Happy New You

Look, feel and be your best with a holistic approach to health and well-being.
Michael Zuehl; Saint Paul Athletic Club

January in Minnesota is tough. The new year and its attendant resolution-making (and -breaking) increase our focus on getting healthy, starting good habits and dropping old ones, while our emotional reserves are already depleted from holiday stress and overindulgence, not to mention the cold, the slush and the lack of sunlight.

Thankfully, there are several local options for kick-starting your wellness regimen that are all about balance and rejuvenation, helping you look and feel your best, inside and out. Combining the best of modern science, ancient

medicine and timeless wisdom, our picks will leave you radiant and ready for the new year ahead, body and soul.


Saint Paul Athletic Club

At the Saint Paul Athletic Club (SPAC), the venerated fitness institution and social club where the chandelier-filled cardio room makes working out feel like a luxury, going to the gym isn’t just about physical health.

“Our focus is on being a downtown sanctuary,” says fitness director Michael Zuehl, noting that SPAC offers not only yoga classes and massage services but also social opportunities and a full-service bar.

The newest addition to the club’s state-of-the-art fitness facility is Fusion by SPAC. This metabolic conditioning program, based on the latest exercise science, combines functional movements, strength training and cardio in a workout designed to build muscle and increase range of movement while burning fat, resulting in a leaner and healthier you.

“Essentially what you’re doing is trying to trick your body into becoming more efficient, gaining muscle and losing fat,” says Zuehl, who created the program after he was certified in CrossFit. “I take the methodology behind that and apply it to everyday people. Our focus is not on getting fit for competition, but the idea that anybody and everybody can get fitter than they currently are.”

After a soft rollout last summer, the program publicly launches January 1. Classes are held in the club’s recently renovated seventh-floor functional fitness area and typically last 30 to 45 minutes. Classes include a mix of strength-training exercises using weights, cardio exercises like rowing and stair-climbing, gymnastics and body weight exercises like pushups and squats done in short, intense bursts.

The program is based on the principle of force: moving more mass over a greater distance in a shorter time generates more force, training your body to adapt by becoming more efficient. Because functional fitness is based on movements the body was designed to do, the positions feel more natural and use more muscle groups per movement than the stiff, fixed positions of traditional workout equipment.

“The challenge is retraining our thinking,” Zuehl says. “We’re told so often to do three days of cardio and two of strength, when in reality we can combine the two and, as long as you’re doing the proper form and doing the entire motion, get better results and it’s better for you.”

The program is suitable for all fitness levels and is tailored to the needs of each individual. “It’s like personal training in a group format,” says Zuehl, noting that his current classes include super-fit 23-year-olds and older professionals who have never worked out regularly before. “The class format helps because when you see people working at their hardest, it may be different than yours but it forces you to step your game up.”

In addition to recently added introductory classes, every Saturday class is open to family and friends invited by Fusion members, to tie in a social component like a post- workout Saturday brunch at a neighboring restaurant.

“Our focus is on making it easy for people to come,” says Zuehl. “When you force your body to do something a little outside of your comfort zone, that’s where changes are made.”

Classes are 6 a.m., noon and 6 or 6:30 p.m. Monday–Thursday, 6 a.m. and noon Friday, and 9 a.m. Saturday. See website for information about membership and costs.


Healing InSight

healing insight

If looking as good as you feel is your goal, head to Healing InSight on Grand Avenue, where practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine treat 21st-century health and wellness concerns. Owner Senia Mae Tuominen, a licensed acupuncturist and certified herbalist, creates personalized treatments that combine food therapy, herbs and acupuncture to address client problems ranging from anxiety to chronic pain and gastrointestinal problems.

Tuominen is also one of the few local acupuncturists certified in Mei Zen cosmetic acupuncture, an increasingly popular treatment that targets signs of aging like wrinkles, redness, under-eye bags, fine lines and sagging skin to create a natural facelift without harsh chemicals, fillers or surgery.

“This is the only facial cosmetic treatment that also works internally with the body,” says Tuominen. “We work directly on the skin, but we also get to the root cause of what’s happening underneath it.”

A typical treatment regimen consists of twice-weekly acupuncture sessions over the course of five weeks, and the results can last up to three to five years with monthly maintenance. During a session, needles are strategically placed at specific points on the face to stimulate collagen and elastin production, trigger better blood flow and balance oil production.

Tuominen notes that common facial treatments like microneedling only penetrate the first millimeter of the dermas, while acupuncture needles go in 4 millimeters to penetrate the deepest layers of the skin. The result? The skin is better able to repair itself, generating a brighter complexion, filling in fine lines, decreasing inflammation and tightening up sagging skin.

Kelli Tatum, a longtime client of Tuominen’s who opted for cosmetic acupuncture two years ago to address her dark under-eye circles, calls the treatment a “game changer for me.”

“I was 53 and I’d always looked young for my age, but I was starting to look my age and didn’t like it,” Tatum recalls. She shied away from anything invasive, but she loved the idea of a natural alternative. “I’m so pleased with the result. Things happened that I didn’t anticipate. I got rosacea later in life, and with this treatment it went away, as a side effect. Fine lines filled in, my face looks dewy; I can’t believe the difference,” she says.

Both Tatum and Tuominen are quick to reassure the needle-phobic that the treatment isn’t painful, likening the sensation of the needles to being gently poked with a pencil or a stiff-bristled hairbrush. Most patients feel a wave of warmth and relaxation and are left with a firming sensation in their skin that often accompanies a good facial.

“Our goal is for you to fall asleep,” says Tuominen, noting that many points on the face help to calm the brain. “You are so relaxed that you take the best nap you’ll ever have.”

Healing InSight offers complimentary 20-minute in-person consultations, allowing the practitioners the chance to evaluate your skin health and make recommendations based on your needs while giving potential clients a good sense of the results they can expect. “We all want to look younger, but we also want to feel younger, to have the energy to do great work in the world, travel, have great relationships,” says Tuominen. “Even if skin starts to wrinkle, if you feel youthful and can lead the life you want to lead, it matters less. That is what it means to feel young.”


Clouds in Water Zen Center

water zen center

“Spirituality connects the mind and body,” says Flying Fish Barbara Murphy, who leads the youth practice at Clouds in Water Zen Center. Rooted in Soto Zen Buddhism, the center offers meditation opportunities for beginners and experienced practitioners of all ages.

Meditation has been shown to have many benefits, but at its core the tradition is about “learning how to separate the fabricated thoughts in our minds from what is actually present,” says Murphy. “You find that center of peace and ease. At first you find it for an hour a day a couple of days a week, but with commitment you make that sense of peace and ease your center, not a place you visit.”

Sitting in silence for the first time, many students experience what Murphy calls “monkey mind,” in which your mind dashes from thought to thought, until you “let all that settle down and drop away. It’s easy to say, hard to do,” she says. Introductory classes for adults are offered on the second and fourth Sunday of each month. From 9:30–10:30 a.m., a discussion of Zen principles and their application to everyday life are provided in a Dharma talk by priests, followed by tea and an informal social time.

“Our tradition stresses the student/teacher relationship,” she says, and at Clouds in Water, teachers provide ongoing guidance and mentorship to less-experienced meditators. Classes are also offered for children in elementary, middle and high school, which provide a foundation in the compassion and reflection at the heart of the Zen tradition.

“If kids have some meditation experience early in life, they get connected to their body and what is happening internally,” says Murphy. “They develop a capacity to pause, to make choices instead of just reacting. When they take a test [and] they notice that their stomach is clenched, they can take a breath and relax.”

Murphy stresses that mediation is an ongoing process of discovery and alignment with your values. As an example, she explains how, when she was ordained, she was given the name “Flying Fish,” which comes from a parable about fish leaping out of the water to point the way to the Dragon Gate, where one must face fear to achieve liberation.

“It comes to do with something your teacher feels is both your gift and your blind spot. Once you get a name, you start to see how that quality operates in your life.”