Junior Roller Derby League

I loved roller skating growing up and used to hang out on Friday nights at the B&K Roller Rink in Salisbury, N.C.  There were many great memories that transpired on that hardwood floor with a disco ball spinning in the dark.  And one of my favorite movies of about the same era was Kansas City Bombers.  Raquel Welch plays a roller derby skater called K.C. Carr and she fights all the dirty politics of this hard core sport in her desire for stardom.  She was such a strong role model and remains one of my favorite actresses of all time.

I was excited to find out that Pittsburgh has their own Junior Roller Derby League that develops and empowers young women 10-17 years of age.  Roller Derby is the fastest growing sport in America.  It challenges players to be bold, confident and united through the strength, balance and strategic thinking of competitive roller derby. The sport is aggressive but focuses on talent and teamwork over brute strength to win. A player of any size can be a champion if they have the passion for it.  Currently there are over 140 junior leagues across the United States and in Europe.
The Pittsburgh Derby Brats was established in February of 2013 and practice twice a week.  They  welcome all those who are interested.  Many of the players have never been on skates before joining but are confidently flying around the rink in no time.  Each member must train to develop levels of skills before they can participate in a competition but from day one each member is a part of the team. Results have been dramatic in many of the players: fitness, confidence, camaraderie and increase in academic focus. There are even scholarships for college.

Practices are normally held at the Neville Roller Drome on Thursdays 6:45-8:45 and Saturdays 10am-12pm. Parents and young women interested in the sport are welcome to come and visit practice.  Check out their website http://www.PittsburghDerbyBrats.com to glean more info.

Meditation with a Monk

Meditation is a great way to improve creative thinking, success, energy and stress levels.  Studies show that it improves a variety of psychological areas that include istress, anxiety, addiction, depression, eating disorders and cognitive function.  There’s also research to suggest that it can reduce blood pressure, pain response, stress hormone levels and even cellular health. But most people aren’t easily convinced to try it and there are a lot of misconceptions about how it really works.  For one thing it changes our brain. The cells and neurons in the brain are constantly making new connections and disrupting old ones based on response to stimuli – a quality that researchers call experience-based neuroplasticity. This affects the neural circuits of the brain which in turn affects how we respond to situations. It also affects the actual structure of our brains – thickening some areas and making others less dense.  Yes, you read that right, meditating can really make structural changes to the brain.  It can change the way neurons talk to each other by creating new circuits.

Just take it from Dr. Hedy Kober a neuroscientist who who studies the effects of mindfulness meditation which she has practiced for 10 years at her lab at Yale University. She admitted during a TED talk that she started meditating to deal with a break up but found that it helped her handle stress and unpleasant feelings in all areas of her life.  What a great way to start out the new year.  I am always looking for new things to try and leading a more peaceful existence is definitely at the top of my list.

Monks have been meditating for centuries and now you have the opportunity to learn from them.  Just check out the Meditation with a Monk Series that starts February 4th at the Oakmont Library  on 700 Allegheny River Boulevard.   It will take place every Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. through May 27.  The course is free but sign up now to make sure you retain a spot.   This Introduction to Meditation is designed for beginners as a gradual training program and as a secular meditation practice. It covers how to find your seat, ways to maintain awareness with body movements, techniques for breath meditation and ways to face common challenges in meditation such as physical pains, drowsiness and distracting thoughts. Although the instructor is a Buddhist monk, the meditation techniques that will be taught are secular and are appropriate for all adults regardless of your other beliefs or religious affiliations.  At the end of the course participants will be able to be familiar with basic meditation techniques to gradually calm our mind and to develop a sense of equanimity and loving kindness.

I hope you are able to fit this into your schedule or explore it on your own right.  It truly is a mindful way to start the new year and keep yourself centered.

Celebrity Zumba

I love to workout but my schedule does not always allow the time to do it.  Finding a partner gives you that extra incentive to follow through with your fitness goals.  My neighbor Rachael recently told me about a Zumba class that took place once a week that was lead by a celebrity instructor.  Okay, this was intriguing.  The location was not far from where I live and it sounded like an energetic fun class.  Zumba is more like a fitness party than a boring routine.  Every class is different depending on the instructor.  It combines Latin dance moves with hip-hop, samba, salsa, mambo and martial arts.  Squats and lunges are also included.  Talk about a way to wake up your body!

   antkowiak jennifer Jennifer Antkowiak

It turns out that the class my neighbor told me about is taught my CBS/KDKA-TV celebrity Jennifer Antkowiak.  I have followed her for years with her investigative reporting, magazine, and TV show.  She truly is a caring person who even has her own website called Jennifer Cares.  She also developed a Corporate Wellness Program that helps keep family caregivers who work outside the home happier, healthier and more productive.  Just visit   http://CaregiverAtWork.com.

I found Jennifer to be a very inspiring person when I took her first Zumba class.  She is a high energy person with a lot of enthusiasm.  I identified with her immediately.  She makes a point of personally meeting new participants and shows a keen interest in your personal fitness goals.  The best part about her routine is the easy pay $5.00 a class process.  There is no membership to buy or obligation of any kind.  She does have punch cards available but I haven’t delved that  far into it yet.

The class I took was packed but I felt like I got a weeks worth of workout in one night!  I met some very nice people and it was a very fun evening.  My class takes place the first Wednesday of every month at 6:00 p.m. at the Wilkins Elks Club 677 located at 718 Beulah Road in Turtle Creek.  There is also a weekly Monday class at 6:30 p.m. and a Friday class at 9:30 a.m.  I should mention that this location includes a nice big dance floor, party lights, and a disco ball add to the fun!

There is also a class on Monday at 9:30 a.m. and Tuesday at 6:00 p.m. at the Blackridge Civic Association located at 1200 Beulah Road in Penn Hills.  It offers a big, bright, happy space with floor-to-ceiling windows on both sides that create a very open airy feeling.  A nice bonus is a children’s’ room right off the dance floor allows kids to play while you take your class.  There is also plenty of free parking at both locations.

I highly recommend Zumba to get your new year off to a healthy start.  There are plenty of classes available regardless of where you live so check one out today to dance yourself to fitness.