Teaching versus Learning

Being a parent is serious stuff. I take this responsibility on with a smile some days and with white knuckles on others.  When I was growing up, I couldn’t wait to be the adult that could call all the shots. Now I realize that calling all the shots is exhausting and not at all the power trip that I was envisioning.  Part of being a parent, besides drinking out of the coffee mug that says “World’s best boss!” is teaching life lessons to our offspring.  My poor children have to withstand my attempts at taking advantage of every teachable moment that reveals itself throughout the day. This exhausts me so I can only imagine how tired the kids are of listening to me. My hand will be the first to shoot up in a room if asked, “Who here has tried and failed in a teachable moment?”  I have been guilty of taking the easy way out on occasion.  Some days I just don’t have it in me to explain to my daughter that life is not always fair or equal. Some days I just say “No, because I said so.”  I am thankful that sometimes I get that feather in my cap when a teacher or another parent reports that my child has behaved in spectacular fashion when in their presence. After a quick look over my shoulder to be sure that I am the intended recipient of the message, I break my imaginary arm patting myself on the back for a job well done raising our kiddos.  I also wonder to myself when I will get the chance to witness such behavior within the confines of Casa del Kuhel.

As my kids are growing up, I find that they are actually the ones who are teaching me. DO NOT – I repeat- DO NOT TELL MY KIDS THAT I ADMIT TO THIS!!!!  My 12 year old daughter is a budding model, fashion guru, social media aficionado and a new cross country runner.  My 15 year old twin boys are cross country runners, wrestlers and up and coming experts in the areas of all things involving airsoft guns, birds of prey and video games.  This eclectic group of souls has taught me so much over the years about navigating through life’s tough spots.  They have shown grace in times of social difficulty, perseverance in the face of self-doubt, compassion when seeing others in need, humility in times of victory and sportsmanship when handed defeat.    I write this blog post not to brag, but to remind myself that while there are teachable moments everywhere, some of them are for me to learn from and not to hand out.

The point- what is the point of this post and what the heck does it have to do with health and wellness?  There are times to teach and times to learn.  If we are lucky and smart, we recognize take every opportunity to learn. We recognize that although we might know a lot, we have much more to learn. Opening your eyes, ears and mind to new ideas and examples of how to improve ourselves is a vital key to moving forward.  So while it is true that I am a parent and a personal trainer whose job it is to teach, I am forever a student. I know enough to know that I don’t know enough.

I urge you to recognize this in yourself as well. Take in new information. Analyze it. Apply it to your life if it is a good fit. Something I find I have to say to my clients and my kids, “Get out of your own way!” I am in no way equating my clients to my kids.  The only correlation is that I’m trying to make is that I’m often teaching both groups something. Quit trying to tell yourself why suggestions can’t/won’t work.  Be open and you will be surprised at what can happen. The little things you learn and adopt will all add up to big lessons and big changes.  Watch and see what you teach others when you live your life as an example.  You won’t have to tell anyone anything.  Everyone is watching. They will see you changing your habits, your life and your body.  Who knew you could say so much without uttering a word?

I am so fortunate to be surrounded by so many excellent teachers in the form of my kids, friends, family and clients.  Who are your teachers and are you open to learning from them?

Until next time… Live Well!

Toni Kuhel



Shuffling Along

It’s been quite a while since I last posted.  My life has been put into overdrive and I’ve just now started to get a handle on it (sort of) so now it’s time to give you all an update on Team 40/10.  If you don’t know what I’m talking about, there is a blog post that is titled “Team 40/10” and that will let you in on all the details.  Team 40/10 has had a few developments.  Two of our Team members have made the transition to 40!!!! Happy Birthday Colleen and Marcia!!! We have added a few team members in Saudi Arabia that are joining us by adding workout updates and they have taken to walking as their training of choice.  We have one Team member that has been told by her doctor that a 5K is as much as she should attempt right now. We’ve also added another member that will be participating in a ½ marathon.  The whole point is that we are on a health and wellness journey together, no matter what the “marathon” goal.

So the most recent undertaking of Team 40/10 has been setting our next mini goal.  The combination of the endless accumulation of snow and ice, the holiday chaos, and the Turkey Trot safely behind me, has resulted in my training regimen suffering a tad. Without the sense of urgency, my motivation dwindled. It’s time to get back on the horse. Our team successfully conquered the Turkey Trot and we have now set our sights on the Shamrock Shuffle in March.  Why race organizers choose to take a perfectly lovely holiday and taint it with an arduous run is completely beyond me.  The Shuffle is an 8K which is up from the 5K we completed in November. “Baby steps” is our motto! I went on my first outdoor run of 2010 and let’s just say it was familiar…not in a good way.  I was immensely disappointed that my legs and lungs reverted back to non-runner status.  Watching my husband’s silhouette get smaller and smaller in the distance ahead of me was frustrating.  I’ll take this as a wakeup call to get back into the swing of things.  With a renewed fear of embarrassment at the much larger, more public, considerably longer Shamrock Shuffle, I’m ready to lace up my sneakers on a regular basis once again.

Further fear…ummm….motivation comes as Team 40/10 convened to review a training schedule for the ultimate goal of the Marathon in October.  As I sat there looking at Team captain Julie’s spreadsheet that modified an existing training schedule, I felt my jaw fall closer and closer to the floor.  My eyes left my sockets as I saw the total miles to be logged each and every week until Marathon madness would commence.  I started to sweat as I calculated how much time this would take.  I felt a bit dizzy wondering if I could actually do this incredible thing that only a small percentage of the population could say they’ve accomplished.  Thank goodness I was sitting because it was all a bit overwhelming.  But, I did put it out in the universe.  I did announce it to the blogosphere. I did tell myself that I chose take on this amazing challenge.  I also promised my fellow Team 40/10 members that we were in this thing together.  February 1st is when registration opens for the Marathon. I will be online, shaking like a leaf, committing once again to taking on this beast.  The truth is that I will be re-committing every single day to making choices that will increase my chances of starting and finishing the Chicago Marathon.  This is not unlike committing to a healthy lifestyle.  But first, the Shamrock Shuffle looms in the not too distant future and I must get my running legs under me once again.  Whether you are striving towards the Shuffle, a bikini at spring break, the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer, a waistline of 35” or less, a class reunion in September, or just feeling better, remember to take baby steps.  One foot in front of another…one small change at a time…one good choice followed by another.  It will all add up and you will get there.

Until next time….Live Well! – Toni Kuhel

I Don’t Feeeeeeeel Like It! (part 1)


Anything is possible if you are motivated enough.  For goodness sake, people are climbing Mt. Everest just because it’s there.  I need a touch more motivation than that.  Picture 10 bizillion dollars and a guarantee that I would not die in the process.  Neither is a possibility, so no adventures up that mountainside for me.   I would LOVE to say that I wake up every morning ready to seize the day.  Alas, this is not the case.  I could go on and on about how I struggle with finding motivation to go about all the aspects of my life, but I will spare you. You are welcome!What I will share with you are a few strategies that I use to increase my chances of doing what needs doing to live well.

Get to know yourself. I am motivated into action by a few things.

On good days, I’m intrinsically motivated (good angel sitting on my shoulder) to eat right, deal with stress, and exercise. That’s right.  I will do these things because making good choices is the right thing to do for my health and wellness.  I also choose to do these things because, at the end of the day, I physically feel better.

On other days, it’s good old-fashioned fear that moves me.  It is fear that I am going to feel bad, sick or guilty if I choose to sit on the couch, stress about nothing important, and eat a bag of salty-greasy-chip-os.  Some days I really do weigh this as a viable option of something to do for the day, but I do not enjoy feeling bad, sick or guilty.  I also fear the elastic waistband.  Enough sloth-like days in a row will result in a wardrobe punctuated with elastic waistbands.

There are some days when I’m motivated by what other people think.  Alex would love me even if I didn’t do one active thing for a week.  However, he would probably give me a look that I would interpret as “judging” me and that would be bad for everyone.  I talk a lot.  It’s no surprise that my friends know I try to live well. Catching me with a sack of chocolate chip cookies would be too much to let slide by without at least a comment.  It would probably also involve some pointing.

I don’t think being motivated by my conscience, by fear or by other people is so unusual.  Figure out what motivates you. You don’t have to announce it to everyone like I just did.  Be honest with yourself. I don’t like admitting that a committee of “they” has that much influence on me, but sadly it does. Once you know what is motivating, you can then choose how to go about your day. If other people are your motivation, then you can work hard at not being alone with said sack of chocolate chip cookies.  If your partner’s opinion moves you, then let him/her know you appreciate the support.  Make sure you return the favor and freely give well deserved pats on the back.

turkey trot

If you want to run a 5k just to see if you can do it, sign yourself up and make the commitment.  I have committed to participating in this year’s 5K Turkey Trot.  I’m hoping to not be mistaken for a Turkey. I’m also shooting for non-stop trotting for the entire distance.  The date is rapidly approaching, but I’m setting mini goals along the way.  I’ve just completed my first goal of non-stop 2.25 miles. Now I’ll start shooting for faster time within that distance and on other days, longer distance at the same pace.

You can also try to work towards being more self-motivated. It really is the most positive motivation and I am striving to be my very own, best cheerleader.  It’s the one motivation you can completely control. I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in this personal struggle.  I work on this daily and some days I’m successful….some days not so much.  This post is starting to feel long so check back in a while and see what I have to say in this series’ part II. Wouldn’t want to interrupt a possible sudden burst of motivation!

Until next time….Live Well! – Toni Kuhel

Are we coming or going? -Part 3

10 minutesWhat are we trying to fit in?  Eating right, exercise/activity, and stress management are all going to make it into your life.  This is the part where I ask you to get out of your own way.  Try not to succumb to that little voice that says “you’ve got to be kidding me.”  Thinking the way you’ve been thinking all these years has not gotten you on the path of living well thus far.  Change is good so embrace it!

Go and find that paper that you used to map out your week.   Take a good hard look at it and see what days are your “light” days.  Let’s face it.  Some days are better than others.  Take those better days and look at them as opportunities.  You don’t need to find huge chunks of time.  Remember, three 10 minute chunks of moderate activity, is as effective as 30 consecutive minutes. First try and see if you can find at least one 30 minute chunk.  If you can, use it!  Find an activity that you enjoy and fits your current fitness level.  If it’s fun you’ll be more likely to do it… see!


If you can’t find something you really love, just find something you don’t hate. Something I try to tell myself is “you only have to do it for 10 minutes”.  This is usually enough to get me started and of course I end up working out for more than that.  One thing that is inevitable is feeling better when your activity of choice is all said and done.  Keep a variety of choices for activity in your bag of tricks.  This will keep you from getting bored or injured.  Walk everywhere you can. Take the stairs whenever you can (even if it’s not a piano). Move quickly throughout your day. Carry things instead of pushing if you can.  Whatever it is that you are doing fitness-wise, make an effort to do a bit more every week.  Changes in your body and overall health depend on making progress.  Just a wee bit more time or effort can reward you many times over in the future.

Every day you should try and take a few moments to close your eyes and breathe.  Take a 7 second inhale, hold for 7 seconds, exhale for 7 seconds.  It works like magic and you should try it now. This blog isn’t going anywhere, I’ll wait.  Also try and listen to music that moves you. It doesn’t need to be a song you want to dance to, but it could be. It could also be music that calms you or brings back a favorite memory of yours. Compile a “happy track” on your ipod/mp3 thing.  It will be your savior on a particularly stressful day.  Try some silence.  Instead of flipping on the TV or the radio every morning when you come into your kitchen, try nothing.  If you start out every morning in silence, try your “happy track”.  Change it up and see what feels good to you.  Simply changing what you hear can have an effect on your mindset for the day. This will also probably catch your family off guard and everyone knows how much fun that can be.  Often times we don’t know we are in a rut until we make a change. Make a change!

Until next time….Live Well! – Toni Kuhel

Shake a Leg, a Tail Feather, Shake Something!

Shake a Leg, a Tail Feather, Shake Something!

What to avoid...

What to avoid...

I just finished watching that show (thank goodness for my DVR) about all those people losing gobs weight at a ridiculous pace for a grand prize.  You know the show.  I’m watching them do some wacky things. They compete in physical challenges that take all day and work out for 8 to 10 gazillion hours a day. I’m also watching them TOTALLY lose it.  Yes, gaining and losing weight is definitely tied to our emotional baggage.  But I think I might be sobbing if I was doing what they were doing even if I was emotionally solid as a rock and completely baggage free. I am neither of these things. Losing weight and leading an active lifestyle does not have to be torturous.  I don’t think torture is going to get too many people on the fitness bandwagon.  Last time I checked, my kids weren’t big fans of exercise that makes you cry.  You are going to have to make activity (some people call it exercise) part of your daily life if you want to achieve optimal health.  EWWWW.  That sounds just awful to some people.  If we are going to be successful we have got to make this concept easier to swallow.  It’s possible to get moving in the right direction. We just have get moving!

Expert suggestions:

  • Cardiovascular/Aerobic Exercise – 20 to 60 minutes/3 to 5 days a week 
  • Strength -train 2 or 3 days a week.
  • Stretching exercise at least 2 days a week.
  • Three 10 minute “chunks” of exercise each day can be as beneficial to health as 30 minute workouts. (Woo Hoo!!!)


family walking

Family cycling in nature




Kuhel Family challenges: How can we fit this in our family schedule? How can we get this to apply to the kids? Can we make it fun?


Kuhel solutions: “Working out” does not have to involve a spandex ensemble, a rack of weights, an elliptical or a wall of mirrors.  I’m especially psyched about being able to leave the spandex out of the equation. We are an active family and we’ve worked hard to help our kids embrace the idea of activity /exercise.  Here’s what we do to get our bodies moving with smiles on our faces (most of the time).

  • Make time. Before you slam the computer shut or yell “Yeah right!” take a breath and read on.  I know we are all burning the candle at both ends, stretching ourselves too thin and running around like chickens with our heads cut off.  I don’t want to beat a dead horse (couldn’t resist just one more cliché saying) but activity is important to our overall health.  Make the investment in yourself and your family.  I am now stepping off the soap box to clue you in on how we “make time”.  I’m not a work out – by –myself kinda gal.  I need people around me to motivate me.  Fear of looking like a slacker is quite motivating.  Also I suck my belly in a lot more so no one can shout “tighten those abs!” Clearly I cannot find this motivation in my bedroom or my basement so off to the gym I go.  My husband is similarly motivated by other guys on the basketball court.  He also prefers the treadmill at the gym because it is not located near the cat litter box (with our cat that doesn’t leave the basement) like our 15 year old treadmill is.  We schedule our gym times.  All of us schedule important things. No one says “I’ll go to work if I can squeeze it in” or “I’ll pick up the kids after choir practice if I’m not too tired.”  Schedule the time and keep your appointment with yourself. 


You have the time.  If you are reading this, then you have time.  I’m sure you spent some time emailing, Googeling, FBing, My Spacing, or blogging.  Reading my blog aside, those other things aren’t essential to your optimum health. Watching that show I was alluding to earlier can take up to 2 hours some weeks. That’s time.  Get up 10 to 30 minutes earlier. Watch one less TV show. Leave work  a bit earlier (gasp) a couple of days a week if you can swing it. Carpool to the kids activities so you don’t have to drive every time. If your life depended on it you would find the time for full-on work outs or “10 minute chunks”.  Guess what…it does.


  • Make fitness fun. We have a dog, Wally.  He is fun!  The kids chase him in our back yard and vice versa.  He is a good reason for the kids to take a walk.  The three kids go together and we give one the poop bag, one the leash, and one the cell phone.  Discussing who gets the poop bag is an argument that is part of the routine of getting out the door, but they do eventually get out the door.  We’ve taken the walk as a family so the kids know a short route vs. a long route.  Whatever we have time for, that’s what route they take.  I’m not suggesting you get a dog (I vote for a cockapoo if you do get one-Wally is awesome!), but if you have one or some other walkable animal ( I saw a cat once) then get out and hit the bricks. 


Other outdoor activities that don’t involve poop bags are bike rides, discovering walking paths, obstacle course races around a playground, and my family’s favorite, “Clam man.”  It’s a game that my husband plays with the kids.  It’s really just tag only Alex is always “it” and he makes this very loud gurgle-like sound while waving outstretched arms.  Why it’s called “Clam man” is a tad twisted and definitely a story for another time.  The point is that when we were kids we all played out in the neighborhood until the streetlights came on at dusk or until someone’s parent whistled or yelled for them.  Kids don’t do that very often anymore.  Weather permitting, encourage your kids to put down the video game controls, step away from the computer and get out of the house.  Show them how to play “kick the can” or take up “Clam man”.


Winter is rough. Rain is rough. Those days we have to stay close to home can give us a case of cabin fever.  We all know what it’s like when the whole family is forced into togetherness.  After a while, the electronics and board games have lost their luster.  It’s definitely a sign you all have to get moving. 

An impromptu dance party can work up a definite sweat.  At our house Renee is a dancing queen, Evan and Jared are works in progress, Alex has 2 moves (maybe), and I think I can hold my own as a dusty dancing queen. Blast the tunes and dance like no one is watching!  Close the blinds to make sure.


Kids of all sizes love to build forts in the living room. Send the kids to all parts of the house to collect pillows, cushions and blankets. You are going to have put aside your OCD tendencies in the name of fun.  Just remember to have them help you refold blankets and put away everything at the end.  Just think about how much carrying, stretching and reaching will be happening. 


My family loves a challenge.  Contests are fun and easy to individualize to your family.  We set a timer for 1 minute and count how many sit-ups, push-ups, jumping jacks or jumping lunges each person can do.  Call it a mini-olympics and make sure you include things that everyone can do.  Give “medals” to participants.  Change it up by increasing or decreasing the time and by switching up the activities.  Keep track and see if anyone improves the next time.  You might catch someone practicing on their own to get better results.


  • Build activity into what you are already doing. Everyone has mounds of laundry to do.  Pairing socks is a never-ending task.  I’ve enlisted my kids to do it and we’ve made it into a game.  I put an empty laundry basket on the other side of the room.  After they put together a pair of socks into a ball, they get to throw it and try to make it in the basket.  The trick is to make it far enough that they miss it a lot.  After each miss they have to go and get it and try again. You’d be amazed to see how many times they can make that trip.  They also don’t walk. EVER.  Running back and forth is a good expender of energy.


When putting away clean laundry, leave the baskets behind.  Go ahead and make your groups of piles and either do this yourself or have the kids do it.  Take one pile of laundry up at a time.  Strive for inefficiency.  That extra up and down the stairs could easily be one of your three 10 minute “chunks”. 

If any store, coffee shop, nail place, beauty salon, copy store, or restaurant is in walking distance of your home or work…you can see this one coming…go ahead and walk there. You’ll feel good about doing something for your health and you’ll save a few bucks on gas. 


Well these ideas are just a few of the things we do to keep our bodies moving.  These things along with the kids’ school gym time, wrestling club/cross country, and dance classes are ways we keep activity a part of our lives.  Now don’t think the Kuhels are always on the move.  We have been known to be a family of couch potatoes on movie night.  We also do not walk everywhere all the time.  Resist the urge to ram my car with your cart in the parking lot when you walked and I didn’t.  One thing I’d like to leave you with is that doing something every day is a good thing.  This is not an all or nothing proposition.  Do what you can, when you can.  Make it a priority for yourself and your family and it will soon become your lifestyle.


Till next time…live well! Toni Kuhel

Toni’s Tip for Today #1

Walk the walk :)

Walk the walk 🙂

Walk more! Take that shopping cart back to the store or to the cart thingy. Take the stairs not the elevator, escalator or gondola (if you are lucky enough to be some place that has one). Walk to run that errand that is just a tad too close to drive. Walk if it’s beautiful out- walk faster if it’s not so nice where you are. Those boots were made for walking so get out there and put some miles on them.

Unti next time – Live Well!
Toni Kuhel