Have the Best Fourth Ever with Our Healthy Tips!

Set scene: Sam sits down at a coffee shop and prepares to write a 4th of July post for the people. She looks around and notices that the lady across from her has her four little toenails painted in alternating red and white, with the big toenail painted blue…with stars. Sam can’t decide if this is cute, or ridiculous, and then she realizes she’s been staring at this woman’s feet for two solid minutes. End scene.


Everybody celebrates their Fourth in different ways. Some people go to the beach. Others have barbecues. Some brave souls join the throngs in seeking out the best fireworks, while their neighbors find a friend with a rooftop and watch them in peace. And some even paint their toenails red, white, and blue.


Whatever your plans, here’s our guide to a healthy, happy Fourth of July.


Skin Care

Check out our post on Healthy Summer Skin Care to find information on sunscreen, insect repellant, and the best hygiene practices for surviving the elements this weekend.



This is one of the slowest weekends of the year for the gym, because everyone’s outside having fun! Taking a break from your regular gym routine is actually a pretty good idea every now and then. Start your morning with a walk during the cooler hours, go for a jog with that friend who usually works on Fridays, or try out a new hike.

Last summer, Ross wrote series of posts about outdoor fitness:

Day Hikes

Leg Day Substitute

Active Rest Day

(P.S. Ross is starting an Outdoor Bootcamp on July 27th! Stay tuned for details.)



Try out some unexpected dishes this year. Here’s two of my favorites:

Patriotic Parfait

Serves 2 | Prep Time: 10 minutes + 30 minutes chill time

  • 1 can full-fat coconut milk, refrigerated
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp honey
  • 1 C strawberries, sliced
  • 1 C blueberries

Separate the fat from the coconut milk. Add fat plus a splash of milk to a glass bowl (save the rest of the milk for smoothies). Add vanilla, honey, and cinnamon and beat with a hand mixer until it reaches the consistency of Cool Whip. Keep the cream cold until service, or it will get runny.

Layer coconut cream, strawberries, and blueberries for an all-American parfait. This is super easy to multiply and makes a great, healthy dessert for all those cookouts.


Meal on a Grill

This year, instead of slaving away in the kitchen, you can throw everything on the grill and kick back. You can make as much as you need to, and mix and match your ingredients. There’s not really a recipe for this, in other words.)

Cut assorted veggies into large pieces, then drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar and fold into a foil pouch. I like onions, peppers, and summer squash. Eggplant, sweet potatoes, and cherry tomatoes would be nice additions, too.

You can also bake potatoes on the hot coals. Poke several holes in the skin of a potato, then wrap in foil. When the grill is hot, place the taters right down into the hot coals. This works best with smaller potatoes.

Start your potatoes and veggies first, and give them a good twenty minutes head start before adding the meat. Of course, this all depends on what cuts of meat you choose. Potatoes will take about an hour, and the veggies can take around 45 minutes, depending on where they are on the grill and what types/sizes you have.

Add some corn on the cob, and BOOM. Meal on a grill.


Healthy Snacking

In a sea of chips and soda, try to find some healthier munchies. I’d opt for:

  • Popcorn
  • Sliced/assorted fruit
  • Veggies with dip (the fancy people call this crudité)
  • Salsa or guacamole instead of cheesy, processed sauces & dips
  • Ants on a log – try different versions with various types of nut butter & dried fruit



Yep, we’re going to talk about booze on a health blog. Because healthy people drink, right? How do you think Damon handles all those patients, AND the gym, and still manages to be so friendly? KIDDING, PEOPLE. KIDDING.

Anyway. A couple factors to be aware of when it comes to 4th of July imbibing:

1. You’re more likely to be dehydrated already (especially if it’s super hot & humid), so the same amount of alcohol might affect you differently than it would at normal temps. Drink extra EXTRA water this weekend, and supplement your hydration with some coconut water and/or aloe vera juice.

2. A lot of the fun cocktails served at cookouts (mojitos, mint juleps, etc…do people still drink mint juleps?) have a really high sugar content. Not only does this further compromise your hydration, it wreaks havoc on your blood sugar. Make sure to eat a lot of protein (dogs and burgers, baby!) throughout the day, and watch out for the day-after sugar cravings you’re bound to feel.


Wishing you the happiest, healthiest, Fourth of July, from the crew at AFF!

Plantar Fasciitis: What is This, and How do You Make it Go Away?

Hello boys and girls. It’s Damon Rouse story time again! This week, he discusses a truly painful and annoying foot ailment: plantar fasciitis (fash-ee-I-tis). Take it away, boss! 


Ever notice how when you ask your kid to clean their room they just throw everything into one big bin and call it done?


I think this is often what happens with the Plantar Fasciitis diagnosis – pain in the heel? Plantar Fasciitis. Pain in the arch? Plantar Fasciitis. Pain in the ball of foot? Plantar Fasciitis.


Well, not so fast. Lots of muscles and different tissues in the foot can mimic this very painful ailment, but accurate diagnosis of both the irritated / inflammed tissue AND the cause of the irritated / inflammed tissue is of utmost importance.


The two most common causes of plantar fasciitis are:


1. A tight calf.

The calf is active almost all day long, in almost all weight bearing movements: standing, walking, running, even sitting (ever noticed your heel bouncing  when you’re nervous?). As a result, it can get tight. And when it does, weight bearing stresses are transferred to the foot.


Solution: Stretching! 

Try a classic runner’s stretch with the foot behind you & the heel down. Or, try standing with ball of your foot on the edge of a step, and letting the heel drop. Downward dog is also an excellent way to stretch the calves. In all these stretches, hold for at least 30 seconds, and keep the toes pointing straight ahead.


2. Rapid increase in stress to the arch-supporting ligaments of the foot.

Say what boss? In lay terms: there are several long ligaments that run the length of your foot, from heel to toe. This is why PF sometimes manifests as heel pain. These ligaments support your arches, which is why flat-footed folks are more susceptible to Plantar Fasciitis (less support). Rapid weight gain (e.g. pregnancy, medications that cause water retention) or sharp increases in weight bearing exercises (hiking, running, jumping) can over stress these ligaments. Drastic shoe changes, like going from a very supportive shoe to a minimalist one, can also create a rapid increase in the forces put on the foot.


Solution: reduce inflammation and the stressors on the foot tissue that caused Plantar Fasciitis in the first place.

This may include focused stretching, tissue massage, and/or ongoing anti-inflammatory treatments. Physical therapists or massage therapists with experience in foot and ankle ailments can help. Personal trainers can guide your exercise program to alleviate your symptoms and prevent recurrence.


The good news is, Plantar Fasciitis is treatable, and with the right approach, patients often make a full recovery.


If you suffer from Plantar Fasciitis, or have a sharp pain in your arch or heel, schedule a 15-minute consultation with Damon at the front desk, or ask a trainer about it.

The Ultimate Summer Skin Care Guide

Summer Skin Care

A regular skin care regimen is indulgent (but healthy). It’s calming (but invigorating). It’s enjoyable, with huge payoffs (but…nothing).


If you’re not practicing good skin care, you are seriously missing out. Of all the things I do for my health, this is my very favorite.


In the summer, we think more about our skin, because we see more of it. But the truth is, skincare should be a year-round activity. And while there are some specific seasonal factors to consider, your baseline regimen won’t vary that much.


First of all, it’s super important to stay hydrated (obviously). But since you sweat more, you also need to mind your electrolytes. Don’t go crazy with sugar-laden sports drinks; a little coconut water should suffice.


You also need to walk the line between healthy sun exposure, and slathering your skin in chemicals. I find this to be particularly challenging, since I was raised by a bunch of Armenian ladies who fried themselves in baby oil every summer, proudly saying things like, “Look at you! You’re brown as a nut!”


Here’s what I’ve figured out about sun care.


There ARE some natural suncsreens out there. Alba 30 SPF is what my esthetician recommends. And even though 30 seems a little extreme for this olive-skinned sun worshipper, I’m pretty happy with it. Below is a comprehensive guide to the best natural sunscreens.


Environmental Working Group (EWG) 2015 Guide to Sunscreens


The deal with aloe. So, aloe gel can help with sunburns, but post-sunbathing I like to moisturize with coconut oil. It seems to do a better job soothing my skin, and it lasts longer. Also, aloe gel gets sticky when it dries. Ick.


Aloe is actually amazing – in its pure form. It really does help with burns and cuts, and as seen above, is even good to drink. I’m really not sure about the bottled aloe gel products. By all accounts, they’re good, but the added alcohol just throws me.


Vitamin D. Okay, so we know we can get vitamin D from the sun. Your body actually has to manufacture vitamin D out of the rays you soak in. Most of us know by now that we’re pathetically deficient in vitamin D as a population. But/and, you only absorb sufficient amounts of sunshine at midday (10-2), in warm climates. If you live in a temperate climate, you’re pretty much screwed.


Then there’s the ozone layer, or lack thereof. You might be getting a side of melanoma with your vitamin D, which nobody wants. But it is good for you to get some natural exposure to the sun.


My solution is to spend small chunks of time, sunscreen-free, in full sun, as often as possible. Which I admit won’t work for everyone (I’m thinking of my pale best friend, who burns just by thinking about the sun.)


I also recommend a year-round, daily vitamin D supplement. Of course, in the summer months you can lower the dosage significantly, but the rest of the year you should shoot for anywhere from 2,000-5,000 IU per day. (Your Western doctor’s recommendation will be a lot lower than a naturopath’s.)
I actually sell a really good, highly absorbable D vitamin. You can find it here.


Bug Spray Alternatives


What’s worse – DEET, or 10,000 mosquito bites every time you step outside? Tough call. But since the bugs love me so much, I need something.


Cedar oil really helps. I don’t know why, but it works. You need to reapply it often though.


Most outdoor stores, and probably Whole Foods, have natural insect repellant formulas. They stink, they’re more expensive, and you go through it a lot faster, but they work. The only downside is that the strong smell can also work as a boyfriend repellant. Just do a Google search for ‘natural bug repellant.’


Have any skin care secrets, or questions about your skin? Share them in the comments below!


Originally published at

Yoga: A User’s Manual

We’ve been on a yoga kick lately! We’ve already covered the basics, and why you should try it.

Today we’re going to cover everything you need to start a yoga practice – even if you’ve never done it before.

What You Need

Most yoga studios and gyms (including ours) already have all the props you need. We recommend using their stuff until you figure out which things you want for yourself. You don’t need shoes, super supportive sports bras, or fancy workout gear. All you need is listed below.

A mat. Yoga mats come in different thicknesses and textures. A basic, $20 mat from Target will serve you pretty well for most yoga classes. Some mats have a stickier texture, that allows for a stronger grip. This is what the hot yogis use.

A block or blocks. Yoga blocks help you get into poses comfortably. If you can’t touch your toes, place your hands on a yoga block in front of you. This way you still get the benefit of the pose without hurting yourself. I like to have two blocks on hand, but most of the time you can get by with one.

A strap. A yoga strap is like a giant belt. It can be clasped into a loop or used as one long strap. Again, it’s an alignment tool. It helps you get into positions you otherwise wouldn’t be able to.

Comfortable, stretchy clothes. There’s a reason people like to wear yoga pants everywhere. They cling to your body, but are stretchy enough to accommodate all the movements required in a yoga class – without falling off. I personally prefer pants to shorts, and tanks to t-shirts. You might need to experiment a little with different attire.

Patience and an open mind. The first time you do yoga, it feels ridiculous and/or impossible. It’s so important to leave judgement at the door – especially your judgement of yourself. Just listen and do your best, and keep coming back. The real benefits of yoga take a few months to manifest.

Glossary of Yoga Terms

This is just a small collection of the most common yoga terms you may encounter in a class or on a schedule. The idea is to alleviate that I-have-no-idea-what’s-going-on feeling.

Hatha yoga is the basic, breathing, flowing, original yoga.

Vinyasa refers to the flow. You synchronize movements with your inhales and exhales in a continuous, flowing sequence.

Mudra: A hand position, like the tips of your index fingers & thumbs touching, or the hands in prayer position.

Anjali mudra: Hands in prayer position.

Prana: Energy, life force, chi.

Pranayama is breathing work. There are hundreds of different breathing exercises. You’ll undoubtedly practice a few in yoga class.

Ujjayi (OOO-jai-ee) breath is a deep, slow breath through the nose. You open the throat during both inhale and exhale, creating a whispery, ocean-like sound with each breath.

Namaste. Surely you’ve heard this before. It most closely translates to: The light within me bows to the light within you. Usually said at the end of class with hands in prayer position.

Don’t forget about our Therapeutic Yoga Info Session, this Thursday at 6pm!

The Non Woo-Woo Yoga Primer, Part II

Last week, I mostly focused on why you should give yoga a chance, especially if you’ve had a bad experience that put you off.

This week, I thought I’d explain the basics of yoga – where it comes from, what it’s all about, and how it benefits your body – from the very down-to-earth perspective of a regular person (me).

Disclaimer: The information in this article summarizes what I’ve gleaned from going to lots and lots of yoga classes. Any inaccuracy or lack of clarity is my own.

Where it Comes From

Yoga is an ancient meditation tool that originates in India. In its pure form, the purpose of yoga was NOT to build core strength, correct posture, or make you sweat. It was a moving meditation. The practice of syncing movement with breath, or holding a physically uncomfortable posture for a really long time, quiets the mind and helps the practitioner stay present.

What it Really Is

What we think of today as “yoga” – the flowing movements, the pretzel poses – is only one aspect of the true, original practice. There are actually Eight Limbs of Yoga. (They have a Sanskrit name too, but I forgot it.) The moving practice is just one of the limbs.

What we practice in modern, Western yoga (mostly), are the Asanas (body postures) and Pranayama (breathing exercises). The other limbs address things like morality, compassion, friendliness, self awareness, and devotion – and there’s an equally cool-sounding Sanskrit name for each one. Ancient yoga is a holistic blend of all these aspects.

What Happens in a Yoga Class

Let’s take your basic, beginner yoga class. You’ll start by talking – the instructor will want to know if you’ve ever done yoga before, and if you have any injuries or other physical concerns.  Most classes start with some sort of meditation – sitting or standing, focusing on your inhales and exhales. The instructor guides you through this.

Next, you may do Sun Salutations. This is a flowing sequence of poses that line up with the breath, and take the spine through its full range of motion. There are many different variations on this. You’ll start out slowly, taking time to understand the alignment and desired position for each component of the Sun Salutation. There’s forward bend, downward dog, high push up (like a plank), low push-up (chaturanga), and some others.

After that, you may move into some Warrior poses – these are my favorite. After your standing practice is done, you’ll do several seated and/or reclining poses. Bridge is usually a staple in any beginner class. Then you get to do your final rest – savasana, corpse pose. This is when you just lie there on the floor and relax. It rules.

The Terminology

Some instructors use only the English names for poses: “downward dog,” “tree pose,” “corpse pose.” Others use the Sanskrit names: adho mukha svasana, virksasana, savasana.

(Here’s a trick: the word asana (AH-sah-nah) means “body posture.” Every yoga pose is something-asana.)

Most instructors use a blend of both. My favorite teachers call their poses in both languages. This is great, because there are a lot of different English names for the same pose, but only one Sanskrit name. Plus, I love the sound of Sanskrit.

What Else You Need to Know

It’s important to understand that your yoga practice is for YOU and you alone. If your muscles are tight and your joints crackle and pop, if you can barely bend over halfway while everyone else is a jackknife, IT DOESN’T MEAN YOU SUCK AT YOGA.

It’s hard to get your head around this in today’s culture of achievement and competitiveness. But there’s no such thing as being “good” or “bad” at yoga. The very fact that you’re doing it, IS the success. The whole point of yoga is to practice slowing down your mind and tuning into what your body is doing (or, in some cases, NOT doing.)

Watch out for instructors who imply that yoga poses have a goal – to touch your nose to your shins in forward bend, for example. In my humble (but strong) opinion, this inadvertently creates a sense of failure and discouragement in students who might be insecure enough about their budding yoga practice. And anyway it’s not true.

Your goal, in every single yoga pose you do, is to get the most benefit out of that pose. If you’re forcing yourself into a backbend that makes your lower back spasm – not benefiting. Even if everyone else is doing it.

It takes a lot of patience, and a really great instructor, to figure out the little modifications and adjustments to customize your practice. But when you get it right? Oooooohhhh, it’s sweet.

If your interest is peaked, check out our Therapeutic Yoga Info Session, on June 4th at 6pm. Our clinically trained instructors will be there to answer any questions you have.

True confession: When they asked me to write a post about yoga, my first move was to ask one of the yoga instructors to do it for me. That’s who should tell you about the benefits of yoga, right? The people who’ve devoted their lives and livelihoods to this stuff.

And while you CAN look forward to some yoga-rific posts from one of our therapeutic yoga practitioners in the future, today, you’re stuck with me.

After some hemming, hawing, and a little bit of math, I had a thought:  I’ve been practicing yoga for ELEVEN YEARS, and have tried several different styles. I have integrated a regular yoga practice into a well-rounded fitness regimen that includes strength training, cardio, and Gx4 classes. Maybe I have something to say about it after all.

You’re not into yoga.

If yoga seems intimidating and weird to you, you’re not alone. From an outsider’s perspective, People Who Do Yoga can seem impossibly flexible, annoyingly at peace with the Universe, and definitely drunk on some woo-woo kool-aid. (For all I know, I might seem this way to some of you. Sorry.)

It’s hard to understand something that’s new and foreign, that involves a bunch of crazy-patterned tights and body positions you could never imagine yourself doing (or enjoying.) Plus, anything as wildly popular as yoga tends to foster some suspicion and resistance. It seems like a fad, a corporatized gimmick, a racket, a cult.

The Westernization of yoga has certainly contributed to all of this. Our 21st-Century American selves have trouble understanding a physical activity that’s not about burning calories or losing weight. We have trouble trusting an “exercise” whose only purpose is to calm us down.

Before I move on, I want to make one thing clear: yoga, like anything else, is not for everyone. Some people just don’t dig it, and that’s fine. But there are a vast number of folks who don’t think they’d like it, or who had one bad experience, and have closed their minds to the possibility that yoga could help them. I’m talking to YOU.

…or ARE you?

Number one thing to understand: Saying you’re not into yoga is like saying you’re not eating carbs. You could mean jelly beans or raspberries, brown rice or a banana nut muffin. Each one of those foods is a completely different experience, with different effects on your body. The word “carbs” is kind of meaningless. It’s too vague and general, and not reflective of all the different varieties and possibilities.

Same goes for yoga. There are at least ten different styles I can think of off the top of my head, and I’m just a student in a class. There’s Ashtanga, a fast-moving practice that fosters power and strength, or Yin Yoga, which holds each pose for several minutes and encourages deep relaxation. There’s Vinyasa, a flowing practice that connects movement with breath, and there’s Bikram, where participants repeat the same 26-movement sequence every time… in a 104° room.

Hang in there. I have a point.

So how do you know which style to try? How can you ensure you won’t end up the only baby boomer in a class full of college kids, scratching your bum while everyone else does an effortless headstand?

I get it. Delving into the world of yoga is overwhelming. To start, all you need to do is ask questions. Do research. And if you’re feeling adventurous, just try any class with the word “beginner” in the title.

Or, you can join us for a Therapeutic Yoga Info Session on Thursday, June 4th at 6pm.

As a seasoned practitioner, I’m super excited about this program. I’ve never seen a more inviting, accessible style of yoga. I love the concept of integrating yoga with the principles of physical therapy and functional movement. It takes yoga down from the lofty, woo-woo rafters, and delivers it to your grandma with arthritis, your uncle who’s 150 pounds overweight, your tight-as-the-Tin-Man hips and shoulders.

If you’ve never tried yoga, or have a bad taste in your mouth from a previous experience, you should definitely check this out. Our yoga program is the perfect bridge from Total Beginner to Regular Practitioner. No one will judge you, and you don’t even have to wear crazy tights.

Again, that’s Thursday, June 4th at 6pm. You can reserve your spot HERE. 

And now, it just so happens, I’m off to a yoga class.


Six Things You Can Learn From A/T Thru Hikers

AFF-alachian Trail Challenge Spring 2015

The 2nd Annual Great AFF-alachian Trail Race is still going strong. Yes, we have some go-getters who finished the Trail in three weeks. But there are still five weeks to go, and lots of miles to complete!

If you’re feeling discouraged, take heart from these lessons learned from some bona fide thru hikers (on the actual Appalachian Trail).

1. Stay present today. It takes at least six months to hike the 2,181 mile trail. That means on any given day, you can’t stress about how far you still have to go – or you’d have a pretty stressful six months. Each day, you do what’s in front of you. You climb that hill. You take in this view. You talk to this smelly stranger. Apply this to your daily workouts, and not only will you enjoy them more, you’ll cultivate more peace of mind throughout your life.

2. Rest when you need it. Walking an average of 12 miles a day, you run into some problems. Blisters. Callouses. Sore toes, knees, and ankles. Thru-hikers take a rest day if and when they need it (it’s called a “zero day.”)

3. Showers are overrated. Any thru-hiker would tell you, they’d love to be able to shower more often. But the fact is, Americans tend to overwash themselves. Folks who have done long-term work overseas (like the Peace Corps) or outdoor traveling (like the A/T) with limited access to showers tend to shower less overall upon their return. If you’ve done a grueling workout or are covered in dirt from the garden, sure. But you don’t need to shower every day if you’ve just been sitting around. It depletes your skin and hair of their natural oils, and can exacerbate skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis.

4. Take some time in nature. The natural world is your grounding center. In this age of technology, constant connection, and unparalleled stress, it’s the only thing that’s really real – and you’re still a part of it. Taking five minutes every day to be in nature is calming, healing, and  centering. (More is better, but take what you can get.)

5. Get the right gear. Thru hikers live and die by the quality of their stuff. Proper shoes are an absolute must if you’re walking 2,181 miles, right? Same goes for packs, sleeping bags, water filtration systems, etc. Translate this to everyday life: the right gear supports your body to do whatever it is you do at your best, without injuring yourself. If this means getting better shoes to stand in all day, or an ergonomic desk to sit at, or a purse that doesn’t kill your shoulder….do it!

6. Setting & achieving a big goal is a major self-esteem booster. You don’t have to run a marathon or hike the entire A/T. (Who has that kind of time?) If you struggle with low self image, start setting small goals, and throw a big party for yourself every time you succeed. Make the bed 30 days in a row. Or walk a mile every day. Little by little, you can work up to a bigger, long-term goal, like your first race, or a big creative project. Just remember to keep the small goals in place, as “mile markers” for the larger one.


Can you think of any other ones? Share them in the comments below!

Five Things to Try if You’re Allergic to Spring


Little story: When I first moved to Asheville from Boston, it was like a nature bomb went off and littered my world with dandelions, ferns, poison ivy, and kudzu. (And bugs.)


Mostly, I loved it. The air smelled so clean! I could see green everywhere I looked! And since I moved in the fall, I got to skip most of the oppressive summer heat.


The following spring, though, I had a wicked sore throat that lasted for weeks, along with post-nasal drip and what felt like a low-grade fever.


Honestly, it felt like strep throat, so I went to urgent care for a culture. The doctor was very sweet, and not condescending at all when she delivered my diagnosis: allergies.




Thankfully, my allergies have gotten better every year as I acclimate to the nature extravaganza of Western North Carolina. But that year, I felt like crap for pretty much the entire spring season. And living here, I’ve met more and more people with downright debilitating seasonal allergies. Case in point: as I sit here writing this, my man is home taking a sick day because of HIS allergies.


If you’re allergic to spring, it can be a real bummer. You miss out on the most beautiful, hopeful time of year. The burst of outdoor activity, the excitement of getting your garden in gear, the first picnics and barbecues – all come with a hefty price.


Because a) I’m in the holistic health profession, and we know these things, and b) I live in a place where 90% of the residents have pretty bad allergies and have therefore tried lots of remedies, I’ve come across some interesting prevention techniques. Turns out, there’s also a lot about allergies that’s misunderstood.


A word on medication: There are lots of natural remedies to prevent allergies, true. And something like Benadryl is undesirable, for obvious reasons. I haven’t found any major negatives to taking Loratadine (Claritin), although I’m sure somebody has. My approach is, do your best with natural interventions first, and then take something if you need to. Don’t be a hero.


Here are some fun facts you might not know about your seasonal allergies:


  1. Sinus pain, itchy eyes, and sneezing are not the only symptoms associated with allergies. Body aches, sluggishness, and depression are also part of the package.


  1. Most natural remedies (nettle tea, local honey) are for prevention of seasonal allergies – which means you need to ingest them consistently over a period of time. All the local honey in Bee Town won’t help you if you’re already sneezing your face off.


  1. Really bad seasonal allergies can be a sign of food sensitivity. Your body has an allergy “threshold” – a certain amount of triggers it can withstand before you start experiencing symptoms. If you have an undiscovered food sensitivity, you could be maxing out your threshold before spring even gets here.


But if you don’t want to take Claritin all day and Benadryl all night, try some or all of these natural approaches first.


  1. Try acupuncture. I kid you not: EVERY SINGLE PERSON I know who’s tried acupuncture for their seasonal allergies has experienced relief. Far be it from me to explain Chinese medicine to you – I just know it works. Most people do well with just a few treatments.


  1. Do a cleanse or elimination diet. The most common food sensitivities are wheat/gluten, corn, dairy, soy, and eggs. In second place, shellfish, strawberries, citrus, and chocolate (I know, how awful.) I know this is not easy, but again, I can think of at least ten people who’ve experienced fewer allergy symptoms after a 3-week elimination.

How to do it: You can try one food at a time, but I think it’s better to do them all at once. Eliminate these foods for three full weeks (no cheating), and then reintroduce them methodically, one by one, taking note of your reactions.


  1. Drink the nettle tea. Here’s how you REALLY do it. Find bulk nettle (I’ve seen this at Whole Foods). Steep two tablespoons in a quart of fresh, filtered water, for at least an hour. (I like to do this in the sun, but the stovetop works too.) Strain, then drink throughout the day. This works best if you do it every day.


  1. Use a neti pot. You can find these everywhere now, including CVS and other conventional pharmacies. Follow the instructions and rinse your nasal passage with a sterile saline solution. The first time you do this, it’s weird. But it really helps alleviate acute sinus congestion. Do it first thing in the morning, and right before bed.


  1. Try homeopathics. Homeopathy is controversial and not very well understood in the Western world. It’s based on the principle that just a small amount of medication will prompt the immune system to take appropriate action. The treatments are dilute, and may take a few days to take effect. The main rules when taking homeopathics: no mint (this includes your toothpaste & dental floss), chocolate, or caffeine. These substances interfere with the effectiveness of the remedy.


To find a product, visit a natural health-foods store with a supplement section and talk to one of the salespeople. Or go to and search “homeopathic allergy remedy.”


Have you tried any of these approaches? Did you discover something new to try? Tell me about it in the comments!

Vote for AFF!

It’s that time again – the ballots are open for the Mt. Xpress’ Best of WNC.

There have been some changes. For one thing, every category is write-in this year. We’re not sure what that means for the winners, but it will definitely make the voting process faster. You just vote for what you want! As long as you vote for 30 things, you’re good!

Vote for Asheville Family Fitness in the following categories:

  • Gym/place to work out
  • Personal Trainer (Ross – we know Trish is the best too; we just want everyone to vote for the same person to stack the odds)
  • Physical Therapy
  • Swim lessons
  • Wellness center
  • Fitness classes

We’re also giving back! Sam is compiling a list of all our members’ businesses, so we can use our community power to help each other stand out.

If you want to participate, send your business name & category to by FRIDAY, APRIL 17th. On Monday, you’ll receive an email with everyone’s info. Then…vote baby vote!

Let’s DO THIS.

Vote for us Best of WNC











Why Steady State Cardio is Still Good For You

Fitness blogs (including this one) are always touting the benefits of heavier weights, high intensity interval workouts, and myofascial release (a.k.a. foam rolling).

It seems our old friend – the long, steady-paced cardio workout – has fallen out of favor. Which is bad news for all you book-reading elliptical lovers.

While it’s true that steady-state cardio alone is not enough to achieve most fitness goals, that doesn’t mean it’s a total waste of time.

Before we get into the benefits, let’s make sure we’re all on the same page.

Steady state cardio refers to a continuous cardio session (anywhere from 15 minutes for beginners, to 2 hours or longer distance runs), during which you maintain a consistent, manageable pace the entire time. Usually your heart rate stays around 60-70% of your max heart rate. In realistic terms, you could carry on a conversation the whole time, albeit a kind of breathy one.

The benefits of steady-state cardio

  • It’s easier on the joints than high intensity training.
  • It’s essential as a recovery from heavy weight lifting and pavement-pounding intervals.
  • Improves energy levels, mental focus, and mood.
  • Sweating helps your body release toxins and makes your skin look pretty (as long as you’re well hydrated.)
  • It’s easier to stick with a routine that’s not so hard on your body – you’ll see and feel gradual progress without risk of injury or overdoing it.
  • You’ll burn calories and improve cardiovascular function.

How to do it

It’s easy! (Which is why so many gym-goers default to this type of workout.) All you do is hop on a machine and stay there for a chunk of time. If you’re just starting out, try for 15 minutes. As you build up your endurance, increase the duration until you can do 45 – 60 minutes.

If you’re outside, it’s easier to do longer workouts. You can kill two hours in the woods without even noticing.

Be sure to set a pace that’s challenging – if you’re just strolling like you’re at the mall, it’s not going to accomplish much. We like the Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) scale. On a scale of 1 – 5, how hard are you working? You want your cardio workouts to be between 3 and 4.

Mix and match

You don’t have to do the same activity for 45 minutes – you can break it up! Ten minutes on the rower, 15 on the treadmill, and 20 on the bike works great, with the added benefit of not being so boring.

At AFF, our Gx classes mostly focus on functional movement and strength. Because we’re so passionate about this type of workout (we really do love it), it’s easy to forget about the humble cardio workout. Our main motivation behind this spring’s AFF-alachian Trail Challenge was to encourage you to do more cardio.

Haven’t signed up for the Challenge yet? It’s not too late! Just stop by the front desk and we’ll make it happen. Teams are already off to a promising start!