is a trusted business advisor with over 30 years of experience as an entrepreneur, CFO/COO, and CPA/advisor to closely held businesses. Read her blogs at The Art of Small Business. Her newest venture is Peer Coaching Network, Inc., which provides affordable training and peer based group coaching to small business owners. Follow her on Twitter @JoAnneBerg and Facebook.

Are you a member of your local Chamber of Commerce? If so, are you getting your money’s worth? If not, what are you missing out on?

Chambers exist to serve their members and help them to be more successful. They are supported by membership dues, which are usually based on the size of your business. Your dues are tax deductible as a business expense.

Most businesses benefit in some way from membership, and small businesses often benefit dramatically from the power of joining together with their peers in this way. Here are some of the things that local Chambers do for the business community, along with a few suggestions for getting the most from your membership.

Government Relations

Chambers represent the viewpoints of their members in front of governments and advocate for their business interests when necessary. Your dues support the efforts that the Chamber makes on your behalf to make your community a better place to do business. This alone is a reason to become a member! If you’re interested in getting more involved, most chambers have a Governmental Affairs committee that members can join.

Be sure to attend Chamber forums and events featuring political candidates and elected officials. You’ll often have an opportunity to meet them, ask questions, and perhaps even give them your opinion about important decisions that impact your business.

Networking

For many of us, it’s important to be visible. Chambers sponsor social events and networking groups that are designed for members to meet and do business together. If your business depends on local-business generation, this is an opportunity that you shouldn’t pass up. Even if your customer base is not local, the connections you make can be an invaluable source of local goods and services for your business needs.

Also, check out your Chamber’s Ambassador Committee if you’d like to have a built-in opportunity to welcome and meet new members.

Advertising

When you’re a member, you’ll be listed in the Chamber directory, but your opportunities for promoting your business don’t stop there. Chambers have websites, newsletters, newspapers, brochures, and more. They sell advertising in most of these, and you have to be a member to advertise. The costs are generally modest, and if your target market includes other Chamber members, the ROI can be fantastic.

Education

Many Chambers really shine in this department. Training yourself and your staff can be expensive, but it’s important to keep up with new developments and continue improving everyone’s business skills. Chambers offer classes, workshops, and seminars, taught by member professionals, at a low cost to members. These professionals go out of their way to do a great job since their community reputation is at stake. Recent topics I’ve seen include social media training, patents and trademarks, OSHA regulations, sexual harassment training, human resource issues, tax law changes, etc.

Referrals

Businesses and residents that are new to a community frequently call the local Chamber of Commerce for referrals for the goods and services they need. Guess what? If you’re not a member, Chamber staff can’t refer you. Take the time to get to know the staff of your local Chamber, and make sure that they have the information they need to send business your way.

Committee Membership

Volunteering to serve on a Chamber committee that fits your interests or expertise creates leadership opportunities, helps you become better known in the community, and can help position you as an expert in your field. For example, I served for many years on my local Chamber’s Business Resource committee, which was a great source for business leads and ultimately led to a seat on the Chamber Board of Directors. In addition to the Governmental Affairs, Ambassador, and Business Committees, many Chambers have Education Committees, and if you’re interested in green business techniques, many Chambers are now forming Green or Sustainability Committees.

Every Chamber is different, and there may be other opportunities in yours that I haven’t mentioned here. If you’re not already a member, I encourage you to find out more, and if you are a member, take another look at what your Chamber offers. You may be pleasantly surprised!

 

 

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Time passing …

by on Oct.31, 2013, under CHAMBER UPDATE, FROM THE PRESIDENT

Oddly, the song that played in my head as I type the post title was Styx’ “Too Much Time on My Hands” and that does not fit at all!  Too much time though has passed since I last posted here.  Our other social media and day-to-day work has just taken all that time.  *

I don’t know about you, but on/near my birthday I have a tendency to reflect.  Not in a morbid or morose way, just in a “hmmm, where am I, where am I going, what are my current goals/dreams and where I am in meeting those I’ve held previously” way.  Tomorrow is my birthday and though I’m not anywhere close to social security age, but the information below from Hawkins, Ash CPAs caught my eye and actually made me chuckle due to the timing.

Deciding When to Start Receiving Social Security Benefits 
As you approach retirement age, you must decide whether to begin taking reduced social security benefits early or wait until full benefit retirement age (FBRA), or even later. In many cases, this decision will depend on factors other than trying to receive the greatest lifetime benefit from social security. Remember that while you have the option of receiving social security benefits as early as age 62, the eligibility age for Medicare remains at 65. So, although you may be able to replace a sufficient amount of your earned income with social security benefits beginning at age 62, you may not be able to adequately replace your employer-provided health insurance.

Even if you have sufficient funds to live on without considering social security, many people prefer to begin receiving benefits as soon as possible. For 2013, the benefits at age 62 are reduced by 25% of what they would be at age 66 (i.e., the FBRA); but, you will receive more social security checks if benefits are drawn early. In addition, drawing early social security benefits may allow you to leave tax-deferred retirement accounts untouched and growing for longer periods.

Another reason to receive benefits early is if you have children living at home. Children under age 18 (or up to 19 if a full-time student) may be eligible for benefits if you are also receiving social security benefits.

Furthermore, if you wait until the FBRA to draw benefits, it will take several years to reach the break-even point to make up for the years of payments that were not received.

Example: Receiving social security benefits at age 62 versus the FBRA.

Curt is single and plans to begin receiving social security benefits on his 62nd birthday in 2013 when his benefit, based on his earnings history, is $1,000. He will receive monthly social security retirement benefits of $750, or 75% of his benefit. Therefore, he will receive 48 benefit checks of $750 each (not considering annual inflation adjustments), a total of $36,000, by the time he reaches age 66 (his FBRA).

Curt’s benefit would have been $1,000 if he had waited until age 66 to begin receiving benefits. Therefore, it would take him 12 years (starting at age 66) before the additional $250 per month ($1,000 − $750) benefit caught up to the $36,000 he would have received between ages 62 and 66.

When the present value of future social security benefits is considered, it could be more favorable to start the benefits as soon as possible (if the money is going to be invested). However, if you are simply using early social security benefits to replace a similar amount of earned income, the short-term financial position will not be improved and the long-term outlook could suffer.

Another factor to consider in taking retirement benefits early is the increased tax cost. With a smaller social security retirement benefit, you may need to work or draw on other resources to meet expenses. If the additional taxable income you generate exceeds certain thresholds, 50% to 85% of your social security benefits will be taxable.

You might carefully consider the long-lasting advantages of waiting until FBRA based on the following factors.

Life Expectancy: Your life expectancy may be the biggest factor in deciding whether to receive benefits early. By age 62, you should have a good handle on your own life expectancy based on your current health and the longevity of your parents. In general, 77 years might be a good cutoff point. If you reasonably expect to reach that age, waiting until FBRA may be a wise choice.

Shortening the Retirement Period: A significant factor in retirement planning projections is the length of the retirement period. For example, if you want to retire at age 62 and you have a life expectancy of 85, you have a 23-year retirement period to fund. By working past age 62, you are shortening the retirement period and lowering the amount of money needed to fund your retirement regardless of longevity.

The Earnings Test: If you are considering receiving retirement benefits before your FBRA but you intend to keep working, you must consider the earnings test. For 2013, social security benefits are reduced $1 for every $2 in earnings above the exempt amount of $15,120.

Replacing Lower-wage Years: Your social security benefits are calculated based on your highest 35 years of indexed earnings. If you can replace lower-wage years early in your career with higher-wage years after age 62, the benefit can be increased. This can lead to a greater benefit when you retire.

Inflation Adjustments: Social security benefits receive an annual inflation adjustment. By taking early benefits, your starting base for these annual adjustments is smaller. For example, if your benefit was $1,000, but you retired early and received only $750, each year you would miss out on the compounded inflation adjustment of that $250 in lost benefits. In other words, the gap between the early retirement benefit you receive and the amount you would have received by waiting will get bigger and bigger.

The Effect on Your Spouse: Your decision to start receiving social security benefits before reaching FBRA may also affect your spouse’s benefits. If your spouse does not have a personal earnings record, he or she will only receive half of your retirement benefit.

After FBRA: If you delay receiving benefits until after your FBRA, you will receive larger benefits because of the delayed retirement credit. You may receive a credit of up to 8% per year for each year you delay receiving benefits until age 70.

If you are able to wait, the delayed retirement credit can have a significant impact. In addition to the higher retirement benefit you will receive, you will also shorten your retirement period and increase your spouse’s survivor’s benefit.

 

 

 

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