penguinAs one of the editors here on Well & Wise, I get to read some of the neatest stories online and in books. One of our writers, Anna, shared a great blog post with me earlier this week which speaks to the unspoken etiquette of greeting fellow runners during their runs. It’s clear, through my own novice triathlete experience, that the recognition, encouragement, and community surrounding running is as welcoming as it is unique. If you are afraid of running, don’t like running, or just don’t know anything about running, I highly recommend you check out The Courage to Start and Born to Run. These books just might change your mind about the sport altogether. Below, Anna shares her encounter with runners at the Nike Women’s Half Marathon in Washington, DC.

Around mile five, we had to cross a bridge over the Potomac River into Arlington, Virginia. As we were crossing over, the runners coming back were encouraging us with high-fives and words of encouragement. The runners were doing high-fives all the way across the bridge! It was such a tremendous feeling to know that we weren’t alone in our quest to finish! I wished that I could have taken a picture, because it was one of the most tremendous experiences I’ve ever had as a runner. -Anna L. Downing

Have you ever had an experience like that while running? Let me tell you, it’s hard not to feel good about being out there and staying active when you’ve got runners giving you high-fives, friendly waves, smiles, or compliments like, “Looking good!”

John Bingham, “The Penguin,” is a runner who has pretty much capitalized on his own couch-potato turned multiple-marathoner story. He’s a beloved columnist/writer/athlete/awesome-guy-in-general – and his anecdotes will make you laugh, smile, and sometimes cringe. Plus, he’s pretty much the poster boy of inspiration for those of us (myself included) who wouldn’t necessarily be picked out of a crowd and called a “runner.” This book is packed with practical advice for beginner runners and is an awesome story of a normal guy who figured out what it means to run with a smile.

JP is the HCLS Editor & Blog Coordinator for Well & Wise. She is also a Children’s Instructor & Research Specialist at the Savage Branch. She is a storyteller, wannabe triathlete, KPOP-addict, baker of cupcakes, cancer survivor, and liver transplant recipient.


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Photo by Pascal (pasukaru76) on Flickr

Last year, when I spent some time in physical therapy rehab, I not only learned exercises for strengthening my legs, but also learned a lot about strengthening my arms. Previously, I felt the benefits of yoga exercises and stretches for my arms, but during a long recovery for a knee replacement I couldn’t continue my regular yoga practice.

The first step was an assessment with an occupational therapist looking at my strength and range of motion in my arms. Because I have had rheumatoid arthritis for many years I have limited motion and stiffness in my joints. Additionally, my arms needed some strengthening because I can’t exercise them well with my arthritis.

Stretching and exercising arthritic joints is very important for maintaining strength and mobility. Even sitting in a chair, I can do simple exercises like rolling my shoulders, circle motions and stretching one arm with the other.

However, I learned a great addition to my exercise regime was to use light weights. My therapist had me start low with just one pound to get comfortable. We used ankle or wrist weights that fasten with Velcro because I have trouble gripping anything heavy with my hands.

It didn’t take long for me to work up to exercising with a couple pounds. Right now I can do my exercises with 3.5 pound weights, but my goal is to reach five pounds. When the exercises feel too easy and not as challenging, I add a half pound, but then, decrease the repetitions of the exercises. I then work my way up to the previous repetitions with daily practice of the exercises.

One important lesson is to take a break or cut back on the exercises when I’m having an arthritic flare up or joint pain. Too much exercise can aggravate the joints further. On days when my shoulders or arms are feeling more pain and stiffness, I may exercise with less or no weight. On very bad days, I don’t exercise and may instead do something soothing for my joints like applying heat or getting extra rest.

After I began using weights for my arm exercises I noticed a gradual increase in strength and less stiffness in the joints. If I get out of the habit for awhile, I do feel more arthritic pain and less mobility in my arms. It also takes me time to work back up and feel better. For these reasons I definitely advise sticking with a regimen and not skimping on the daily practice!

Before adding weights to your exercises, consult with a physical or occupational therapist to make sure it is a good match for your physical condition. Take it slow and listen to your body when exercising. The goal is to strike a balance between challenging your body, but not harming yourself. If you feel too much pain or discomfort that is a warning sign to dial it back. On the other side, if you don’t feel your muscles tire or a little soreness then you may need to increase intensity.

Kelly Mack lives in Washington, DC, and works for a marketing communications firm.


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PamPeeke_BrownLeather_webIn her publications – The Hunger Fix, Body for Life, Fit to Live, and Fight Fat After Forty - Dr. Pamela Peeke takes a holistic and integrative approach to mental, emotional, and physical fitness. From a perspective of full body health, she describes how to stay (or get) fit, healthy, and happy without endangering any aspect of your well being – a much needed and appreciated approach in our diet-obsessed culture.

The formula for weight loss is simple, right? Burn more calories than you eat – easy as that. However, becoming or staying truly fit takes more than eating the proper foods and getting enough exercise; it involves reducing stress and eschewing self-destructive habits. But how do you do that? Each aspect taken on it’s own seems easy enough, but taken as a whole it’s a hefty list: reduce stress, eat nutritious foods, decrease or eliminate self-destructive habits, and practice enough safe and satisfying exercise. Whew! I can’t even get to the end of that sentence without getting tired.

Luckily for all of us, Dr. Peeke has outlined a couple scientifically backed plans to improve health and wellness for people of any age or gender. Following Dr. Peeke’s three stage detox and recovery plan as outlined in The Hunger Fix or the five point plan she lays out in Fit to Live will ensure that all variables in the health and fitness formula are addressed. In The Hunger Fix, Dr. Peeke describes how dopamine rushes can be connected to unhealthy foods in the brain, and she lays out a plan to replace “false fix” foods with healthy fixes like meditating, writing, walking, or even laughing. In Fit to Live, she reframes healthiness with a simple question, “Are you fit to live?” Meaning, are you really mentally, emotionally, and physically fit enough to survive in the modern world with all it’s stressors and possibilities? With a lifestyle and health assessment, Dr. Peeke provides long term prognoses of different levels of fitness and a plan to improve by cutting out toxic lifestyle elements.

As you’ve no doubt seen previously on Well & Wise, Dr. Pam Peeke, internationally renowned expert on nutrition, stress, fitness, and public health, will be speaking tonight, Monday June 9th, at the Howard County Library System Miller Branch at 7:00pm. Registration is available online or by calling 410-313-1950. Come by to ask Dr. Peeke your nutrition, stress, and fitness questions directly!

Jessica Seipel is an Instructor & Research Specialist at the Savage Branch. She has worked for the Howard County Library System, in various positions, for a decade.



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“It’s about change, about committing to a new way of living–one that will ensure a lifetime of self-esteem and confidence.” Cindy Crawford, model

Ready for mind and body fitness? Open Body-for-LIFE for Women and be amazed by the attention-grabbing cover lining. Like the personal stories inside, the before and after photos attest to the success that so many different women have found following this book’s advice. Dr. Pamela Peeke, a physician specializing in nutrition and metabolism, introduces MMM – the Mind-Mouth-Muscle Formula for physical and mental fitness. Relying on the gender-specific studies of women’s biology and physiology, Dr. Peeke presents a health plan tailored around hormonal milestones. Taking into account biological, behavioral, social, and psychological factors, MMM confronts the challenges of motivation, healthy eating, and fitness. The book even includes detailed weight training and stretching instructions with helpful photos guiding the reader in proper form.

PamPeeke_BrownLeather_webSome highlights of this inspirational book include the “Cut Calories without Counting Them” page and the “Smart Foods Table” for constructing healthy meals. There is an informative nutritional table comparing energy bars. (The healthy fast food, energy bars are not all created equally so it can be tough to know which one to choose). Dr. Peeke’s fitness guidelines are especially encouraging in their emphasis on intensity rather duration. The goals are based on the science of metabolism and never feel overwhelming or unrealistic. There is also an abundance of insightful stress management tips such as the Rule of Reverse Expectations, “Anticipate that there will be obstacles in your path….Remember that in the midst of difficulty lies opportunity.” Dr. Peeke writes about creating “motivational targets” to overcome tough times and invigorate healthy choices.

Whether you are most interested in improving your emotional, nutritional, or physical fitness, check out Body-for-LIFE for Women. Next, register at to meet the author on Monday, June 9, 2014 at 7 pm at the  Miller branch. Dr. Peeke will be speaking about her books and taking questions. See you there!

Cherise Tasker is an Instructor & Research Specialist at the Central Branch and has a background in health information. Most evenings, Cherise can be found reading a book, attending a book club meeting, or coordinating a book group.


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Are you ready for the nice weather and the unofficial start to summer this Memorial Day weekend? After the winter we experienced, I think we’re all excited to finally be outside doing something other than shoveling snow! I’m looking forward to gardening, barbecues, and spending time with family and friends. Are you planning a trip to the beach or spending time at a pool?

Many of us look forward to this time of year, but this time of year can also elicit fear and anxiety. Why? It’s simple: swimsuit season. Shopping for a swimsuit is usually on top of our list of things to avoid. This year let’s make a pact to not let body image issues affect us in negative ways. We will not succumb to the fear and anxiety that normally accompanies us into the dressing rooms when we try on swimsuits. Everyone has something he or she would like to change about his or her body and this can motivate us in a good way to exercise more or eat better. Our goal should be a stronger body and better health, year round.

The days are warmer and there are more hours of daylight! Get outside and walk, run, swim or bike! You will feel better afterwards, I promise. We all deserve the benefits of exercise, so start now. HCLS has a great collection of books and DVD’s to help you get started.

Whatever you do this summer, focus on what you love about your body instead of what you want to change. Be mindful about what you say about your body, because it will affect how you feel about yourself. It won’t be easy, but try to silence your inner critic and speak to yourself like you would to a friend. Stop comparing yourself with the body images so often portrayed in the media. Many of us do not have time or money for personal trainers, in-house gyms, or the best photographers or airbrush artists. What we can do is make realistic, positive changes in our lives to become more fit and healthy. We can commit to not dwelling on the negative. Friends and family love and support us just the way we are!

Isn’t it time we free ourselves from worrying about what other people think? If there are people in your life who are making you feel inadequate in some way, it’s time to ignore them and trust yourself. Go ahead and try on that swimsuit and smile at what you see. It might be hard to do at first, but most things that are worthwhile are. Make it a goal to give yourself a compliment every day. When you look in the mirror say something positive about what you see.

If you are interested in learning more about body image check out the many books, magazines and articles available at HCLS. Information on body image is also available at

So, are you ready to make the commitment to stop the negative self-talk? To not let worries about how you look in your swimsuit spoil your summer fun? Great! Go ahead and give yourself an emotional high-five the next time you look in the mirror! Now grab a book from one of the summer reading displays at the library, put on your swimsuit, smile, and I will see you at the beach or pool this summer.

Don’t forget your cover-up. No, not your swimsuit cover-up (you can bring that too), but your sunscreen. Visit the Johns Hopkins Medicine Health Library for more information on how to choose and apply sunscreen.

On a more serious note, if you know someone who has an unhealthy preoccupation with body image, encourage him or her to seek help from a counselor or doctor. You can visit the Johns Hopkins Medicine Eating Disorders Program to find answers to frequently asked questions.

Nancy Targett is an Instructor & Research Specialist at the Miller Branch. She lives in Columbia and is the proud mom of three boys and a girl and a Siamese cat.


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FINALLY, we have our spring weather, and what better way to celebrate the end of the seemingly endless winter of doom than to jump on your bike and go for a ride! While I am referring to the pedal-powered variety and not the motorized kind, to each their own (typed as my colleague zooms into work on his bright yellow motorcycle, haha).

Ok, back to bikes –  basically, they are an amazing invention that allows for fresh air, exercise, and adventure all while helping the environment – lots of positives here, right? Not to say I am a bike pro at all, I just like to ride on the weekends with my son. Every summer we take the bikes on our annual trip to Cape Cod and explore the trails there.

My preschooler and I have graduated from the front bike baby seat to the back bike toddler seat to the half-bike attachment on the back of my bike to the little kid bike with training wheels! We’ve done it all! I think. I have to say though, I’m not a fan of any of the “behind me” options. I worry about not being able to see my son, as he is  prone to rascally-hi-jinx and practical jokes that backfire!

Some bike books at HCLS that the younger kids in your life might like (that have my son’s stamp of approval) are Row, Row, Row Your Boat; and Ride, Ride, Ride Your Bike by Wes Magee, Henry on Wheels by B.B. Bourne, and I Can Ride! by Lynn Kertell, which are all neat early readers so the kids can practice their sight words. Some engaging picture books are The Best Bike Ride Ever by James Proimos, Duck on a Bike by David Shannon, Vera Rides a Bike by Vera Rosenberry, and Off We Go! : A Bear and Mole Story by Will Hillenbrand.  The bear and mole story is our favorite for learning to take off those pesky training wheels (not that we have yet).

If you want something a little more mature, let me recommend The Long Run: A New York Firefighter’s Triumphant Comeback From Crash Victim to Elite Athlete by Matt Long.  Talk about inspirational! This man went from a near-death experience while riding his bike to stage an amazing recovery, including teaching himself to walk again, and going on to run in the New York marathon three years after the accident. Definitely an unbelievable biography, especially if you are in the midst of tough times and need a good reminder about not giving up.

Other great reads for adults are The Best Bike Rides in Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, Washington, D.C., and West Virginia or even Short Bike Rides on Cape Cod, Nantucket & the Vineyard if you are a “Cape Codder,” like myself.  There is also The 10 best of everything national parks : 800 top picks from coast to coast which contains everything from bike rides to backpacking to kayaking and more, all ordered into neat chapters based on location.

Happy biking, and happy National Bike Month to you all!  Ride safe!

Sarah Cooke is a Teens’ Instructor & Research Specialist at HCLS Savage Branch. When she’s not working with her beloved teen customers on rap-battles and murals, she enjoys time with her rambunctious pre-schooler. He is currently teaching her the joys of finger-painting outside the lines, which could very well be a life lesson for all of us.


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