Category Archives: assignments

Strong Reads for Fitness Fans

Click image above to view the entire set on Flickr.

Click image above to view the entire set on Flickr.

Health and fitness is one of the most blogged-about topics on the Web, with input and expert advice coming in from a myriad of sources. As a fitness enthusiast, I find this to be a great step toward encouraging others to live a healthy lifestyle and get active.

At the same time, however, this overload of information can be confusing and discouraging for many readers, especially those who are new to fitness and just starting to begin a healthy lifestyle. While some blogs will tell you to eat protein bars and lift weights, others swear by cardio and a carb-free lifestyle or a meatless diet supplemented with plenty of core-work. It is no wonder people are clueless when it comes to living a healthy lifestyle.

There is no doubt that there are some uneducated health and fitness bloggers out there, but that pales in comparison to some of the great ones. I tracked down two very different health and fitness bloggers who have each made a unique impact in the Boston blogging world.

Rachele Pojednic’s science-backed blog, Strong Process, is one of the most well researched, informative blogs on health and fitness based in Boston. Pojednic uses scientific research to back every post, boiling the information down into layman’s terms, making Strong Process a great read even for fitness novices.

Emily Susen’s blog Sleep, Eat, Gym, Repeat, is an experiential-based fitness blog, where Susen (along with her co-blogger Erica Burnham write about their journeys to living healthy lifestyles. She has blogged about everything from a full-time career switch into fitness to “cheat days” when she skips a workout and enjoys dessert. An emphasis on honesty in blogging is what Susen strives for in every post.

While Pojednic and Susen have different opinions on the best ways to go about living a healthy and active lifestyle, they have a lot more in common than one would think. The two bloggers are great friends, working together at a small indoor cycling studio in the South End, Recycle Studio.

“We trade tips, both in person and back and forth through blog posts,” said Susen. Both bloggers agree that the ultimate goal for each of their blogs is the same: the desire to educate and help people truly enjoy fitness.

Katie Barrett, 21, is a Northeastern student majoring in Health Sciences and a student athlete who takes cycling classes with both Pojednic and Susen. “Their styles of teaching are so different from one and other,” Barrett said, “and unsurprisingly, so are their blogs.”

Barrett reads both blogs on a regular basis and has even been inspired to start her own. Her blog, Spinach and Spandex, is “a work in progress,” she explained. “As a health science major, I am really excited to delve into some nutrition based content. So far I’ve posted a few healthy recipes and people have really enjoyed them.”

Pojednic is currently completing her Ph.D. in exercise physiology and nutrition at Tufts University, working in Tufts’ Nutrition, Exercise, Physiology & Sarcopenia (NEPS) Lab. There she spends time training participants on their cardiovascular and muscular strength and then takes their blood and muscle samples down to the lab to look at the physiological processes that occur and change as an effect of their training.

Before starting at Tufts, Pojednic worked as a personal trainer for many Division I rowing and hockey teams in the Boston area.

“This was where I actually started blogging on Strong Process, almost seven years ago,” she explained. “I starting using the blog as a way for the athletes to track their process, look at team updates and get additional training tips, and that’s when people really started reading. When I started at Tufts, I updated with additional nutrition information and it’s really taken off.”

Strong Process has four categories — Move, Eat, Drink and Rest — and Pojednic updates the blog every two weeks, making sure her posts are well thought out and deeply researched before publishing. “The goal is to hopefully start disseminating some scientifically based information about science and nutrition that way,” she said.

“I blog to share my journey, to show that living a healthy lifestyle isn’t unrealistic,” explained Emily Susen of her blog, Sleep, Eat, Gym, Repeat. While many women in their mid-twenties would rather spend their mornings sleeping-in, Susen has recently made a lifestyle switch into fitness full-time.

About a month ago, Susen went from a career in advertising to becoming a full-time personal trainer and a daily 5 a.m. alarm-clock. When talking about her switch to full-time fitness, Susen explained it simply: “Fitness just makes me feel good. Our bodies were not designed to be sedentary — they’re designed to move!”

And move she does. Susen teamed up with her best friend and workout partner, Erica Burnham, to start their blog in July 2011. “We started following the Paleo Diet, and thought it would be a fun way to keep ourselves in line and to also do research about the diet,” said Susen.

SEGR began to pick up steam, and Susen was contacted by FitFluential, an organization that bring in fitness bloggers from around the country to help promote a fitness culture and encourage everyone to live a healthier lifestyle.

“Through FitFluential I have had the opportunity to work with several fitness brands, like Reebok, to do product and workout reviews,” Susen explained.

These product and workout reviews are the basis of Susen’s blogging. “I’m very honest in my posts- I talk about when I eat bad food, when I slip up in workouts, when I fall off the bandwagon,” she explained. “I think readers appreciate honesty, and I want to inspire others to get in shape or to continue to be healthy and active.”

Both Pojednic and Susen agree on one thing when it comes to encouraging others to start a fitness routine of their own — to find something you love. “There was a really interesting article in the New York Times that found, through research, that people will exercise more if they enjoy what they are doing,” said Pojednic. Susen agreed completely, adding, “Whether you are vegetarian, vegan, Paleo, a yogi, a CrossFitter — whatever, just do things and eat things that make you feel good.”

Boston Globe Media Lab: More Than Print News

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Our class visit to the Boston Globe media lab was impressive to say the least. There were so many things going on at Boston.com that I had no idea even existed. Having the chance to tour the printing rooms and newsroom was great, but what really surprised me was the media lab that they have instituted over the past few years.

Snap: The Boston Globe’s own Instagram Syndication Program
Snap is an amazing program put together by the Globe to syndicate posts on the photo-sharing site, Instagram, and map them across the Greater Boston area. While at first this didn’t seem to be a newsworthy tool, I was soon proven wrong. They explained that this was a way for Globe writers to discover trend stories directly from their readers and Boston citizens. Features such as sorting by hashtags, geotags and dates were great and really well developed.

Twitter: Project Cascade
The Globe has been adamant about tracking the syndication of it’s reporters’ tweets. They have come up with a syndication and metrics tracker, Project Cascade, which measures the reach of every tweet posted by the Globe. By using bit.ly to host links to stories, Project Cascade, can see when one Retweet (by a celebrity or influencer) reaches a huge group of untapped readers/followers.

Radio BDC
Boston.com’s own internet radio station, Radio BDC, really seemed to be the future of radio. Streaming online only, Radio BDC plays a variety of genres of music and only has one minute of commercials every hour. Radio DJ, Adam Chapman, explained that this is what keeps their listeners involved and tuned-in. TSL (Time Spent Listening) for most radio stations is typically 20-30 minutes, while BDC averages 50 minutes per listener. Unlike Spotify and Pandora, this is an internet radio station that provides an element of humanity, explained Chapman. Having DJs, song requests and discussions all keep the listener involved.

Overall, the experience was great and it was really amazing to see an older print newspaper making huge steps in multimedia journalism.

Final Project: A profile on Rachele Pojednic

For my final project I will be doing a profile piece on Rachele Pojednic, a Northeastern alum and all-around Boston-fitness guru. Rachele is involved in every aspect of exercise; coxswain for the Northeastern Alumni Rowing Team, spinning instructor at Recycle Studio and has worked as a strength and conditioning coach for Northeastern, Boston University, MIT and the Thayer Academy. Rachele is a committed November Project tribe member, as well as a road biker, runner and a lover of all winter sports.

Photo courtesy of Rachele Pojednic and Strong Process.

So she’s fit, but does she know anything? 1000x yes. Rachele graduated from Northeastern University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Cardiopulmonary and Exercise Science. She holds two Masters Degrees, an M.S. in Biochemical and Molecular Nutrition & Exercise Physiology from Tufts University and an M.Ed in Physical Education and Coaching from Boston University. Rachele is in the process of completing her Biochemical and Molecular Nutrition & Exercise Physiology PhD at Tufts University.

Onto Rachele’s online work… she has started a blog, Strong Process, which focuses on spotlighting endeavors in health and fitness. She posts everything from the importance of rest to the best types of cardio training to the truth behind trend dieting. She is active on her blog’s Twitter handle @strongprocess where she Tweets and Retweets a lot of great information and reputable sources.

Basically, Rachele knows a lot. Her blog is making every reader a little bit smarter, quicker and healthier. You can guarantee that you will never find her unhappily sweating it out on a treadmill in the gym- this girl is always doing something different. I am excited to get started speaking with Rachele about her insights and work in the fitness world.

Ass-Kicking Workout + KickAss Cupcakes

Work hard, play hard. When we got the assignment to go review a dessert restaurant in Boston, I was beyond excited. I chose to review Kickass Cupcakes, a cupcake bakery (and food truck!) based out of Somerville, Mass. Instead of venturing out to the Somerville location, I chose to review their cupcake truck.

The truck rotates throughout the week to different Boston neighborhoods and I visited the truck this past Saturday around 11:15am (cupcakes for breakfast?) at their Clarendon Street parking location, which is open from 11am-2:45pm on Saturdays. If you’re looking for the truck, it is parked right in front of 220 Clarendon Street, between Newbury and Boylston. The fact that the truck is bright red and covered in pictures of cupcakes makes it pretty easy to spot too. Cupcakes range from $3-$6 depending on the type of cupcake, which is a totally fair price and lower than a lot of other shops. To get to this location via MBTA take the Green Line to the Copley Square stop.

I spoke with Lauren MacLean, a fifth year Northeastern Student who was in line behind me. She was picking up a few cupcakes for friends who were visiting her in the city. “Kickass are definitely my favorite brand in Boston,” she said. “My go to is red velvet every time.”

I wouldn’t exactly say that cupcakes are part of a healthy and balanced diet, however Kickass Cupcakes has a lot of really redeeming qualities that made it my first choice for a review.

  1. Not just cupcakes | Gluten free cupcakes for any Paleo dieters, fruit and yogurt and treats for your dog!
  2. Fresh baked and all natural | KAC bakes small batches every morning and uses all natural ingredients. No hydrogenated oils, trans fats, preservatives, artificial flavors or shortening.
  3. Local business | I would much rather stop by the KAC truck and support a start-up style company than go to a bigger chain like Georgetown Cupcakes.

I decided to get my workout in before my cupcake eating, so after an early-morning spin class (with a few extra sets of sprints) I was ready to try them out. I decided to go with two kinds of KAC cupcakes, the Yo Cupcake! and the Cookie Dough Cupcake.

Yo Cupcake!
I decided to go with KAC’s healthiest option, a handmade granola cup filled with fresh fruit and homemade non-fat yogurt… it was awesome. I felt like I was having a snack, not a heavy dessert. The fruit was fresh and sweet, yet the granola was still crisp. I liked that the yogurt was unflavored; it was light, tart and a perfect compliment to the sweetness of the blueberries and raspberries. My only complaint was that this was not an on-the-go cupcake. I had to sit down with a plate and a spoon to really dig into it. The presentation was great until I started eating and it began to fall apart. Overall: amazing, healthy and only $4!

Cookie Dough Cupcake
My “dessert” cupcake was a vanilla cupcake with a cookie dough center, topped with vanilla icing and a chocolate drizzle. Yes, this was amazing. Yes, I ate the entire thing. The cake tasted fresh baked and although it was vanilla, it was still bursting with flavor. The cookie dough on the inside was amazing, a very welcome surprise to a cupcake that looked pretty simple on the outside. My personal preference would have been to have chocolate icing on top, but this was absolutely delicious, and surprisingly pretty easy to eat. I did have to use a fork and knife though. Once again a great cupcake, it did leave me really full, this cupcake is not for the faint of heart. Only, $3 and a fun twist on a traditional cupcake.

Overall Kickass Cupcakes are asskickingly awesome. Go try them out at their Somerville shop or find the truck. Truck locations and times are listed on their website.

View all my photos on Flickr.

Mapping as Journalism

Maps are a huge resource that I would say are underused by journalists when reporting a story. I believe they can be seen as a tool journalists can and should use, but when given enough detail, can be the story themselves.

I know that I conceptualize ideas and concepts best visually, which is where maps come into play in my understanding of a story. Visuals can help eliminate confusion on the end of the reader, especially when  a story is referencing multiple locations or if a reader is unfamiliar with the location the story is based around. Within my beat of fitness, there are a ton of great examples of how maps can be used to tell a story.

One example of a full story developing within a map comes from the 2008 Tour de France map, showcasing the stages of the race. This map was constructed and published by the New York Times and works as its own story. The map advances through the 2,212 miles and 21 stages of the Tour, linking to related articles and photographs.

My next map, also fitness related, comes from Boston.com and was created in a similar style to the Tour de France map. It is completely interactive, mapping the 26 miles along the course of the 2012 Boston Marathon. One of the best features of this map is the zoom option that brings up a scaled in version of the mile marker that shows elevation and the path of the road. There is also a section  that features the expected arrival times of the elite racers at each mile marker. It is one of the most thought out and user-friendly race maps that I have seen, and I really enjoyed using it back in April on the day of the race.

The last map I found that really struck my interest is an interactive, historical map of San Francisco. The creators of the Old SF map, stockpiled dozens of photographs from 1850 – 2000 of different areas of San Francisco. They then plotted the photographs on a map of the city (using Google Maps) and tagged them by date. There is a slider at the top of the map, allowing you to choose the rage of years you would like to view photographs of. While this map does tell a story of the history of San Francisco and how the city has changed through photographs and captions, it does give a complete story. It would be a perfect supplement to a story about the architectural developments or urban transportation changes in the city.

Overall, I think that mapping can be seen as journalism, it all depends on the information a reader is looking for and the volume of information provided by a map. As online journalism grows and non-traditional forms of media are used to tell a story, I believe that mapping will continue to be seen as an extremely valuable tool for journalists and bloggers.

 

 

(Uke)Running For A Cause

I have put together a video documenting Pattie Lin, a Northeastern University student who has found a way to fuse fitness, fun and fundraising. Her project, UkeRunning, is a fundraising effort where she will raise money for different charities by running 5K races while singing and playing the ukulele.

Lin and her team have been fundraising for their first big race, Komen For The Cure Massachusetts, over the past few months. The race took place last weekend, Saturday, October 20 and the UkeRunning team raised over $2000 for the Komen foundation.

Take a look (and listen!) at what Lin and her team have to say about running, singing and everything in between.

Rate Your Burn: Sweaty Reviews & Quick News

For my presentation, I chose to introduce the class to a website that I find to be a great use of citizen journalism. Rate Your Burn (www.rateyourburn.com) is a website devoted to reviewing fitness classes, instructors and studios in the Boston, New York and Los Angles areas. These reviews are collected from a variety of sources; community reviewers as well as Rate Your Burn’s freelance reviewers.

Community Reviews: anyone can post a review of a class on RYB by creating an account. The site’s measure of reliability of these sources is measured and reported as a way of showing readers who to trust. Every reviewer creates a username that he is known as throughout the site. From there, this user can create a post recapping and rating a class, instructor or studio.
All posts have the ability to be like and shared on Facebook, Twitter and email. The more likes, shares and views a post gets, the more points the author of the post is awarded. Authors or users who have a lot of points are well regarded and seen as trusted community sources on the site.

Staff Reporters: Not only are there community reviews posted on RYB, but there are also staff reviews. Staff reviewers are hand-picked fitness experts who will anonymously go out and review classes, instructors, and studios and then report back through posts RYB. These reviews are the most trusted of the site, and are based off of a reporting method.

Other posts: The site’s authors will also publish posts that are not review-based. There have been stories written by RYB reporters on in-depth interviews with fitness experts, serious health issues and features on the best equipment and gear. On these posts there is an open forum of commenting where the authors almost always respond to their readers.

Where the site excels is clearly in interacting with the community. It is a 100% reader engaged site and, I think, a perfect example of community journalism. 

Where the site could use improvement is in posting more journalistic, expert-sourced articles, as opposed to reviews. I would love to see more articles that reference journals and experts on the effects of over-exercising, a healthy diet for active people or the effects of exercise on the brain. While there really isn’t a website or blog that competes with RYB in what they are aiming to do, for my more journalistic stories. One is The New York Times Fitness & Nutrition section. While these stories are less focused on fitness trends, they are extremely informative and are always taking new angles on fitness. I’ve linked to a few examples of multimedia and journalistic stories: exercise and children, H.I.T. video and weight training v. cardio exercise