Be Your Best Self

071213_be_your_best_selfFor many, summertime conjures up images of long days basking in the sun, swimming in the pool and unwinding from the rigors of a hectic school year. It’s a time to recharge one’s batteries, to get in shape.

But, said Amy Schwartz, fitness and wellness director at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Baltimore, although it may seem as if summer is a more relaxed time of year, people actually seem more programmed and have less time.

First of all, for families with young children, schedules change during the summer months — camp starts later than school, and older children have more sporadic schedules, where they may be home some weeks while attending different camps with different schedules. At the same time, because summer offers so much to do, parents often run around to keep their children occupied.

That means, Schwartz says, that many parents, accustomed to attending exercise classes at specific times, are often thrown off their schedules.

“Some may miss their normal 9:30 a.m. class because of camp schedules,” said Schwartz. “I tell them it’s better to come late to a class than not at all. Forty-five minutes instead of 60 minutes is still great. You don’t have to do all your exercise in one sitting. If you can’t make it to a class, walk more.”

But exercise is critical year-round. Even in summer, it’s important to do a combination of strength training, cardiovascular training and flexibility training to keep bodies fit and healthy.

What’s New?
This summer, the JCC has added a few new exercise options to its programs. SMRT is a “smart rolling” foam roller called a grid that one rolls over muscles before a class. “We do it before and after classes like cycling or Zumba, and we roll over those muscles specific to the muscles we are using in the exercise. It’s like a massage. SMRT makes you stand taller and feel better,” said Schwartz.

In addition, the JCC has added small group personal training to address specific needs. For example, a personal trainer may work with a small group of individuals who have bad knees to strengthen their leg muscles.

Eating Healthy
There’s nothing like biting into a ripe, red tomato picked minutes before eating and summer is the ideal time to enjoy some of the freshest fruits and vegetables. Farmers’ markets and CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture) Center provide ways for individuals to get seasonal vegetables picked at the height of ripeness.

Families who participate in Pearlstone’s CSA pay a seasonal fee to receive a weekly share of fresh pesticide- and chemical-free produce. It provides participants a chance to learn about seasonal eating — in the heat of the summer months, members enjoy freshly picked tomatoes, cucumber, eggplants, peppers, onions and zucchini, for example.

“I am passionate about fresh vegetables. I come home every day from work and see what I can create with what I picked at the farm,” said Josh Rosenstein, farm director at Pearlstone Center. Rosenstein adds that Pearlstone, although not certified organic, engages in organic-farming methods. The farm doesn’t use herbicides or pesticides on crops, practices cover cropping and crop rotation for healthy soil development and grows mostly heirloom varieties.

To encourage seasonal eating, Pearlstone is blogging and offering recipes that feature vegetables the farm is currently harvesting. Here are some additional suggestions:

• Marinate veggies like eggplant, peppers, squash and zucchini in balsamic vinegar, olive oil, sea salt, cracked black pepper and fresh herbs. Grill!

• Slice zucchini or other summer squash very thin into spaghetti-shaped pieces. Steam, and use instead of pasta.

• Cut a banana in half; stick a popsicle stick in it. Dip it in dark chocolate and freeze.

Potato, Squash and Goat Cheese Gratin
serves six

2 medium yellow squash, about a half pound
4 small to medium red
potatoes, about 1 pound
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 ounces goat cheese
Salt and freshly ground
black pepper
1⁄4 cup milk
1⁄3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon thinly sliced basil or thyme leaves

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease a 11⁄2- to 2-quart casserole dish with a drizzle of olive oil.

Use a mandolin or chef’s knife to slice the squash and potatoes into very thin slices, an eighth of an inch or less. Toss vegetables with olive oil in large bowl. Place a third of the squash and potato slices in the bottom of the dish — no need to layer them squash-potato-squash; just spread evenly — then season with salt and pepper. Top with half of the goat cheese, scattered evenly in large chunks. Repeat with another a third of the vegetables, seasoning again with salt and pepper and topping with remaining goat cheese. Finish by layering on the final a third of the vegetables. Season with salt and pepper. Pour milk over the entire dish. Top with parmesan cheese. Bake covered for 30 minutes, then uncover and bake 15 more minutes, until top browns. Scatter on the fresh basil, if using.

Rochelle Eisenberg is PR manager at The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore and an area freelance writer.

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