Archive for April, 2009

Exercising Abroad!

yogaI don’t know about anyone else, but I find the gym rather addicting. They say it takes 21 days of engaging in an activity to make it a habit. Well this gymming habit that I definitely developed a few years ago is one that I would like to keep active! I often find myself in a predicament, though: I have a 24 Hour Fitness membership at home and Chris & I put our memberships to use anywhere and everywhere in the US. Even if we’re vacationing — if there’s a 24 Hour within a 15 – 20 mile radius, we’re usually there! The problem typically arises when vacationing and traveling OUTSIDE of the US. Word on the street is that there are some 24 Hours in Asia, but Europe doesn’t house any of these such gyms. Although I will likely get a new gym membership once I move there (or use the campus’ gym!), it’s hard for a lot of us to keep up our healthy, active lifestyles when we’re overseas. And not working out — well, bleh; that can’t really be an option now, can it? It’s a surefire way to zap your energy & leave you feeling anxious. I’ve been searching, though, so fear not! I have found a number of ways to keep active withouta gym membership! As long as you have yourself, some space and a few inexpensive (& easily portable) items you can stay in tip-top shape while traveling:

 * Abs: Abs are probably the simplest for on-the-go workouts; most of the time we don’t use equipment for abs even when it IS available. For abs, try standard crunches, bicycle crunches, planks & reverse crunches. These can all be done on the ground (with a mat, if you really want to spice things up!)

* Arms: To keep your triceps toned, try tricep dips by using a chair in your room! These things are awesome and they require no equipment! Also, try the one-armed tricep push up. For these guys, lay on your side and use the opposite arm to push yourself up — your arms will feel it in no time!

* Legs: Squats & lunges! Everyone’s favorite, right? Fortunately, you don’t necessarily need to do your squats and/or lunges with weights. Just doing them correctly will help tone your thighs & your tush. Try lunges, plie squats, side lunges & curtsy squats (like your curtsy-ing, but squat it; gets into the sides of the bum). Let’s be honest — legs are not the most fun to work out, but they do get your heart rate up so they’re definitely worth doing!

* Cardio(!): For real! This is the most troubling thing, right? For those of us that are used to our fancy equipment for getting our cardio in… what are we supposed to do?! Wellllll, there are a number of things actually. For cardio on the go, try jogging/running (and taking the time to explore your temporary surroundings!) or jumping rope! Also — this sounds kind of lame — but I’m a fan of rollerblading, too. If you don’t mind dragging blades with you, you can blade around and sight see! All you’ll need is a pair of shoes, a pair of blades (if you want to give it a whirl!) & an light weight jump rope.

Also, we musn’t forget the power of portable DVDs & OnDemand. Some hotels now actually offer these fitness-focused channels with some fun workouts you can do in your room. If you want to be prepared, grab a pilates or yoga DVD and take it with you! There is rarely a case with pilates or yoga that you’ll need equipment at all. You may want to bring a few resistance bands to up the ante & up the burn. All in all, technology has afforded us many opportunities to stay active while on the go! Also, not to keep sharing my love of ExerciseTV  but you can view the workout directly from your PC while traveling OR you can burn the workouts onto DVDs to take with you! Gotta love it!

Click here if you want to search for gyms in the UK.

Happy (and Healthy!) Travels,

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My Not-so-Sad Predicament…

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Welllll– I just found out some fantastic news– I just (on Friday) received my acceptance letter from the London School of Economics for the Social Policy & Development program. Now, I realize this doesn’t sound like a predicament, but it is. A little, at least. I had assumed that I wasn’t accepted because it had been so long since I’d heard from LSE. Due to the competitiveness of the school (think 7 applicants per place available), I didn’t have my heart set on it and had disregarded the institution for the most part. That being said, I was perfectly ecstatic sending in my acceptance to Bristol (which I did a couple of weeks ago … oops!) and had already started looking into roommates, accommodation, life in Bristol, etc. Well… now I have an offer to get my Masters at LSE so I’m beyond confused! I have been giving it a great deal of thought and weighing the pros & cons of both schools, but it’s still very much a predicament (although it’s one that I’m okay with!)

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Now, for Bristol — it’s a very darling community; much smaller than London and much more quaint. The school is gorgeous and very prestigious. For Americans — it’s probably equivalent to Columbia in the US. Good school & well known for its education. It’s also about an hour to an hour and a half from London. For traveling around Europe, I can fly directly from Bristol’s international airport or take a train to London & fly out from there. The weather’s a little rainier and colder in Bristol than in London as well, but I did love the town when I visited. Plus, the people were amazing!

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Now, for LSE. This is tough. Like I said, I hadn’t really considered that I would get in. LSE is considered a top tier university, on the same playing field as Oxford and Cambridge, but with a specific focus on economics & political science. It’s widely considered to be the best institution in the world for political sciences (although it’s better known in Europe, Asia & Africa than it is in the US). The cost of living in London, however, is significantly higher. The tuition fees are about 3000 GBP per year more (not very significant) but it’s the accommodations & daily necessities that incur much of the extra cost. I’m trying to disregard cost though in my considering of universities since it IS only one year and it’s a decision that will affect my entire life. Also, London is obviously a HUGE city, so it’s entirely different than Bristol in that regard. There’s going to be a ton to do there, which is nice, and travelling will be easier since London is a hub, but it will definitely be a totally different lifestyle. Also, I think London probably offers greater chances for jobs & for meeting people that will help influence careers.

Grrr— like I said, tough decision. I loved Bristol when I visited it early this year. The town is great, the people are great & the school’s marvelous. I didn’t visit LSE when I was there (again, didnt’ think I’d be accepted), but London in general does have a lot to offer and the reputation of the institution is spectacular! I’m going to try to make a decision within a few weeks here — lots to think about.

Anyone have input on the matter? I like hearing other people’s thoughts <3.

Love,

Shannon

Wanna Do Something Smart?

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In about five minutes flat I was able to help in donating 200 grains of rice to help end world hunger — and it didn’t cost me anything! Check this out —  FreeRice is a non-profit website run by the United Nations World Food Program in conjunction with Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University. The website offers viewers academic questions/trivia in a number of fields to test your smarts: you can choose from art, chemistry, english, geography, languages and math! For each question that you answer right, FreeRice will donate ten grains of rice to the World Food Program to help end hunger!

FreeRice has two goals:

  1. Provide education to everyone for free.
  2. Help end world hunger by providing rice to hungry people for free.

The figures regarding hunger are really astounding. Being that the majority of us are well-fed, it’s difficult for us to think about 25,000 people dying every day from hunger and related causes. Here are some other things to consider:

– 963 million people don’t have enough to eat: that’s more than the population of the US, Canada and the EU COMBINED
– 907 million people in developing countries are hungry
– Asia and the Pacific region house over half of the world’s population and nearly 2/3 of the hungry people
– More than 60% of hungry people are women
65% of the world’s hungry live in just seven countries: Indian, China, the Congo, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Pakistan and Ethiopia.

Additionally, a lot of children are starving and dying every day of malnutrition. So, when you’re bored & hanging out online or if you want to test your vocabulary or foreign language skills, hop on and do something really smart!

Lots of love,

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Hostelling for Travelers!

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Most of us are familiar with hostels. For some, the word conjures up images of a not-so-pleasant hole in a more than questionable area that students resort to out of necessity. Well, it’s most definitely time for us to wake up & recognize the benefits of hostelling. Hostels are actually a wonderful (read: inexpensive!) alternative to hotels for struggling students (or struggling non-students)! On a limited budget, it’s difficult to have to allocate a good portion of your funds to the place that you’ll use primarily for sleeping & bathing. That money could better be spent on tours, on admission to museums, on souvenirs or on food & drinks. Well, save some of that cash —  Hostelling International, a parent company overseeing around 4000 hostels in 80+ countries provides fairly comfy hostels for travelers (for a very reasonable price). Aside from being inexpensive, hostels have other advantages — they are wonderful meeting places for people sharing a desire to travel or for those looking to meet travelling buddies!

Hostelling International (HI) offers a membership for people interested in doing a lot of traveling and thusly, a lot of hostelling. The memberships are FREE for youth (those under 18), $28/year for adults, $18/year for Seniors (55+) or $250 for a lifetime membership. Although you can stay in a hostel without a membership, there are benefits to purchasing an annual or lifetime membership. Aside from having access to a huge network of hostels, members get discounted prices in many hostels, discounted trips and activities,  reduced price admission to museums and cultural centers as well as  savings in retail outlets!

Check it out and start saving money on accommodations! After all, how often do you want to be in your ho(s)tel when culture’s waiting outside your door?

Eurail Passes Revealed!

Eurail Network

Eurail Network

Okkkaayyy… being that I plan on doing quite a bit of traveling once I arrive in Europe this fall, I have done a fair amount of research on how to get the most for my money. Fortunately, Europe boasts a wonderful public transportation system (although they complain about it!) and it’s fairly inexpensive for the sights you will get to see. Now, the thing that becomes problematic with the Eurail pass is there are too many options! It’s like being at Starbucks! There are country passes based upon how many countries you want to see, plus you can choose whether you want those passes to work for consecutive days or if you’d prefer to have a certain quantity of days to use within a given period (3 weeks, 2 months, etc). The Global pass, which is the greatest for people wanting to travel throughout Europe, gives the pass holder access to 21 different countries that are part of this scheme! So here’s a little run down of this Eurail madness:

Flexipass: This type is my personal favorite. Instead of purchasing a consecutive period of travel (see below), you can purchase a certain amount of days within a larger time period (i.e. 15 travel days within a 3 month window, etc.) During this time, you can go to any of the listed destinations and stay as long as you want! Also, a day of travel is a 24 hour period– not one JOURNEY, so you could theoretically visit TWO countries if you went during the single day period. This is a pretty cool option if you want to hang out and see the sights!

* Consecutive Pass: This is a great option if you’re visiting Europe for an allotted time period (1 month, for example). You can purchase a pass from 15 days to 3 MONTHS! During this allotted period you can travel as much as you want. Show your pass, hop on and go anywhere you want. If you want to hit up as many countries as possible within a short (15 day or 21 day) period, this is probably your best bet!

You can download a RailPass Worksheet courtesy of Rick Steves and plan out your European vacation here! You’ll be able to see if it’s better for you to buy a PASS or to buy tickets as you go! Also, for most tickets (this goes for most public transportation over there!) tickets are non-refundable. If they are refundable, they will typically charge a service fee (i.e. 15% or $20 administrative fee, etc.) so make sure you choose wisely! Additionally, courtesy of Rick Steves (again!), here’s a map on the cost of travel between cities with the associated travel times!

Remember, with all of these passes — if you’re UNDER 26 (according to your passport!) you get some sweet deals! It’s significantly cheaper than normal adult rates, so make sure to take advantage of being considered “Youth” at 25!

If you need help on navigating the world of Rail, check out Eurail’s website online and read up! There are options for everyone, depending on how you want your journey to work. If you’re looking to get the best deal possible, do a little research — it’ll most definitely pay off!

Happy Travels,

Who Really Needs Two Kidneys Anyway?

organ-donation

After spending yesterday evening at a National Kidney Foundation-sponsored dinner, I had an opportunity hear the story of a kidney recipient who, at 41 years old, had her kidneys fail completely after an infection had spread. Her brother was the one that came to her rescue — a living donor who was tested (to see if he was a match) and donated one of his kidneys to offer her a normal life. A happy, fairytale story in this case.

Fortunately, since most of us have two functioning kidneys, we can legitimately donate one and share our little detox buddies with those in need. 52% of kidneys that are used for transplant patients are from living donors — that’s an amazingly high number! Family and friends make up the majority, but altruistic strangers come into play as well. I have been considering doing a living organ donation at some point (not any time in the super near future). There are various organs that can be donated to help make men, women and even children’slives more normal and fulfilling. Currently, there are about 83,000 people waiting for kidney transplants and around 15,000 waiting for partial liver transplants, with the number of liver transplants expected to soar to around 70,000 by 2010 due to the high rate of Hep C (boo!). The number of people who donate partial livers is still relatively low; the procedure is still pretty rare but adult-to-adult transplants have definitely been successful. Although it would be hard for most of us to voluntarily part with our organs, it’s an awesome thing for the recipients on the waiting list. For the majority of donors and recipients, the donation process is free of complications and, due to modern technology, the risk of rejection is very minimal! If being a living donor seems a tad excessive (understandable), consider putting the pink “donor” sticker on your Driver’s License in case of an accident — after all, those perfectly healthy organs could benefit a person in need!  

Read all about being a living kidney donor or a partial liver donor here! Worth a look :)

Consider participating in a walk for a foundation dedicated to finding donors for those waiting for kidneys, livers and other vital organs. Fundraising is a vital step in helping generate the funds to help those in need and assist with preventative measures in our communities.

If you want to join my team, Paul’s Partners, for the National Kidney Walk taking place in Sacramento on June 13th — sign up here! If you don’t feel like a 5K walk, consider donating to the cause! <3.

Much love,

Can TV Make You THINNER?

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Can TV help make you thin? It sure can! Not in the way you’re thinking — snacking on chips while watching re-runs of That 70’s Show will probably not help you get anywhere with your weight loss plan. But that ON DEMAND button on your remote that you’ve been curious about? Now that may help you with your aspirations to tone up before jet setting this summer! For anyone that has ON DEMAND, ExerciseTV is likely the most amazing thing you will ever have encountered!  For anyone that’s just too busy to make it to the gym (or if you use that excuse!) you can now exercise in the comfort of your own living room. I know this conjures up images of 80s exercise videos and multi-colored sweatbands, but that’s definitely not the case here. I am addicted to working out with Jillian Michaels and the other Exercise TV trainers. After a cardio sesh at the real gym, I’ll head home and do strength-training with my TV trainers (Jillian & Jackie are my favorite)! I keep a couple of sets of weights and a mat nearby so I can turn on yoga, Tae Bo, Jillian Michaels’ Shred workouts or the Hollywood Body series to tone my tush (it’s a work-in-progress…) before bathing suit season. There are hundreds of exercises and they constantly add new stuff so you won’t get bored! My favorite part (especially for women!) is that you can lift weights in your home, do squats and lunges, and wear your grubbiest workout clothing ever because no one is watching! I hate lifting weights at the gym when there are men EVERYWHERE in sight, but being able to do it at home at my own pace (hellllo, pause button!) makes it so much more bearable and so much more FUN! Definitely worth checking out. If you don’t have access to the elusive ON DEMAND key, hit up their website for workout plans and workouts to download (for a small fee). You can burn your favorites onto CDs and take them with you while you’re traveling! Fun! <3.

Here’s to a healthier you!

 

Download the “Hollywood Body” workout here!

 

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