Thursday, December 14, 2017

Better Gifts for Better Living – Our 2017 Guide to Health and Fitness Gifts!

By Better Living Staff Writer Dawn Weirauch

Finding the best health and fitness-related holiday gifts can be pretty difficult – after all, there are a lot of fads out there. Remember the Thighmaster? Not to mention the Shakeweight...

via GIPHY

Funny (and ineffective) fitness fads aside, this year our Better Living Fitness staff has come up with a number of great suggestions for the fitness buff (or would-be fitness buff) on your holiday shopping list.


Whether your friend or loved one wants to learn more about healthy nutrition, is interested in building their strength and cardio fitness, or wants to stay on track with their goals while out on the road, we've got the gift for you.

Better Living Fitness's Becca Addison recommends this book for people who want a healthier relationship with food. A Better Book for Better Eating: Better Living's Nutrition Counselor, Becca Body Kindness by Rebecca Stritchfield. “Body Kindness is about taking care of your body and treating yourself with compassion,” says Becca. “It discusses healthy eating, but also emphasizes the importance of allowing yourself to enjoy all foods and not go on crazy diets.”
Addison, recommends the book

A Creative, Budget-Friendly Solution for Better Wrist Strength: Wrist and forearm health aren't just essential for strength training but for daily living as well – and Better Living trainer Will Burchfield has the perfect do-it-yourself solution.
“Just pick up a para cord and a dowel from your local hardware store. It'll cost about $3, and them BOOM! You've got forearms for days!”

Here's a quick guide to creating a wrist roller from scratch.

Better Living's Office Manager recommends the TRX Suspension Trainer for fitness on the go during the holiday season.
Portable Strength, Cardio, and Better Balance In One: Better Living's Office Manager, Nina Carlson, recommends the TRX Suspension Trainer for anyone on your list who is both health conscious and frequently on the road.

According to Nina, “I love this product because you can do so much with it! Not only can you strengthen your whole body, you can add cardio elements and really work on your balance. The TRX is also small and lightweight. It doesn't take up a lot of suitcase space, and you can easily hook it up to your hotel room door for a great workout on the go. I've had several clients who wouldn't travel without their TRX!

Also, when you purchase the TRX directly from the company's website, you get access to a personalized app to guide you through different exercises and routines.”

More Fitness On the Road – Resistance Bands: For solid resistance training for a much lower price point than the TRX, Better Living trainer Eduard Font recommends this cost-effective four pack of resistance bands, which are just $9.99 from Amazon.
“Resistance bands are easy to use, lightweight, and you can take them anywhere,” Eduard says.

Better Living personal trainer Mallory Ghrist recommends the Booty Band as the perfect Christmas gift for a perkier butt and better hip and knee health!A Perkier Butt and Better Hip and Knee Health – The BootyCo Booty Belt: The Booty Belt may sound like the next Shakeweight, but according to Better Living trainer Mallory Ghrist this inexpensive product is a great gift to help your friends and loved ones build their glute strength – “...and everyone needs stronger glutes to support the health of their hips and knees.”

A Better Gift for Better Posture – Foam Rollers:
Our trainer Josh Plonka swears by foam rollers, both to help with posture and to help ease tight muscles after a busy day. According to Josh foam rollers are, “inexpensive, yet versatile piece of equipment that anyone on your Christmas list can make use of. You can get foam rollers just about anywhere that fitness equipment is sold – here's a link to a nice, inexpensive model from Kohl's.

Better hydration is a key aspect to overall health -- so Better Living Fitness founder Mark Thiesmeyer recommends the Yeti bottle this Christmas because it keeps water cold and delicious!
Better Hydration On the Go:  Better Living founder Mark Thiesmeyer recommends the Yeti Rambler because, “...drinking enough water and staying hydrated is so important, and water is a lot more delicious when you can keep it nice and cold all day long!” You can also use the Yeti to keep hot drinks hot, and – bonus – it's dishwasher safe.

Of course, no Christmas gift list would be complete without a gift from the Better Living Fitness Center. This year we've got something extra special: Purchase any membership or small group personal training package and receive a $100 FREE Service Package on us!


Buy the membership or small group training package for yourself and give the Service Package to a friend. Or, better yet, introduce TWO of your friends or family members to the Better Living Fitness by giving the membership to one and the Service Package to the other!

This year's Better Living Bonus is only available until December 23rd, so click here to get yours today!

If you're looking for even more health and fitness Christmas gift ideas, we've got you covered – check out last year's gift guide, which includes a look at wireless headphones and a comparison of the Garmin GPS watch vs. the Fitbit Blaze.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Choosing the Best Tomatoes for Your Summer Table


Tips for choosing the healthiest tomatoes for your summer table by Better Living Fitness founder Mark Thiesmeyer. Photo courtesy Jeremy Keith via Flickr.
It's that time of year again – beautiful, juicy tomatoes in shades ranging from orange to purple are appearing on produce tables and in farmer’s markets. But with all the varieties available today the tomato aisle has grown more attractive, but it's also more confusing.

Here are few easy tips to getting the most nutritious, delicious fruits.

Fruits with a legacy: heirloom tomatoes. “Heirloom” tomatoes are tomatoes from lines of seeds that are at least fifty years old. Heirloom plants aren't genetically modified, and they are open-pollinated by nature – in other words, by insects and the wind instead of being hand or machine-pollinated by farmers.

But while tomatoes labeled as “heirloom” are supposed to be grown in this fashion, there aren't any regulations governing what is and is not an heirloom tomato. 

I'm not aware of rampant misuse of the term, but grocers wouldn't even receive a slap on the wrist for mislabeling tomatoes as heirloom. It's also important to note that heirloom tomatoes aren't necessarily organically grown.

Getting the best of two (or more) plants: hybrid tomatoes. Hybridization is the process of cross-pollinating two different varieties of a plant to create something new. Just as you get a “Labradoodle” offspring from poodles and Labrador retrievers, you can also cross plants to get a single tomato that combines the desirable traits of each different variety – for example pest resistance and improved flavor.

Hybridization is the earliest form of genetic modification, and farmers have been doing it for over 100 years.

From the lab to the table: genetically modified tomatoes. Genetic modification uses laboratories to speed up the process of hybridization. But instead of just cross-pollinating plants, scientists have taken things several steps further and now splice genes from different kinds of produce together.

Whether you're in the camp that sees GMO foods as progress or you're someone who thinks of them as “Frankenfoods,” the fact remains that GMO tomatoes can be higher in nutrients and grow more prolifically in your garden than heirloom tomatoes.

Keeping it real: organic tomatoes. Unlike the “heirloom” label, “organically grown” means something very specific. Organically grown tomatoes are NOT genetically modified, (like heirloom varieties), and the plants have been grown without synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.

While I don't think you need to spend the extra money to buy the organic varieties of all of your produce, I do think there are compelling reasons to go organic when it comes to tomatoes. Conventionally-raised tomatoes are 10th on the Environmental Working Group's list of highest pesticide-containing produce – this means that there are actually pesticides underneath the skin of the tomato. No amount of scrubbing that tender skin will get a conventionally-raised tomato clean.

Yes, most synthetic pesticides are approved for use on food. But we also used to think that asbestos was safe. Our knowledge of how to grow the healthiest, safest food is still evolving – so for now, to avoid ingesting synthetic pesticides, choose organic tomatoes whenever you can.

**Image courtesy of Jeremy Keith via Flickr

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Better Living's Nutrition Counselor, Becca Addison: 'Food is Not the Enemy'

Better Living Fitness Nutrition Counselor Becca Addison says you don't have to fight food to achieve a healthy weight. Becca provides nutrition counseling at Better Living Fitness Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

One of the newest members of our staff, Better Living Fitness' Nutrition Counselor Becca Addison, learned the hard way that being a fanatic about food and weight loss is the wrong way to achieve your health and fitness goals.

Becca has been running competitively since the eighth grade. She's so good at running, in fact, that she was invited to the most recent Olympic trials.
“The problem was, I had a calf injury and got hung up on thinking that, after the injury, I had to eat perfectly so I wouldn't gain weight and mess up my times after my calf healed,” she remembers.

“I became so stressed about food that, even though I wasn't under-eating, I threw my body out of whack and my times fell off too much,” which meant that Becca had to miss trying out for the Olympics.

“That experience is why I find the weight loss thing tricky,” she says, “...and it's the reason I want to help people have a positive relationship with food. Being obsessed with food and eating 'right' really affected my life, and I'd like to help my clients avoid the same kinds of mistakes.”
Becca, who has a Master of Science in Nutrition and Dietetics, joined the staff here at Better Living Fitness after doing an internship at the University of Michigan's School of Public Health. She says that she first became interested in nutrition as an undergraduate.

“I was a super-picky eater when I was younger, then when I was in college I was surrounded by all these new foods,” she says. “At the same time, I was a collegiate runner and realized that I needed to start eating well to improve my performance – learning how different foods affected my running performance is what got me into nutrition science.'

Becca, who joined Better Living Fitness in February, says one of the hardest parts of her job is working with clients who are overly concerned about weight loss.
“Too much focus on weight loss makes people fight food and think of food as the enemy,” she says. “I try to encourage people to focus on motivations like how they feel during and after eating and the energy they can get from different foods. That's a better, healthier approach, because it lets you be more adventurous about food and it's a way to liking and respecting your body more.”

“In my background in sports, I've seen obsessions with weight loss turn into eating disorders, especially in younger people. I don't want anyone to think of food as being 'bad,' but to enjoy all foods – just in moderation,” she says.
These days, Becca is working on becoming a certified personal trainer so she can address both exercise and nutrition. At the same time, she's still running regularly.
Better Living Fitness Nutrition Counselor Becca Addison on a recent run. Becca's background as a competitive runner is the reason she became interested in nutrition science. Becca provides nutrition counseling at Better Living Fitness Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

“I love the people that I train with!” she says, “and I love pushing myself and being competitive with other people. When I finish a race and know I gave it everything I had, that's a huge boost for my self-esteem!”

Becca is also enjoying providing nutrition counseling to Better Living Fitness clients. “I like how everyone who comes to Better Living has different health and fitness goals,” she says. “I like working with people one on one, and getting to know and talk with them as we figure out together how to improve their health.”

If you'd like to learn more about how you can enjoy food and achieve and maintain a healthy weight as part of your health and fitness goals, click here today to set up your appointment with Becca!

Thursday, June 8, 2017

The Business of Helping People Thrive Through Personal Training: Better Living Fitness Founder Mark Thiesmeyer

Ann Arbor Personal trainer Mark Thiesmeyer with his husband, Matt Hook, during one of their many vacations abroad. Mark is the founder and owner of Ann Arbor's Better Living Fitness Center.
By Better Living Staff Writer Dawn Wolfe

Not quite twenty years ago, Mark Thiesmeyer had the idea that led him to completely change his life and career. Back then, Mark was a business consultant focused on helping corporations contain health care costs.

Now, of course, he's a personal trainer and the owner and founder of both Ann Arbor's Better Living Fitness and the Better Living Fitness Center.

Why the career change?
“As a consultant, I heard too many stories that came down to one thing: too many people were suffering from preventable health issues. At the same time, it was clear back then that health care costs were about to skyrocket.”

“I had a sense back then that effective exercise and appropriate nutrition would keep people healthy. I remember reading an article that showed protein timing could be key to making Parkinson’s medications work. That seemed so cool and made me want to learn more."
Ann Marie Kotre was Mark Thiesmeyer's first personal training client in 1999, and she still works with Mark today. In this shot, Ann Marie is training with Mark at the Meri Lou Murray Recreation Center in Ann Arbor.
With this realization, Mark decided to do something different. First he went back to school, earning two personal training certifications and two Master's degrees – one in the Science of Exercise Physiology, and one in Public Health Nutrition.

He also got to work as a personal trainer. Mark met his first client, Ann Marie Kotre, in 1999. Ann Marie still trains with Mark today.

Mark may have been immersed in the world of health and fitness, but he didn't forget his business training and experience. Eventually, he became successful enough as a personal trainer that he had to turn down prospective clients.

Being a businessman, Mark rose to the challenge by expanding and hiring additional personal trainers.

“That turned out to be a great decision!,” Mark says. “For one thing, by hiring trainers as my employees, I could insure that any client trained by 'my people' would receive the benefit of all of my education and experience. Each of the trainers we hire generally compete against 20 other applicants to get their position. Then we ask Better Living personal trainers to spend months learning the progressions, exercises and stretches that have been effective in helping keep our clients healthy for the past two decades.

“But that's not the only benefit. Working as a personal trainer can be lonely. Once I hired my first associate trainer, I had someone to share stories with and bounce ideas off of. Even today, we have weekly staff meetings to consult with each other about our clients. If a client is having a problem reaching a goal or has a persistent injury, my team and I brainstorm solutions together.”

“Better Living clients may work with one personal trainer, but they also benefit from this team approach.”

Most people would feel pretty settled after changing careers and getting so successfully established in their new occupation. Mark, on the other hand, decided to take things another step by opening the Better Living Fitness Center in January of 2016.

 “I wanted to make personal training more cost-effective for clients,” he says. “Having a fitness center of my own means that I can give clients more options to help their budget as well as their health.”

Today, Mark still works with clients one-on-one. He also trains new Better Living staff members, plays a major role in running the fitness center, and teaches Full-Body Fit sessions.

But he also makes time for his personal life and for his husband, Matt. Mark and Matt have been together for sixteen years, and were married as soon as federal law changed to recognize their relationship.

In addition to tennis and movies, Mark and Matt love to travel – in fact, they take turns planning a surprise anniversary trip for each other every six months.

“It's a way to keep our relationship fresh, and we also see a lot of value in experiencing other cultures. There's a lot to be gained by going to different places and experiencing how other people live and how they feel about their lives.”

So far, the couple has been all over Europe, Australia and Japan. Most recently, it was Mark's turn to plan their trip and he surprised Matt with something different: a vacation in the United Arab Emirates. 

Ann Arbor personal trainer and fitness center founder Mark Thiesmeyer with his husband, Matt Hook, recently in Dubai.
“Matt didn't see Dubai coming, but it was a great time,” Mark says. “We didn't do a lot of the touristy things – instead we visited a couple of mosques, and made a point of talking to all of our cab drivers to get a sense of what life is like there.”