celebrating Valley women
CrossFit Craze Women weigh in on workouts
New to town? Tips for finding lasting friends
Dogs barkinâ€™? Area experts share hazards of high heels
Scot shoots and scores in the Shenandoah Valley
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Be the friend you hope to have Christina Kunkle offers three steps to forming lasting, positive relationships.
20 From Hamilton to Harrisonburg
Eilidh Thompson brings her passion across the pond. your FITNESS The CrossFit craze
your FASHION p. 5
your BEAUTY Sunshine safety
Hazards of high heels.
your RELATIONSHIPS p. 9
Hello again, ladies! Spring 2014 is here, and with it comes the latest issue of Bloom. I’m sure you’re all as excited as I am to see life return to our now verdant Valley — the rains nourishing the plush green grass and urging the spring flowers to show their pastel petals. Yet, as the season sets the area bustling, our thoughts often turn to the summer months that follow. So, in this issue, we tackle everything from shedding those winter pounds with the latest fitness frenzy (“CrossFit Craze,” page 5) to protecting your skin from the sun’s rays (“Subtle side effects,” page 9). With tax season just behind us, consider using that refund from Uncle Sam to invest in the stock market, following the example of ENRICH club members (“Sorry, George,” page 13), instead of those new heels you’ve been eying, which local doctors say may present more pitfalls than positives (“High heel hazards,” page 17). For those of you who may be new to the Shenandoah Valley, the Bloom staff ’s most recent addition offers not only a heartfelt “Hello!” but also some advice for getting out and meeting new
A life less ordinary
New in town?
your HEALTH p. 13
Nikki Fox, Daily News-Record photojournalist, shares her secret to happiness, along with her journey to finding it.
people (“Finding your place,” page 19). Though she reluctantly admits to shedding a tear during the flight across the pond, Scottish-born Eilidh Thompson has found her place in the States. As she shares her love of soccer — or football, as it’s referred to in her motherland — Eilidh instills an appreciation for the sport in local youth. After hearing her story, it seems that whether she’s in Hamilton, Scotland, or Harrisonburg, Va., Eilidh’s true home is on the field (“Leading lass,” page 20). With the fun — and chaos — of summer just around the corner, don’t forget to drink in the beauty of springtime in the Valley. The staff here at Bloom hopes you take a moment not only to enjoy this issue, but to appreciate the vibrance that’s returning to our neck of the woods. Thanks for reading, and, as always, keep blooming! Kate Kersey Editor
Bloom Staff Kate Kersey, editor Candace Sipos, staff writer Katie King, staff writer Matt Gonzales, staff writer Sarah Stacy, staff writer Cat Elsby, freelance writer Kim Potter & Sara Schu, account executives
Alice Bridges & Penny Anderson, composing Bloom is a publication of Rockingham Publishing Co., Inc. Copyright © 2014 Rockingham Publishing Co., Inc. 231 S. Liberty St. Harrisonburg, VA 22801 For advertising information, contact Kim at 574-6224 or firstname.lastname@example.org or Sara at 574-6227 or email@example.com.
Sneaking a peek at the
ARTICLE BY MATT GONZALES PHOTOGRAPHY BY NIKKI FOX
porting pink and black athletic wear and matching tennis shoes, Dixie Garber entered the CrossFit Harrisonburg double doors with focus. Inside, a couple dozen individuals, ranging 18 to 52 in age, concentrated on their pre-workout routines as a silver boombox radio blared upbeat, motivational tunes. A trio of women each pulled down a row machine — stored vertically along the gym’s far wall — and began laboriously pulling fixed amounts of weight for several minutes, while a college-aged man dangled from a horizontal bar as he did series of chest-to-bar pull-ups. Others completed rounds of deadlifts and burpees in preparation for the hour-long CrossFit session to follow. Garber settled into an
CrossFit CrossFit Craze Craze open space near the 3,000square-foot establishment’s center, picked up a barbell with 40-pound weights attached to each end, and began a series of front squats, which target and exert pressure on the hamstrings. “I come here five times a week, Monday through Friday,” boasted the 41-yearold Rockingham County resident. Garber started attending CrossFit sessions in November 2012, when she and her husband, Mike, began seeking alternative workouts to take their fitness “to a different level,” she says. To her immediate left,
Dixie Garber, a 41-year-old Rockingham County resident deadlifts 215 pounds during a CrossFit class held Feb. 25.
Anna May Stratton followed her own routine — undeterred by the nearing end of her pregnancy’s first trimester. “This is a good way to keep me in shape during my pregnancy,” said Stratton, who carefully adjusted her workouts accordingly. “It can be tiring, but it really keeps me in shape.”
Founded in 1995 by Greg Glassman, a personal trainer, CrossFit involves a high-intensity series of exercises, which build core strength through movement. With nearly 7,000 affiliated gyms
across North America, the program seems to be rapidly growing in the United States and boasts a strong female following. “Over half of our members here are women,” estimated Garth Kunkle, owner of CrossFit Harrisonburg. “I feel that is because they’re getting fitness results that they don’t find themselves getting anywhere else.” The program has a reputation for its dynamic exercises — such as Olympic lifting and weight-resistant pull-ups — which are to be completed in a specified amount of time, based on a particular individual’s health and experience. The program may seem intimidating for many would-be participants, but Kunkle genuinely feels that »See FITNESS, Page 7
Kathleen Waid, 39, of Harrisonburg wraps her hands in preparation for pull-ups during a CrossFit class Feb. 25. Nik ki Fox / DN- R
“anybody” can complete the exercises. “CrossFit has a reputation of being high-intensity and I think some like to label it as being very difficult, but I challenge people on that,” he said. “Once you understand it, and once you’re in the right gym with the right group of instructors, it’s not intimidating at all.” Jaye Brumfield was one of those trepidant individuals when she first joined nearly a year and a half ago. “Going into it, initially, I knew it was going to be pretty hardcore,” said the 41-year-old graphic designer from Bridgewater. “But the thing is, the program is scaled to what the individual can handle.” She also pointed out that no two days at CrossFit are identical, unlike workout routines at most gyms. “I come in and do whatever is on the board and I don’t have
to worry about what I’m going to do,” she said. “Some days are cardio-intensive, and other days are strength-intensive.”
Sense of community
On this particular Tuesday, lead instructor Grady Ruckman, a Staunton native and former professional golfer, casually wove his way through the gym, studying each individual to ensure that they completed the exercises with proper technique and effort in order to achieve the most effective results. “We make sure to coach people all the way through these exercises,” explained Kunkle, 47, who opened the downtown location in April 2012. “Instead of standing behind a counter watching, we’re actually out there instructing them all the way through these workouts.” As Ruckman monitored a »See FITNESS, Page 8
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string of individuals doing toe-to-bar exercises — which require swinging the lower body until the toes are parallel to the bar itself — that dedication became apparent. He approached a college-aged girl struggling to properly swing her lower body. He reminded her to “start with a big window”; as he lifted both arms in the air, showing the proper space between both hands when holding onto the bar, she listened intently. Several members gathered to encourage the student as she successfully swung her feet to the bar’s height. “I’ve got to say, the environment here creates a real sense of community among our members that you don’t typically see at other fitness facilities,” said Kunkle. “The group identifies with each other a little bit more than people that go into a gym and do their own thing.”
While CrossFit athletes such as Gar-
ber and Ruckman tackle the program’s challenges, it takes time to reach that level. The road to success can be a long one, and it’s important that those hoping to become involved with CrossFit pay attention to their bodies. When asked about the injury risk that CrossFit presents, the solidlybuilt Kunkle pointed out the fact that athletes face the possibility of being injured doing nearly any exercise in a standard gym, adding that “people get hurt skiing, even running.” Dr. Tom Weber, sports medicine physician at Sentara RMH Medical Center in Harrisonburg, echoed these sentiments. “In general, I don’t see any high rates of injuries pertaining to people doing CrossFit,” said Weber, adding that participants should avoid pushing their bodies beyond their comfort limits, as doing so may increase the risk of certain injuries, such as tendonitis or stress fractures. “People can push the limits no matter what they do, but they need to know their own bodies,” he added.
“Don’t do something your body isn’t capable of doing.”
A successful session
At 1 p.m., the session concluded and, as a group of exhausted, yet alert, individuals collected their belongings and moved toward the exit, Garber remained inside. “I was working on my kipping technique,” she said, explaining the process of bringing the chest back and popping the hips forward for a pull-up. After receiving several minutes of instruction from Ruckman, which included the personal trainer acting out the technique, Garber successfully completed the exercise. With the chest-to-bar pull-up under her belt, Garber collected her things and made her way to the doubledoors. “Today, the session went well,” assessed Garber. “It went very well.” Inspired by the class, CrossFit is the newest item on Matt’s bucket list.
your BEAUT Y
Area experts share tanning’s
Subtle side effects
ARTICLE BY KATIE KING PHOTO ILLUSTRATION BY THINKSTOCK.COM
ith record lows, a polar vortex and several gridlock-inducing “snowpocalypes,” it’s been a winter for the record books, and Renee Leap is none too pleased. The Harrisonburg local isn’t a fan of the cold, and even from within the safety of her office, she shivered as she discussed the snow outside. “I just love the sun; I love warmth,” explained Leap, associate director of the Financial Assistance Office at Eastern Mennonite University. Given her hankering for heat, it’s not hard to guess one of her former favorite pastimes: tanning. Raised in Pennsylvania, Leap enrolled at EMU and moved to the Valley in the 1980s. Excited by the warmer climate, she began sunbathing with friends during her freshman year.
»See BEAUTY, Page 10
Recalling how they would grab their towels and lay out on a hill near her dorm, Leap remarked that suntanning felt almost “therapeutic” and gave her a general sense of well-being. Additionally, she felt getting a glow enhanced her looks. “As my skin got color, I’d feel better about myself. … I felt like it made me look healthier [and] it made my blue eyes look bluer.” For the next four years, Leap took advantage of any chance to tan; only stopping for winter.
After graduating According to Alexiou, common signs of skin from EMU, Leap turned to tanning cancer include the following: beds while preparing ■ A sore that doesn’t heal for her wedding. ■ A mole that changes shape or color “For photographs, you know?” she ■ Any mark or spot on the skin that grows rapidly explained, adding ■ Any area on the skin that bleeds for no reason that she wanted her white dress to stand out against — is the most deadly, but all tanning is “about the same,” her bronzed skin. with the main difference pose serious health threats, After getting married and being the year-round availif not treated promptly. finding a job, tanning fell from ability of tanning beds. Like many diseases, genetics her priority list, and she no Leap, however, was unaware play a role in who develops skin longer gave it much thought of these risks, as she says pubcancer. But Alexiou says spend— that is until her dermatololic awareness about the dangers ing time in the sun, or in a tangist diagnosed Leap with basal of tanning wasn’t as prevalent ning bed, increases one’s risk. cell carcinoma at age 40. in the ’80s as it is today. “In my clinic, I see more According to Jerri Alex“I honestly didn’t think it skin cancer in patients who iou, M.D., dermatologist at was that big of a deal,” she Harrisonburg Dermatology, use tanning beds, as well as in said, adding that she had people with outdoor profesbasal cell carcinoma, squanever read or heard that tansions, such as farmers or conmous cell carcinoma and ning can lead to skin cancer. malignant melanoma are the struction workers,” she “I’m typically not a high remarked. three main types of skin risk taker; if I had known Alexiou says the risk becancers. Melanoma — the tween indoor and outdoor »See BEAUTY, Page 12 least common of the three
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Christina Kunkle explains how to
Be the friend you hope to have
ll of us are born perfect, whole and complete. From that moment on, our individual experiences affect how well that truth is reflected back to us. Some of us are wrapped up tight in healthy expressions of love and belonging from the start, allowing us to know, in our heart of hearts, that we are safe and secure. This foundation of trust helps us to easily create meaningful relationships — both with ourselves and others. Some of us experience stress and early trauma from the start, leading us to question, in our heart of hearts, whether we will survive. This foundation of panic and confusion is part of my story, as I was raised the youngest of five kids in a family deeply affected by my father’s posttraumatic stress disorder. One memory stands out above all others. I was 6 years old, traveling with my family in our station wagon. In true tomboy fashion, I was wrestling and giggling with my brother as we played “This-is-my-lineand-don’t-cross-over-it” in the back seat. We must have been too loud. We must have kept laughing after being told one too many times to sit still and be quiet. We must have been on my dad’s last nerve, because he stopped the car and made us get out in the rain. And then, he drove off. Running through the mud, I lost a shoe, but that
was the least of my worries. I screamed, “Please, come back! I promise I’ll be good! I’ll be anything you want. I’m sorry!” In that life-altering instant, that spunky, free-spirited little girl in me decided she was not good enough, safe enough or loveable enough. Something was wrong with me, and I had to change. So, I tried to be more ladylike, sit still and be quiet — none of which came the least bit naturally to me — I honed my gifts of sensitivity and intuition to anticipate the needs of others, taking care of them, so that they would need me and not leave me. Approval became more important than authenticity, and my real self was buried beneath the roles of people-pleaser, perfectionist and performer. Needless to say, it was hard to make true friends or meaningful connections pretending to be someone I wasn’t. On the outside, I appeared confident, was a straight A student, and seemed to belong, but on the inside I was scared and confused, taking cues from the petite, polite, popular girls to fit in. This led to a love/hate relationship with food, frequently cursing my athletic build and eventual burn out — which is part of what I now call “Toxic Success.” Throughout the past 26 years, I’ve unpacked the heavy bags of shame, negative beliefs and self-doubt. I’ve finally stopped reaching for a feeling of worthiness
through high achievement. I’ve learned how to restore confidence, overcome fears, nurture healthy relationships and use spiritual practice and self-discovery to create what I now call “Balanced Success.” On my journey back to personal power, I’ve unwrapped many priceless gifts — compassion, forgiveness, acceptance of imperfection, connection to the divine, self-love and above all, my life’s purpose as a resilience coach. Since we teach best what we’ve needed to learn ourselves, I offer these three ways to cultivate meaningful relationships with positive expectation that you find them helpful in your own life. 1. Look In and Up for Validation: There’s no need to look outside for approval. You are already enough. You are perfect in your imperfection. There is no hoop you need to jump through to be worthy of love and connection. Ask for divine guidance in your desire to be surrounded by a healthy circle of support and friendship. Watch for what I call “God-winks,” listen for answers, then be willing to take inspired actions to create more meaningful personal and professional relationships based on authenticity. 2. Befriend Yourself: The first trick to finding friends is making friends with yourself. It’s absolutely essential to know, like and trust yourself. To have a good friend, you must know how to be one, which requires
genuine self-respect. Although it’s not always easy, look for every opportunity to give and receive unconditional self-love, to heal your wounds, to forgive yourself and to feel comfortable in your own skin. 3. Find Your Tribe: Author Jane Howard says, “Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family. Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one.” I believe we all crave the deep connection that great friendships offer. These days, I’m blessed with sisterfriends who allow me to be exactly who I am, who help me grow and invite me to grow with them. Who cheer with me when I make difficult choices, laugh with me, dance with me and revel in nature with me. They get quiet with me. They listen to my vulnerable stories and tell me theirs. They don’t judge, but instead keep their hearts open, gently holding space for me to up-level. Together, we are Synergy Strong. Do you have close friendships based on truth and transparency? If not, start today and take one small step — life is too short not to cultivate these priceless relationships! May we be the kind of friend we want to have.
Christina Kunkle, is founder of Synergy Life and Wellness Coaching, LLC, creator of the “Synergy Success Circle” and “SOAR,” a Heart-Centered Leadership Development Program. To learn more, visit her website at synergylifeandwellnesscoaching.com or call (540) 746-5206.
more, I think I would have [taken more precautions] than I did.” Although public awareness may be higher today, tanning still remains popular. Alexiou says skin cancer is even affecting younger patients. “[The dermatology industry is] seeing [skin cancer] in younger ages, absolutely,” she remarked. “The average age is going down all the time. I have seen skin cancer in people as young as 20.” Though some may consider tans attractive, the aftermath isn’t always as glamorous. Alexiou adds that the standard treatment for basal or squamous cell carcinoma is to surgically remove the cell, which — depending on its severity — can result in an unsightly scar. “Even though we have very skillful surgeons in the area, there are times when my patients have scars they’re unhappy with,” she said. Leap knows this first hand. Throughout the last decade, Leap estimates she’s had seven basal and squamous cell carcinomas removed, as well as eight pre-cancerous cells frozen off. One basal cell carcinoma on her nose
required a skin graph surgery at Sentara RMH Medical Center. “That one was the most painful,” she recalled, adding that the surgeon used skin from behind her ear to replace that taken from her nose. “It felt like my whole face was sore.” With the help of a plastic surgeon, who injected cortisone shots into the site for a year and a little bit of makeup, today, her scar is barely noticeable, but that wasn’t always the case. “[The scar] was puffy for a long time,” she recalled. “It bothered me; it was hard on the ego.” According to Kimberly Landis-Hamner, a licensed esthetician at Harrisonburg’s Skin and Zen day spa, even those who avoid skin cancer diagnoses can still experience some unwanted aesthetic effects from tanning. “A lot of times, tanning wreaks havoc on the skin, overall,” she said, adding that it can cause the skin to lose its elasticity, which leads to premature aging. Landis-Hamner says products containing vitamin C or hydroquinone can encourage cell turnover and help lighten
sun spots — splotchy areas of hyperpigmentation caused by sun exposure. Additionally, she says chemical peels and microdermabrasion may help to improve the skin’s overall quality. However, there is no magical cure to rewind the clock. “It’s very hard to undo [the damage] we’ve already done [to our skin],” she added. “But, we can help.” At Harrisonburg’s Beach Bum Tanning salon, Regional Manager Cory Einhorn says that the clients’ well-being is a priority. “I feel like in the salon, we are giving [clients] a better education,” he remarked, explaining that at BBT, each client is supposed to receive an individual skin consolation before being assigned a tanning bed type and time limit. Adding that no one is allowed to tan more than once per day, Einhorn says the salon tries to prevent clients from overexposure or burning. “We believe in moderation and responsibility, whether it’s indoor or outdoors.”
While she won’t avoid the sun entirely, Katie will invest in a high-quality SPF.
Sorry, George ...
Investment club is ladies-only ARTICLE BY CANDACE SIPOS ■ PHOTOGRAPHY BY JASON LENHART
bout 16 years ago, four local women kicked off a new investment club with a gamble on a small — and burgeoning, they thought — company. The ladies looked long and hard for the best place to invest their initial savings, taking more than a year after forming the group to buy their first stock. It didn’t turn out well. “[The company] got bought about a month after we bought the stock,” explained Jeannie Klemt, drawing a roar of laughter from the other six women crowded around a dining room table in Old Town Harrisonburg. “We searched so hard,” she said, joining the chorus of chuckles. The club also lost money on Rosetta Stone, Entropic, and, along with many others, Enron. The women diligently researched the company, even seeking help from an investment advisor who encouraged them to take a chance on the former energy company. They did just that in September 2001; in December, the company that was once billed as the nation’s seventh largest in revenue filed for bankruptcy, leaving the local
group about $1,500 short. That’s not to mention the many wildly successful companies, such as Facebook, in which the local club — dubbed Educated and Responsible Investment Club of Harrisonburg, or ENRICH, for short — failed to invest. But, whether your measurement standard is purely educational or fiscal, the investment club is sizing up quite well. The women bought stock in Google at $472 per share; at the March meeting, it was worth more than $1,100. In February, the portfolio for the ladies-only group hit the $100,000 mark. Each $25 unit, which is the amount that every member contributes monthly, rose from its low of about $18 to a value of roughly $39 in March.
Just as the women took a chance on that first company that fell off the public trading market within weeks of their purchase, they also gambled on creating the club in general. “Since I have been a member, we have seen many, many clubs go out because the economy
Sp ri ng 2014
B lo o m
Jason Lenhart / DN-R
Members of the women’s investment club ENRICH (from left) Pem Liskey, Pat Supko, co-founder Laura “Belle” Stemper and Susan Mansfield discuss the group’s beginning during a monthly meeting held March 12 in Harrisonburg. The group provides women with the opportunity to learn about investing; each contributes $25 monthly to a portfolio that recently surpassed the $100,000 mark.
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went down and they didn’t do very well,” said Pem Liskey, who owns the house boasting the dining table the women swarmed in mid-March. “But just by hanging in [there], we’re doing very well, now.” Liskey was a part of a coed group that fizzled out about 15 years ago. “Eventually, it got down to about four, and then they decided to just disperse,” she explained. ENRICH started in October 1997 with four women, two of whom — Klemt and Laura “Belle” Stemper — are still in the club today. In January of the following year, the ladies opened the group to new members, and by October 1998, they had almost 15 attendees. That number has remained relatively constant throughout the years. “Most people are here to stay, which is surprising because it can be tedious and we have different views, because of our age,” said Susan Mansfield. At 65, she’s one of the elder group members, with the youngest being 39year-old Meg Morris. “We try to not talk politics or religion, because we are very diverse,” said Stemper, smiling.
From the start, the purpose of the club has been to educate the women involved, not to grow an overflowing retirement fund. “It’s something that I’ve always wanted to do, to know how to invest and know more about the stock market,” Stemper said. “I just knew that there were so many things about it that I didn’t get, and so, I thought with other input and other people’s perspectives, it would help me to understand it better.” Which raises the question: Did it work? Absolutely, Stemper says. Plus, the added bonus has been meeting and becoming close with a group of women she more than respects now. In fact, when asked if the club has ever come close to meeting the same fate as
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Liskey’s other, coed group, she simply said, “I don’t think so, because we’ve become good friends, and we enjoy just getting together.” The group meets once a month, gathers for a social at someone’s home four times a year and eats out at a restaurant twice annually. The meetings have become far less structured and business-like, as the ladies have gotten to know one another. “They’re supposed to be more formal than what they are,” Mansfield joked.
The women definitely aren’t all play, however. With $25 coming in from each of the 15 members every month, the group has a good chunk of change to invest often, and the ladies don’t like to leave it laying around. When someone in the group is interested in buying stock in a certain company, that person researches data and presents it at the group meeting.
All transaction decisions are made by the majority-rules standard. Because of the members’ age differences, their research methods are diverse. For example, Morris had never used a source other than the Internet to research market data prior to joining the group, but other members rely more heavily on tools at the library. Group members also have varying interests; Mansfield, for example, loves foreign companies, while Liskey has an affection for Applebee’s — a company that’s done the club well, the women pointed out. “I really enjoyed following a pharmaceutical from Israel but I wasn’t there one day,” Mansfield started, her voice trailing off. “And then, we sold it,” someone interjected, the women again bursting into laughter. “We’re women; we get attached,” chuckled Stemper, who dared the others to try to sell her beloved Costco Wholesale shares.
ENRICH began as an experiment that has ultimately made its members money while also providing the platform for them to hone a practical skill. They’ve learned a few key lessons, such as this: Let go of stocks when they’ve made you money and use those earnings to look for something new, don’t wait for stocks to jump in value and, in turn, end up watching them fall farther, and consider the source when collecting data. The women have ultimately learned to be more relaxed and confident in their investments, taking more educated risks. “You’re going to spend $25 on something,” said Pat Supko. “You’re going to go to dinner or you’re going to go to a movie. … We choose to spend our $25 to get together and learn about investing.” After spending an afternoon with the women of ENRICH, Candace has realized how fun investing can be.
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H ARTICLE BY CAT ELSBY
Careful, ladies: Experts warn of
igh heels are a staple in many women’s wardrobes; however, local experts say that short-term style points might lead to long-term health risks. One in 10 women wears high heels at least three times a week, according to the American Osteopathic Association. A third of those women have admitted to falling in heels. But falling is not the only risk women run when they step into their high shoes: Issues arise with tendons, nerves and muscles, as well. A big problem area is the calf muscle. “When you have your foot pointed down for a long period of time, it puts your calf in
a shortened position and [it] gets used to being in that position,” said Michael W. Wilburn, PT, MPT, OCS, the center manager at Advantage Physical Therapy and Sports Performance in Harrisonburg. This position, also known as adaptive shortening, puts the woman at risk of numerous injuries while walking without heels, such as calf strains, achilles tendinitis and plantar fasciitis, also known as jogger’s heel. Dr. Tom Weber, sports medicine physician at Sentara RMH Orthopedics and Sports, recommends stretching the calf muscles daily if you wear heels frequently. This will reduce stiffness and help to prevent shortening of the muscles. Perhaps the most damage done by wearing heels is to the foot. When your foot is put into the high-heel position, it can slide forward in the shoe, causing weight distribution to be shifted to the bottom front part of the foot, explained Wilburn. Normally, when a person walks, the weight is distributed to the back of the foot. However, with the redistribution of weight that high heels
cause, an array of problems arise, said Orlando Cedeno, Doctor of Podiatric Medicine at Harrisonburg Foot and Ankle Clinic. Cedeno said he most frequently sees ramifications from long-term high heel wear. He said that “chronic high heel wearers” will end up developing lasting issues from their feet taking the shape of their shoes. Wearers consistently lack support for the back of their heels — because of this, hammer toes, stress fractures, bunions and neuromas are more likely to occur. Wilburn said the Morton’s Neuroma is caused by the shoe squeezing the wearer’s foot. “There are nerves that run between your bones in the feet, and if you do too much compression on those nerves, you can develop pain,” he explained. In addition to long-term risks, immediate injuries should also be considered when putting on your high heels. Weber said the injuries he most frequently encounters at Sentara RMH Medical Center Orthopedics and Sports are ankle sprains, ankle fractures and foot fractures. Although, Weber explained, these injuries often involve additional factors.
“We see a fair amount of injuries, but not usually isolated to just high heels. Usually, high heels plus alcohol or ice and snow are the main dangers.” However, Wilburn added that ankle and foot fractures, as well as sprains, can stem from simply tripping or stepping the wrong way in heels. “When someone wears them on an intermittent basis,
that person may not be used to wearing high heels, and, depending on the terrain, it simply comes down to being unstable,” said Wilburn. “One girl in particular was walking around JMU’s campus in heels and stepped wrong and her foot broke and, when she tried to correct herself, she broke the other foot.” But despite the high risk of injury, women are still
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eager to strap on their dancing shoes. Emily Rose, a James Madison University senior, sprained her foot in February after slipping on ice while wearing heels. “It was definitely a direct result of wearing heels,” the Virginia Beach native said. Although more cautious now, Rose’s injury will not stop her from wearing the shoes: “I will probably avoid [heels] for a while, but I don’t think it will stop me from wearing them in the future.” Since the trend does not seem to be dying down, the experts have some words of wisdom for high heel aficianados. Wear heels in moderation and pay attention to what your
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feet are telling you, Cedeno warned. If you develop pain and discomfort, you’re likely overwearing heels. Switch from a heeled shoe to a flat shoe often, in order to give your feet a break. Be careful about the types of high heels you step into, Wilburn added. “Most people wear [heels] not because they’re trying to be sensible, but because they’re trying to look nice. But, my advice is to be sensible,” he said. “Think about the tradeoff of looking cute in the shortterm versus the [price] you [will] pay in the long-term. You have a long time to live your life and a long time to use your feet, so you have to treat them accordingly.”
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Finding your place ...
In a new city
ARTICLE BY MATT GONZALES ■ PHOTOGRAPHY BY JASON LENHART
acking your bags to head off to a new place can be an exciting, liberating, lifechanging event, symbolizing new beginnings, often the onset of a new job, and an overall fresh start. While the positives often outweigh the negatives when it comes to relocating, the transition can seem daunting — at least at first. One positive: meeting new people. One negative: meeting new people. The biggest challenge many newcomers face in the first weeks or months after relocating is forging new friendships in the area. “It’s always good in life to have support, whether it’s long-distance or nearby,” said Kristy Koser, certified emotionally focused couples therapist and supervisor at Aporia Counseling and Psychotherapy, PLLC, in Harrisonburg. “While it’s not absolutely necessary, it’s always helpful to have
somebody to count on in the area, especially when you’re new.” Forging new bonds can be difficult if you are not equipped with an existing circle of friends in the area, which is the standard for many town newbies. It may be particularly problematic due to unfamiliarity with the area: You don’t know where to go in order to meet people, the best time to go out or which demographic you should seek. Luckily, the Shenandoah Valley is full of offerings for area tenderfeet, be it social events, themed nights at local restaurants or other opportunities that encourage new residents to mingle.
Physically-engaging activities, whether indoors or outdoors, may prove outlets for engaging with »See RELATIONSHIPS, Page 26
ARTICLE BY KATIE KING PHOTOGRAPHY BY HOLLY MARCUS
in full BLOOM
Sco t t i sh - b o rn E i l i d h T h om p son sh o ot s an d sco re s i n th e Shenandoah Valley Spring 2014
t’s a chilly, overcast morning, but Eilidh Thomson knows how to light up the field. With the enthusiasm of a sports announcer, the 29year-old coach urges her Shenandoah Valley United soccer team to kick it into gear. “Move, move, move! The grass is already dying, don’t kill it anymore!” she shouts, motioning to the partially-yellowed lawn of Mount Crawford’s Monger Field. The players, seemingly undaunted by the frigid March weather, apparent as some inexplicably sport shorts, heed the words of their coach and speed it up. Throughout the next two hours, they run through a series of drills and games, all intended to improve agility, coordination
and technique. Unlike the sun, which periodically peeks through the clouds, Eilidh’s energy never wavers. In her signature navy blue track suit, she weaves her way through the group, offering a steady stream of suggestions — as well as the occasional Yiddish expletive. “Speed it up!” “Well done!” “Now we’re doing it!” “Don’t lose the technique!” “Don’t get lazy on those passes!” “Open up!” “Get wider!” “Oy Vey!” During water breaks, she chatters away with the girls in a big sisterly fashion, asking about recent birthdays and sleep overs, but once everyone’s hydrated, it’s back to business.
As she explains it, soccer wasn’t something in which Eilidh Thompson chose to take interest: It’s always been part of her life. Now, Eilidh is sharing her passion for the sport with the nearly 1,100-member Shenandoah Valley United league.
As the practice winds down, Eilidh crouches on the sidelines and observes the team — perhaps looking to see if today’s lessons have soaked in — while still yelling out a few last minute words of wisdom. After two hours shouting in the cold, one might expect her voice to be strained, but Eilidh just shakes her head, setting her dark ponytail bouncing, and laughs at the suggestion. “I’ve been shouting my whole life,” she explains.
Growing up in Scotland
Seated at a corner table at The Artful Dodger, a dimly-lit café two minutes from her SVU office in Harrisonburg, Eilidh explains that soccer wasn’t exactly something in which she chose to take an interest: It’s always been part of her life. Born and raised in Hamilton, Scotland — population 58,188 — the sport plays a crucial role in her motherland’s culture, and Eilidh jokes she was yelling and cheering for teams before she could walk. “Soccer is our national sport, so you
grow up with soccer in your life in Scotland,” she said, while sipping a diet soda. “[It’s] on the TV all the time at home.” As a child, Eilidh, the youngest of three siblings, enjoyed playing casual football games — as the sport, called “soccer” in America, is known in much of the rest of the world — with her two elder brothers, Ross and Fraser. Her mother, Pauline, who still resides in Hamilton, says she wasn’t surprised when her little girl wanted to kick the ball around with the boys. “Eilidh was quite a tomboy; she liked bicycles [and] playing outside,” she recalled, adding that her loquacious daughter could also “talk the hind legs off a donkey.” At 14, no longer deeming her brothers worthy adversaries, Eilidh joined the local girls’ soccer club, the Cumbernauld Cosmos Football Club. Pauline remembers how her daughter distinguished herself by showing an unusual amount of “tenacity” and “determination,” no easy feat when you live in a country filled with rabid fans brought up in the sport.
Eilidh agrees that she’s always been very driven. “For myself, I have really high expectations,” she remarked. “My work ethic has always been my best skill.” However, she also credits her mother with much of her success. According to Eilidh, Scotland lacks school-sponsored athletics, and offers a disproportionately low number of athletic opportunities for women. As a result, even the so-called local girls’ soccer club was 40 minutes away. If her mother hadn’t been up for countless evening drives, Eilidh’s future career as a soccer coach may have come to a screeching halt. As Eilidh’s father died suddenly of meningitis when she was 9, Pauline already had her hands full raising three children on her own. Yet, the local government employee says she was determined to support her children’s interests. “After being widowed at such an early age, and so unexpectedly, I decided that life was too short to not avail every opportunity that came along for each of the children,” she explained. “[I decided]
if it was within reason and affordability, then I would be happy to let them try!” Recounting how Pauline would take the players for pizza and provide rides for teammates, Eilidh goes so far as to name her mother the “ultimate team mom.” “She just latched on to this opportunity I had and it became something we did together,” she recalled. Eilidh adds her No. One fan never overstepped her bounds. “My mother was silent on the sidelines. She knew that wasn’t her role. She gives me hope that there are people like that still out there.”
Off to America
At 16, Eilidh was selected to play for the Hamilton Academicals Football Club, one of Scotland’s top teams. With practices four nights a week, and games on weekends, she quickly grew close to her teammates, forming an especially close-knit bond with four: Lynsey Hogg, Lesley Scanlan, Elaine Fleming and Jen King. Recalling her four years with the Hamilton team, there’s a brief moment when Eilidh sounds like a sorority girl missing college. “They’re my sisters,” she said. “We socialized together, we trained together, we went to the movies together, we watched games together. As a group, we were pretty inseparable.” Like Pauline, Lynsey — who still plays for the HAFC — says Eilidh has always had an ironclad resolve. “The grit and winning mentality that she possessed ensured that she was always a vital member of any team,” she praised. Today, when Eilidh visits Hamilton, she still attends the HAFC games to show her support. Lynsey even recalls
Respected for her fervor on and off the field, Eilidh Thompson is also known for her navy blue track suit and penchant for fast food.
one instance when, due to a few team members being unable to participate, Eilidh was unexpectedly asked to play. Though she had to “beg, borrow and steal” the proper athletic gear, Lynsey said Eilidh came through for the team. “She ran after every ball, chased every opponent and refused to give up, even when the legs were telling her she couldn’t continue anymore,” recalled Lynsey. “I think this … sums Eilidh up perfectly, not just as a player but as a person.” As a teen, Eilidh was also selected to play for the Scottish National Team, representing her nation in the European Championship.
“It was amazing to represent your country,” she added. Despite Eilidh’s fierceness on the field, she never planned on remaining a player. Fascinated by the ability of sports to alter the lives of young people — be it physically, emotionally or in some cases, financially — she says she “always knew” she wanted to coach. “I believe that I have an ability to really help shape kids; their character, their ability to lead or work with a team,” she said. “The ability to grow little human beings, that’s why I want to work with little kids, and I just fortunately can do that job through the vehicle of soccer.” Eilidh built up her coach-
ing skills at the University of Paisley, where she earned a Bachelor’s of Science degree in sport studies and coaching development in 2005. After graduating, the then 20-yearold accepted a job offer from a youth soccer club in New Jersey, packed up her bags and headed stateside. According to Eilidh, the United States offers some of the best opportunities for women’s soccer, so she reasoned a move across the pond would be best for her long-term career goals. One might think moving to a new nation would involve a certain degree of nail biting or sleepless nights, but that’s just not Eilidh’s style. The self-described “independent” woman says it was tough to leave loved ones, but she didn’t second guess her decision. Nor did anyone ask her to. According to Pauline, everyone was happy her daughter was “going to live her dream.” “It is not as it once was, in days gone by, when someone emigrated [and] you never expected to see them again,” Pauline points out, adding that they visit a few times a year, in addition to exchanging frequent emails and calls. Eilidh admits, a bit reluctantly, to shedding a few tears during the flight over, but says she was mostly excited. “When the plane landed, I just picked up and I was ready to get straight into work,” she remarked. Of course, that’s not to say she doesn’t take pride in her roots. Calling her homeland a “beautiful country with very hardworking people,” she says she’ll always root for Scottish soccer teams and love hearing the national anthem. “But I also love the USA,” she continued. “And this is where I want to live for the rest of my life.”
After nearly a decade in the states, Eilidh’s ready to make her commitment official. She hopes to obtain her citizenship later this year.
At home in Harrisonburg
In 2008, Eilidh moved to Harrisonburg and became the technical director for SVU — a soccer organization for Valley youth. From the start, Randy Nutter, a member of the board of directors, was impressed by her endless energy and passion for the game. “She’s really always on; she’s always ready to coach, ready to lead. And you know she knows what she’s doing on the field,” he praised. Randy says Eilidh is largely respected by players and parents alike, as she’s charming, yet unafraid to make tough calls. Back on Monger Field, 13year-old player Olivia Paladino echoes Randy’s sentiment, describing her coach with a series of oxymorons. According to the teen, Eilidh is sweet but tough, serious yet fun. Apparently, it’s a perfect mix. “If you’re looking to play soccer, Eilidh is the one to look for,” Olivia confirms. In 2010, when the need arose for a new executive director, Randy said there was only one natural choice: Eilidh. “She was ready to come into her own,” he added. With the new title came a dizzying list of additional responsibilities: purchasing equipment and uniforms, managing marketing efforts and corporate partnerships, arranging team schedules and meeting with the board, to name a few. As Randy eloquently puts it, Eilidh now “wears many hats,” and she apparently wears them well. Since she took charge, he claims SVU is running silky smooth. “We’re better organized. I remember standing at the fields on Saturday morning wonder-
Growing up in Hamilton, Scotland — population 58,188 — Eilidh Thompson’s mother, Pauline, raised three children on her own, following her husband’s sudden death when Eilidh was 9 years old.
ing if we were going to cancel games [due to weather],” he recalled. “Now, with Eilidh, we have advanced notice.” Randy also credits the executive director with helping the organization undergo “tremendous growth” and improving the overall quality of play. Eilidh, who estimates SVU has attracted 150 new players annually since 2010, says her strategy as director has been to be a “visible leader,” one involved in every aspect of the program. It entails a heavy workload, but she’s deeply committed to helping the program expand because she believes it’s more than just a game. “Soccer allows us to teach so many life skills,” she explained. “I think learning to play will help [children and
teens] better themselves in the real world.”
Most at home
Walk into her workspace at the SVU office downtown, and the multitasking skills Randy praised are hard to miss. Two white erase boards line her wall; one filled with game strategies — clearly belonging to a coach — and the other planning out a schedule for an organization of nearly 1,100 players. Meanwhile, Eilidh, wearing her navy blue track suit, answers a quick phone call as she reads a business-related email. Of course, before the day’s end, she’ll be back on the field. Fortunately, even at the end of a busy workday, she
doesn’t view coaching as one last task to check off her list before heading home. Despite her other responsibilities, Eilidh still looks forward to hitting the field. “What keeps me going is my time on the field with the kids. That’s my downtime,” she explained. A career that fills days, evenings and sometimes weekends doesn’t exactly leave time for much else, but according to Eilidh, that’s OK. “Soccer is my life,” she said, matter-of-factly. Perhaps that’s why the Scot was able to make the transition from Hamilton to Harrisonburg so effortlessly. Citizenship aside, it appears Eilidh’s true home is on the field.
Jason Lenhart / DN-R
With local students on spring break, Ruby’s Lounge had breathing room March 14; according to the manager, the bar is a hub of late-night entertainment.
other locals. The area offers adult recreational sports leagues, as well as weekly classes, such as yoga or instructional dance, which provide the opportunity to meet new people in a more
intimate setting. Harrisonburg’s Dancing with Karen, for example, a social dance studio located on East Market Street, hosts weekly ballroom dance lessons, which are open to in-
dividuals of all ages. “A lot of times, when people move in from out of town, they’re looking for ways to meet people and things to do,” explained Karen Thomas, the studio owner.
“Here, they can sign up for classes and engage in fun, social activities while also being able to dance [with], meet and interact with other people in a way that is comfortable.” Thomas’ business also
You have to be patient with yourself and go at your own pace. Maybe go out to a coffee shop or go out in public one night a week. ... It is important to go at your own pace.
offers free dancing lessons for beginners, as well as refreshments, in conjunction with downtown’s First Fridays Celebration. The first Friday of each month, businesses highlight goods and services, often incorporating discounts and extending hours, as well as showcasing locally-crafted artwork. Sponsored by the Arts Council of the Valley, traveling bands and musicians are often hosted as part of the First Fridays tradition. Ruby’s Lounge, Clementine’s basement bar, is one live music venue. “[Ruby’s] is definitely a good social spot for locals,” said Clementine Manager
Patrick Riley, adding that the lounge is a popular late-night attraction. “I think restaurants, in general, [in] downtown [Harrisonburg] are excellent places to meet people,” added Eddie Bumbaugh, executive director of Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance, a nonprofit that works with the city of Harrisonburg to revitalize the central area. “Whether it be the restau-
rant segment of an establishment or the bar, they create an environment where people are comfortable introducing themselves to others,” Bumbaugh added. The restaurants in the Valley are sprinkled with social events throughout the week: Clementine is one of several local establishments that host a weekly trivia night and the Artful Dodger offers free salsadancing lessons Thursdays. “During trivia nights, for ex-
ample, [organizers] would group you with others, if you come in by yourself,” explained Trisha Blosser, HDR director of resources. “It creates a very welcoming atmosphere.”
According to Blosser, volunteering opportunities off a chance for those seeking daytime interaction. She mentioned Renaissance Night, an annual fundraiser held in May, and Valley Fourth, the yearly July 4 celebration consisting of a charity run, parade, concerts and fireworks. “You’re with somebody »See RELATIONSHIPS, Page 29
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else, helping set up, having the opportunity to hang out for two, three hours,” said Blosser, who graduated from James Madison University. “It’s a good way to get to know somebody.” She also touched on opportunities for mothers in the area. “At one point, I was a stayat-home mom,” she explained, “and sometimes, it can be difficult [to meet other parents].” As Blosser discovered, libraries and museums serve as meeting places for stay-athome parents. “Children’s museums are great, because there are always families with young children,” she pointed out. “And, if there are families with young children, there are opportunities for adults to connect.”
Although the area offers
Jason Lenhart / DN-R
Monica Kniss (left) and her husband, Stephen, share dessert March 14 at Ruby’s Lounge in downtown Harrisonburg.
chances for interaction, some individuals do feel more comfortable spending their spare time by themselves. “Let’s face it, not everybody is an extrovert,” admit-
ted Bumbaugh. “They may not want to go to a festival with 3,000 people, which is perfectly legitimate.” He suggests that these individuals may take a less
calculated approach and meet people by chance while out shopping or stopping by a gallery in town. However, forming relationships may be challenging for those craving friendship, yet concerned about putting themselves out there. Koser, who deals with individuals facing social anxiety, posits that “prolonged isolation” and constant “loneliness” may lead to depression. “You have to be patient with yourself and go at your own pace,” cautioned Koser. “Maybe, go out to a coffee shop or go out in public one night a week. “Either way, it is important to go at your own pace.” Having grown up a military brat, Matt is used to being the new kid in town.
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slight ache in the neck, a sharp pain in the wrist, a dull soreness in the back — these are common ailments often felt by those bound to a desk job. However, they’re not complaints that should be quickly dismissed, as each may be a sign of a larger issue: microtrauma. As Dennis Da Ponte, doctor of chiropractic at Chiropractic Solutions in Harrisonburg, explains, microtrauma is an injury to the soft tissues of the body caused by making the same movement repeatedly. For example, sitting at a desk for long periods of time often results in cumulative trauma. The effects of sitting slouched over a monitor, in addition to the repetitive movements of typing and using a computer mouse, strain the body. Those aches felt after a long day’s work could be initial signs of overuse syndrome,
which often begins in the muscles and tendons. If not treated, it can become progressively worse, Da Ponte says, and eventually lead to ligament, joint and nerve damage. Therefore, it’s important to pay attention to those early warning signs. “The symptoms [of microtrauma] can start out as discomfort, turning into pain and then swelling and stiffness,” Da Ponte said, adding that if the issues continue and begin affecting the joints and nerves, patients often start to experience numbness and tingling.
Several factors lead to an increased risk of microtrauma, the first being repetition of specific movements. Anyone who has a job or hobby that requires making a motion, such as lifting, twisting
Poor posture can cause different microtraumas in the neck and shoulders, which compress nerves that start out from the spine.
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or typing at a computer, over and over, is at an increased risk of microtrauma, explains Amara Franko Heller, licensed acupuncturist at the Shen Dao Clinic, LLC, in Harrisonburg. “In the moment, we don’t recognize it as trauma,” she explained. “It’s only after cumulative buildup that it can be labeled as ‘traumatic.’ ” Another risk factor is sustained tension, or “holding certain positions for long periods of time,” Da Ponte said. Sitting for eight hours at a desk is a prime example of sustained tension. Therefore, posture plays an important role in preventing microtrauma. “Poor posture can cause different microtraumas in the neck and shoulders, which compress nerves that start out from the spine,” explained Linda Slota, occu-
pational therapist and certified hand therapist at Sentara RMH Medical Center in Harrisonburg. Nerves that begin in the spinal cord provide motor and sensory movements to the arms, she continued. “So, if you’re sitting for a long time in a forward position with a hunched-over posture and rounded shoulders, you’re compressing a lot of the nerves that supply the motor functions and sensations to your arms, while also putting stress on the nerves and muscles in your neck,” she explained. Da Ponte says it’s also important to recognize how long an individual has been exposed to these particular risk factors, as well as the duration of the exposure. Because microtrauma is sustained gradually, the longer
someone is exposed to these factors, the more susceptible to injury they become. The combination of risk factors, or “how many factors you’re exposed to,” also affects the likelihood of injury, Da Ponte added.
Although these risk factors are not uncommon for many individuals, especially those who work in an office or a factory, microtrauma can be prevented in a number of ways. One of the most important steps is examining the environment in which one works and lives. When a job requires an employee to complete the same task repeatedly throughout the day, that individual will be more susceptible to microtrauma. Slota says the best case scenario is when a company is open to rotating duties between individuals, so the tasks are spread out and one person is not repeatedly kneeling or twisting, for example. Da Ponte says another issue may be lighting, which is not always as bright as it should be and can lead individuals to
squint their eyes. However, environmental factors are not always within an employee’s control, and some companies cannot alleviate such issues. Therefore, it’s important to pay attention to the factors that individual employees can control, such as the setup of one’s desk. “What we find in our offices is that it’s the desk workstation that causes the most problems,” Da Ponte said. Posture again becomes important; employees should be sure to sit upright. Heller says that posture is a simple but important factor in protecting the body from microtrauma. “I always try to get people to be aware of their posture,” Heller added. “Everyone benefits from keeping the top of their head lifted and the tailbone sinking, and the legs slightly bent with the chest relaxed.” When sitting upright, make sure the top of the computer screen is eye level in order to avoid tilting the head, Da Ponte suggests. The shoulders should be relaxed, nei-
ther hunched forward nor elevated, in order to maintain proper posture. The elbows should be kept close to the sides of the body, and bent at 90-degree angles. This often requires adjusting the chair level, so that the keyboard and mouse can accommodate such a posture. The wrists should be relaxed, and not bent at a strong angle. Consider a supportive wrist pad for the computer mouse, if necessary. Pay attention to the lower back and ensure that it’s in a supported position, Da Ponte reminds individuals. It’s important to maintain the natural curve of the lower spine. The hips and knees should be somewhat aligned, with a 90-degree angle relative to the spine, Da Ponte explained, ensuring that the knees are not too low, in order to prevent strain on the lower back. A foot stool or chair adjustment may be necessary to attain the proper angle. Finally, Slota reminds workers that it’s important to “have things within reach, so you’re not twisting and turning all the time.”
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Additionally, strengthening the opposing back muscles will help pull the shoulders back and down to ensure a better posture. Also, incorporate glutestrengthening exercises to help protect the hip flexors.
Although sitting properly is important, it’s also beneficial to break that sustained tension and get up from the desk. “Instead of sending an email to somebody, get up and go talk to them,” Slota said. “Don’t be sedentary; if you can, get up and move.” If possible, take time for a short afternoon walk. Make sure to take breaks every 15 to 20 minutes, too, by simply adjusting positions and doing light stretches. Sit at the edge of the chair, Da Ponte said, and roll the shoulders, pelvis and wrists. Stretching, however, should be a lifestyle change that’s incorporated outside of those breaks to help prevent cumulative trauma. Da Ponte says people should “stretch the front and strengthen the back.” Sitting hunched over at a desk for long periods of time causes the muscles in the front of the body, such as the chest’s pectorals and lower body’s hip flexors, to shorten, Da Ponte explained, so stretching those front muscles at home is an important preventive measure.
Many individuals are unaware that preventing and treating microtrauma requires examining, and sometimes altering, one’s lifestyle. For example, stress is often a factor in microtrauma, as it can cause the body to become more susceptible to injury. As someone who pays particular attention to the mind-body connection, Heller says she reminds patients to focus on their bodies and examine how situational factors, such as stress, are affecting them. “I always encourage people to take more time to listen to their body and be aware of how they feel,” she said. “I try to get people to become aware and start to develop a dialogue with themselves and just be more proactive.” Paying attention to one’s diet and in-
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corporating exercise for a healthy lifestyle helps the body become less prone to cumulative trauma, as well. “Diet and hydration can directly affect healing of microtrauma,” Da Ponte said, adding that antioxidants and nutrients are vital in the body’s healing processes. Drinking lots of fluids also ensures that tissues remain hydrated, so they can heal, he continued. Slota hopes individuals will begin examining their lifestyles, but encourages people to seek professional advice. She says her patients are often surprised to find that additional factors — such as diabetes or high blood pressure — can contribute to microtrauma. Medical professionals can help examine all of the factors and develop an individualized treatment plan. So, whether it’s that office job or everyday stressors that are causing tension, consider these professional tips to help prevent microtrauma. Sarah began incorporating stretching and walking into her daily routine to counteract hours of typing.
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Nikki Fox climbs the 90-foot drop into Goblin Valley State Park’s Chamber of the Basilisk during a May canyoneering trip in Utah. Photo by Chris Coates
A life less ordinar y
Photojournalist shares enthusiasm for the extreme , Nikki Fox, am an addict. Now, before you rush to any judgments, give me a moment to explain. I’ve always craved the high, lusted for the rush and yearned for the sublime moment. Alright, that still doesn’t sound quite legal. Let’s try again. I first became aware of my true nature while in my teens, when I would bounce from group to group, accumulating diverse relationships as one would amass a coin collection, based on shared experiences, ideas or values. To the onlooker, I was a social butterfly. I continued this behavior after high school, adding in more extreme variables while studying art in Brazil.
Who in their right mind leaves everyone they’ve known, every American comfort and all aspects of life that have shaped their identity, for a foreign land full of strangers, odd customs and a language in which she knows only one word? That would be me. While at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, I spent time crafting my photography, but also seeking out adventures. A few of these included hitchhiking in Utah, going to South Dakota’s Sturgis Rally on the back of a motorcycle, taking trips all over the Great Plains to
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Sp ri ng 2014
B lo o m
attend reservation powwows and backpacking along the Missouri River, to name a few. For three years after college, I never spent longer than nine months in one city. All of my earthly possessions fit into my car and I skipped from state to state, working at different newspapers or camera stores, meeting new people along the way. One fact I still boast about: In one calendar year, I lived in each of America’s four time zones, in four different states. All the while, in each place, I sought wisdom and enlightenment. Every now and then, I was set free as I discovered the natural wonders of the area. A novel could be written about my search for clarity in nature’s backdrop, whether hiking in the Rocky Mountains, watching a July dawn in Death Valley with sand between my toes, my first solo backpacking trip in Pisgah National Forest or the first time I spent four days underground on a cave expedition. And I guess it’s this escalating thirst — my inner junkie — for experiencing life through unconventional endeavors that has brought me to this point.
Photo by Julie Hall
Nikki Fox climbs 876 feet with the American flag during the annual New River Gorge Bridge Day event held last October.
It’s the middle of October and I’m hanging from a rope surrounded by air.
There’s a bitter wind stirring on this fall morning in the New River Gorge. I’m suspended in the air, hundreds of feet above the ground, climbing an 850-foot nylon rope dangling from a bridge. I look down and see that the giant American flag attached to my seat harness has started to wave in the wind as I ascend the rope. “The sprawling flag must look good to the people taking photos,” I think to myself, with the warm hues of the changing autumn trees lining the gorge in the background. My attention snaps back to the task at hand as I notice that the flag has picked up the weight of the blowing wind, morphing into a 30-pound rock and my thighs begin to burn. I tell myself to love the burn, embrace it. Must continue … 500 feet more. My mind wanders to past travels in warmer Mexico. I think about the number of deep pits I’ve rappelled and ascended over the years. Once terrified, I sat at the top of a 1,150-foot hole — a quarter-mile-deep pit known as Sótano de las Golodrinas — in the Mexican jungle. It took my partner, Chris, and I the
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better part of five minutes to coax me over the edge. Now, having rappelled the pit several times, it has become comfortably familiar. I’m pulled back into the moment at the New River Gorge when Chris, who is the first man to ever match and even exceed my own appetite for adventure, jerks me downward as he resumes climbing on the same rope below me. While taking a breather during my climb, I sip water from the bladder strapped to my back, look up and wish the sun would poke through the fog above. Only another 400 feet of rope before the top of the New River Gorge Bridge. Every year, the National Park, in conjunction with West Virginia, opens the 876-foothigh, single-arched bridge for BASE jumpers and rappellers. At the crack of dawn, a
lucky pair — in this case, Chris and I — is given the honor of climbing with the American and West Virginia state flags. No one is allowed to jump or rappel until the flags have reached the top of the bridge. It is the same at the day’s end, when the flags are lowered by two people tandem rappelling — which means two people descending on the same rope. All of this must seem strange to someone who is uncomfortable with physical feats and daring escapades. What can I say? I’m a woman who enjoys the journey of self-discovery, indulging myself in what most would classify as extreme situations. I believe that only by pushing past your mind and your body’s comfort levels can you truly find harmony and unearth the key to your own happiness.
Photo by Chris Coates
Nikki Fox enters the Hoya de las GuaGuas, an 668-foot-deep open-air pit in San Luis Potosí, Mexico, which she last explored in December 2009.
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