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Sleep, diet, exercise and cutting stress boost brain as you age

Events, Fitness, Health, Local

Post-marathon: Allow 2-3 weeks to recover after big race

Maria Ramos helps Jaime Medina stretch after completing the Miami Marathon & Half Marathon on Sunday. The two are from Colombia. CARL JUSTE
Maria Ramos helps Jaime Medina stretch after completing the Miami Marathon & Half Marathon on Sunday. The two are from Colombia. CARL JUSTE

On Sunday, thousands woke in the predawn hours and headed to American Airlines Arena, where they ran, ran/walked (intervals) or rode special bikes to compete in the Miami Marathon & Half Marathon.

When they crossed the finish line, they got a rush of adrenaline and took a moment — maybe more — to recover.

But sitting still after the race is not the way to go, say sports medicine doctors and experienced marathoners. In fact, there are important steps to take immediately after a big race, and in the days following it, to prevent injury.

“Research shows that muscle, cellular and immune systems are compromised for two to three weeks post-race, so recovery from a marathon is a critical component,” said Dr. Farah Tejpar, a sport medicine specialist at Cleveland Clinic Florida in Weston. “Runners who don’t recover properly from a marathon put themselves at increased risk of injury and delayed healing.”

Tejpar recommends resting for at least three to four days after a big race before returning to a normal exercise routine. She suggests starting with low-impact cross training or 20 to 30 minutes easy jogging.

“Don’t rush to compete again. Allow your body the time it needs to recovery,” Tejpar said.

Dr. Thomas San Giovanni, an orthopedic surgeon at Miami Orthopedics and Sports Medicine Institute of Baptist Health South Florida, concurred that rest is essential.

“The next day, runners want to get right back into running because they figured they’ve reached this maximal fitness and they don’t want to lose that,” said San Giovanni, who is also the co-medical director of the Miami Marathon. “That is a common mistake. You want to give your body some time to rest to allow your body to recuperate and restore.”

He advocates a good night’s rest and a well-balanced meal. To help reduce inflammation, take ice baths and keep legs elevated.

After a race, some people may not be able to distinguish between post-race soreness and an injury because it’s common to feel pain and aches.

“Look for swelling and inflammation that lasts and pain that persists,” San Giovanni said. “As the days go by, if it doesn’t seem like you’re getting better, then you may want to seek medical attention or get evaluated.”

Frankie Ruiz, brand manager for the Miami Marathon and chief running officer at Life Time Fitness, says support is crucial in the period immediately after a race.

“Have somebody near by, so that you can lean on them or in case you might need attention,” Ruiz said. “I definitely recommend somebody walk with you through the recovery and that you’re not by yourself.”

Tracy Smith, a marathon runner and director of physical therapy at Cleveland Clinic, completed the Miami Marathon last January in four hours and 27 minutes. She advises athletes to stay hydrated and get some food immediately after a race. Many marathons are stocked with bananas, oranges, bagels and protein bars for the runners at the end of the race.

“You don’t want to overeat because your body doesn’t really digest at that point,” said Smith, 41, who lives in Davie. “But you have to get some calories and some carbohydrates back in.”

She also advises not to stop after a race.

“The key after is to really keep moving,” Smith said. “Not to cross that finish line and sit down. Walk around and enjoy whatever the marathon has for entertainment.”

Paul Sykes would agree. The 50-year-old Coral Gables resident completed the New York City marathon on Nov. 1 and walked a mile to retrieve his personal items.

“At the time, that felt really bad, but it’s actually the best thing that I could have done,” Sykes said. “The last thing you want to do is run 26.2 miles and then sit down and let your legs seize up.”’

According to Ruiz, marathon organizers kept this in mind. At the Miami Marathon, organizers placed the finish line a quarter of a mile from Bayfront Park, where the food and entertainment awaited.

“There’s a purpose to that,” Ruiz said. “So people don’t just come to a complete halt, throw themselves on the ground, and end up needing medical attention.”

Sykes completed the New York Marathon in four hours and 18 minutes. In total, he has run eight marathons and 25 half-marathons. His biggest advice to others is to stay in shape.

“How you recover is impacted a lot by how you prepare,” said Sykes, who had heart surgery for an aortic valve replacement at Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami Beach nine months before the New York City race.

Sykes underwent a minimally invasive method that involved a small, five-centimeter incision, resulting in a quick recovery. He was training just three weeks after his surgery.

His surgeon, Dr. Joseph Lamelas, the chief of cardiac surgery at Mount Sinai, recommended a minimally invasive approach because the recovery is more rapid and patients who are athletes can return more quickly to an active lifestyle.

Marathon runners and doctors also advise runners to congratulate themselves once they cross the finish line. Ruiz believes in rewards such as a massage or a small treat.

“A little bit later in the day, it might be time to reach for that dessert,” Ruiz said. “A scoop of ice cream or a key lime pie.”

Although he doesn’t recommend overindulgence, Ruiz does enjoy a sip of soda after completing a big race.


Tips to stay sober on New Year’s Eve

Written for the Miami Herald.

Tim Myers
Tim Myers, 34, makes plans on how he will avoid drinking alcohol before every holiday season. The Delray Beach resident is a TV and radio commercial writer for MJS Advertising. As of Dec. 22, 2015, Myers has been sober for more than five years. Matias J. Ocner

The countdown begins. The ball in Times Square is about to drop. People will kiss, give a champagne toast and reflect on their new resolutions.

For many, it’s an exciting time. A new beginning.

For alcoholics in recovery, it’s the end of a stressful season filled with temptations and uncomfortable situations.

With the free-flowing alcohol from holiday parties and family gatherings, it is hard for those struggling with addiction to avoid a drink. Adding to that is the difficult household dynamics and tense work relationships.

Tim Myers, 34, knows this well. He took his first sip of booze when he was 15 and struggled to regain sobriety for 10 years.

“When I was first getting sober I would go home for Christmas,” said Myers, originally from upstate New York. He moved to South Florida to get treatment at Caron Renaissance in Boca Raton.

“I would find that the struggle was not always with the alcohol. That was a big part of it, but the struggle was with family members and old friends. That can be hard to rush back into.”

According to a survey done by Caron, nearly 9 out of 10 adults feel that it’s appropriate to drink alcohol during holiday parties.

“It really shows the correlation between the holidays and the increase in alcohol use,” said Brad Sorte, executive director of Caron Renaissance and Caron Ocean Drive in Florida.

“In that same survey, we also found that over half the adults who do drink alcohol experience at least one negative consequence.”

That could include waking up with a hangover or doing something embarrassing.

Today, Myers has been sober for more than five years and attributes his success to preparation.

The TV and radio commercial writer attends extra 12-step meetings during the holiday season. He constantly checks in with his support system and ensures he has a getaway vehicle when he goes to New York for the holidays.

If you are trying to stay sober this New Year’s Eve, here are some tips.

1. Stay connected

Don’t go through tough times alone. Lean on friends, sponsors, therapists, spiritual advisers or pastors.

“If you know the holidays are going to be tough, plan on talking to your sponsor at least once a day,” said David Vittoria, assistant vice president of South Miami Hospital Addiction Treatment and Recovery Center.

“Staying connected is really, really key.”

2. Take care of yourself

Self-care is imperative during stressful times. Activities like exercise and meditation will help avoid buildup of negative emotions. Dr. Indra Cidambi, an addiction expert and medical director of the Center for Network Therapy in New Jersey, encourages working out, even if it’s just walking 10 minutes a day. She also recommends anything that will help lift spirits, such as getting a massage or going to extra Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and therapy sessions.

“Treat yourself right,” Cidambi said. “If someone is having a lot of interfamily conflicts, then they can visit their therapist, sit down with them and get their dirty laundry out.”

Cidambi also wants people to avoid HALT, her acronym for hunger, anger, loneliness and tiredness. It is much easier to avoid temptations when people are at their best.

4. Carry a non-alcoholic beverage

Many experts advise recovering alcoholics to hold a non-alcoholic beverage.

“Hold the beverage in your hand, so that nobody will come and ask you ‘what would you like to drink’ or ‘can I get you a drink?’” Cidambi said.

5. Rehearse saying no

Practice saying no, so that it comes naturally. Don’t feel pressured to give an explanation. Just be graceful and firm, so that other people understand that not everyone may want to drink during the holidays.

6. Have an exit plan

“People who expect they’re going to have a difficult time at a party where there is a lot of alcohol should plan ahead,” Vittoria said.

“If you have to communicate ahead of time that you have to leave early, apologize in advance. Sometimes giving word of an early exit might help, especially new folks in recovery.”

7. Have a conversation

Some situations are made easier when everything is out in the open.

“Families entering the holiday when they have a loved one who has been struggling with alcohol, deal with their own set of challenges,” Sorte said.

“It’s very important for both the individual with the alcohol issues and the family to have open communication.”

Supporting each other and talking about different strategies to stay sober will help.

8. Attend an alcathon

Most communities have around-the-clock AA meetings during the holidays called alcathons.

People who don’t feel comfortable at a New Year’s Eve party don’t have to sit at home or be alone.

“You just have to walk in and introduce yourself,” Myers said. “It’s the most welcoming organization in the planet.”

9. Get help after a relapse

Some people who are trying to stay sober may have a slip.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it is estimated that about 16.6 million adults have an alcohol-use disorder, and alcohol-related death is the third-leading cause of preventable death in the United States, with approximately 88,000 patients dying annually.

Dr. Ihsan Salloum, the chief of substance and alcohol abuse at the University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine, believes that relapsing may cause a catastrophic reaction.

“They say ‘well I slipped, so what is the use? I’m going to drink more and enjoy it,’ and they continue drinking,” Salloum said.

“But for somebody with an alcohol problem, the best thing to do is to stop drinking, get themselves out of the situation and seek help.”


To find a local AA meeting, visit

Caron Treatment Centers: 7789 N.W. Beacon Square Blvd. Boca Raton, 800-221-6500,

South Miami Hospital Addiction Treatment and Recovery Center: 6900 S.W. 80th St., 786-662-8118,

University of Miami Hospital: 1400 NW.12th Ave., Miami, 305-243-6400,

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Features, Health, Local, TCPalm

More vegan options sprouting up in Martin County

PHOTO CAPTION: Pesto breadsticks from Fruits & Roots are toasted flatbreads spread with pesto and topped with house Parmesan cheese. (PHOTO BY RENEE ATHAUSER/FRUITS & ROOTS)

Amber Eichling, like many vegans in the area, thought she had limited food options when dining out.

She could order salad without meat or cheese, but after a while that was boring.

She also was concerned about cross-contamination. If chefs were not careful or unaware the dish was for a vegan diner, they might use the same kitchenware used to cook a burger.

So Eichling, a former Terra Fermata bartender and mother of a 6-year-old daughter, opened her own vegan café, Fruits & Roots Juice Bar + Vegan Cafe, in March.

Full story on at:

Fitness, Health

Cardiac rehabilitation helps build healthy lifestyle for heart patients

Read in Miami Herald.

Anthony “Tony” Turturici lives by the rule that exercise is the key to everything.

The 89-year-old Hollywood Hills resident who suffered his first heart attack in 1998, picked up the habit to keep moving after undergoing a quintuple bypass, an open heart surgery done to treat severely blocked arteries that feed the heart.

He attended 36 one-hour sessions of cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation classes for three months at Memorial Regional Hospital in Hollywood and credits the program for being alive and well today.

“I don’t think I would have survived without it,” he said.

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Fitness, Health, Technology

Apps track foods, fitness — even your daily water supply

For Miami Herald. 

To escape the tedious task of calorie counting by pen and paper, Mike Lee, a programmer who wanted to shed some pounds for his beach wedding, created the nutrition tracker, MyFitnessPal.

Ten years later, MyFitnessPal has helped 75 million users lose 180 million pounds.

Among them is Andrea Ceballos, a Zumba fitness instructor, who has lost 80 pounds thanks to her love for Zumba and the MyFitnessPal app on her iPhone and iPad.

The South Miami resident, originally from the Dominican Republic, was overweight when she moved to Miami five years ago. Zumba helped her lose some of the weight, but she needed more.

“Every time I lost about 20 pounds I plateaued,” said Ceballos, who teaches about 12 classes a week. “And that’s when I started to realize unless I changed my eating habits I wasn’t going to lose any further. That’s when MyFitnessPal came along and helped me.”

The app keeps track of the nutritional value of about four million food items while also tracking a user’s exercise. It has the option to sync with 60 other apps like Fitbit Tracker, MapMyFitness and Garmin Connect.

Here then are our picks for the best nutrition and fitness apps.

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Caregiving for an early-onset patient

For Miami Herald.

On Roger Roessler’s first date with Rosie, his hand shook when he picked up the phone.

“You should probably watch that,” she joked. “It could be Parkinson’s.”

Five years later — after marriage, three kids and an accident that severed three of his fingers — Roessler does indeed have Parkinson’s disease, a neurological disorder that typically targets those 60 and older.

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Events, Fitness, Health

Run, have fun and support a worthy cause

For Miami Herald.

Alexandra Benitez, 25, used to observe people running races for causes like HIV and cancer, but she never really thought much about it.

Diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma and large B-cell lymphoma on Nov. 27, 2012 and cleared the same day the following year, Benitez now had a new outlook on life and running.

“I’ve lost a couple friends to cancer,” said Benitez, who is training for her first half-marathon with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training group. She will be running the Walt Disney World Half Marathon on Jan. 7.

“When I’m running, I have these people in my mind and I’m thinking they didn’t make it and I need to find a cure,” she said. “I need to help. It’s my way of giving back.”

Many people in South Florida can relate to Benitez, because they also use fitness as a way to help causes they feel passionate about.

For more information on The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training, visit

Here are some other organizations in South Florida that give back through fitness.

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Events, Fitness, Health, Profile

Coral Gables man will do Ironman triathlon despite injury

Finishing the last stretch of a five-hour bike ride to and from Everglades National Park, Humberto Speziani was feeling great.

“I was doing awesome,” said Speziani, 51, a Coral Gables resident and father of three. “Other people were complaining about the wind but I was cutting through like a knife.”

Riding at about 20 miles per hour and approaching Black Point Marina in south Miami-Dade, he was about five minutes ahead of his riding group as cars and boats passed him on the road. In a flash, Speziani looked up and saw cars piling up on the road as a boat trailer had gone past the guardrail shoulder, leaving Speziani little space.

“I just really wedged myself through,” said Speziani, who bounced against the boat, lost control and tumbled off the bike, flying shoulder first into the guardrail, damaging his collarbone.

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Fitness, Health

Get a smart start to the school year with these fitness programs

For Miami Herald.


Making sure kids eat the right foods and exercise during the school year is a tough task for most parents. But, for one 12-year-old, maintaining a healthy lifestyle has become part of her daily routine.

Aisha Chebbi, a seventh-grader at George Washington Carver Middle School in Coconut Grove, started by giving up soda.

“Sprite was my favorite soda,” Aisha said. “Some people don’t know that they are really bad for you, they can cause heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.”

The next step came when she joined a before-school, hour-long exercise program. She arrived at school at 7:45 a.m. to fit the class into her school day, which began at 9 a.m. “This is where I came up with a lot of ideas about how to make kids healthier.”

Aisha wrote a letter to first lady Michelle Obama, telling her of two initiatives she wanted to develop for students throughout the county: “8 before 8” and “No Sugar for Breakfast.”

In 8 before 8, Aisha wants to emphasize that kids should drink eight glasses of water a day. Aisha carries a water bottle to school so she can hydrate throughout the day. The No Sugar for Breakfast program would make parents and students aware of healthier options for breakfast other than sugary cereals.

“If kids have sugar for breakfast, they are prone to have more sugar and fats in their diet,” said Aisha, who switched from sugary cereals to eating oatmeal or eggs, fresh fruit and drinking milk or water.

After school, she began swimming and playing tennis at a local park.

Obama responded to Aisha’s letter, encouraging her to join her Let’s Move! initiative. The Alliance for a Healthier Generation recently selected Aisha to serve as a Youth Ambassador on the 2014-15 Youth Advisory Board, which focuses on reversing the childhood obesity epidemic.

“When you’re more active and eat better, you feel better and you do better in school,” she said. “You’re more confident.”

Here are places and programs in Miami-Dade County for kids to get on a healthier track.

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A day of smiles at Baptist for children who need their faces fixed

For Miami Herald.

When Romana Akhter was just a couple days old, she developed a hemangioma, a build-up of blood vessels in the skin. It quickly spread, leaving disfigurements on her face, particularly her right side.

Now 19 and in her first year of college at Miami Dade College, Akhter is on her way to a new look, thanks to Baptist Children’s Hospital’s 13th Annual Day of Smiles. Four surgeons, with the assistance of nurses, planned to perform corrective facial surgeries on six children Saturday at the hospital, which donates its facilities for the procedures.

“I never used to talk to anyone,” said Akhter, “I thought I would have to deal with this for the rest of my life.”

Because of her family’s financial strains, Akhter didn’t think her family could afford to pay for the corrective surgery. Saturday’s surgery is free.

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