Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Project Fit Families hosts first event in Harmony

6/24/2011 12:12:00 PM Email this article • Print this article
Project Fit Families hosts first event in Harmony

Jade Wangen

Last August, Melinda Lutes of Harmony started a non-profit organization called Project Fit Families. Since then, they have been working to get families in the area spending more time together, eating better, and keeping physically active.

"It was something the kids and I wanted to do together," said Lutes. "The kids have always been active in sports. They thought it would be fun to have a day of events and activities for families, so that's what we did."

Lutes is a certified fitness instructor and personal trainer, as well as a nutritionist. She has been working with people in the area for a long time with exercise and nutrition, and it has become a passion for her. The mission of the organization is to help families stay active and eat right, and to have fun doing it.

The first event sponsored by Project Fit Families was held in Harmony on June 18. According to Lutes, the idea started with having a 5K walk/run, but it grew into so much more. "We thought we should invite people who share the same passion, to keep kids fit and healthy."

Selvig Park was host to several events and activities that day. A martial artist was there, along with a marathon runner. There were booths for gardening, representatives from Just for Kix dancing studio, inflatable bouncy houses for the kids, and a "boot camp" for exercising. Harmony Foods had nutrition demonstrations, and local restaurants served special foods just for that day. The Rochester Giants came down to play football, and there were potato sack races and snowshoe races. Lutes said they planned the event for about six months, reaching out to more people who are on board with the mission, and slowly but surely, it all came together.

"We wish there would have been more people there," said Lutes. "But the people who came had a great time. They were very inspired, and we got a lot of positive feedback. We just need to keep reaching out and spreading the message."'

Lutes stressed the importance of keeping active, not just by playing sports, but doing things such as going for walks with the kids, playing with them, parking farther away from the store, and taking the stairs instead of an elevator.

"Health and fitness isn't just about sports," said Lutes. "It can be just taking the family out on an exploratory walk, or even gardening. It's about being active, doing exercises, and having fun. It's about having active quality time with your family. That's what our mission is all about."

Enriching the family as a whole is a big part of what Project Fit Families is all about. According to Lutes, they are trying to promote trying new activities, learning about new things, and incorporating that into daily life.

During the 5K walk/run that day, Lutes said there were more little kids than adults. "It was good to see," she said. "It was probably their first experience with something like that." She added that introducing them to physical activity when they are young could help ensure they enjoy it as they grow older. Each child received a ribbon to help them feel good about what they accomplished.

"It's all about encouraging and supporting people," said Lutes. She would like to see these events become not just a one-time thing, but a lifetime commitment for people.

Project Fit Families would like to grow in its own backyard before moving on to other communities. Lutes feels it is important these events benefit the community as well, and bring people to Harmony. Right now, they would like to focus on Fillmore County, and they are hoping to go into more communities next year.

For the future, Project Fit Families is planning on helping local towns celebrate the 25th anniversary of the bike trail with events going on in September. There will be bike-rides, dancing, a Minute to Win It event, and more fun activities for children and adults alike. Lutes shared the short-term goal is to put Fillmore County on the map for being the healthiest county in Minnesota. She knows there is a lot of work to do, but is optimistic it will continue to grow.

"We will make it work," said Lutes. "We have learned a lot from the first year and we are going to keep improving it and trying to reach out.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

2011 Youth Conference

4/6/2011 10:01:00 AM Email this article • Print this article
2011 youth conference: health and leadership applications
The 2011 Youth Conference: Health and Leadership Applications was held on March 21st and 22nd at Eagle Bluff Learning Center. Fillmore Family Resources and Fillmore County Public Health hosted area 7th and 8th graders for two, day long sessions.

Students from area schools participated in a "Challenge the Media" keynote and then broke into four sessions for the rest of the day. Challenge the Media is a program developed through The Advocates for Human Rights out of Minneapolis, that looks critically at media and how people are portrayed in the media. During the keynote the presenter, Kathy Seipp, talked with the students about how human inequality and violence can develop from negative media exposure, unhealthy stereotypes, and social norms. Kathy and her co-worker, Anna Donnelly, continued the critical analysis of media in their individual break out sessions. In each session students looked at and discussed positive and negative media images, how these images affect the students' lives, and what each student can do to challenge the negative images.

In addition to Challenge the Media break out sessions, students also heard from a number of local experts on topics ranging from leadership and community service to nutrition and physical activity. Each group of students rotated through four different sessions, which included a physical activity. Whether it was the 8th graders "Mastering the Four Types of Physical Activity" or the 7th graders participating in "Project Dance," each student spent part of the day up and moving. Brenda Pohlman, Fillmore County Public Health, and Melinda Lutes, founder of Project Fit Families, each taught a physical activity session understanding the importance of providing students with some physical stimulation in addition to the mental stimulation the other sessions provided.

In "The 'Right' Path" Fillmore County Probation Officers Kari Berg and Jeff True walked students through leadership and community service and how students can become involved. Through the use of team building exercises, including the human knot, students were able to interact with each other in a fun and educational way. Students commented that they liked meeting new people and working with people from other schools. Each break out group consisted of students from the three schools attending that day.

While each break out group consisted of students from different schools, the sessions for the 7th and 8th graders covered the same topics so that each grade received similar information. The nutrition sessions were probably the most varied from 7th to 8th grade. Judy Lacey, University of Minnesota Extension Community Nutrition Educator, led a "Eat and Move to Be Healthy and Happy" session that focused on planning healthy meals. Kitty Baker, Lanesboro Local volunteer, led "You Are What You Eat" that focused on the benefits of local foods.

The 2011 Youth Conference was very successful. Students, staff, and volunteers enjoyed their time learning something different. Fillmore County Public Health and Fillmore Family Resources would like to thank all the schools, presenters, and volunteers that made the 2011 Youth Conference possible.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Pursuing a Dream

Health & Wellness
2/12/2011 10:58:00 AM Email this article • Print this article
Melinda Coscarelli Lutes and her website, www.projectfitfamilies.org, dedicated to her mission with Project Fit Families. Photo by Karen Reisner
Project Fit Families, Pursuing a Dream

By Karen Reisner

Melinda Coscarelli Lutes, Harmony, is on her way to fulfilling her dream. She has established a non-profit organization "Project Fit Families." The immediate goal is to educate children about physical fitness and healthy living.

During her lifetime she has experienced being overweight and underweight. Even as a child with asthma she was interested in sports and fitness. As a teenager she did some modeling and developed an eating disorder.

With both of her pregnancies she gained considerable weight. After the first she managed to lose the excess weight with diet and exercise. After the second she went back to school to learn how to live a healthy balanced lifestyle.

Melinda, after completing her training with International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA), is now a certified fitness trainer, personal trainer, and a nutritional planner.

Making Healthy Living and Fitness Fun

The non-profit organization is "dedicated to helping families achieve optimum health and well being the fun way." Money raised by the organization through fun activities and events will be used for school and summer recreation programs to improve fitness among kids.

Two summer events are being planned which will include a 5k run/walk for families and other fun fitness activities. Activities will encourage participation of the whole family. Vendors will be invited to give information on healthy eating and healthy foods. The first event is scheduled in Harmony at Selvig Park on June 18 and the second in LaCrosse at Riverside Park on July 9.

Melinda insists educating children about healthy eating and fitness is important, in part because kids have an influence on their parents. Kids need to have the information so that they can make better choices and make their own decisions. Her program targets childhood obesity which is a huge problem. Melinda wants to get the message out to combat the bad stuff like "processed garbage." She encourages families to plant a garden.

Kids need to have an incentive to go outside and play instead of spending their time inside playing video games. Her own children have been very involved helping her to come up with interesting and fun activities.

Melinda acknowledges that the organization is a work in progress. Its only been about a year since she earned her certifications. The organization website has just been launched recently and still isn't complete. The website is www.projectfitfamilies.org The website will eventually have healthful recipes, upcoming events, activities and more.

Melinda admits that the events planned for this summer are going to be a learning experience for her. Her short term goal is to learn from the events to help develop a blueprint for future events. She wants to expand into more communities and more states. She wants to build something a little different from other organizations and recognizes that their are others with a similar mission.

She hopes to grow the website into another phase involving social networking so people can share activities, interact with other families, and so on. However, she wants this to be somewhat limited as she doesn't want to add to sit down time in front of a computer.

Her dream is to one day have "Project Fit Families" be a household name. Melinda wants to continue to work with more and more communities as she feels it can benefit their communities. She says she has had many people ask her what they can do to help. She has met with Fillmore County Health Educator Brenda Pohlman and has been asked to speak at the Fillmore Central early childhood educational program.

A Separate Business

Melinda has a separate for profit business that is completely separate from "Project Fit Families." Besides her regular job at a Harmony insurance agency, Melinda offers fitness classes.

Melinda conducts "Zumba" dance classes in Harmony at the Community Center on Tuesday nights from 7-8 p.m. and in Lanesboro at the Coffee Street Fitness Center on Friday nights from 5:30-6:30 p.m. The classes cost $20/month. Zumba is the fusion of Latin and International music into a dance/fitness program. It was first introduced in 2001 and now is practiced in 110 countries around the world.

Hot Body Bootcamp classes are held in Harmony at the Community Center on Monday, Wednesday, Friday at 5 a.m. and in Lanesboro at the Coffee Street Fitness Center on Monday and Wednesday at 4:45 p.m. and on Friday at 7:00 a.m.

Melinda is a certified life, health and wellness coach. She conducts nutrition classes and life coaching upon request. There is a possibility that she will add some fitness classes in Mabel.

Home workout parties is another avenue to fitness available. These parties would be like a Tupperware party, only ladies would workout instead. The parties would allow Melinda to give participants more one on one attention.

Melinda is able to help establish and implement corporate wellness programs for companies. You can contact Melinda Coscarelli Lutes at 507-951-9980.

Healthy living is her passion. Melinda says she has lost a lot of weight and is more healthy. "I am living proof, if I can do it, anybody can do it."

Find ways to stay motivated

Find ways to stay motivated
Project Fit Families

By Melinda Coscarelli Lutes
Project Fit Families

As a fitness trainer, it is my responsibility to find what motivates my clients in order for them to reach their goals. But staying motivated is the key for long-term success. Maybe you want to fit back into your skinny jeans? Maybe you are going on vacation and want to look good in a swimsuit? Maybe you want to get off some of your medications, or maybe you just want more energy to chase the grandkids around?

Whatever the reason may be, I have found it is most effective to keep your goals in sight at all times. We often start out with the best intentions, but then life takes over and we fall victim to our old habits. In order to be successful, you need to find a way to combat your thoughts from getting sidetracked. The best way to do this is to have a plan that includes visual reminders of what your hard work and dedication are going to earn you.

Start by putting your goals in writing. Make sure they are specific and include time frames with both your short-term and long-term expectations. Include pictures of what your reward is going to be once you achieve your goal, such as that new swimsuit or outfit you are wanting. Sign, date and make copies of your goal sheet. I recommend posting copies on your bathroom mirror, your fridge, your computer and any other place that you visit often. This will serve as a reminder to stay focused.

If your goal is to lose weight or change your body composition, there is nothing more motivating than taking frequent pictures of yourself and being able to actually see your progress. Pictures are a big reality check. And keeping your original pictures long after you've reached your goals is also a great way to prevent yourself from going back to your old habits. If you are trying to get off your medications and improve your overall health, take pictures of your loved ones and place them on the medicine cabinet.

Sharing your goals with your spouse or a good friend is also very helpful. Give them a copy of your goal sheet and tell them to hold you accountable. Odds are that somebody else you know is also trying to get into better shape or improve their health. So maybe you could have a friendly competition with them, with the prize being lunch, a pedicure or something fun.

And remember, if you happen to get sidetracked, it's not the end of the world. Immediately get back on track and re-focus. Don't make excuses and don't wait until tomorrow. Do it now! You will be one step closer to reaching your goals. Visualize how much better you are going to look and feel. Keep your mind set on the prize. You can do it! And you are worth it!

We are in this together! Join me and others on our fitness journeys on facebook: Project Fit Families.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Move It or Lose It

February 16, 2011
2/7/2011 4:15:00 PM
Move it or lose it!
Project Fit Families

By Melinda Coscarelli Lutes
Project Fit Families

How many times have you made excuses about why you don't have time to exercise?

Most people get overwhelmed when they look at their schedules and try to fit one more commitment into their day. And if there are other arrangements that need to be made, such as daycare, in order to fulfill that commitment, we practically talk ourselves out of it all together.

Instead of getting wrapped up on the extra effort it may take to fulfill your daily exercise routine, focus on the benefits. When was the last time you worked out and regretted it? The benefits far outweigh the little preparation that may be required for taking care of yourself. And you are worth it!

We all know that some form of daily exercise is necessary for optimum health and wellbeing. This can be accomplished several different ways and the options are endless, so there really aren't any excuses for not moving your body and getting healthy! The key to any exercise regimen is consistency, so make it part of your routine just like brushing your teeth. For some of us, this is the only time that we get to ourselves during the day. So do activities that you enjoy and can look forward to.

As a fitness trainer, I recommend working your body for 45 to 60 minutes a day. Your fitness goals determine how intensely you should be working out. If you want to lose weight, then the goal is to burn as many calories as possible during your workout. However, if you are trying to lower your cholesterol or get your diabetes under control, then a lower impact activity such as walking may be a better fit.

When you run into unexpected issues that may interfere with your daily exercise plans, you can break your 60 minutes down into four 15-minute mini segments, or whatever works within your schedule. You can get a great workout while cleaning your house by adding some squats, jumping jacks and lunges. Set your kitchen timer and run up and down your basement steps for 15 minutes straight. Take your dog on a jog or challenge your kids to a push-ups contest. The goal is to elevate your heart rate and work up a sweat. And the more you move, the more your body will reward you with a fit physique.

Incorporating a resistance program two to three times a week into your exercise regimen is also very important. As we age, our body composition starts to change. Our metabolism starts to slow and we lose lean muscle mass. We need both in order to feel energized, keep a healthy weight and keep our much needed strength for our daily activities.

As with all fitness programs, talk to your doctor or consult with a fitness trainer, such as myself, to find a program that will help you accomplish your individual goals.

Remember, you get one body and one life. It is up to you to take care of it. And how well you take care of yourself determines the quality of life you will have. When it comes to your health, it is much easier to be proactive than reactive! There is no better gift than the gift of good health. So move it, or lose it!

We are in this together. Join me and others on our fitness journeys on Facebook: Project Fit Families.

A New Year, A New You

A new year, a new you
Project Fit Families

By Melinda Coscarelli Lutes
Project Fit Families

So, how many times have you convinced yourself that "this" year is going to be the year to finally get into shape? Or "this" is the year that you are finally going to lose those extra pounds that have been adding up over the years? Everyone seems to include some type of health- or fitness-related goal in their New Year's resolution. It could even be something as simple as wanting to eat better or exercise more. We all start the New Year with great intentions and lots of motivation, but eventually life takes over and we fall victim to our old habits. But not any more!

Project Fit Families is your new secret weapon! Project Fit Families is a local non-profit organization that is dedicated to helping you and your family get healthier. Every other week I am going to be entering your lives with health and fitness tips, information on special events and lots of support and motivation to keep you on track. As a fitness trainer, life and wellness coach, and someone who has lost over 100 pounds, my New Year's resolution is to help you and others achieve your goals. Think of me as your own little personal trainer.

If you are ready to join me and several others who are serious about getting healthier, then this WILL be your year! I have only one rule. You must share your healthy new lifestyle with those around you, especially kids.

Project Fit Families was founded based on my passion for fighting childhood obesity, and promoting health and fitness to children and families. But it starts with you! If you can help me with my mission, then I will provide you with the tools for achieving your health and fitness goals, once and for all. Deal?

Let's get started. As part of any health, wellness or life improvement program that I offer, my first requirement is that you come clean with yourself. Stop beating yourself up and forgive yourself for all of your old bad habits. Your past is behind you, and you can't change it. Learn from it and let it go. Today is a new day and you are going to move forward, and make better choices. Focus on your goals and how you are going to achieve them.

Second, you need to believe that you are worth it! Make yourself a priority. Your health and wellbeing is the most important aspect of your life from the inside out. When you are healthy, you are happy. And when you are happy, life is good!

We are all given 24 hours in a day. You are worth at least one of those hours to focus on yourself. Don't make excuses! From this day forward, you need to find the time to exercise. Make this part of our daily routine, just like brushing your teeth. We all have great fitness centers in our towns, there are several fitness classes being offered in the area, go for a walk or just simply play with your kids. You will feel re-energized and ready to take on all of those tasks that didn't seem to go anywhere.

Remember, this is your life. You are in control of your day and your time. We all have commitments. We all have decisions. You can choose to continue on your same path, or you can choose to improve your health and change your life. Make the time and start today!

We are in this together. Feel free to join me and several others who are sharing the same journey. Visit my new facebook page: project fit families.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Harmony woman begins organization to promote health, fitness for families

12/22/2010 9:32:00 AM
Harmony woman begins organization to promote health, fitness for families
By Melissa Vander Plas

Melinda Lutes of Harmony is on a crusade. She sees the health issues facing Americans these days, including the rise in childhood obesity and the lack of physical activity in one's daily life. So, she's doing something to combat these unhealthy trends, while getting families excited about living a healthful life.

Lutes has recently started a nonprofit organization, Project Fit Families, that will focus on educating children about physical fitness and healthy living through special events and programs.

Lutes explained that she hopes to supplement the education kids are already getting in schools by adding fun and interesting events the children can do with their families.

"The programs I am planning are geared more toward the kids," she said, "but they will definitely involve the families."

Parents serve as role models of health for a child and so eating well and exercising together will instill good habits at an early age, Lutes added.

Lutes is planning two events in 2011 that will be hosted by Project Fit Families. The first will be held in Selvig Park in Harmony on Saturday, June 18. The second will be held a week later at Riverside Park in La Crosse.

Both events will include a 5K walk/run for families that will transition into a carnival with activities, sports, fitness fun and many vendors providing information about health and fitness.

A website for Project Fit Families is currently under development and will "go live" shortly after the new year, Lutes explained. Through this venue, families will be able to find healthful recipes and a suggested physical activity each week. A public forum will allow families to interact with each other and share recipes and activities that they enjoy. Look for it at www.projectfitfamilies.org.

Lutes is also looking forward to getting involved in school programs, serving as a resource for healthful living and working with coaches and teachers to provide mentoring for local youth.

Through Project Fit Families, Lutes will also be promoting planting family gardens with fresh fruits and vegetables being readily available. It will also enable quality time for parents and children, working together to grow a product with great rewards.

Lutes said, as she begins this new crusade, that she is really targeting childhood obesity. "Children need to have a balance," she said. "They need to eat better and be more active."

Educating parents and children on how to create healthful meals is also important. Lutes urges parents to eliminate the "processed garbage" and focus on using fresh produce, lean protein and multi-grains in each meal.

Parents also have the responsibility for keeping their children active. There are so many ways to do this, Lutes noted, including a simple walk after dinner, working in the garden together, or playing a game of basketball. "It doesn't all have to be seen as exercise," she said. "A lot of it can be play."

Lutes, herself, has struggled with weight throughout her life. As a child, she had many health issues, she explained. Then, she became a model and developed an eating disorder, which caused her to become too thin to be considered healthy. After she married and had children, her weight increased and, again, she became unhappy with her body image.

That is when she took control and began making changes in her life. Now, at a healthy and fit weight, Lutes has lost 100 pounds and is feeling great. She has become a certified fitness trainer and personal trainer and has studied nutrition.

For her own daily nutrition, she eats six small meals, each with a small serving of protein. "It regulates the blood sugar and keeps your metabolism strong," Lutes explained.

"Doing little things can make a huge difference," she shared. "Diet is 75 percent of the fight in weight loss, but exercise is important for the heart, lungs and muscles."

Lutes teaches fitness classes in Harmony and Lanesboro. She offers a boot camp class as well as one called "Project Hot Body." Soon, she will be certified in teaching Zumba classes as well. If one is interesting in joining one of her classes, call her at (507) 951-9980.

She noted that she is also certified to do personal training, life coaching and nutritional planning.

Lutes will soon begin fundraising efforts to help her promote Project Fit Families and the programs it will hold. There will be sponsorship opportunities during her community events and individuals will be able to donate to the cause through the website.

As a nonprofit, Lutes explained that all the money raised will go toward the local programs in schools and supporting summer recreational programs that keep kids active. She also hopes to be able to award scholarships and educational opportunities for local youth.

"I've been on both sides," said Lutes as she summarized her goals. "I've been extremely underweight and I have been overweight. It's heartbreaking to see the pressure there is amongst girls and women, especially, to have the 'perfect' body."

As she announced her upcoming programs, Lutes is already thinking about the bigger picture - hoping to expand these events each year so that one day they may encompass an entire "fitness festival weekend."

"My ultimate goal is go national," Lutes explained. "I hope to make Project Fit Families a well-known name and to have it easily recognizable. It's a life dream."