Stephanie Swearngin

The holiday season adds stress to everyday life. Party planning, festive events, family gatherings and crowds of shoppers multiply this time of year. And just when it seems you have a grip on all of that, a vehicle breaks down, more work projects are assigned, a relative is admitted to the hospital and your house turns into a scene from "Hoarders." It's at that moment when you can't decide if you want to scream or cry - or both. Stress can take a major toll on the body. According to a Mayo Clinic study, stress can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and diabetes. So how can we get a handle on the situations that cause stress? Well, while there likely is no sure way to control the situation, you can


Planning for a vacation is very exciting. Choosing the destination, arranging for all the travel and hotel accommodations and packing those bags also can be a little overwhelming. Our vacation is a time to take a break from the real world, and getting away from our chaotic lives is a great way to relieve stress. But while we are writing the itinerary for the potential weeklong trip, daily workouts are hardly ever listed. I have fallen into the vacation trap where I tell myself that "calories don't count" and try to convince myself that I will just work out extra hard when I return home. I pay no attention to portion control and eat all hours of the day while on vacation. And workouts are never on my agenda during my trip.


As the summer begins to wind down, the weather in the Pikes Peak region can be unpredictable. Snow and frigid temperatures are going to start creeping back into the weather forecast. The thought of getting to the gym becomes the last thing on our minds, especially if the drive could be dangerous because of icy roads or poor visibility. Not being able to get to the gym doesn't mean you have to put your workouts on hold. There are plenty of exercises that you can do at home that don't require machines or equipment. Here are 10 cardio and strength exercises that can be done in a small space at home. Also included is a combination of the exercises that can be done in a daily 20-minute workout.


As a fitness professional, I'm always looking for ways to improve my technique as a group instructor while receiving additional education. Last year, I became a certified Les Mills instructor. Les Mills International is a New Zealand company that provides choreographed exercise to music for its group fitness formats. These programs are offered around the world, including in gyms and athletic clubs in the Pikes Peak region. Les Mills, a former Olympic athlete in New Zealand, and his wife, Colleen, opened the first Les Mills gym in 1968 in Auckland. Now there are about a dozen Les Mills formats offered to fitness enthusiasts.

I’ve just completed one month of my personal eating clean challenge. With four weeks left of my challenge, I’m already feeling a difference. I’m not too concerned about what my weight says on the scale, but I’m hoping to drop my body fat percentage a bit and of course feel better overall. When I complete my challenge, I will reveal my final results. In week one, I cut out eating junk food after midnight. In week two, I decided to eliminate drinking soda and caffeine from my diet. In week three, I cut out eating at fast food restaurants. In week four, I started preparing meals to take to work. Now in week five, I plan to eat more fruits, vegetables and protein.

In week three of my eating clean challenge, I decided to stop eating at fast food restaurants. I will admit, this was tough. I ate at a sandwich shop a couple of times during the week, but I made sure I didn’t get anything fried and loaded with calories. Being more aware of eating better is my primary goal. Before I started this challenge, I never realized how many times a week I would stop at one of these places because I was in hurry to get my next destination. Now I’m making a conscious decision about what I eat, instead of eating at a restaurant is based on convenience. I also know that there a few healthy options for eating out, I just need to choose wisely and watch my portion control.

I have now hit week 3 of my eating clean challenge. Week one, I stopped eating junk food after midnight and in week two, I stopped drinking soda and caffeine. In week two, I thought this was going to be one of the hardest habits for me to break. It’s my ultimate weakness and guilty pleasure. But I managed to kick the habit. With the weather starting to finally warmup in the Pikes Peak region, I make sure that I’m always carrying a bottle of water. I fill up a sports bottle with ice cold water and take it with me to the gym, out shopping and on road trips. I also make sure I always have water at my desk at work, too. The temptation of getting a cold soda hasn’t gone away.

Last week, I decided to take an eating clean challenge. Every week I plan to set a goal to help clean up my diet. During the first week of my challenge, I set the goal to stop eating after midnight. To be honest, this was quite difficult for me. My work schedule doesn’t allow me to get home until after 12 a.m. nightly, and the first thing I tend to do is reach for something to eat and plop myself in front of the television to relax. Eating right before going to bed is not a healthy habit. While sleeping the body naturally burns calories. But going to bed on a full stomach means the body then has to digest the food first and then it proceeds to burning calories. Most likely the food ends up being stored as fat in this

In a little less than two months I will be celebrating my 10-year wedding anniversary. It’s hard to believe the time has gone by so quickly. My husband and I are excited about taking a trip in August to our favorite city, New York City. When there is a milestone in our lives, most people usually try to accomplish a fitness goal before the big day happens. A wedding, reunion, birthday or anniversary are usually the biggest reasons people feel there is a looming deadline over their head to get in shape or lose weight. In my case, I will take on an eating clean challenge before I head off to the Big Apple. This is not a fad nor is it a diet. The challenge is to cut out the junk and replace it with clean foods that will

It’s been almost two years since I hiked Pikes Peak. Taking a look back, I was a bit nervous that I might not make it to the top. Even though I was a full-time group fitness instructor and personal trainer, I was a little unsure how to prepare for my first 14er. Hiking the several trails that are in our region seemed to be the obvious place to start. Unfortunately in 2012, the wildfire in Waldo Canyon was raging kept some of the trails closed. Also, the heavy smoke from the fire made it unbearable to breathe while exercising outside. There was even a chance that the group hike to Pikes Peak would be cancelled. Luckily, the fire eventually was contained and the planned hike had a set date. In the meantime, I kept my

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