Why Medium is a Great Platform for Writers: Here are My 3 Reasons

I recently came across an article published on Medium that detailed all of the reasons why new writers should not use Medium as their writer platform. This author even discouraged new writers from using Medium as a platform for building a writing portfolio.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I feel like there is too much information about what a new writer shouldn’t be doing. It’s as if some pros genuinely don’t want to see other writers come up from ground zero and become literary stars. Writing is so vast; it encompasses many genres and niches, and there are billions of people who are avid readers, so there is plenty of room for every writer to succeed.

Medium is just one of many places for writers to share their work and creatively express themselves.

I started writing on Medium a little over five months ago and it was the best decision I’ve made for myself. Here below are the three reasons I love Medium and why I think it is a great place to start out when you have little to no writing experience.

  1. Medium is a Community

Medium is more than just a space to share your work and build your following. It is a community of writers. If you’re looking to make meaningful connections with other writers and hope to land some freelance work, Medium is a great place for that. That’s how I got connected with Thaddeus Lorenz, founder of the Tech Startup, The Minute Journal.

Other writers frequently share lists of websites, blogs, and magazines that are looking for freelance writers. There are also many publications on Medium that are open to and even eager to publish work from new writers.

2. It’s very possible to build your following and your readership on Medium

It’s not easy to do but, since there are more than 200,000 writers on Medium, it’s very possible to build your following and your readership. Like with anything, it takes time, dedication, and effort. That includes publishing content that is well written, engaging, insightful or educational, and thought-provoking. Personal stories centered on the topics of mental health, self care, and personal development are the most popular on Medium.

Regularly reading and commenting on other writers’ works also helps when building an audience. And it builds community. Unfortunately, at times it is easier said than done, especially if you already have a busy work schedule.

In the five months I’ve been on Medium, I’ve built a following of more than 450 readers. And readers are genuinely engaged with my content. In the past, I’ve always had an extraordinarily difficult time building a readership, so the fact that I have, and still am, avidly building a readership speaks volumes of this platform.

3. You can and you should use Medium as your writing portfolio

You will need a professional website if you’re planning on building a career as a freelance writer. But, if you’re just starting out, you will need some kind of platform other than your own website to showcase the best of your writing skills. And Medium is the ideal place for it, also because there are so many publications where you can submit your work.

A Takeaway

You can earn money writing articles on Medium, however if you expect to earn a good full time income from Medium, you will be disappointed. Medium is a much better place to get known, showcase your work, and get your foot in the door when you are starting out on your writing journey.

Should you stick with Medium as you build experience? Absolutely. Medium is a fantastic platform for building a readership and you should most definitely continue to nurture that because you just never know what types of opportunities will present themselves.

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You can find me on Medium @deannaproach. Give me a follow or subscribe and receive articles in your inbox, and I will most definitely return the favour.

Weight Management Tips: How to Keep Healthy and Fit While on Holiday

We all need a holiday from time to time; holidays are good for the soul. They are for unwinding, relaxing, and having fun. They are also a time when we overindulge in food and/or alcohol, which is a main reason it’s so easy to gain weight. We all think that it’s hard to keep the weight off while we’re on vacation, but that is all in our heads.

With the right mindset and amount of effort, you can keep the weight off and maintain your trim, fit figure throughout your holiday.

1. Limit your sodium and sugar intake.

This is one of the hardest things for us to do during a vacation because, while we’re relaxing, de-stressing, and taking the free time to catch up on life and enjoy it, we cave in to temptation.

I’m sure you’ve told yourself, “Screw it. I’m on holiday,” while strolling through a bakery and eyeing all of the delicious pastries that are on display. Or, “I’ll get back into my fitness routine and lose these extra pounds when I return home.”

I know the feeling because I’ve been there myself. I’m just as guilty for shirking my health and fitness goals in favor of pleasure.

Here’s the thing though: It’s completely okay to indulge a little. That’s what holidays are for, right? You simply cannot deprive yourself of everything. That said; eating pastries and other sugary or salty foods every day will only pack on the weight and leave you feeling energy deprived. As the saying goes, ‘Everything in moderation’. Do enjoy a few treats, but at the same time, be mindful of how much sugary, highly processed foods you are consuming.

2. Book a place where you are able to cook your own meals.

The best way to ensure a healthful holiday is to book a vacation rental that includes a kitchen where you can cook your own meals. That way, you have full control over your choice of food and what to season it with. Delicious and nutritious home-cooked meals will give you an opportunity to spend more time enjoying your vacation rental. You’ll also save money that way.

3. Make Exercise part of your daily routine.

You don’t have to exercise at a gym while you’re on holiday, unless you’re staying at a hotel that has a gym and the gym is your go-to for exercise. You don’t even have to attend a gym in order to get a good workout for that matter. You can just as easily get out, explore, and enjoy the surrounding landscape in the place you are visiting.

Here are some ideas for physical activities that are fun to do:

  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • Walking or jogging
  • Swimming
  • Kayaking
  • Paddle boarding
  • Rock climbing
  • Fitness classes
  • Archery
  • Tennis

Of course, the availability of outdoor activities depends on where you are vacationing. It also depends on your fitness level and on what you enjoy doing.

If you’re on a tight budget, you can also exercise in your vacation rental. There are several fitness programs you can access on your computer or tablet that are free and you don’t need any equipment in order to get in a good workout.

4. Don’t pack your days.

You’ve decided to spend your holiday in a different town, possibly – and most likely – in a different country, so quite understandably, you want to explore and drink up the experience and thrill of being somewhere different. You want to make it the best holiday you’ve ever had. But the best thing you can do for yourself is to not pack your days with activities. While you want to explore and have fun, keeping yourself too busy will drain your bank account and your health. On the go means more takeout, more dining out, and less rest.

Holidays are meant for a balance of fun and rest. If you can create this balance while on vacation, you will be better able to maintain your health and weight. You will also be better able to maintain this balance once you return to your regular schedule That’s because you’ll feel recharged, energized, and you’ll have the mental clarity to maintain this balance in your everyday activities.

Think of the ‘holiday fun-rest’ balance as a new habit to adopt and adapt in your work-life balance.

A Takeaway

It’s easier than you think to maintain a healthy weight and lifestyle while on holiday. It all depends on you; how you plan on spending your holiday and the activities you want to do. With the right mindset, self-control, and a little planning, you will be able to keep the weight off and maintain your fitness goals.

What it Takes to be an Elite Group Fitness Instructor

On the first day of the group fitness instructor’s class I took at InfoFit in Vancouver in June 2019, my instructor said, “There are many mediocre instructors, but the elite instructors are the ones who are very busy and well sought after.” 

Teaching fitness is a lot of fun, you get paid to work out, but if you want to be the best, then you have to put the work into it. He then posed the following question to us: “You have to decide: do you want to be a mediocre instructor, or do you want to be an elite instructor?”

Even though I haven’t been teaching fitness classes since the COVID lockdowns began, I still keep this in the back of my mind because, at some point in the future, I’d like to get back into teaching fitness classes.

So, what differentiates an elite group fitness class instructor from a mediocre one? An elite group fitness class instructor does the following:

1.   She makes every participant feel welcome, regardless of that person’s fitness level.

2.  Creates an environment that is positive, inclusive, and promotes team-spirit. Instructors who set realistic, relevant goals for all participants and encourages them to work towards achieving those goals as a group, enhances participant adherence as well as enjoyment.

3.  Provides progressions and regressions of every exercise to accommodate participants of all fitness levels and encourages them to listen to their bodies.

4.  Puts participants first and isn’t simply getting paid to do his or her own work outs.

5.  Offers corrective feedback whenever necessary, but does so without singling out a participant and always follows up with a word of encouragement.

6.  Is well prepared, on time (or, if possible, at least a half an hour early for set-up), and enthusiastic.

7.  Doesn’t gossip about other instructors, leaves all personal problems outside of the classroom, and doesn’t choose favourites.

8.  Dresses appropriately and never wears clothing that is too revealing (like those short-shorts or low-cut sports bras), too baggy, or dirty.

9.  Uses music that is motivating and appropriate for the type of fitness class being taught, but not jacked up to a level where the instructor has to yell in order to be heard.

10. Checks all equipment that’s being used and removes any equipment that may be defective.

11. Always has a back-up plan just in case things go wrong. For example: the power goes out during or before class, the sound system doesn’t work, or it rains on the scheduled day of an outdoor boot camp.

Teaching fitness classes can be a heck of a lot of fun, but with it comes much preparation and experience.

So, in answer to my instructor’s question: ‘Do you want to be a mediocre instructor or an elite instructor?’ I most definitely want to be an elite group fitness class instructor. That’s because I’m passionate about health and fitness, but also because I firmly believe that everyone has a right to participate in a fitness program of their choice and feel like they belong. 

I want to motivate and inspire others to enjoy physical activity (both inside and outside of the gym) and perceive their fitness goals as a lifelong journey of maintaining a healthy, balanced lifestyle as opposed to just simply getting a toned and leaner body. I also want people to see exercise as means to learn new skills, forge new friendships, alleviate stress, and to just have fun.

An individual’s personal satisfaction and level of enjoyment with my future exercise programs will be well worth the effort I put into it.

 

6 Tips to Keep Safe While Hiking

Every spring and summer we enjoy spending more time outdoors, exploring various hiking trails while enjoying the tranquility and beauty that nature has to offer. Unfortunately, there have been several occasions where hikers have gone missing. This proves that, if a hiking trip is not well thought out and planned carefully, what should be an enjoyable and memorable experience will turn into a hellish nightmare for everyone. 

However, you can avoid tragedy and maximize your adventure in the woods by following these six tips.

The More the Better

Whether you’re going for a three-hour hike or a weekend long hiking trip, always make sure you have more than what you need for the duration of your trip. That includes food, water, clothing, flashlight, batteries, and First Aid supplies. 

Dehydration, hypothermia, heat stroke, and hunger are the greatest threats to our safety when in the great outdoors, far away from any town. You never know when or if a situation will arise in which you need those extra supplies, so having them will thwart a potential disaster from happening.

Be Aware of Your Surroundings

Always hike with a group of people. Never go on your own even if you know the trail really well.  Some trails are well marked and include maps, but not every trail is marked. In any case, bring a compass. If you want to venture on a trail you’re unfamiliar with, join a guided tour or, if possible, find a friend who knows that trail well.

Always be aware of your surroundings and make sure you stay close with the group of people you’re with. Never wander off the trail, especially if you’re unfamiliar with the terrain.

Wear Appropriate Clothing

Regardless of where you’re hiking, always dress for the weather and keep in mind that weather can change on a whim. Below is a breakdown of clothing that’s appropriate for different seasons and climates.

Summer/Hot dry Climates

  • Any lightweight clothing that is breathable, light in colour, and loose fitting.
  • Nylon, polyester, cotton, and merino wool are good choices for warm or hot weather.
  • Shorts and t-shirts are ideal for hot weather, but a light, long-sleeved shirt and khaki pants protect your arms and legs from being sunburnt and bitten by mosquitoes or other bugs.
  • Be sure to apply sunscreen to your legs and arms if you opt for shorts and t-shirts. 
  • A hat, preferably one that is wide-brimmed, will protect your head from the heat and also prevent your face, neck, and ears from being sunburnt.

Winter, Spring/Moderate to Cold Climates

  • Wear layers of clothing.
  • Lightweight or mid-weight fleece is ideal as it dries quickly and keeps your body warm.
  • Wool socks that fit well and aren’t too thick as well as waterproof boots that are well insulated will keep your feet dry and warm.
  • Avoid cotton as it takes long to dry when wet.
  • Be sure to bring rain gear that is lightweight, breathable, and completely waterproof. Helley Hansen, Arc Teryx, and the North Face Venture are highly recommended for their quality and ability to keep out the rain for longer periods of time.

Whether you’re hiking in the snow or in the mid-summer heat, wear boots that have good grip, fit well, and that provide good ankle support. This will maximise your level of comfort and also help prevent you from injuring your ankle.

Check the Weather Forecast

Before your scheduled day or weekend hiking trip, be sure to keep an eye on the weather forecast. It’s best to reschedule and wait for better weather if the forecast calls for any of the following: Wind, heavy rain, snow squall, thunder and lightning, or heat where day time temperatures exceed thirty degrees Celsius. Remember, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

Beware of Wildlife

Out in the wilderness, we share the same space with bears, cougars, and other wildlife that are potentially threatening to us. It’s not uncommon for hikers to encounter wildlife, particularly bears, during the spring and summer months. Bears will keep away from groups of people and they will not attack unless they feel threatened or if they are hungry. So, to protect yourself as well the wildlife, make lots of noise while hiking on the trail and bring a bear whistle. If you do encounter a bear during your hike, back away slowly and take an alternate route if possible, or else backtrack until the bear leaves and is no longer in sight.

If you’re camping overnight, put all of your food and other perishables, including toothpaste, into a bag and string it onto a tree away from your tent(s).

Generally, it’s best to avoid hiking in areas that have a high bear population, so if you’re unfamiliar with an area you want to hike, research it first before you make any plans. You will find all the information you need on a government website.

Know Your Plants

Not all plants are a good source of food. There are some plants that, when ingested, will cause severe illness and/or death if medical attention is not immediate. You don’t have to be a horticulturalist, steeped in knowledge of many different plants, but you should know and be able to identify plants that are poisonous. If you’re unsure whether a certain berry is poisonous or not, avoid it.

Communicate Your Schedule

Before you set out on your hike, notify a friend or family member of your whereabouts and let them know an approximate time you plan to be back home. That way, they will know that if you don’t return by the scheduled hour, they will be able to take the appropriate and necessary action in order to find you.

Hiking is an activity that is both fun and rewarding. If you take all six of these tips into consideration before your hiking trip, you and your friends will enjoy yourselves.

Do be adventurous, but use common sense and be safe!

5 Ways to Enhance Creativity and Get Those Ideas Flowing Once Again

It’s fun to just let your imagination go and see how it fuels your creativity. There is nothing more satisfying and liberating than to see the fruits of your labor – your creativity brought to life –, especially if it’s much to the satisfaction of others.

However, as creative as we can be, our muse doesn’t fire up every day or every time we want it to. It can be that way for days, weeks, or even months for that matter. There are a number of reasons why we experience ‘dry creativity’ spells – meaning periods of time in our life where we’re feeling unmotivated, uninspired, exhausted, and unable to keep up with the fast pace of our western culture. At the end of the day, we’re left with a void of creative thought. Stress, illness, and/or over-busy schedules are the most common factors.

The good news is this: There are ways you can break those barriers holding you back, unleash your imagination, and re-immerse yourself in a regular flow of creative ideas, regardless of what you’re currently going through in life.

1. Take time for prayer and meditation.

Carve out time in your daily schedule, regardless of how packed it is, and devote it to prayer, or any other type of meditation. Whatever you prefer. Prayer holds so much power because it helps declutter your mind and it releases you from all the daily stressors that weigh you down. When your mind is at rest, that’s when you are able to think much more clearly. It’s in those moments when the best, most creative ideas come to mind. Be sure to keep a journal on hand.

2. Walk or hike on a regular basis.

Get outside when the weather is nice and explore nature — or at least your neighborhood — on foot at least a couple of times per week. Walking is a way to be physically active, but it’s also a way to declutter your mind and minimize stress.

As you walk, breathe in that fresh air, feel the warmth – or coldness – of it on your skin, and take notice of your surroundings. What do you see? Hear? Smell? How does it make you feel? Let your senses be your guide. They are enough to ignite imagination which fuels creativity.

3. Read lots of books.

Books are your best friend, especially if you’re really stuck for ideas. Read non fiction and self-help books on the subject matters that interest you the most. These types of books are what gives us knowledge. The more knowledge you have on more than one subject matter, the more you’ll stimulate that creative muse. That’s because great ideas are born with great knowledge.

Don’t forget to read for pleasure as well. There is nothing more satisfying and relaxing than being engrossed in a phycological thriller or suspense novel on a lazy evening. You get the point. You also never know where a fresh idea might come to mind.

4. Take an online course.

Are you looking for a way to take your creative skills to the next level? There are numerous courses online. The options are endless. You have your pick of the following: Writing, photography, sketching, fine art, digital art, design, crafts making, jewelry making, and more.

By taking a course, you give yourself the opportunity to expand your knowledge of your chosen craft. It also gives you a chance to hone and further expand your skillset. This is especially important if you’re keen on earning an income from your craft.

Courses range in price from free to thousands of dollars. This is great because it gives you an option to take a course without having to break the bank account. In any case, it’s well worth the investment.

5. Experience Life

 Yes, get out and live! Embrace all that life has to offer, including the bad moments.

Life experience is most important because it has the biggest impact on our creative muse. Certain experiences can fuel creativity, or they can send you on an entirely different path in life; one that you’ve never considered before.

For example, the lockdowns in 2020 forced you to shut down your fitness classes and you haven’t been able to re-launch your classes since, so you’ve decided to attend fitness classes as a participant. That fuels your desire to start writing articles on health and fitness. You never know where that will lead you and what opportunities will present themselves in the near future.

We’ve all gone through so much hardship over the past two years, it’s easy to get battered down by all the trauma. However, if you take time to reflect on your experiences over these past two years, you can turn things around. Your pain can become your greatest creative asset; one that will set you on a path to healing while helping others along the way.

A word of caution: Tell only a couple of trusted friends about your ideas. A good friend will always encourage you in whatever endeavor you pursue. A bad friend will stamp out those great ideas and your creativity along with it because they will sow seeds of doubt in your mind. It happens time and again. That’s why it’s not a bad thing to be a little guarded.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to enhancing creativity. As mentioned, creativity ebbs and flows. You can follow all five of these steps. Whatever works best for you. How you overcome a dry creativity spell is entirely up to you. Where there is a will, there is always a way.

The Minute Journal: What it’s All About

I’m very fortunate to be able to work with the team at The Minute Journal and collaborate with them on their content creation and marketing efforts. If you’re interested in learning more about The Minute Journal, this press release describes what it’s all about.

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In a fast-paced world where depression and anxiety are too common, it is of utmost importance for people to access products and services designed to help them improve their mental health and overall wellbeing. The team at The Minute Journal is doing just that with the recent launch of their new app; The Minute Journal. Their mission is to help users improve mental clarity, their mood; set and prioritize daily, weekly, and yearly goals, and follow through with them.

The Minute Journal app integrates into workflow on a laptop or tablet whenever users open a new tab on Google Chrome.

In addition to goal-setting, the blank canvas-style journal gives users an ability to do the following:

  • Create a daily to-do list
  • Integrate photos and videos in journal entries
  • Set weekly, monthly, and yearly goals
  • Express gratitude
  • Write down anything that comes to mind

“Ever since I started using The Minute Journal, my mood has improved significantly. Starting off your day on the right foot and in a positive mindset has made me more successful in achieving my personal and academic goals,” wrote Sabo Masties, a university student.

“I’ve tried multiple physical journals but would end up getting frustrated at how complicated they were and would give up. The Minute Journal has saved me time, money (no more buying journals every month!), and has improved my mental health,” mentioned Greg Alsas, a startup founder.

The Minute Journal also includes Flow State, a publication that features inspirational and motivational stories geared towards helping users get into their flow and improve their mental health; two things that are crucial to success.

The Minute Journal can be accessed at www.theminutejournal.com.

Pricing is as follows: $39.99 annually or $4.95 per month and includes access to the Flow State publication.

The Minute Journal is currently available only in Google Chrome. However, it is expected to be released on Apple sometime in the Fall 2022.

Online Workouts Versus the Gym: Pros and Cons

Nowadays there are so many types of exercise programs that are designed to meet every person’s need and lifestyle. With the continual advancement of technology, you don’t have to frequent the gym: You can work out from the comfort of your own home in your spare time. Both options can be rewarding and will enable you to achieve your fitness goals if you stick with one or both options and are consistent. Though, like with anything, there are pros and cons to both.

The Gym

Pros

–  Most gyms offer a variety of fitness classes, like Yoga, Zumba, Kickboxing, HIIT boot camps, and others which gives you more to choose from if you don’t want to run on the treadmill or lift weights.

– You meet other people at a gym, which opens up doors of opportunity to forging new friendships.

– You have a chance to train with an instructor or personal trainer who will offer encouragement and help ensure that you perform every exercise safely and effectively with the right posture and technique.

Cons

– Gym memberships are often expensive and so they are only worth it if you are firmly committed to a program more than once or twice a week.

– Fitness classes or allotted discount hours at a gym may not fit your schedule if you have young children or are a busy working professional.

– Weight machines and treadmills can get boring after a while, especially if you have no workout buddy.

Online Workouts

Pros

– There are a wide variety of online programs and apps that you can subscribe to or download onto your tablet or phone.

– Online workout programs are more affordable than a regular gym membership. Some fitness pros even streamline a variety of their workouts on YouTube for no cost.

– You can work out anytime and anywhere, an ideal option if you’re a stay-at-home mom or if you live in a remote area where there are no gyms nearby.

– You have the opportunity to connect with personal trainers and other fitness enthusiasts around the world.

Cons

– It can be hard to motivate yourself to tune in and work out, especially if you’re by yourself or feeling exhausted after a long day at work.

– We all know that technology is finicky. It doesn’t always work when we want it to work. The WiFi where you live may not work properly or not at all for whatever reason. You can get yourself moving and do all the exercises without access to your program, but it’s even better when you’re doing it while watching an instructor over a streamlined video.

– Working out at home can be lonely.

– There is no instructor present to give you feedback on your posture and biomechanics. You can watch the instructor demonstrate each exercise, but you’re ultimately teaching yourself how to do each exercise. To perform a set of exercises with proper form and technique can take longer to achieve when you’re attempting to perfect it via an online workout program than it would if you were doing that same workout program at a local gym.

When it comes to exercise — as with anything — we all have our preferences. Keep in mind that your pros may be someone else’s cons. Bottom line: Do whatever workout you enjoy doing and that best suits your lifestyle whether it’s at home or at a gym.

Outdoor Boot Camps: 7 Tips to Consider for Success and Enjoyment

Now that it’s Spring, I’m sure you are looking forward to taking your fitness classes outdoors for the warm months.

Outdoor boot camps can be a blast because they allow your participants the opportunity to burn it outdoors one to three times per week throughout the summer months. While it’s fun to work out in the sun, there are seven things to consider and take into account before and during your outdoor boot camp to ensure it runs smoothly, is fun, safe, and enjoyable for everyone.

Location is key

Public parks are optimal for outdoor boot camps because they are situated in flat-lying areas. That said, you can’t just set up your equipment and start teaching in any park. Most, if not all parks are managed by a governing body and so group fitness class instructors are required to have a permit in order to teach fitness classes.

Once you have chosen a park for your boot camp class, check your city’s parks and recreation website and see how you can apply for and obtain a permit.

Set a schedule

Determine a schedule for your class. Mornings and evenings are ideal times for an outdoor boot camp class, especially during the summer months as the air is cooler and neither you nor your participants run the risk of getting a heat-related illness. Also, early mornings and evenings are best for most people as those times generally don’t interfere with their work schedule.

Another thing to keep in mind: The park’s schedule. Parks are popular places for festivities, weddings, and sporting events throughout the summer months. Know when those events take place and plan your boot camp accordingly.

Equipment you will use 

As you plan your outdoor boot camp program, know which type of equipment you will need.  That all depends on which type of classes you will be teaching. If you’re a start-up business owner who isn’t contracted by or affiliated with any gym, you may want to consider starting out by creating a program that involves a variety of bodyweight exercises or with minimal equipment (dumbbells, sandbags, resistant bands, resistant tubes, etc…) where you can partner off participants. It all depends on your budget.

If you plan on using a variety of equipment for your outdoor boot camp, be sure to shop around for the best deals but make sure that the equipment you purchase is in tip top condition, especially if you are buying it online. Avoid using any equipment that is homemade or worn out as the likelihood of those being damaged and causing injury is highly likely.

Footwear

Make sure that you have the proper footwear for your program, even though you will be demonstrating all exercises, but not actually doing them. Also, make recommendations for proper footwear and other attire to your participants.

Keep your eye on the weather

Check the weather forecast and air quality daily. Don’t hold classes outdoors on days where there is high air pollution or where there is a high pollen count.

Unfortunately, outdoor boot camps can be unpredictable as they are dependent on the weather.  Not every day of the summer will be hot and dry, so it’s important to have a back-up plan, a gym or other facility where you can hold your classes in case the weather doesn’t cooperate. Don’t proceed with your boot camp class outdoors during or immediately after a rainfall as both you and your participants run the risk of getting injured.

Inspect the area

Arrive at least a half an hour before each class and check the park for animal feces, garbage, glass, any other unwanted materials and remove any and all if found (with latex gloves of course, so don’t forget to bring them just in case).

If the ground in the area of park where you plan to hold classes is uneven or is full of patchy grass and small, loose stones, relocate your class to another area of the park.

Beware of insects

Another thing to be mindful of, especially during the summer months, is insects. In any case, always bring with you a first aid kit and insect repellent, or instruct your participants to bring insect repellent. 

If you discover a wasp nest or anthill nearby, cordon off that area with cones or another marker if you have one and tell all of your participants to keep away from there. Even better, set up your boot camp in another area of the park.

Yes, it’s work to plan, prepare, and organize an outdoor boot camp and it takes a lot of effort to make it a success, especially when taking into account all of the above mentioned. Though, hard work, combined with a positive attitude and effort to create an environment that is safe and fun for everyone will maximize everyone’s level of enjoyment and also your success as a fitness instructor.

Which Pot is Best for Your Plants?

Container gardens are easy and convenient for those who live in small spaces and for gardeners on the go. Though, they can be utilized in other ways. Potted plants are an excellent alternative in areas where the soil is poor and they add color and charm to any deck, patio, or entryway.

Another great thing about pots is that they come in various shapes, sizes, styles, and materials. This makes it easy for you to choose a type of pot to match the style and architecture of your home. But, before you make a purchase, you will need to consider the following: Material and projected plant size at maturity.

Before planting, make sure that your chosen pot will provide enough room for your plant’s roots to grow freely without inhibiting its growth. Large, rounded pots are ideal for shrubs and small ornamental trees, while small, mug-sized pots are optimal for succulents. It’s actually quite possible to plant an ornamental tree in a pot, but do keep in mind that pots – even large ones — are best suited to plants that have shallow roots.

Make sure that your pot has drainage holes before installing the soil and plant. If not, drill a couple of holes into the bottom.

Another thing to consider when shopping for pots is material. This can be based on your style preferences and budget, but not all material is created the same. Some materials are more durable than others, while others require more maintenance.

Here is a list of the most common materials as well as their benefits and disadvantages.

Terracotta

Photo by Zenyrgarden, Wiki Commons

Terracotta pots come in all shapes and sizes and are available in a vast array of colors, which makes it easy to match the color scheme and architecture of your home. They are also relatively inexpensive.

Glazed terracotta pots are more porous and allow for more air to pass through to plant roots, but they also tend to absorb moisture from the soil. This means that you will have to water much more frequently, especially throughout the summer months. They are also prone to frost damage, so if you choose terracotta pots for your plants, you will need to have the space available in your home, shed or greenhouse – if you have one – where you can overwinter your plants. Another option if terracotta is your preferred choice of pots: Plant an array of annuals for vibrance and color.

Wood And Baskets

Photo by Andy, Wiki Commons

Wood is a fantastic choice because of its natural look, especially if you’re going for a cottage-themed style for your garden. Wood is also porous, frost-proof, and it acts as a good insulator for plant roots.

When looking for wooden pots, check the label to make sure that the timber comes from a sustainable forest. A label carrying the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) logo indicates that the timber was sustainably, ethically, and legally logged. If in doubt, ask your local garden center clerk.

The only drawback to wooden pots and baskets is that wood decays quickly. In order to prolong its life, it must be painted or treated with a preservative. The residue from a paint or other preservative can leach into the soil which is toxic for plants. To prevent this from happening, you can line the inside of your wooden pot or basket with plastic.

Metal

Photo by Potterybarn.com

Metal is a popular choice for how versatile and inexpensive it is. It comes in a vast variety of shapes, sizes, and styles. You can opt for a rustic utilitarian-style pot for a cottage-themed garden, or a galvanized and/or powder-coated metal container if the minimalist urban-themed garden is your preferred style.

Metal containers do have drawbacks though. Thin metal containers offer plant roots no insulation which makes them vulnerable to overheating and frost damage. Galvanized and powder-coated metal will rust if not taken care of properly and that rust can leach into the soil. Even steel will corrode over time and leave rusty stains on lightly colored surfaces.

If you prefer metal containers, make sure to keep them out of direct sunlight during the spring and summer months, and stored in a cool, dry place where your plants are shielded from frost and your pots are protected from the elements. You can also line your metal containers with plastic in order to prevent corrosion from moist soil.

Stone And Concrete

Photo by Acabashi, Wiki Commons

Stone and concrete are optimal choices for plants because of how durable they are. They are strong, frost-proof, and insulating for plant roots. They are also versatile when it comes to style and will compliment any type of garden.

The only drawbacks to stone and concrete are that they are expensive and they are extremely heavy. For the latter, you will need to make double sure your stone or concrete pot is placed in the right area – for your plants and according to your chosen design – before installing soil and plants.

If you have the budget for stone or concrete pots, they are well worth it because they will last you for years. This may actually help save you money in the long run.

Synthetics

Photo by Charlton Home

Synthetic materials are made up of the following: Plastic, polymer, fiberglass, and resins. Pots made from any of these materials come in the widest range of colors, and can be used creatively to compliment and enhance every interior and exterior style.

Synthetic pots are also extremely durable; they are hard to break, frost-proof, and inexpensive. These types of pots are most convenient if you have pets and children. In any case, they are well worth the investment.

A Takeaway

Potted plants are convenient and easy to care for. Both plants and pots add color, vibrance, character, and charm to every outdoor space.

Before you make any decision on which type of pots to buy, familiarize yourself with the different types of pots and how to properly care for them. Pots are just as much an investment as are plants, but the right pots for your plants are well worth it.

Sources Used

Dunford, Chauney, Becky Shackleton, and Zia Allaway, editors. How to Grow Practically

Everything: 100s of Gardening Projects Absolutely Anyone Can Do. London; New York;

 Munich; Melbourne; Delhi; Jonathan Metcalf, 2010.

The Disadvantages of Landscape Fabric

Though, there are 3 ways you can use it to your advantage.

If you are a homeowner, you most likely prefer landscape fabric as an alternative means to suppress weeds. That’s because landscape fabric is non-toxic and it acts as a blanket that suffocates weed seedlings, which kills them before they have a chance to sprout. Landscape fabric “is constructed from woven fibers or manufactured as a solid sheet with perforated holes to allow water to soak through. Some brands offer UV protection to maintain the life of the fabric,” (Glenda Taylor and Bob Villa on bobvilla.com).

Landscape fabric is 3-feet-wide and comes in rolls of anywhere between 50 and 200 feet in length. The cost also varies depending on thickness and length of the fabric – the thicker the fabric, the more able it is to suppress those pesky weeds.

On the surface it appears that landscape fabric does the job in keeping the weeds at bay and it certainly does have a couple of benefits.

1. Landscape fabric smothers weed seeds

Weed seeds need light and air to grow but landscape fabric blocks out the sun rays from filtering into the soil, thus smothering weed seeds.

2. Prevents erosion from winds and heavy rains

This is especially true for slopes. Landscape fabric on slopes protects the surface soil from washing away with running water.

But, as much as we’d like to view it as a miracle product, landscape fabric has more disadvantages that outweigh its benefits.

1. It doesn’t just kill off weed seeds

Weed seeds aren’t the only seeds that landscape fabric smothers. Seeds from beneficial plants, carried by birds and wind, and dropped into the soil that has now been covered by fabric, are also smothered as they, too need light and air in order to grow.

Landscape fabric also smothers earthworms and other important micro-organisms that are needed in order for our plants to thrive. Earth worms aerate the soil. They also need air in order to survive; air that they can only receive at the soil surface. Landscape fabric prevents them from doing this.

2. Prevents moisture from penetrating the soil

While landscape fabric prevents evaporation of moisture from soil, the perforated holes in the fabric aren’t large enough to allow a sufficient amount of moisture to penetrate the soil. Over time, the covered soil becomes dry and compact.

3. Landscape fabric heats up the soil

Since landscape fabric is black, it absorbs the heat from the sun’s rays. So, not only does it dry out the soil, it heats it up. This is bad for the oxygen-thriving micro-organisms that need a certain temperature range and moist conditions in order to thrive and carry nutrients to our plants that depend on them to grow.

4. It acts as a barrier to mulch and other organic matter

Mulch and other organic matter, like twigs, needles, and leaves that fall from trees, breaks down over time, adding more nutrients to the soil. Landscape fabric acts as a barrier to this natural organic matter.

5. It doesn’t kill off all weed seeds which makes it even more labor-intensive

Even the thickest of fabric won’t keep a good weed down for long. The hardiest of weed seeds will still manage to germinate and penetrate the fabric. This makes it extremely tedious, labor-intensive, and time consuming when it comes to weeding a garden bed that is covered in landscape fabric. That’s because the landscape fabric prevents you from being able to remove the weeds by their roots.

In order to effectively and permanently remove weeds from your garden bed, you will first have to remove the fabric and that will also entail removing all of the mulch or gravel you’ve decided to lay over the fabric.

Given the above-mentioned disadvantages, landscape fabric is not recommended for garden beds.

So, can you use landscape fabric at all?

The good news for all you homeowners and gardeners who love landscape fabric; there are 3 ways you can use it to your garden’s advantage.

If you live in a windy area, or high above a steep hill, then your garden will benefit from the use of landscape fabric because it will prevent erosion.

If you want a desert garden complete with crushed gravel, sand, or a combination of both, then you will need to lay a thick landscape fabric over the area where you don’t plan on installing plants. After laying and securing the fabric, add a 2-4-inch thick layer of washed crushed gravel on top of the landscape fabric, then tamp it down firmly. The tamping compacts the gravel so that very little to no air filters through. This deprives weed seeds the oxygen they need in order to grow. And when they eventually do, it won’t take you hours of backbreaking work to remove them because they won’t be plentiful.

You can also use landscape fabric over a fallow garden bed just for the purpose of killing weed seeds. If you’re building a garden bed in summer or in early fall, instead of planting right away, remove all weeds from the new garden bed, cover it with a thick landscape fabric – some gardeners use carpet or black plastic – and secure it firmly with pegs so that it doesn’t blow away in the event of strong winds, and leave it until the following spring.

After the threat of frost, remove the landscape fabric and then till the soil while adding in plenty of organic matter within the top 6-12 inches. Remove any and all surviving weed seeds. Finally, plant your selected plants and then add a 2–3-inch layer of mulch on top of the soil.

A Takeaway

While landscape fabric does have its disadvantages, it does come in handy for some situations. It all depends on where you live and what you plan on using it for.

Sources Used:

Taylor, Glenda and Bob Villa. “All You Need to Know About Landscape Fabric”, bobvilla.com, 25 October 2021 https://www.bobvilla.com/articles/landscape-fabric/

SMART Goals for Weight Loss

Now that it’s spring, summer is just around the corner. If you haven’t done so already, you’re probably wondering – and fretting – about how you’re going to lose weight and tone up in time for the warm weather. Anything is possible when you put your mind to it. Just like anything else, however, weight loss takes grit, determination, hard work, and perseverance.

Some fitness pros and ‘so-called’ nutritionists will claim that a certain diet or exercise program will guarantee results within 30 days. We’ve all heard of those fad diets, right? While that may work for some people, especially those lucky ones who were blessed with a naturally high metabolism, it doesn’t work for many people and you’ll only set yourself up for failure if you try to set those goals for yourself.

A much more realistic approach to weight loss is to set SMART goals for yourself. SMART is an acronym for specific, measurable, attainable (or achievable), realistic, and time-bound.

Specific

You study yourself in the mirror and you don’t like the shape of the person staring back at you. Don’t despair because you are definitely not alone. We all do this from time to time because we’re our own worst critics.

However, a desire to lose some weight and tone up isn’t a bad thing either. So, while you study your reflection, you decide that, in order to feel better about yourself and to feel better in general, you need to lose about 25 pounds. Now you need to figure out how you are going to lose the 25 pounds. What specific steps are you going to take in order to achieve this goal?

Pick up your journal and write up a plan. If you’re really stuck for ideas of how to start your weight-loss journey, consult a personal trainer. A personal trainer will be able to give you the guidance you need in order to succeed. However, if you don’t have the funds to pay a personal trainer, read books on fitness and nutrition.

Measurable

Now that you’ve made a written plan and have embarked on your weight-loss journey, how are you going to measure your progress?

Many people will photo document their progress by taking before and after photos. A word of caution here: Do keep your goals in mind, but don’t let the ‘results’ dominate your thoughts. Instead, focus on the journey and celebrate each milestone you reach, however small it is. Remember that fitness is a lifelong journey. It won’t end once you reach your weight loss goals.

Other than photos, you can also keep a food diary, or download an app that counts steps you’ve taken or calories you’ve burned during a fitness class. These are great ways of measuring your progress also because they enable you to track what works and what doesn’t work for you.

You can, and should, weigh yourself at least once a week and record everything in your journal. Just be mindful not to become obsessed with the scale.

Attainable

How will you know when you have attained — or achieved — your goals? What does 25 pounds lighter look like and feel like to you?

This is where photos do come in handy. You can look up past photos of yourself and compare them to how you look in the present. The scale will also give you a good indication of where you are at on your weight-loss journey.

Though, keep in mind one thing: As you will also likely be incorporating strength training in your exercise routine, the scale won’t give you a completely accurate count of your weight. That is because muscle weighs more than fat.

Realistic

The best approach to your weight-loss goals is to be realistic about them. The American Council on Exercise (ACE) recommends losing 4 to 5 pounds per month for optimal health. Granted, you can exceed that by shedding a couple of extra pounds per month without compromising your health.

Just don’t expect to lose 25 pounds in two months. Do expect that, with a nutritious diet and regular exercise, it can still take up to five months to achieve your desired results. That is actually the healthiest approach to weight loss and you will feel much better in the long run.

Time Bound

Now that we’re coming to the end of April, you think that it’s high time to hit the gym and start dieting because you want to don a bathing suit this coming summer and feel good in it. With the right diet and exercise regiment, you can realistically accomplish this goal within this time frame. How much weight you want to lose, though, will determine how hard you will have to work in order to achieve the desired results in time for summer.

When you begin your weight-loss journey, setting a time frame for your goals, whether it’s for an occasion or not, is important because it gives you more drive and purpose. It also keeps you organized and grounded.

Now, there are some things that you need to be aware of.

Weight loss isn’t as simple as you’d like to believe. The human body has its ‘sticky’ points. In other words, there are certain areas of the body that tend to accumulate more fat. For men, it’s primarily the stomach. For women, it’s the abdominals, thighs, and arms. Why us women carry more visceral fat? It’s because our bodies were designed to carry children. Those areas are the most frustrating because they are the hardest areas to lose and tone up.

Another thing to keep in mind: Weight loss and management is eighty percent diet and twenty percent exercise. If you’re exercising more than four times per week and are still having problems losing weight, chances are you are still consuming too much processed and sugary foods.

Regardless, you may feel at times like you’re not losing any weight, even with all the changes you’ve made to your diet. If and when you do feel this way, take a moment and have a word with yourself. Remind yourself that nothing worth pursuing comes easy. Also remind yourself that you are doing this for you, your own health, and for no one else. Tweak your diet and your exercise regiment if you have to, but don’t give up. You got this! You’re stronger and more capable than you think.

Working in the Heat: 6 Steps to Keep Safe

Now that spring has arrived, we are excited to spend more time outdoors, basking in the sunshine while eagerly anticipating the hotter weather to arrive. Some of us – like myself – work outdoors throughout the spring and summer months.

It’s fun to be outside in nature, engaged in work that involves physical activity, but the summer heat can be dangerous and will cause severe illness or possibly even death if you don’t take measures to ensure your safety while working. On a positive note, there are ways you can work in the heat and avoid heat stroke.

1. Wear a hat, preferably one that is wide-brimmed. A wide-brimmed hat will protect your nose, neck, and face from getting sunburnt. If you don’t have a wide-brimmed hat and prefer to wear a regular baseball cap instead, be sure to lather your face and neck with sunscreen.

2. Wear clothes that are light in colour and made of fabric that allows for ventilation. Light coloured clothing will deflect sunlight. Long sleeves and pants or capris are recommended, but if you prefer shorts and t-shirts or tank tops, be sure to put sunscreen onto your arms, shoulders, and legs as well.

3. Keep yourself hydrated. Drink at least two cups of water twenty minutes before starting work and every 10-15 minutes while working. Water that contains electrolytes is highly recommended as our bodies need enough electrolytes in order to function. Electrolytes regulate nerve and muscle function, hydrate the body, as well as maintain other normal bodily functions. Gatorade is a popular choice, but it contains a lot of sugar. Water that contains lemon, lime, orange slices, or a vitamin C packet are the best alternatives for electrolytes as they are all natural.

Be prepared and bring enough water to last you throughout the work day.

4. If you’re lucky enough to work near a body of water, like a lake, stream, or the ocean, there is nothing more refreshing than a quick swim on your lunch break or after the workday ends. Swimming is the best way to cool your body temperature on a hot summer day. Though, not all of us have that luxury. If you’re not working near any body of water, a cold, wet cloth applied to your face and neck every 10-15 minutes will help keep you cool.

5. Chase the shade. Before you even begin work, access the job site and decide on which tasks can be done in areas that are shady. As the sun rises, move to another shady area of the garden or job site if possible.

6. Don’t work outside during the hottest hours of the day. Begin your work day earlier and quit earlier. Morning is the best time to work outdoors as it is cooler. Mornings are also the time when we are most energetic and alert.

These tips can also be applied to when exercising in the heat. In any case, if you follow these tips, you will maximize your productivity and income earning potential. So, work smart and always keep your safety a number one priority.

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