Monday, February 29, 2016


Peace and Blessings Health Partners! 

What does it mean to be accountable for one's wellness?

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines accountability as the quality or state of being accountable; especially an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one's actions. Now, with the technical definition out of the way, to me, being accountable for our wellness starts with getting rid of all excuses! We are all aware of the importance of maintaining an active lifestyle and eating healthier food selections. Health Partners share these among each other all the time, but occasionally, we find ourselves slipping into that sedentary lifestyle or making "not so healthy" food choices. This month, we were determined to move from planning to live a healthy lifestyle to taking concrete steps towards it. To that end, we began the weekly Health Partners' challenges that are focused squarely on health and fitness. February's weekly health challenges included: H2O challenge to get 10-12 glasses of water daily, eating three different fruits and three different veggies throughout the week, consume NO junk food (no soda, no sweets, no fast food etc.), and healthy snacking in-between meals. The fitness challenges, complete with videos demonstrating the correct posture, included: 50 jumping jackssquats, bicycle crunches, and mountain climbers. Health Partners did a great job reminding each other to stay focused on the challenges via our cross-platform and social network forum (WhatsApp & private Facebook group). When it comes right down to it, each Health Partner was responsible for completing her challenges, thus making us all accountable for our own wellness. 

Health Partners' fruit & veggie challenge

Our "H20 situations"

Soon enough, we began to see that we are our own competition! If I wasn't able to complete all 50 rounds of the fitness challenge one day, say the mountain climbers for example, then my goal was to do better the next day. I found that the encouragement of my Health Partners made it that much easier. Health Partners shared strategies that they enlisted in completing the challenges. These included breaking down the fitness challenges into chunks and completing them in multiple rounds, or sharing recipes for healthier snacks to meet the healthy snacking challenge.

One additional step I took towards being accountable for my own health was to finally make use of "My Fitness Pal" app that was recommended to the group by a Health Partner. I'm not sure why I procrastinated on this for so long, but now find the app to be a true pal. It helps me track my caloric intake at the touch of a button on the smartphone, and makes it a breeze to log in the "ethnic" foods that I eat regularly consume. Visually seeing my daily caloric count, and the effect of exercise helps me appreciate the fact that diet and exercise truly do go hand-in-hand. The app is also filled with various nutrition facts and useful blog posts. For now, I'm sticking to the free version, which, surprisingly, has a ton of useful features that that help with basic analysis.

My Fitness Pal

Summary of activities
Kickboxing (2/2, 2/9, 2/16, & 2/23/2016)
Health Partners continued with the Cardio Kickboxing Group on Tuesdays to supplement our Sunday private sessions. It's great to see more and more Health Partners brave the cold, in our determination to meet our fitness goals.

Zumba (2/4, 2/11, 2/18 & 2/25/2016)
Health Partners have also kept up with Zumba on Thursdays at the community center. This helps us further supplement our Sunday workout in order to meet the recommendation to be active at least 3-days a week. Additionally, the cardio and other health benefits of Zumba are tremendous.

Walk/jog at Cabin John Regional Park (2/7/2016)

Health Partners explored Cabin John Regional Park, nicely tucked away in the city of Bethesda. What I especially enjoyed about this park is the mix of natural and hard (i.e., tarred) surface trails, which makes it great for both hiking and biking. As always, the kids, or rather, our Honorary Health Partners, are always welcome, and we had a few on this outing. They walked and jogged the trails along with us, and even helped the mommy and aunty Health Partners stretch out at the end of the trail. We ended the walk with some "sweet rewards" of healthy fruits and vegetables. I always look forward to the discussions that Health Partners have during these post-workout sessions. And the best part about it is that we still have the entire day ahead of us after bidding each other farewell at 9:30 am on a Sunday morning!

Health Partners settle in for a healthy post-walk/jog picnic

Post walk/jog stretching led by an Honorary Health Partner

Cardio & Endurance Training (2/14/2016)
Health Partners had a much needed cardio & endurance training session this month. The cardio routines continue to get more and more challenging, but we would expect nothing less from Saira. I know I have benefitted greatly from the endurance training as well. On this "leg-day" workout, we used some weights and enlisted everyday items such as chairs for another great workout session. Health Partners were amazing at those side kicks, chair hops, and chair dips routine. 

Making the Side Kicks look easy

Yoga (2/21/2016)
Health Partners thought we'd wind down a bit and do some Yoga, which we've had on our radar for quite some time. Personally, I'm no stranger to Yoga. I attend a weekly session at work with co-workers on most Wednesdays, but this session was different. Our instructor, Bahiyyah, took the time to teach us the correct poses and explained their benefits. She also taught us, or helped us better under stand the yoga lingo: Asanas, Chakras, Child-pose, Cobra, Downward-Facing Dog, Namaste, Om, Standing forward bend etc. We left the class super-relaxed and yet energized at the same time. I certainly hope Health Partners will have many more sessions like this. Here are some of my take-home from this single session:

  • Flexibility is not a necessary pre-requisite for yoga, but practice does help a ton
  • The breathing exercise is not meant to annoy (especially the Type-A personalities) but rather to teach us how to slow down from our "high-speed" lifestyle 
  • Yoga is a mental discipline where you must be willing to get out of your comfort zone, challenge your body, and trust that your body can do way more than we give it credit for
  • For those still on the fence about trying yoga, as I was many years ago, know that yoga poses are not necessarily reflections of Hindu beliefs, and neither are the meditations an imitation of Buddhist beliefs
So, there you have it, go ahead and give it a try! Bahiyyah will be showcasing her fitness instructions at the Women's Wellness Workshop on March 5th, and Health Partners will definitely be there to show our support.

Walk/jog at Fairland Recreational Park (2/28/2016)
Health Partners headed to Fairland Recreational Park in Montgomery County. Once again, the Honorary Health Partners joined us for the walk, truly helping us work towards making fitness a habit. They weren't the least bit phased by the distance or the nippy weather. Their reward came at the sight of the playground, which was fortunately at the end of the trail, allowing us to get some much appreciated workout before the kids decided it was playtime. We ended our walk on the trail with high-fiber fruits (raspberry, pears & apples) and kept hydrated with water.

The walk, the jog, the play, and the nourishment

In closing, I'd like to share the steps that I am taking to become more accountable for my wellness, and specifically my health and fitness. First, I've had to get rid of my excuses. It's too cold! It's too hot! I'm too tired! I need more sleep! I don't have the time! As a mom, the kids and what to do with them if I start working-out had been my excuse for years. I knew I had to somehow weave their interests into mine and include them in the things I did to stay active if I plan to succeed. Instead of making them an excuse, I make them part of the reason why I stay healthy and fit. Secondly, I've given up self doubt and procrastination and begun taking concrete steps that will help me reach my health and fitness goal. One that has been shared is my use of My Fitness Pal app to track my progress. Others include literally stepping out of the house to try out different fitness activities that I never thought I'd be able to do (e.g., going on a flying trapeze girls-night out). Lastly, I've learned to step out of my comfort zone, challenge myself a bit, and be willing to take my fitness goal to another level. I make it a point to not just meet, but get to know other woman engaging in some sort of health and fitness activity to see how we can work together to reach our goals. Women working to support each other can truly be a beautiful thing, because, after all, I'm in competition with none other than myself. I am not interested in competing with anyone else. My new mantra is:

I am my own competition! 
I plan to be better today than I was yesterday.

And with that, it's a wrap for February...until next month, I pray you live in peace and wish you many blessings and an abundance of good health. As always, I bid you success in striving to make health a priority and fitness a habit.

New to Health Partners? If you're interested in joining the Health Partners on our weekly health and fitness adventures, please fill out the membership form and we will be in contact with you. You may also send an e-mail to

Remember to leave a comment below!

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Winter came with a bang!

Peace and Blessings Health Partners! 

Knock, knock, it's Jonas2016

Winter finally decided to visit us with Snow Storm Jonas2016 towards the end of January. The storm reminded me of the blizzard of '96, except this time, I got a good understanding of what my parents must have gone through as they tried to keep me and my three siblings occupied. Jonas2016 gave the kids a much welcomed 11 straight days out of school! YIKES!!! Apparently, the snow storm neglected to check-in with parents to see if it was a good time for us. Since sitting the kids in front of the television was definitely not an option, I had to come up with creative ways to keep them from being bored. On the fitness side of things, the one thing that helped keep me sane through the days we were home-bound was exploring different exercise routines with the boys on YouTube. I would be the first to admit that I am such a social butterfly and often need the company of other adults around me to make it through a good workout, but the company of my three boys had to do. We did jumping jacks, push-ups, sit-ups, and even had a couple of Zumba dance parties. Soliciting workout ideas from the Health Partners' group list also helped get us a good mix of things to try. When staying indoors became a bit too much, we bundled up in layers and went outside to get some fresh air.

On the health side of things, I am so glad we stocked up on plenty of fruits and vegetables. With my boys, one thing I can attest to is that they will eat whatever they find in the refrigerator, cabinets, and kitchen shelves. We had an abundance of apples, green grapes (their favorite), clementines, pears, tomatoes, carrots, and celery sticks. I couldn't help smiling every time I saw them make a trip to the refrigerator to grab something to eat. We did some healthier snacking too with some mixed nuts, Kind bars (my favorite), and Back to Nature organic cookies...with great attempts made to keep them at appropriate portion sizes. One new item I have fallen in love with are the Stone Ground Whole Wheat Fig Newtons. They are quite delectable! I think they've just made it to the Healthier Picks' list of must-haves.

Our cabin fever snacks

Summary of activities
Walk at the Theodore Roosevelt Island (1/1/2016)
Health Partners spent new year's day with fitness on our minds. I'm sorry to have missed this walk as I had a coughing spell I couldn't shake off in time. The ladies covered about 2 miles, notwithstanding the cold, and shared some gorgeous pictures of the beautiful scenery. This is yet another one of the wonderful treasures tucked away in our backyard, right off GW Parkway.

Theodore Roosevelt Island
Theodore Roosevelt's statue

Cardio & Belly dancing (1/3/2016)
This was another intense "putting us through the ringer" cardio workout session with Tracey, on another very cold day. Twenty-eight degrees to be exact, but that didn't stop the Health Partners. Tracey incorporated five stations to our routine: agility ladder, side shuffle with 5lbs weights, burpees, jump rope, and cross country skiing with weights. By the time we got through this routine, we were so ready for belly dancing.

Cardio with Tracey

Another belly dancing session with Tracey

Kickboxing (1/5, 1/12, 1/19/2016)
Health Partners now join the Cardio Kickboxing Group on Tuesdays to supplement our Sunday private sessions. I'm always excited to join the cardio-group ladies for an additional workout session with Saira.

Cardio & Endurance Training (1/0, 1/17, 1/31/2016)
Health Partners had three cardio & endurance training sessions with Saira this month. The classes have definitely gotten more challenging, and we welcome the challenge! On another exciting note, we finally got to work with the huge tire I've been eyeing from the very first day. And in the last class session, Health Partners tried a Mommy & Me workout day. We thought it would be fun to include our little ones in some fitness fun. It was a hit! They had a blast, so that  idea is a keeper.

Saira demonstrates how to work with the tire

This month, Saira also shared the latest physical activity guidelines from the US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) with the Health Partners. The guideline that caught my attention is the suggestion that adults engage in 150 minutes of moderate-intensity workout in order to reap substantial health benefits such as decreased likelihood of developing a number of chronic diseases. Guess what, Health Partners are already doing just that and some more. We should definitely keep it up and add some more vigorous-intensity and muscle-strengthening activities in order to reap more extensive health benefits. 

Useful guidelines for keeping active

Zumba (1/14, 1/28/2016)
In order to get up to the recommended 150 minutes of weekly activity, Health Partners are encouraged to attend Zumba at the community center. The instructor, Dionne, brings a high-tempo to the Zumba Dance Party, as it is referred to. I forgot to pack my workout outfit and proper shoes on one of the class, but I didn't let that discourage me. I jumped right into the fun not afraid to dance without shoes, and "winged" it with my pink-ish socks. I definitely enjoy the cardio benefit of this class and plan to continue with it as a supplement to our Sunday sessions.

Ready, set, and Zumba in pink-ish socks

When it comes to health and fitness, one of the things I learned is the great effect of one's behavior. Health doesn't just happen, and neither does fitness. It takes making conscious decisions and proactive steps to make health and fitness "happen." Some of the conscious decisions I have made in the past couple of months is to take time out for myself. I ensure that I leave work early enough to be able to make it to my Tuesday and Thursday classes. I try to get in bed early enough on Saturday nights in order to be well rested and ready for the Health Partners' Sunday morning workout session. And reflecting back on Jonas2016, had I stocked up on junk food, junk food is all my family would have feasted on during those home-bound days. And had I permitted the kids to have their way with the AppleTV (we still don't do conventional television), cartoon is all they would have consumed. The conscious decision to pack the refrigerator and kitchen shelves with healthier, and tastier, selections kept their taste buds, and mine, very happy. The decision to keep them active was in many ways my strategy to avoid getting bored and "unmoved" (pun intended). In the end, we scaled through Jonas2016 in health and much needed fitness and I hope I can say the same for the entire year when 2016 comes to a close.

That's it for January...until next month, I pray you live in peace and wish you many blessings and an abundance of good health. As always, I bid you success in striving to make health a priority and fitness a habit.

New to Health Partners? If you're interested in joining the Health Partners on our weekly health and fitness adventures, please fill out the membership form and we will be in contact with you. You may also send an e-mail to

Remember to leave a comment below!