Simple tips for biking to work

Simple tips for biking to work

Biking to work can be a great way to add exercise into your day, mentally prepare for your day and decompress at the end of the day, and to decrease your carbon footprint.  It is also kind of fun.  If you’ve never done it, however, here are a few tips to make it simple – and successful.

First things first.  How far is your home from work?  If it’s relatively short, you probably don’t need to do anything but identify your safe route.  If you work farther away, consider a mixed commute – drive, carpool, or take the bus part of the way and bike the other part.  Flexibility and creativity are helpful.  For your first attempt, you could even grab a ride to work with someone (with your bike) and bike home.  Secondly, just because you have decided to do this, you don’t have to do it every day.  Set a goal of trying it once, or once a month – a frequency that isn’t overwhelming.

Here are a few more tips to consider:

  • Scope out a safe route: Look for bike lanes and/or shoulders along your route. Keep in mind the amount of traffic at the time of day you will be traveling. Know that sometimes the safest route may not be the shortest. The Missisquoi Valley Rail Trail can be a more direct link between some communities. Also, consider a dry run on a non-work day, than you will know how long this trip may take you.
  • Dress for safety: you do not need special bike clothes, just something comfortable that doesn’t get tangled in the gears. However you DO need to dress in bright, visible colors so vehicles can see you easily. If you will be traveling at night or dawn/dusk, bike lights in front and behind are a must. Anytime you are on a bike, you will need a helmet too. You only get one head. Protect it.
  • Preparing for work clothes and other needs: Planning in advance is helpful – especially for your first attempt. You can bring what you need to work the day before, so you do not have to carry a change of clothes or other necessities. However, a backpack stuffed with a change of clothes/shoes (for farther distances), wallet/phone, or whatever you might want to freshen up works just fine. If you are biking a shorter distance (1-2 miles), don’t forget you can bike in work attire. Remember to bring a bike lock and to identify a secure place to leave your bike while at work.
  • Choose to do it on a day that works: We live in VT, so keeping an eye on the forecast helps. Choose a day that you won’t need a car while you are at work, or to run home at lunchtime to let out the dog. It takes a little coordinating, but not too much, and once you do it once it becomes much easier the second time.
  • Recruit a friend: Sure you spend the majority of the ride in single file, but it is nice to have the company and two bikes are easier to see than one. Plus, you are less likely to back out at the last minute if you have made a commitment to someone else.

Bike commuting can be really rewarding, especially in our beautiful state.  It slows things down, allows you to see the route from a different perspective, and definitely gives you bragging rights at work.  You will feel great and likely smile all day, maybe even sleep better at night.

By Amy Brewer, Health Educator at Northwestern Medical Center

The Labyrinth: A Walking Meditation

The Labyrinth: A Walking Meditation

Come take a walk with RiseVT this Thursday evening, May 3 at Mystic Waters Day Spa in St. Albans. ‘A Soul Inspired Walk to New Beginnings,’ a workshop facilitated by Nathan Wiles and Christine Favreau, will introduce you to the labyrinth as a tool for personal and community transformation.

“The labyrinth is a mindfulness approach to wellness,” says Favreau, certified Labyrinth Facilitator. “In addition to the physical movements, walking a labyrinth helps you clear through the stressors to invite your creative self to come forward.”

A labyrinth is a path that leads from the outer edge in a circuitous way to the center. Unlike a maze, where you might get lost, the labyrinth is a tool to help you find your way. The rhythm of walking, placing one foot in front of the other, helps empty the mind and relax the body; following the pace your body wants to go.

“In any type of wellness program, whether emotional or physical, you must be able to connect all parts of the body to be productive,” says Wiles, Advanced Labyrinth Facilitator. “People aren’t always able to be quiet, to deal with stress and anxiety. The labyrinth allows the mind to be free to open up, while invoking intuition and creativity.”

As a Master Builder and Designer of labyrinths, Wiles creates both permanent stone structures and portable canvas labyrinths. He has been bringing the labyrinth to communities for nearly a decade, through installations and facilitation within schools, churches and universities.

“It’s my passion to create that personal space that people can be invited into; that safe space,” he says.

“Nathan has been one of my greatest teachers,” says Favreau, “We are a team and it is our combined passion to introduce the labyrinth to our community.” She and Wiles met years ago, during a summer labyrinth training course through the Veriditas organization, where Wiles also serves as a faculty member.

Passionate about wellness, the duo appreciates the opportunity to reach more of the community through collaboration. “RiseVT is an amazing source and driver of wellness initiatives,” says Favreau. “These show-up events help build awareness, giving people an opportunity to connect with others and reconnect with themselves,” says Wiles.

During the ‘New Beginnings’ mini-workshop, participants will learn labyrinth etiquette and exercises to prepare for walking with intention along the custom-made canvas path. “We want everyone to be able to experience the labyrinth walk, so the instructional portion will be kept short,” says Wiles.

“My dream is to see people open to this type of approach to wellness, using it as a daily tool,” says Favreau. “We get so focused on the externals, like going to the gym or watching what we eat. Yet, trying the labyrinth is a tool for your own self-examination.”

As Favreau and Wiles believe the labyrinth also helps to build a sense of community, they invite you to come walk the labyrinth –  finding your way to center, one step at a time.    —

To learn more about labyrinths, please visit:

By, Sarah Parsons West, freelance writer

Health coaching teaches action and accountability

Health coaching teaches action and accountability

As RiseVT expands across the state, it’s essential to review impacts that the wellness initiative has made on the communities of Franklin and Grand Isle counties.

The RiseVT Health Coaching program facilitates healthy, sustainable behavior change by challenging clients to identify and transform their goals into action.

“I feel that the position of a health coach is imperative to the overall success of our community,” says Brian Clukey, certified Health Coach for RiseVT. “At its foundation, health coaching focuses on the first level of the Social-Ecological Model which is the individual.”

Offered as a free service to the community, Brian began coaching clients through the RiseVT comprehensive wellness program with its commencement, nearly three years ago.

“The connections, relationships and accountability I am able to provide to a wide array of businesses, schools and municipalities allows for the conversation to change; the culture to change,” he says. “We’re here to help ensure that all individuals have the healthiest life possible.”

While wellness is often defined as the degree to which one feels positive and enthusiastic about life, perception varies from person to person.

“One of the challenges is getting people to realize what’s on the healthy side of life,” Brian says, “Being unwell versus well.  It’s difficult for people to understand how they’ll feel once they do the work and are on the healthy side.”

As a health coach, Brian says he wants to help others feel empowered to take control of their own health and wellness. “I want to break those barriers down.”

To date, Brian works with organizations under the small-business-umbrella, those with less than 50-employees.  He has coached 487 individuals within 17 organizations across Franklin and Grand Isle counties.

“Of those 17 businesses, 100-percent of them have had a decrease in their health risk factors,” he says. Whether it’s by managing cholesterol levels or increasing activity, evidence proves that wellness is indeed, on the rise.


“One-on-one care is vital,” says Brian, “as all goals are client-driven and should be tailored appropriately to meet their needs.”  Helping his clients set SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time Oriented) goals, is key.

“During initial talks with a client, they might mention 30 different goals they’d like to work on, which can be very overwhelming for them. I can help them focus on just one of those items, making it seem more attainable.”

Reducing weekly meat intake; going to bed one hour earlier; and increasing hydration levels are examples of SMART goals – small changes that make an impact.

“Most clients know when they’re going to meet with me next; and that I’ll be checking to see if they’re meeting goals and making lifestyle changes,” he says. “Their sense of accountability is strong.”  Health assessments and biometric screenings aside, Brian’s feedback often helps clients to move forward through their own resistance or ambivalence.

Evidence-based data indicates that 83% of Brian’s clients who had set goals, have met their goals.  “That means they’ve reached their individually perceived goals,” he says, referring to a client’s desire to change his lifestyle and identify it himself; rather than having it come from the health coach.

Of the clients that Brian identified at risk for Prehypertension Stage I (elevated Blood Pressure), 38% have decreased back into a healthy range. In turn, lowering one’s blood pressure can reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke and heart failure.

Thus far, Brian says four clients have lost around 40-pounds each. “Those are multifaceted issues, he says, “achieved through real effort and lifestyle changes.”

Approximately 32% of all SMART goals set with Brian are focused on stress-reduction; while 58% are activity and exercise oriented and the other 10% are miscellanous

“Movement is vital, as it increases the body’s resilience,” he says. In addition to Health Coaching, Brian is a certified Personal Trainer, and suggests incorporating simple movement and activity into your routine, as often as possible.

“Start with a morning stretch. It doesn’t have to be a full routine; simply touch the sky and touch your toes. This helps the body reduce muscle tension and can help with coordination.”

He also suggests standing on one leg, even while waiting in line at the café, to improve core strength and balance.

“Sometimes it’s the smallest changes that matter the most,” says Brian. “This is a revelation for many individuals.”

Brian believes RiseVT continues to benefit the community, at both the micro and macro levels, through collaboration and connecting available resources. As a Health Coach, Brian has referred 36 clients to NMC’s tobacco cessation specialist, Chari Anderson. He may refer a client for pain management or to a Diabetes education course; and always enquires about client’s annual medical appointments.

“It’s also a multi-generational wellness initiative,” Brian says. “Families, parents and kids, are being supported at school; in the workplace; within their municipalities. Everyone’s got to be a part of it, to make it work.”

For Brian, the reward is simply witnessing the improved lifestyles of his clients, and the impact that their choices bring about.

“Through the individuals and organizations that I am authentically working with, change will begin to proliferate throughout the rest of the community until the healthiest choice truly is the easiest choice.”


Making the Healthiest Choice, the Easiest Choice

“Activity and movement are vital, as they increase the body’s resiliency,” says Brian Clukey, CHWC, Health Coach at RiseVT. He recommends we move as often as possible. “It’s often the smallest things that matter the most. People take that for granted.”

Brian recommends:

  • Start with a morning stretch. Reach for the sky; touch your toes. This helps the body reduce muscle tension and can help with coordination.
  • Stand on one leg, switching between the two; even while waiting in long lines. This will help improve core strength and balance.

RiseVT Health Coaching Evidence-Based Statistics (2015-2018)

  • RiseVT Health Coach Brian Clukey currently works with 17 organizations under the small-business-umbrella
  • 100% of those 17 businesses have had a decrease in their overall health risk factors (BMI/BP/Cholesterol)
  • 58% of all SMART Goals set with RiseVT are activity/exercised oriented – while there is (32%) focused on stress-reduction, and the remaining 10% miscellaneous.
  • 487 clients have received one-on-one health coaching during the program lifetime
  • 83% of clients who set goals, have met their individually perceived goals as of 2018
  • RiseVT has sent 36 tobacco cessation referrals to NMC’s Smoking cessation specialist, Chari Anderson
  • 4 clients have reduced and kept their weight down by 40-pounds
  • 38% of clients recognized at risk for Prehypertension Stage I (elevated Blood Pressure), have decreased back into a healthy range. Healthy PB levels can reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke and heart failure
  • 24% of men and women identified with risks of borderline or high cholesterol levels have decreased their levels. Of those identified at risk:
    • 17% of MEN have increased their HDL (good cholesterol)
    • 13% of WOMEN have increased their HDL

For more information or to get involved please log into our wellness portal at create an account and get started embracing a healthy lifestyle.

By, Sarah Parsons, freelance writer


How to fit a bike helmet

How to fit a bike helmet

Bike helmets are essential for all bicyclists to wear – whether you’re 2 years old on a tricycle or their 40 year old parent biking around the block.  You only have 1 brain.  It’s a good idea to protect it – always.

Helmets come in all colors and designs, so you can choose one that suits you, but if it doesn’t fit you properly, it’s not going to do its job if you need it to.  So here’s what you need to know.

6 year old Skyler Cooper sporting a new RiseVT bike helmet.

Put the helmet on.  Now, adjust it so that the front sits about one-two fingers above your eyebrows.  If its farther back, it’s not going to protect you correctly.

Now, wiggle your head around.  Is the helmet wobbly or does it remain in place?  If it wobbles, it’s too loose, but helmets can be adjusted.  Some have a knob you can tighten in the back, some have additional pads you can place on the inside.  Make needed adjustments until the helmet is snug.

Adjust the straps.  The straps should form a “V” around the ears.  When you click the strap under your chin, it should be tight enough so it won’t pop off.  Again, if the helmet pops off when you fall, it won’t protect your head.  If you open your mouth wide, and the strap can slide off your chin, tighten it.  You can use one-two fingers to slide between the strap and the underside of your (closed) mouth to ensure it’s not too tight.

For a great video demonstrating how to fit a helmet, check out  .

If you need a new helmet or help in fitting one, contact RiseVT at

Wear a helmet.  Every time.

By Amy Brewer, Health Educator at Northwestern Medical Center

Bringing mindfulness to schools

Bringing mindfulness to schools

On Saturday March 24th, area educators had the opportunity to learn about using yoga and mindfulness in their classrooms from Lisa Flynn Founder and CEO of Yoga 4 Classrooms. RiseVT sponsored the 6-hour workshop for educators in Franklin and Grand Isle counties.

Throughout the workshop, Flynn stories about why she started teaching yoga and her perspective on why teaching young students to be mindful is crucial. She defined being mindful as being present, being aware of what is happening now, without judgment.

Flynn said she started this program after seeing an “increasing number of students across the country lack the skills of self-regulation, impulse control and focus which can affect behavior, ability to learn and overall wellbeing.” Her belief is that “sharing yoga and mindfulness techniques, specifically designed for the time and space crunched classroom, is a convenient, engaging and effective way to promote these skills while cultivating a positive, peaceful productive classroom climate.”

During this workshop teachers were given a teacher’s guide and Yoga 4 Classrooms deck of cards. This deck includes 67 yoga and mindfulness-based activities, categorized and specially designed to be easy to implement into a busy and demanding curriculum based schedule.

When teachers asked how to make time to include this in the day, Flynn replied that with the correct mindset and a little repetition teachers will soon be asking “how did I not have time for this before?” Morning meetings, transitions between activities and subjects, before a test, during community events or celebrations, or any time someone might need to reactivate and reengage are times to pull out the deck of cards and practice self-awareness, she added.

“The greatest opportunity for implantation is by practicing yourself,” said Flynn. “Maybe you just had a tough phone call and your students are coming back from recess. Briefly explain how you as the teacher are feeling ‘I have a knot in my stomach, could we do some breathing exercise to refocus ourselves before moving into math?’ What you will find is the students are thrilled to help be a solution to making you feel better. By including the students into the decision to participate, you are helping to build community within your classroom.”

A kindergarten teacher expressed some frustration and resistance some children might have with sitting them down to ‘just breathe.’ Lisa explained the best tool is to get your body involved by adding movement.

During the training, Flynn walked through several of the cards demonstrating how easy it is to implement, consistently asking the educators to notice how they were feeling while participating in the mindfulness activity and providing many additional tools educators could walk away from the day with. At the end of the day Flynn asked educators if they felt they were ready to implement on Monday. Every single person in the room raised their hands.

It was common to hear teachers talking amongst themselves throughout the day thinking outside of the box on how they could implement the tools in their classroom, and school. Several wish to continue on with mindfulness trainings.


By, Rachel Narkewicz RiseVT Promotions Specialist

Swanton community ways to get fit while having fun

Swanton community ways to get fit while having fun

Swanton has a group of certified fitness instructor, local Recreation Department, & Library who want to make fitness in Swanton fun and accessible to all with a variety of times, locations and fitness opportunities. Local schools, Library and Churches open up their community space for the instructors to use giving Swanton residents access to fitness in Swanton. Thank you to our community partners for opening up their community spaces to make the health choice the easier choice.

Zumba is an aerobic fitness program featuring movements inspired by various styles of Latin American dance and performed primarily to Latin American dance music.

STRONG by Zumba® is a revolutionary high-intensity workout where every move is synced to a beat, pushing you harder to give it everything you’ve got, and then some.

Movement Babies & toddlers is an active story hour centered on music, rhythm, and FUN!

Adult Volleyball – play pick-up game of Volleyball at the Swanton Central School gym


Schedule of events each week:

Local Instructors

Jan Sweet – started Zumba in 2006 as a student in local class it was so much fun, In 2010 she decide to go and get her license to teach. She enjoys seeing the students smile, laugh and has the most fun while creating great friendships in class.  Jan says “Zumba is for everyone all levels of fitness; you just move and enjoy the beats of the music.”  She also teaches Zumba Fitness, Strong by Zumba, Zumba Core, Zumba Glutes serving in 3 towns in Franklin County. Swanton, St. Albans, and Enosburg teaching a total of 5 classes a week.

Jill LeClair  -has been teaching for over 2 years.  She was a Zumba student for 2 years when she worked to got licensed. She decided to start teaching because several friends told her they wanted to try it, but were too nervous to go to a class. She later learned that they would feel comfortable coming to a class Jill was instructor of since they knew her. The intimidation of not knowing the teacher would be eliminated. Jill never proclaimed to be a “fitness person” just a mom/wife/regular person who loved Zumba. Jill says “I fell in love with it immediately because I like dancing, and I LOVE how not a single person makes me feel out of place.” Her best joy is seeing how people come out of their shells and just laugh and have fun.

Sarah Tanner– was Zumba fitness certification in March of 2014. She is certified to teach Zumba and Zumba toning. Sarah loves to dance for fitness and has fun sharing that love with others!


By Betsy Fournier, RiseVT Wellness Specialist