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Outdoor Fitness: Tips to Keep Everyone Safe (part 1)

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As far as summer is concerned, we are headed for the home stretch :( Fear not, there is still a lot of time and great weather left to get outdoors, enjoy nature, and improve your health. I had a blog about another topic ready to go. However, the recent disturbing trends that I have seen while on the “track” at the park changed my mind. I get it. Sometimes we don’t know what we don’t know. Hopefully, these tips will help you, and others, stay safe.

 

 

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Tip #1 – Don’t smoke! (I can’t even believe I have to put this in black and white.) A few weeks ago, in the middle of a heatwave, I saw a woman on the track smoking a cigarette. I had to look twice because I couldn’t believe my eyes. Smoking? No, no and NO! Whatever physical benefit this woman was seeking by being out on the track in the first place was now null and void. We already know that smoking is bad for you (and the people around you as well). The warning on the package is there for a reason people. When it comes to discussions about health and wellness, you will never hear anyone say “cut back” on smoking. Nope. The message is STOP! This woman had two strikes against her – the effects of smoking in her body and the extra strain on her breathing as she smoked while walking on an extremely hot day. By the way, where did she plan to dispose of that cigarette? (remember – heatwave, park, dry grass, and forest-like surroundings). I immediately thought about the possibility of a fire. Please – don’t smoke at the park or anywhere else. Your heart, your lungs, your family, your friends, and your bank account will thank you.

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Tip #2 – Stay hydrated! Hydration is extremely important. However, the liquid your body needs is WATER. I saw a man walking the track with a big bottle of soda. I was also hopeful that there was water inside the coffee cup a lady was carrying. Our bodies are primarily composed of water. Most people walk around in a state of dehydration and don’t know it. By the time you realize it or an ER doctor contributes this problem to your health emergency, it’s too late. Did you know that the large amounts of sugar in soda (as well as in sports/energy drinks and juices) are contributing to the obesity epidemic? To further complicate matters, many times we misread thirst cues as hunger cues. As a result, we reach for something to eat when our body is crying out, “Help! I’m parched!” Please drink water before, during, and after your workout. (Bonus tip: You should consume half your weight in water each day.)

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Tip #3 – Follow the rules of the “road!” The track I frequent is a multi-use park used by a variety of people engaged in various activities. There are walkers and runners, bikers and skaters, dogs on leashes and babies in strollers, individuals and groups, etc. Driving rules apply – walk/run/bike/skate on the right and pass on the left. This may seem like a minor issue, but it’s big because safety is involved. Think about it – a person moving at a fast pace (i.e. bike, skates, on foot) will have a harder time coming to a stop or maneuvering around someone. I’ve been in situations where I needed to pass a couple/group from behind at the same time that a person coming toward the couple/group needed to pass. It gets to be tricky and dangerous when that couple/group is walking in the middle of the “road.” It’s an accident waiting to happen that can be avoided. Please walk on the right and pass on the left.

And, if you are out with your dog, obey the signage: “Dogs on leash at all times except where posted.” My park has a really nice doggie playground. Here, furry four-legged friends can run and play without being on a leash. However, on the track, leashes are required. You don’t know if someone has an allergy or an aversion to your beloved pet. I don’t want to hear that your dog doesn’t bite. If the dog has teeth, the potential to bite exists and I don’t go to the park for that type of encounter. Please obey the rules.

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Tip #4 – Don’t wear scents! Why would you go to the park to workout wearing perfume or cologne? Scents are a great way to attract insects that sting, buzz in your ears, get in your face, and are just overall annoying. Additionally, some people are sensitive to smells and can become sick. This is especially true of people who are undergoing medical treatments, such as chemotherapy for cancer. Remember, you are outside sharing a public space with others. Please be thoughtful and save the scents for after the workout. (really after the shower! LOL)

Look for part 2 of this blog next week. If you are already adhering to these tips, THANKS! If not, please consider implementing them the next time you lace up and head to the park. Your health and safety, and that of others, really does matter!

 

 

be NspireD!

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The Test in my Testimony

 

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Today marks my 6th “cancer-versary” as a breast cancer “thriver.” WooHoo! Amen! And, wow! After rereading these words, the lyrics of a gospel song immediately came to mind. “As I look back over my life – And I think things over – I can truly say, that I’ve been blessed – I’ve got a testimony.” Make no mistake about it, I’ve experienced some extreme challenges while on this cancer journey. However, they are outnumbered by victory…after victory…after victory! 

I remember getting that phone call at work as if it were yesterday. The diagnosis simply made no sense. For decades, I had been doing everything recommended to lead a healthy lifestyle. I ate properly and exercised regularly. I never drank and never smoked. Cancer? The drive home was accompanied by a torrential downpour of tears. I can’t tell you how I arrived safely. But when I walked through the door, the silence was so loud. Cancer.

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Somewhere between the tears, God managed to get my attention. He reminded me that during the years I spent on “Separated Street” and “Divorce Drive,” He provided everything that my children and I needed. I began to have great conversation with myself. “Yeah, that’s right. And if He could do all of that, He can certainly handle a cancer diagnosis.” From the very beginning, I knew that there was purpose connected to my diagnosis. My goal then became living – by any means necessary.

 

Days later, I had a 2-hour conversation with a survivor. She suggested that I include blueberries, strawberries, and tomatoes in my diet. My response? “Yuck, yuck, and yuck!” Since childhood, I have always hated the feel of seeds in my mouth. And now she wants me to eat them? After we hung up, the goal continued to ring in my ears: “living – by any means necessary.” I began the process of teaching myself to eat blueberries, strawberries, and tomatoes. It would take me 20 minutes to eat 1 strawberry and 5 blueberries. Talk about torture. Today, I absolutely love blueberries and strawberries, and I like tomatoes. Of course, I now wish that they had been part of my food repertoire earlier in life.

 

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6 years later, the goal remains the same and I apply it to everything. I’m clear – I fight cancer every day with every decision that I make related to my health – spirit, mind, and body. For example, I have to: 1) make good decisions about what I eat and drink, 2) monitor my stress levels and distance myself from negative people and experiences, and 3) be mindful of the products that I use on my body and in my home. I’m also clear that God is my center. He is responsible for the smile on my face and the joy in my heart. I have to stay plugged in and connected because He created me on purpose, with purpose, to fulfill purpose. Cancer just happens to be part of my purpose.

My purpose also includes this platform of promoting health and wellness as a lifestyle. My divine assignment is to “speak a word in season to him who is weary.” I don’t want a diagnosis of any type to be the wake up call that forces people to start paying attention to their health. The 25 years that I served in the field of education was the training ground for my current role as an inspirational speaker. I enjoy teaching people how to properly read and interpret nutrition labels. I love speaking to audiences about making lifestyle changes so that they can stress less and enjoy life more. My message can help someone improve the quality of their life, and possibly extend their quantity of days on Earth.

I strive to live each day with an exclamation point – not a comma, a period, or a question mark. I refuse to live a life of regret. My relationships with family and friends are extremely important to me. I make sure that I show and tell them that they are loved and appreciated. I believe that we should live like there’s no tomorrow. When you think about it, there really is no such thing as tomorrow. When tomorrow arrives, it’s called today.

bc girl“Every day is a good day. Some are just better than others.” I coined this phrase years ago and it has helped me get through some trying times. You may find it helpful as well. I envision a world without cancer. Until then, I’m committed to making a difference in the lives of others. 

Cancer didn’t happen TO me. It happened FOR me. And if I had to do it over again, I wouldn’t change a thing.  

I can truly say, that I’ve been blessed – I’ve got a testimony.”

 

be NspireD!

Name2

 

 

boUnd

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It’s 6:30 am. Time to get a few miles in before the sun really comes out. My preference is to always be outdoors on the track, instead of inside on the treadmill. There’s something about being outside with nature that helps me think with more clarity. Besides, I enjoy looking at and speaking to the bunny rabbits and the birds. Now the geese? Let’s not even go there! LOL

 

As I crossed the 1 mile marker, my question remained unanswered. When am I going to get this blog done? You see, my time has not been my own lately. I recently completed an intense 2-month class at Temple University and am now a certified Community Health Worker. (WooHoo!) AND, my comedy show fundraiser is quickly approaching. (Got your ticket? www.nspiredbynicolle.com) But when I settled on the topic, I knew I had to make the time.

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Weeks ago, my attention was drawn to the words “limit” and “less.” Hmmm. If I simply “limit less,” I can be “limitless.” This morning, I heard the word “bound.” Ideas began to bounce around in my head and I was off and running (well, not quite – I’m a race walker). What keeps a person bound? And more importantly, why? I found the answer in the middle of the word. The reason why you are boUnd is because of “U” (YOU). The faster I walked, I clearly saw an illustration using the body.

Head – What thoughts leave your mind bound? Forget the “should-a, would-a, could-a” reason. The past is behind us and re-dos don’t happen in real life. Why do we spend so much time focusing on the past? Why do we allow people to take us back there? I refer to this as rear view mirror thinking. The rear view mirror is small for a reason – we’re not going that way. Focusing your time and attention here means missing the bigger picture that the front windshield provides.

 

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Eyes – What is covering your eyes so that the vision that you have for yourself and/or your family is no longer in sight? When vision is blurry and blocked, or distorted and dim, moving forward can be extremely challenging. At times when the light at the end of the tunnel is nowhere to be seen, it’s easy to simply settle and adopt an “it is what it is” mentality. Changing the lens through which you view life in order to bring the vision back into focus, will require patience and possibly assistance.

 

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Mouth – What is gagging and preventing you from using your mouth? Perhaps you are now unable to speak up, speak out, or speak into the lives of others. Perhaps you have been silenced, suppressed, or censored. Perhaps you can no longer cry out for help. Contained within your voice is the power of life and death. Words can build up or tear down. You have the ability to nurture a dream or destroy it at the root level. Be mindful to not only speak the truth, but to speak your truth by being true to who you are.

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Hands – What has your hands bound so that you are unable to accomplish your life assignment? Whether it’s a rope, handcuffs, or maybe even a wedding band, restricted hands prevent you from reaching out to touch the people who need you most. No longer will they receive comfort as you embrace them or wipe away their tears. No longer will they be encouraged from your pat on the back or that high five to acknowledge a job well done.

Feet – What has your feet bound so that you are unable to walk in your destiny? You were created with purpose and on purpose to fulfill purpose. Chains, shackles, and ropes negatively impact your life journey. Don’t become the elephant tied to a stake by a rope. It has the strength to break loose, but remains stationary because of the mental rope conditioning that began at a young age. 

Are you bound in any or all of these areas? If so, you don’t have to remain bound. Acknowledge the fact that YOU possess the key to the handcuffs and shackles which have restricted the movement of your hands and feet; and that YOU have the strength to rip off the bandages which have silenced your voice, blinded your eyes and clouded your mind. The next step is to take action.

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Ironically, another definition of bound is “to leap forward or upward, to spring, to jump.” The choices that you make, or fail to make, are directly connected to your destiny. Will you be bound, confined and limited, or will you move forward by leaps and bounds? Today is a great day to remove those internal and external factors that have kept you bound. Take the limits off and decree and declare that you are no longer being held hostage. Experience freedom one day, one step, and one decision at a time. Oh, and when you’re strong enough, go back and rescue someone else!

 

be NspireD!

Name2

 

 

Stressed? LOL!

 

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Stress is a societal epidemic. I’m not talking about the built in, or innate, stress response – i.e. you jump after being startled. I’m talking about the non-stop, chronic stress that leaves you feeling stressed out, overworked, or overwhelmed. Studies have linked stress to medical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, asthma, obesity, depression, anxiety, and yes – cancer.

As a cancer “thriver” and inspirational speaker, I often speak to audiences about stress management. Because laughter therapy is my favorite way to combat stress, through my company NspireD, I created an event called “Cocktails & Comedy.” You may be wondering how these words are connected. Now depending on who you are, what you’re drinking and how much, consuming a certain number of cocktails may result in a whole lot of comedy. LOL. However, I’m approaching it from a health and wellness angle.

cocktail-clip-art-9czMyRbcEIn addition to the ways that stress can impact our personal and professional lives, did you know that the chemotherapy drugs administered during cancer treatment are referred to as “cocktails?” (Side note: When you get a cancer diagnosis, you also acquire a new vocabulary. I didn’t know what an oncologist was until I had one.) As someone who doesn’t drink and never has, I thought it ironic to get a specific chemo “cocktail” on a regular basis. 

 

“Cocktails & Comedy” promotes laughter as an effective stress management technique while providing additional insight about the cancer journey. Last year’s inaugural event featured cancer survivor comics from across the country. As they performed to an almost sold out crowd, we literally laughed until we cried. A great time was had by all!

comedy-night-clipart1Get ready for the 2nd Annual “Cocktails & Comedy” Show. It will be held at The Delaware Theatre Company (200 Water Street ~ Wilmington, DE 19801) on Saturday, June 3, 2017. Doors will open at 6:30 pm and the show will begin at 7:30 pm. The event will be hosted by Delaware’s own Belynda J. Cleare. Back by popular demand is Miss Gayle from Fredericksburg, VA. Rounding out the comedy line up is Missy Grynkiewicz, Brandon Vincent Jackson, and Donna Ottena. 

k“Cocktails & Comedy” 2017 is a fundraiser for the 2nd Annual “KALEIDOSCOPE: Empowering Survivors ~ Mind, Body & Spirit” conference for women living with all types of cancer. This event will be held Saturday, September 23, 2017 at the Ramada Inn of Newark, DE. The conference will help survivors improve their health and reduce their risk of recurrence in ways that do not require prescription medications. 2016 topics included meditation, mindfulness, exercise, nutrition, and stress management.

Proceeds from the comedy show will be used to create full and partial scholarships for survivors who have a financial need. A cancer diagnosis also impacts your financial health because medical insurance does not cover everything. This fundraiser will help to remove or reduce financial barriers so that every survivor who wants to attend will be able to do so at little or no expense. Not only will survivors benefit from the information shared, they will have the opportunity to connect with other women who understand their challenges. 

ticketCancer is no laughing matter, but humor is healing and healthy. Get your ticket(s) today at https://cocktails-comedy-2017.eventbrite.com. Tickets are $25 in advance and more at the door. The discount for a group of 10 is $225 (buy 9, get 1 free). “Cocktails & Comedy” is a great event for a date night, or a night out with the girls or the fellas. AND, it benefits a great cause – women who are living with cancer.

I hope to see your face in the place. Make plans to come out and have some fun. Life is too short not to laugh a little (or a lot!). Thanks in advance for your support. Please spread the word and remember to LOL!

 

be NspireD!

Name2

 

 

Black History – A New Conversation

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Although February is Black History Month, we must be careful not to restrict the subject to merely one month of the year. As an educator who was often the only teacher of color on staff, I saw this happen in the classrooms of my colleagues. In an effort to reverse this pattern, I brought the issue to the forefront by speaking up about my concerns. I made it my business to help young, elementary students expand their view of the world. Black history goes beyond the color of one’s skin. Black history impacts world history.

During Black History Month, we are often exposed to men and women who have contributed to fields such as medicine, education, science, entertainment, politics, and sports. I believe that health history should be factored in to what is highlighted during Black History Month. In the same way that learning about the past can help us understand and appreciate our present so that we can prepare for the future, the same is true of our health history. We need to know what is being passed from one generation to the next.

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Perhaps it’s a cultural “thing,” but family health matters are often considered “hush hush” and swept under the carpet. You know, the proverbial “elephant” that everyone sees, but no one talks about. This is not beneficial and has gotten us no where – except to an early grave. I encourage dialogue about family health as part of my platform as an inspirational and experiential speaker promoting health and wellness as a lifestyle. We must have the conversations, ask the questions, and then use the information to take action.

Some chronic illnesses can have a generational impact. If we don’t know what’s in our family blood line, then it’s possible to be blindsided unnecessarily. Let’s look at breast cancer. Guidelines state that women should get their first mammogram at age 45. However, a daughter of a survivor needs to get her mammogram 10 years earlier than when her mother was diagnosed. Without this knowledge, the daughter may miss that early screening and find herself embarking upon her own cancer journey. Did you know that even though white women are diagnosed more frequently than Black women, Black women are dying at higher rates? Additionally, Black women are being diagnosed with advanced stages of breast cancer. This can limit treatment options and result in higher death rates.

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Diabetes and high blood pressure are other chronic illnesses that can impact multiple generations. These conditions may be the result of something more than heredity – cultural upbringing. Lifestyle plays a role in the presence or absence of disease. I’m referring to the foods and beverages that are/are not consumed, food preparation, as well as whether we are/are not engaging in exercise. We can control and change these variables. But if no one is willing to have the conversations, to ask the questions, to do something different, nothing changes and the unhealthy patterns continue.

“Nothing changes if nothing changes.” How true. We have to address the health history in the Black community and in every community. It may mean the difference between life and death for current and future generations. Did you know that in some places of the world, babies are being predisposed with conditions such as diabetes in utero due to the food and drink choices made by their mothers? What?! Life is tough enough as it is. We should want the unborn to enter the world with the healthiest start possible.

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Conversations about family health history have to start somewhere, with someone. YOU can be the voice that initiates an ongoing dialogue. To help you get started, the Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition has created a Family Health History Tree.

http://debreastcancer.org/pdf/DBCC_Black_History_Month_2017_full_tree.pdf

Print it out and do your research. Then, talk to family members and your physician about genetic risk factors that may exist, as well as lifestyle changes that can be made. 

History is just not something we celebrate – it’s something we create. 

 

be NspireD!

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