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Exercise for an hour each day, limit reality TV time and cut alcohol intake in half? Let's not kid ourselves — it's less than two weeks into the new year, and we've already broken those lofty resolutions.

But the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association have come up with one that we can get behind: The Sodium Swamp Challenge, a program for reducing your salty habits for good in just 21 days.

Although it may seem like just a fleeting commitment, the organizations say that participants should be able to notice a difference in the taste of their food and in their overall health by the end of the month.

"To get started with the association's challenge, we ask that consumers get familiar with the food labels and nutrition facts for the foods they eat and track their sodium consumption over the first two days to get an idea of how much they are eating, which I'm sure will be surprising to many people," said Nathalie Sessions-Fye, registered and licensed dietitian and AHA volunteer.

Find more information here, and check out the chart below for fast facts on sodium.

  • When we workout, we like to listen to an eclectic mix, including "All FallsDown" by Kanye West.
  • To motivate yourself, buy a new pair of headphones. Even Michael Phelps wearsthem to practice.
  • Michael Jackson's "Man in the Mirror" made our playlist.

From Kanye West to the King of Pop, pump up your workout with the CultureMapfitness playlist

Health Kick

After a long day of work, we struggle to get on our running shoes and to the gym. We figure it's easier to sit on the couch, watch our favorite TV show and indulge in something fatty. But spring is right around the corner, so it's time to get back into a fitness routine.

Need motivation? Buy yourself a pair of headphones — even Michael Phelps wears them to practice — get the juices flowing and start the music.

To get our hearts pumping, we like a mix of genres, from metal and classic rock to pop and hip-hop. These are some of our favorite workout tunes that get us on our feet and out the door:

CultureMap Workout Playlist 2013 (YouTube Version):

  1. Cobra Starship — "You Make Me Feel"
  2. Scissor Sisters — "I Don't Feel Like Dancin"
  3. Kanye West — "All Falls Down"
  4. Band of Skulls — "I Know What I Am"
  5. Passion Pit — "The Reeling"
  6. Delorean — "Stay Close"
  7. Crystal Castles — "Baptism"
  8. LMFAO — "Sexy and I Know It"
  9. Michael Jackson — "Man in the Mirror"
  10. Greenday — "Nice Guys Finish Last"
  11. Led Zeppelin — "Kashmir"
  12. Ozzy Osbourne — "Crazy Train"
  13. Led Zeppelin — "When the Levee Breaks"
  14. Fun —"Some Nights"
  15. Haley Reinhart — "Free"
  16. Post Physical — "Pictureplane"
  17. Matisyahu — "One Day"
  18. Mastadon — "Colony of Birchmen"
  19. Pelican — "Angel Tears"
  20. Bonobo — "Recurring"

Start the new year on a fit foot: Ballet Austin's GetFit! offers a free day ofclasses

New beginnings

We know that even though a new fitness regimen may be at the top of your resolution list, it can still take a little motivation — or a special incentive — to get moving.

Perhaps you're not ready to invest in a new program, or maybe you want to explore a new fitness venture in a judge-free zone. If that's the case Ballet Austin has the golden ticket for you this weekend.

Ballet Austin's GetFit! 2013 is a free day of fitness and exploration at the Butler Community School, taking place on Sunday, January 13 from 1:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.

During the afternoon, you can try a variety of fitness, dance fitness, conditioning and Pilates classes. Ballet Austin offers classes for free as a chance to forward its community mission of making "health and fitness a priority in 2013."

Classes offered during GetFit! 2013 include Intro to Pilates Machines, Pilates Mat Workout, Body Sculpting, Ballet Fit, Barre Cardio, Zumba, Bollywood Fitness and more. There's also a new Kids Zone, with special activities geared toward the youngest fit generation.

In addition to fitness classes, Ballet Austin's GetFit! event will also include healthcare screenings from Seton, BMI testing and blood pressure checks, as well as healthy snack options from Mel's Meals.

While there's no need to register in advance, Ballet Austin does suggest signing up for the event.

For a full listing of Ballet Austin's community classes, view the online schedule.

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GetFit! 2013 takes place Sunday, January 13 from 1:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Free parking is available at Austin City Hall.

  • Find a new fitness movement at Roamfit.
  • The roamfit site.

Work out for free with Roamfit, Austin's newest fitness app

Get fit

“We live in Austin, one of the most outdoor/nature-oriented cities in the world, yet folks are paying $150-plus a month to do fitness indoors,” says Drew Bridges of what is most accurately described as Austin’s free fitness plight.

To combat the Capital City's indoor fitness identity, Bridges and friend Ajay Mody developed Roamfit, a web-based app whose mission is to make fitness “fun, accessible and transparent.”

“I had just moved to Austin and didn’t know where the best places to workout for free were,” Bridges says. At the same time, Mody, who was injured in a taxi accident, was transitioning from rehabilitation programs to creating a fitness program of his own. The two joined forces on an innovative fitness platform that could meet their varying needs.

“We both put our heads together to create a fitness discovery web application,” Bridges says. Mody and Bridges launched Roamfit in September, a web tool where locals can find fitness options (free and paid), then register for classes and review the experience to benefit others. “What we’ve created is like a hotels.com, but for the fitness industry,” he says.

Roamfit is a one-stop shop for fitness opportunities, where you can filter results by type, location and cost. To use the tool, create a free account at roamfit.com, then start exploring the many fitness options — from sport climbing and paddling to yoga and dance. The site is relatively new and blends user-generated content with merchant data, so results will become more refined as more people start reviewing.

While the central focus of Roamfit is a web hub for fitness, founders Bridges and Mody also host free workouts three times a week that anyone can join.

“We wanted to motivate more people to work out,” says Bridges, “so we created a free workout series that meets on Monday, Wednesday and Friday before work at 6:30 a.m.” The workouts take place at different locations downtown, each offering high intensity interval training that can benefit athletes of any sport.

Each week starts with a Hill/Obstacle Run on Monday, followed by a Sieze the Garage workout (read: run stairs) on Wednesday and closes out with Capitol Circuits on Friday. Roamfit Movement workouts are cost- and signup-free — the only requirement is your commitment to getting up and moving first thing in the morning.

Whether it's helping you discover an empowering new class in town, or providing you with a free chance to start the day with some serious calorie burning, Roamfit might be just your ticket to fitness discovery in 2013.

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For more information on free workouts, visit roamfitmovement.com. To sign up for the Roamfit app at roamfit.com.

  • Nike Training Club offers myriad exercises and workout routines to kick you intoshape this year.
    Photo by Jonathan Rienstra
  • It'll probably take you a while to get to this pose, but Pocket Yoga guides youalong the way with routines that require some real effort.
    Photo by Jonathan Rienstra
  • Fooducate analyzes your food intake, helps you find healthier alternatives andcounts calories to help you lose weight.
    Photo by Jonathan Rienstra
  • Fooducate keeps track of your daily intake and grades each thing you put in yourmouth. No cheating.
    Photo by Jonathan Rienstra

Keep your fitness resolutions with these handy exercise apps

Body innovation

With the new year come new resolutions. Most of them involve things like “getting fit” or “losing weight” or “not eating an embarrassing amount of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups for breakfast.”

However, most of us will not keep our resolutions because we’re not ready to change; we focus on the punishment aspect of our resolutions or we’re too ambitious in our goals. To help, we’ve put together a list of apps that will get anyone on track to a healthier body, one mile/pushup/apple at a time.

We covered RunKeeper in our foodie apps —and for good reason. This is one of the best exercise apps out there, with its in-depth analysis and wide range of activities to measure. It even gives you realistic goals to strive for on a step-by-step basis. Suddenly “losing 25 pounds” isn’t a pie-in-the-sky notion, but something tangible to work toward with a game plan. (Free for iOS, Android)

Not everyone is comfortable in a yoga studio, so Pocket Yoga brings the studio to your place.

Speaking of losing 25 pounds, this writer was able to do just that using Pocket Yoga. Not everyone is comfortable in a yoga studio, so this app brings the studio to your place. Choose from three types of workouts at varying lengths and then enjoy the most strenuous, relaxing, sweaty, peaceful workout out there. ($2.99 for iOS, Android)

PushUps PRO was also mentioned in our foodie apps round-up, and it’s apropos here too. This is the ultimate step-by-step attitude. Doing 100 pushups (the real ones that they do in the military) might sound daunting, but PUP goes day by day to get you from wobbly elbows to steel pipes in 54 levels. It almost doesn’t even seem like work at that point. ($1.99 for iOS, $.99 for Android)

Nike Training Club is designed for women, but any guy that can’t get a workout out of this app is making excuses. NTC sports multiple workout plans for cardio, toning and muscle growth with difficulty levels depending on how much you exercise. It also tracks your progress and offers workout plans from elite athletes like Serena Williams. (Free for iOS, Android)

Some people respond better to competition. Nexercise makes working out a game with friends and family by keeping track of your daily exercise and putting up your score with everyone else’s. The motivation of keeping up with your old college friends or making sure that your little brother isn’t leaving you in his dust might do more to get you off the couch than any amount of self-guilt could. (Free for iOS, Android)

So far, so good, right? Exercising daily leaves you feeling better mentally and physically. But our sedentary lifestyles can overwhelm us sometimes. StandApp breaks the monotony of our desk jobs by reminding us to do a few stretches and move around every now and then. Nothing here gets you in shape by itself, but it gets your muscles moving during the day and reminds you to work out later. (Free for iOS)

Coming full circle on food apps, we have Fooducate. This app helps you keep track of what you eat each day and offers healthier alternatives to the foods you already enjoy. Fooducate also shows you how to get the best out of your meals and demonstrates how all that idle munching can add up with its calorie counter. (Free for iOS, Android)

Remember that getting fit isn’t about some quick fix or temporary routine. A slow and steady approach, along with a realistic attitude, can do wonders, while fixating on the end result may only increase the distance to said result.

The goal isn’t just to lose weight but to keep it off, which means that resolutions don’t have end dates. If you’re doing them right, they will work their way into your daily routine for good.

  • Honest Company co-founder Jessica Alba wanted to provide parents with safe,sustainable and affordable products.
    Photo courtesy of We're A Big Deal
  • Build your own nutrition bar at Elementbars.com.
    Element Bars/Facebook
  • Greenling delivers fresh local produce to your home.
    Photo courtesy of Greenling
  • YumUniverse has free gluten-free, dairy-free and meat-free recipes.
    YumUniverse/Facebook
  • Klutchclub is like the Birchbox of the health world.
    KLUTCHclub/Facebook

5 websites to feed your health kick, from build-your-own energy bars toeco-friendly bath products

A healthy start

The start of a new year often inspires a renewed interest in wellness. And because we also value convenience, we turn to online resources that we can explore from the confines of our cozy home. From eco-friendly home and bath products to gluten-free meal plans, these five websites help us satisfy the the need for a healthier and more sustainable lifestyle.

The Honest Company
Co-founders Jessica Alba and Christopher Gavigan started the Honest Company to provide parents with eco-friendly, affordable and safe home and baby products. Sign up for a Discovery Kit (free plus shipping) to give the goods a trial run, or shop the store for things like biodegradable and plant-based disposable diapers and organic bug spray. The Honest Company manufactures all of its own products and promises the highest health and sustainability standards.

Greenling
Greenling supports local and sustainable farming and provides Texas residents with the highest quality foods, delivered straight to their homes. Here's how it works:

  1. Choose your products online.
  2. Greenling picks up the goods from local producers.
  3. Your box arrives on your doorstep.

Opt for the local box, which includes an assortment of produce, or a recipe kit tailored to diet meal plans and juices. The website also has recipes and information about the "farmer heroes."

YumUniverse
This is more than a website for free recipes focused on delicious meat-free, gluten-free and dairy-free meals. Founder and recipe developer Heather Crosby sells eBooks — including meal plans, a holiday survival guide and a dairy-replacement guide — a three-month meal plan subscription and a lifetime subscription. When you sign up for life, you get access to the YU library of eBooks, and you receive meal plans, members-only discounts and more. Joining Crosby are other food and fitness experts, from trainers to chefs and drink enthusiasts.

KLUTCHclub
Klutchclub is like the Birchbox of the health world. Subscribe for one, three or 12 months and receive a box filled with a variety of health and fitness products. There are different packages for men and women, but if you sign up for the Best of Box, items are gender-neutral. What's inside? Fitness DVDs, health bars, body butter, acai energy chews, blueberry juice and more.

Element Bars
On this website, you can build your own nutrition bar or granola. Select the core (chewy, crispy, oaty, datey, fruit and nut), then add fruit, nuts, sweets and boosts. As you pick the additions — from whey protein to apricots and almonds — the nutrition facts get tallied. For the cereal, choose from regular granola or gluten-free granola and add fruit, nuts and sweets. Once you customize your bar, create a name, order a box of 12 and wait for the goodness to arrive.

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Austin-based 3D printing company tapped by NASA to build on the moon

To infinity and beyond

The Austin-based builder of 3D-printed homes, ICON, is making one small step for man and one giant leap for mankind by signing a $57 million contract with NASA to build on the moon.

According to a release from ICON, the company will soon venture into a new frontier of space dimensions. The contract, announced on November 29, was awarded to the company under NASA's Phase III Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. This program allows ICON to use the $57 million award to build their Olympus system, which adds to previous construction done by both NASA and the Department of Defense for exploration of the moon and beyond.

"ICON’s Olympus system is intended to be a multi-purpose construction system primarily using local lunar and Martian resources as building materials to further the efforts of NASA as well as commercial organizations to establish a sustained lunar presence," the release stated.

The project will work in conjunction with NASA's Artemis program, which launched its first rocket in 50 years on November 15. ICON will work with the program to:

  • Use lunar regolith samples brought back from Apollo missions, in addition to other regolith simulants, to see their mechanical behavior in lunar gravity.
  • Bring advanced hardware and software into space through a lunar gravity simulation flight.
  • Create results to inform future lunar construction approaches for the space community.
  • Establish critical infrastructure necessary for a sustainable lunar economy and habitation.

“The final deliverable of this contract will be humanity’s first construction on another world, and that is going to be a pretty special achievement," said Jason Ballard, ICON co-founder and CEO.

"It's a construction system we call Olympus system that will allow us to use the local materials of the moon to build all the elements of infrastructure necessary for a lunar outpost and ultimately a moon base ... launch and landing pads, roadways, habitats, you name it, all the things on the moon," said Ballard.

He added that they hope to start building on the moon by 2026, starting with a launch and landing pad.

In addition to the grant, ICON was awarded a subcontract in 2021 to support NASA's Space Technology Mission Directorate to create the world's first and only simulated 3D-printed Mars surface habitat. Called Mars Dune Alpha, it is located at NASA's Johnson Space Center and is assisting in long-duration science missions.

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Read the full story and watch the video at KVUE.com.

Austin Pets Alive and Austin Animal Center launch $31 pet adoptions for the holidays

New home for the holidays

Two Austin organizations are looking to get local pets into their "furever" homes this holiday season. In a special December promotion, Austin Pets Alive! (APA) and Austin Animal Center are working to get as many animals out of the shelter as possible, by making all adoption fees a flat $31.

The promotion runs December 1-31. According to a release, APA's director of lifesaving operations, Stephanie Bilbro, sees this as a great opportunity to clear out the shelters and make a great impact heading into 2023.

“The holidays are a great time for the Austin community to come together and add to their families. We have so many precious kittens, puppies, cats, and dogs just waiting for their turn to find a family,” said Bilbro. “We hope this is a chance for any family who’s been looking to add a pet to theirs to do so right in the middle of the holiday season. We know Austin is in the upper echelon when it comes to animal welfare. We hope this promo sets us and AAC up for a successful end to 2022 and a fast start going into 2023.”

Both shelters are also seeking fosters and volunteers throughout the holiday season, for Austinites looking to help the shelters without making a long-term commitment.

APA has two locations, one at 1156 W. Cesar Chavez St., and one in Tarrytown (3118 Windsor Rd.). Both locations operate 12-6 pm daily, except Christmas Eve (12-4 pm), Christmas Day (closed), and New Year’s Eve (12-4 pm). The Austin Animal Center is located at 7201 Levander Loop and is open every day from 11 am-7 pm for adoptions. For holiday hours, AAC will be closing at 5 pm on December 23 and will be closed December 24-26.

'Famous' rooftop igloos return to Austin hot spot for the coolest experience this winter

Stay Cool

There aren’t so many winter wonderlands in Austin during the holiday season, but things get colder at higher elevations. The Hotel Van Zandt fourth-floor rooftop may not be high enough to change the weather, but visitors throughout December are invited to hang out in its self-proclaimed "famous" all-weather igloos, snacking on bites from inside and themed cocktails after the sun goes down.

Each private, six-seat igloo at the “South Pole” contains a Christmas tree, board and card games, festive records, and other cozy holiday decorations. It’s as private as Austin dining gets without completely breaking the bank, but the poolside mini-village of transparent igloos creates a warm feeling of togetherness. And in case it actually does get cold (a Christmas miracle!), the vinyl globes are heated.

It's not just a fun gimmick — as cute as the igloos are, Geraldine's is a great foodie destination. Visitors can expect (strong) drinks like the “Dandy Andes,” a minty chocolate mix of Grey Goose vodka, crème de cacao, crème de menthe, and matcha tea. “Santa on a Beach” combines tropical flavors with cinnamon, and other drinks include unusual ingredients like Chartreuse whipped cream, pistachio, and chocolate mole bitters.

Geraldine’s menu focuses on classic Southern cuisine without getting weighed down by tradition; that means a roster of semi-adventurous gourmet comfort foods, like mole birria short ribs, smoked carrots, and salty Brussels sprouts with serranos and mint. Shareables are a good idea, since the igloos are intimate (read: not especially convenient unless you like balancing a dinner plate on the couch).

Two rounds of two-hour seating will be available every night, and reservations will go very fast. As of December 5, there are only a few dates left. Reservations ($100 upfront) entail a $200 minimum on food and beverage, plus a 20 percent service charge. Book on Eventbrite.