Leap. Flip. Twist. Balance.

"Gabby" 2012 Olympic Gold Medalist
“Gabby” 2012 Olympic Gold Medalist

Gymnastics is an absolutely fascinating sport, and easily one of the oldest.  As far back as 7,000 years ago, Egyptian royalty was treated to watching high flying acrobats for entertainment.  In Ancient Greece, young people would create and perform athletic feats with rules and moves completely made up on their own.  They were encouraged to mix both amusement and physical activity (even back then, they knew sports should have a healthy sense of fun and lightheartedness!). They would spend their time practicing these sports during their “scholarly” period.  Eventually, these activities became common and popular.  In every Greek city there were courtyards specifically designated for running, jumping and wrestling.  In time, after the Roman Empire took over and military training began, the Romans created and introduced what is now the modern day vaulting table.

Coach Rosen Manolov ~ USGA Eugene
Coach Rosen Manolov ~ USGA Eugene

Like with all sports, gymnastics provides a wide variety of mental and physical benefits, along with multiple life skills to learn.  Children who participate in gymnastics tend to have a longer attention span and are better at solving problems and making their own decisions.  They have higher self-esteem, are incredibly independent and know they can make up their own minds without feeling the need to “fit in” and be someone they’re not — generally not allowing others to badly influence them.  They have the confidence not to follow others and be leaders in numerous situations in life.  With the commitment and discipline gained from participating in gymnastics, they’re also a lot less likely to smoke, drink or do drugs and would rather feed their bodies with healthy fuel than fill it with junk.  Their bodies are like their prized possession and will do anything they can to keep it in top shape!

Ian ~ Courtesy of USGA Eugene
Ian ~ Courtesy of USGA Eugene

Gymnastics is a strenuous activity – so much so that it helps you to meet the amount of exercise recommended by the American Heart Association, and is an activity that teaches you to have great control over your body and the way it moves.  It helps develop motor skills, balance and coordination since gymnasts learn over time how to precisely move certain body parts while doing those impressive flips, jumps, twists and tumbles.  Your body benefits from gymnastics internally, as well.  Since gymnastics is such great exercise, it makes you a much healthier person and, as we all know, being healthy helps prevent things such as heart disease, obesity, cancer, asthma and diabetes. Gymnastics has also been proven to help increase bone density since it’s considered a weight bearing activity, and increasing bone density is crucial in preventing osteoporosis when you’re older.

Gymnastics are great for anyone and everyone, but are especially beneficial for children with disabilities such as ADD/ADHD, Cerebral Palsy, Down Syndrome and Autism.  Gymnastics instructors tend to work with their students individually, so they can easily tailor the lessons to suit different disabilities while helping each child build confidence and social skills.  At an early age, gymnastics can even open pathways in the brain and help with a child’s reading ability!

Courtesy USGA Eugene
Courtesy USGA Eugene

Children who just want to have fun with gymnastics can still get the great benefits of the sport without having to do gymnastics competitively.  Recreational gymnastics is a fun way for your child to make like-minded friends or spend more time with their parents, depending on the class they take. There are classes for different age groups and skill levels, plus “Mommy and Me” classes for children as young as 18 months who want to bond with their beloved mama!  It’s a great way to become closer and have fun while burning off excess energy. Tumbling is a lot of fun and great for toddlers who want to join in on the gymnastics activities.  What could be better and more amusing for them than rolling around on soft mats while laughing and having fun while making new friends?  It doesn’t matter what age or skill level, any child is more than welcome to join a class and have a great time walking on a balance beam, jumping on the trampoline and playing on the uneven bars.

For those who do want to practice gymnastics competitively, there are plenty of classes to choose from that cater to all ages and skill levels.  They’ll get to learn discipline and find out first hand that hard work and dedication really do make a difference and are worth any sore muscles they may have or any disappointment they may experience!  While making friends and having fun, they’ll learn how to follow directions and wait patiently while others are practicing their moves.  There will most likely be a limited amount of equipment, so this will allow them to learn how to take turns and respect others as they take the time they need to safely and accurately learn their gymnastic moves.  While speaking with their instructors, they’ll get an idea of how to speak with other adults which will help them learn how to speak with all types of people throughout their lives. Since there are very specific rules and codes of conduct, they will learn the importance of safety and taking orders from anyone who is in charge. After all, listening and obeying could always come in handy, or even be life saving!

Villa West Dance  & Aerobatics
Villa West Dance
& Aerobatics

There’s something about gymnastics that is awe inspiring.  Gymnasts have a massive sense of control over their body and the fact that they maintain the ability to focus on what they’re doing – even with a crowd of people watching and cheering them on – is nothing short of impressive.  While jumping on a trampoline, they can manage to twist and turn and perform perfectly while listening to an audience clap and yell and not get distracted.  This kind of concentration is highly beneficial.  Imagine how well those who participate in gymnastics do while taking tests or during job interviews!  What would cause a lot of people to fall apart under pressure is no sweat thanks to years of practicing concentration and learning to focus on what needs to be done.

Have you ever been to one of those beautifully artistic circus shows (Cirque du Soleil my favorite comes to mind), or even just seen the commercials for their upcoming live performance on TV?  Those men and women we see in those circuses who do tricks while hanging on a strip of cloth are practicing what is called Aerial Contortion or Aerial Silk, depending on where you’re from. They make millions of people happy by doing what they love and trained hard for.  It’s an impressive activity and there’s a way for you to experience something similar without needing years of practice.  It’s called Aerial Yoga or Anti Gravity Yoga and it’s a somewhat new way to tone your body while combating cellulite and enhancing your mental abilities and creativity. There are many classes available in countless cities, so enrolling should be a breeze.  Those who already take yoga classes would be particularly interested since it’s basically standard yoga, with the added excitement of being in the air!

Courtesy of USGA ~ Eugene
Courtesy of USGA ~ Eugene

Gymnastics is a fantastic way for adults and children of all ages to learn beneficial skills that will help out in everyday life.  If your child decides to do gymnastics recreationally or competitively, they will learn things like coordination and balance along with discipline and strength – both mental and physical.  These skills along with many others will help aid in their mental, emotional and physical development which will make for a mentally well-rounded, successful and success driven adult.

Ready to flip-twist-leap and get balanced? The United States Gymnastics Academy (USGA) here in Eugene is for kids of all ages and abilities.  Students come for recreation, fun, fitness, self confidences, coordination, social development, competitive training, and overall outlet for all that extra energy.

The important mission at USGA is to develop a students’ positive self-esteem by instilling the values of good sportsmanship, self discipline, respect and accountability.  The staff believe that if they can teach your children that they can achieve, they will remember these lessons for life.  At the USGA, you will find “World Class” Coaches that are enthusiastic and care deeply about developing your child’s self-confidence and sense of achievement.  At USGA watch your child’s confidence grow as they experience many small successes.

The gym area is over 10,000 square feet.  It’s filled with a full line of developmental gymnastics equipment as well as full sets of men’s and women’s apparatus.  Additionally they have several large foam pits to allow students to develop new skills in the safest way possible.

United States Gymnastics Academy ~ Eugene
United States Gymnastics Academy ~ Eugene

USGA offers many great programs eugenegymnastics.com including Zumba for parents who want to get a little exercise. This is a great way to have some fun and get fit at the same time. Don’t forget to ask about their FREE gymnastics classes offer! If you need more info: [email protected]

The USGA is located 4540 Commerce Street (near Wal-Mart west 11th) – Suite B Eugene, OR 97402 – 541-255-2883

Simply ExtraOrdinary Coaching

A Recipe For Success


by Sandi Thompson, guest contributor

Have you seen this quote before: Failure to plan is planning to fail.
I’m a nutritional therapy practitioner and a wellness coach and I find this quote to be valid for anyone trying to achieve an improvement to their overall health. Personally, when I plan ahead it makes all the difference between having enough energy to get through my day or needing to take a mid-afternoon nap! Simply carrying an apple and a few nuts in my car can do the trick.Whether it’s weight loss or adding exercise to their lives, people need to set their goals and then make a plan – a recipe – to create success so they can achieve their goals.

Here is the basic recipe to help you achieve your goals and dreams.

Stick closely to the formula and you will have success. Leave out any steps and you’ll have a flop. It really is like baking a cake or a batch of cookies!

  • – Be as clear and specific as possible about your goals. I like to state clearly whether they are goals for health, finances or family. Having different categories is helpful.
  • – Be passionate about your goals. Attach a strong emotional component to them. Emotions lead to action and action is what you will need to take to reach your goals. For example, I’m passionate about eating really tasty AND healthy food. One of my goals is to spend a little more time planning meals ahead of time that are going to pack a big flavor punch. I get excited thinking about the possibilities and how I’m going to make it happen.
  • – Decide on the ways that you will measure your success: inches lost, IRA contributions or photos of family fun time. I like to use a calendar and make a notation when I reach any of these goals. With all the great technology available for smart phones, iPads, and computers this is really very easy. If you like handwritten notes, that’s fine too. The idea is that you measure your success in a tangible manner that works for you.
  • – Specify all the strategies and tactics that will lead you to accomplish those goals. What new habits will you need to create to meet your goals successfully? One of my goals is to have a writing schedule that I can follow by mapping it out for the entire year – before January hits. That means one of my new habits will be to make time daily to check in with my progress. Making it a daily ritual at the same time each day will turn this activity into a habit in a short period of time. Repetition becomes ritual – which is what a habit really is.
  • – Describe the specific action steps that you will commit to do. Either write them down or make a video so that you can watch yourself make a strong commitment to your goals.
  • – Will you commit to reducing your sugar intake? Maybe going to the gym 3X a week? Perhaps you will plan a family outing to the beach? Whatever it is that you are going to commit to – record it and refer to it often.
  • – Create a timetable for your action steps so you can monitor your progress. As I mentioned, I’m creating a timetable for a writing schedule that I will follow throughout 2012. Whenever I complete each assignment, I will have a way to monitor my progress.
  • – Finally, REWARD yourself when you reach your milestones:  better blood work, savings accrued or any mini-goals achieved. Since I’m all about health and wellness, I try to make my rewards non-food items – or at least not a sugar-bomb treat. When I complete my writing assignments on time I will treat myself to a movie or a pedicure or perhaps even a day at the coast. All those are meaningful and fun for me, reinforcing my desire to keep on track with my goals.

What will you do differently in 2012 to help you reach your goals? Let’s have a dialog here and help keep each other on track.

Sandi Thompson, NTP, Certified Wellness Coach, Expert in Healthy Weight Management
Sandi Thompson at Solutions Through Nutrition specializes in weight management and lifestyle changes for better, lasting health. Discover your individual nutritional needs and learn the steps to keep moving forward along the path to exceptional wellness. Sandi works primarily with those who are motivated to succeed and achieve their weight loss goals using real whole foods. She works with couples and families to build lasting change through mutual support to reach a common goal of better health. Sandi also speaks professionally to groups, companies and as a keynote speaker.

The vision of Solutions Through Nutrition is, “Improving the way America eats, one dining room table at a time.”

Sandi can be reached through her website and at 541-953-8715

Changes being made to Medicare Annual Election Period for 2012


Jake Gariepy, EDN

The Medicare program has instituted an important change to the Annual Election Period for 2012 and many beneficiaries aren’t aware of it. The Annual Election Period (AEP) is the time that Medicare allows members to make changes to their health plan choices for the next year.

The Medicare AEP for the 2012 year began Oct. 15. Unlike past years, this AEP ends Dec. 7, which may leave procrastinators in a scramble. 

If Medicare recipients are not aware of the current changes, they could be left out in the cold. Photo courtesy of Medicare.org

Also, options for Medicare Advantage plans in Lane County have expanded. In addition to the stalwarts such as Providence, Regence and Health Net, local health insurer PacificSource is entering the market.

Like its competitors, PacificSource offers a variety of plans with varying monthly premiums, from zero to $78. 

Since Medicare plans vary, recipients must weigh their options to choose the right plan for their circumstances.

The two different plans are called Medicare Supplement/Medigap and Medicare Advantage and are used in conjunction with the original Medicare benefits.

With Medicare Supplements, plan benefits will be the same regardless of which insurance company you choose. The alphabet soup of standardized plans differs only in premium and in some joining requirements.

Also, Medigap plans do not include prescription drug coverage. Patients with Medicare Supplement may also wish to select a separate prescription drug plan (PDP) at an additional expense.

Medigaps allow patients to see any US doctor who contracts with Medicare. But it is not without its problems.

Some doctors don't accept Medicare patients. Photo courtesy of Medicare.org.

Continuous cuts in Medicare’s reimbursement to providers have resulted in some doctors refusing to see patients who only have Medicare or Medicare/Medigap plan.

But with a Medicare Supplement, aside from the premium, most members do not have additional cost-sharing. As long as it is a Medicare-covered benefit, the Medigap plan pays the remainder after Medicare has paid its portion.

People who have significant health problems and who know that they may require expensive procedures in the coming year may benefit from this option.

Medicare Advantage plans are very different from Medigap. 

Some Medicare Advantage (MA) plans have no premium. Unlike Medicare Supplement plans, MA plans are paid each month by Medicare, which covers the services that original Medicare covered.

MA plans that offer no-premium options have generally arranged the benefits and co-pays in a way that makes it financially feasible to do so. Many of these plans also include prescription benefits, and can be a good choice for consumers seeking to cut costs.

Some patients may have to pay more out-of-pocket fees if their doctor doesn't follow their particular plan. Photo courtesy of Mobilityspecialists.net.

MA’s co-pays for each service or benefit include daily charges for hospitalization, skilled nursing services, emergency room visits and ambulance transport.

Starting at the beginning of 2011, Medicare began requiring all providers to offer preventive services like routine physical exams, colorectal screenings and mammograms, at no cost to members.

Some MA plans require patients to choose one of its preferred providers. Such is the case, too, with many Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs), which may also demand your primary doctor refer you in order to see a specialist. HMOs will not, in most cases, pay for doctors who are not on their list.

Preferred Provider Organizations (PPOs) work very differently.

If you choose a PPO, you may see any doctor anytime, as long as they contract with Medicare. If you see a doctor that contracts with your particular health plan, you may be entitled to lower co-pays.

Patients who see a provider not affiliated with their plan may have to pay more out of pocket. However, PPOs do no require a referral to see a specialist.

One of the greatest advantages of choosing an MA plan is that most include prescription drug benefits, and there is no additional premium for this benefit.

People who want to change their plan or simply want to get more information should contact the individual health plans, a licensed insurance agent or a SHIBA volunteer. SHIBA volunteers are impartial volunteers who offer assistance to Medicare beneficiaries and can be contacted through the Campbell Senior Center or the Willamalane Adult Activity Center.

NEXT INSTALLMENT:  Who needs a plan in addition to Medicare?  How do I choose a Prescription Drug Plan?

High tech medical scans clear way for better local diagnoses


by Sarah Nicholson, EDN

A newer, safer type of medical imaging has made its way to the Eugene area, and those in the medical field are seeing promising returns.

Oregon Imaging Centers recently received a three-year approval for PET/CT imaging from the most highly-regarded accrediting body, the Intersocietal Commission for the Accreditation of Nuclear Medicine Laboratories (ICANL).

PET/CT imaging and scanner from Oregon Imaging Center

Positron Emission Tomography and Computed Tomography, or PET/CT imaging, is a combination of two scans
that allow medical practitioners to pinpoint the location and extent of cancers, dementias and cardiac illnesses by looking at metabolic and structural changes in the body. 

Oregon Imaging Centers is the only center in Oregon approved for both oncological and neurological diagnoses, and only center approved by ICANL, which is considered the gold standard of nuclear medicine accreditation providers.

In 2007 an article published in the New England Journal of Medicine publicized the overuse of CT scans in the US, and the related cancer risk of exposing organs to low doses of radiation. Since then, media reports fraught with information about the dangers of high radiation levels have caused fear in many people about being overexposed.  The FDA also acknowledges that CT scans are associated with a higher risk of lifetime cancer and says the usage of adult-sized radiation doses in children can be particularly harmful.

The combined PET/CT scan delivers less radiation than a regular CT scan, so the danger of radiation is greatly diminishedAnd in the event that cancer is already suspected, the fear of low-dose radiation pales in comparison to other disease-related complications. Additionally, over 90% of the radioactivity from the PET portion of the scan is gone by the time the patient leaves the exam.  The only populations this diagnostic tool is contraindicated for are pregnant and lactating women, but even in lactating women the radiation is thought to be cleared from the breast milk within twelve hours of the test.

An example of (A) CT imaging, (B) PET imaging, and (C) combined PET/CT imaging. From Wikipedia/Renato M.E. Sabbatini, PhD


The PET/CT process uses an injected radioactive substance called fluorodeoxyglucose (or FDG) to highlight abnormal areas within the body. Similar to glucose, which fuels tissues throughout the body, FDG is taken up more eagerly by high-metabolizing abnormalities in the body. So areas that are more metabolically active, like cancerous tumors, draw attention to themselves through their greediness.

Neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases respond similarly in the brain. With an injection of FDG, the compound will accumulate in certain areas, which will then be highlighted on the PET scan images. Add the CT component (Computerized Tomography,) and you have a very specific picture of the disease.

PET(-only) scanners, which Oregon Imaging Centers used before receiving the new accreditation, can differentiate between malignant and benign lesions, and determine the spread of disease. Adding the CT component is incredibly helpful in identifying specific anatomic locations. The dual imaging technique of the PET/CT provides a much more specific picture of disease, especially when it comes to detecting cancer.  

The PET/CT scan is of enormous assistance in both diagnosis of cancer, and in evaluating the effectiveness of therapy.  Luke Breazeal, manager of the PET/CT Department at Oregon Imaging Centers said there are four key times to perform a scan: 

(1) When something malignant is detected or highly suspected
(2) to identify the extent
(3) in the middle of chemotherapy
(4) after completion of chemotherapy 

With just one scan, you can identify cancer, determine its extent in the body, and stage (or esta
blish how far the cancer has progressed.)  For many types of cancer a PET scan can show if a therapy is effective: If a significant decrease in the tumor burden is not seen after a few rounds of chemotherapy, the therapy can be switched, saving valuable time, reducing cost, and increasing life expectancy.

PET image of a brain with Alzheimer's

Although over 90% of PET/CT scans address oncological disorders, it’s an incredibly helpful tool in neurological diagnosis and treatment planning.  In “dementia imaging,” Breazeal said, “we see characteristic metabolic patterns for each specific type of dementia.”   Each of the dozens of different types of dementia displays a unique pattern of glucose (and thus FDG) uptake, and identifying the correct type puts doctors on the right track to choosing a treatment plan. Before PET scans, the only way to definitively diagnose Alzheimer’s was through autopsy.

With the green light from ICANL, Oregon Imaging has seen about a 50% increase in volume for PET/CT imaging.  According to Breazeal, the clinic does about 80-100 scans a month, mostly for oncological purposes.  More information about Oregon Imaging Centers and its new accreditation can be found on its website at www.oregonimaging.com.

Another example of PET/CT fusion imaging of the whole body