The Eyes Have It — New Frames, New Me

Trying on glassesAs a kid, I was obsessed with glasses. In fact, for a brief period in the 80s, I went as far as wearing fake glasses to school. When a routine eye test showed I had a bona fide vision problem, I was thrilled. And, lucky for me, I’ve felt the same way ever since.
It’s no secret that the right frames can make an unforgettable statement when it comes to personal style. Likewise, the wrong pair can take you from Superman to Clark Kent…so finding the right look is critical.

Good vision makes good sense (for your health and your style)
To me, glasses are the ultimate fashion accessory, but I do understand that there are health benefits to taking care of your eyes and seeing things from a 20/20 perspective. As an Independence Blue Cross associate, I have access to the Davis Vision provider network, which includes Visionworks.* Visionworks retail centers are located all over the Philadelphia and surrounding areas…a quick search turned up a location less than a mile from my house.

After an eye exam — including the weird machine that blows air puffs in your eye — I had a new eyeglasses prescription and was ready to shop.

Variety is the spice of life
Each Visionworks location has a whole bunch of frames choose from, more than I could ever try on in one sitting (though I made a pretty good attempt). What it really came down to is how I see myself, and how I want others to see me. Am I a smart, snarky librarian? A hip, bohemian beat poet? I’d like to think the answer to both is yes! And, by changing my frames up, I can create two completely different looks!

At the end of the day, I did end up going home with two new pairs of glasses. My vision benefit through Independence Blue Cross paid for the exam and included an allowance for frames and lenses.

You can take advantage of a special $30 off coupon from Independence Blue Cross for Save Your Vision Month this March.

*An affiliate of Independence Blue Cross has a financial interest in Visionworks

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Jennifer

As the content manager at IBX, I have the good luck to work with a talented team of writers developing materials that promote health and wellness in our community. When I’m not puzzling over sticky grammar questions or running to catch my train, I spend my time hiking, shopping, and watching movies. Recently, I surprised myself — and everyone I know — by completing the Blue Cross Broad Street Run.

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Coach Marcy’s 10 tips for conquering the Blue Cross Broad Street Run

Marcy GialdoTen miles. One street. It’s time to start training! Even if it’s not your first time running the Blue Cross Broad Street Run, the thought of running ten miles can be daunting. Fear not — we have just what you need to get started and stay motivated in the weeks leading up to the big race.

Coach Marcy Gialdo is a triathlon and endurance sport coach with experience in training runners of all skill levels. She is currently training the winner of our “Fearless Is…” sweepstakes to attain her personal best in the BCBSR. And Coach Marcy has tips that can help you too!

  1. Set a schedule.
    Workouts are more likely to happen when you set and establish a routine. It also takes the guesswork out of figuring out when you will get to run.
  2. Enroll friends and family.
    Tell people you’re training for the Blue Cross Broad Street Run and you’ll find support and accountability. You also might inspire someone to run with you — even if it’s just for part of your training.
  3. Follow the 10% rule.
    Only increase your mileage by 10% each week to ensure that you don’t build up too fast. Too much, too soon, or too fast can be a recipe for injury.
  4. Take recovery time.
    Take one week a month to reduce your running and allow your body to recover from all your hard work. Keep your schedule going, but reduce your distances and focus on rest and recovery before getting back at it the next week.
  5. Mix up your run.
    Use mid-week runs for shorter distances and to practice speed or pacing, and reserve weekends for practicing longer distances. When you do your long run each week, don’t worry about pace — your focus is running longer, not faster.
  6. Buy a new pair of sneakers at a running store.
    Even if you are a seasoned runner, it’s good to have someone watch you stand, walk, and run, to give you the best sense of what kind of running shoes would be right for you. Trust me — the right pair of shoes makes all the difference!
  7. Run with a group.
    The thought of joining an established running group may be intimidating, particularly if you are new to running. You might be surprised by how welcoming the group is and how many people of all different paces there are. There are many groups in the area so you can try different ones until you find the right fit for you.
  8. Buy a foam roller and use it to help loosen up tight muscles regularly.
    It might be the best investment (behind a good pair of shoes) you can make!
  9. Practice safety.
    Run on well-lit roads and paths, and wear reflective gear if it’s low light. Running with a friend or a group is not only fun but also a safer way to run.
  10. Focus on May!
    The excitement of getting in through the lottery will fade over time and race day won’t be here for a few months. Just remember your goal for the race and keep it in mind over the weeks ahead. Nothing can keep you motivated to get out there and train like envisioning yourself at the Navy Yard having completed Broad Street 2015!
  11. Interested in more tips to boost your training? Check out Coach Marcy’s blog.

    Be sure to speak with your doctor before beginning a new exercise program.

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    IBX Insights Team

    Health care delivery is in the midst of reform and rejuvenation — an exciting prospect, but one that can also cause confusion and questions. With IBX Insights we want to be your first line of member-focused information, helping you understand the new health care model, how it affects your quality and cost of care, and the opportunities available through IBX to improve your health. Join the conversation with IBX associates who work every day to make health care more accessible and transparent for you.

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We have some bad news. Are you sitting down?

Sitting

You might want to stand up.

By now, we’ve all heard the news that sitting for long periods of time is bad for you. Maybe you’ve upped your gym time as a result. However, although exercise is beneficial in countless other ways, a recent study shows that it may not be enough to counteract the up to 8 hours a day, on average, that we Americans spend on our backsides.

As reported in Time magazine, “Heavy sitters showed a 90% higher risk of developing diabetes than those who sat less, an 18% higher chance of dying of heart disease or cancer, and 24% greater odds of dying from any cause. These rates were the average among people who both exercised regularly and those who did not.

So what can we do?

The good news is that anything helps. Even fidgeting. The important thing is to get up and move at least twice an hour. The website Lifehacker calls them “micro breaks.”

Here are some ideas:

  • If you’re watching TV, get up and walk (though not to the kitchen) during commercials and between shows.
  • Watching a movie at home? Set the timer on your phone to go off every 30 minutes.
  • Spend a lot of time in your car? Leave a little earlier and take a pit stop to stretch your legs. It might add a little more time to your journey, but it’s worth it in the long run. You might even feel more energized once you get to your destination.

Have laptop, will travel

Many of us do the bulk of our sitting at work, but that doesn’t have to be a problem. Just find the strategies that work for you. For instance, I bring a water bottle to work and only fill it a few ounces at a time, to ensure that I get up to refill it more often. If you have a laptop, take it to a place where you can work while standing up. You can also try walking meetings.

The ultimate work-hack might the standing desk. Some employers will supply one if you ask. Or if you’re handy, you can try these tips for making one yourself. Here at Independence Blue Cross, we’re actually ahead of the trend, with 19 “walking workstations” at six of our offices. Associates are encouraged to hop on one of these treadmill desks whenever they need to recharge. In addition to their physical benefits, walking workstations have been shown to boost creativity and productivity–talk about work/life balance.

How do you take your micro breaks?

The inclusion of the above links does not imply endorsement.

Filing Your 2014 Taxes: What You Need to Know

TaxesUnder the Affordable Care Act (ACA), 2014 was the first year that most Americans were required to have health insurance. Your health insurance status will have to be reported when you file your 2014 federal income taxes. If you had an exemption, you will need to return a Form 8965 when you file your taxes. If you were insured in 2014, read on.

If you had health insurance in 2014, find out if it satisfies ACA requirements.

First, find out whether your health insurance qualifies as minimum essential coverage. This means that your health insurance meets government standards. If it doesn’t, you may have to pay a fee with your taxes.

If you purchased your 2014 health plan from Independence Blue Cross or through the Health Insurance Marketplace, your plan meets minimum essential coverage requirements. If you have a plan through an employer group, ask your benefits administrator or check this chart.

If your health insurance qualifies, determine the source.

If you received health insurance through your employer or if you purchased health insurance directly from a health insurance company: You will indicate this on your tax return by checking a box on your Form 1040, 1040A or 1040EZ. It will look something like this:

Source: http://www.irs.gov/

Source: http://www.irs.gov/

61 Health care: individual responsibility (see instructions) Full-year coverage.

If you purchased health insurance through the Health Insurance Marketplace: You will have to check the box on your Forms 1040, 1040A or 1040EZ shown above. In addition, you will receive Form 1095-A, the Health Insurance Marketplace Statement. This form should have been sent to you by mail from the Marketplace by the end of February 2015. It will list the following information, which you will use to fill out Form 8962 for your 2014 taxes:

  • The dates of your 2014 health insurance plan
  • The total amount of the monthly premiums for your plan
  • The amount of advance payments of the premium tax credit that may have been paid on your behalf

Remember, you will not be able to file your 2014 taxes until you receive Form 1095-A. If you purchased health insurance from the Marketplace and you have not received this form, you can access an electronic copy by logging into your online Marketplace account. You should also contact the Marketplace if you believe that the information on this form is incorrect.

If your plan doesn’t qualify, or if you didn’t have health insurance, you may have to pay a fee.

If you didn’t enroll in a health insurance plan, or if your plan does not meet the requirements mentioned above, you may have to pay a tax penalty when you file your tax return.

Didn’t know about the penalty? You may have another chance.
If you were not aware of this tax penalty, and if you are still not enrolled in a health insurance plan for 2015, you may have a second chance to enroll in a plan between March 15 and April 30. During this special enrollment period, you may be able to get affordable health insurance and avoid paying a tax penalty next year. Visit healthcare.gov to see if you qualify.

Questions?

Looking for more detailed information? Have a look at this online publication from the IRS: Health Care Law: What’s New for Individuals & Families.

Independence Blue Cross does not provide legal and/or tax advice on tax preparation, so if you have any questions about how the ACA affects your 2014 tax return, please contact the IRS or a tax advisor.

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IBX Insights Team

Health care delivery is in the midst of reform and rejuvenation — an exciting prospect, but one that can also cause confusion and questions. With IBX Insights we want to be your first line of member-focused information, helping you understand the new health care model, how it affects your quality and cost of care, and the opportunities available through IBX to improve your health. Join the conversation with IBX associates who work every day to make health care more accessible and transparent for you.

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On race day, runners showcase their dedication to healthy living

No matter your age or fitness level, the Blue Cross Broad Street Run (BCBSR) is truly a race for everyone. Every year, new runners come out for the largest ten-mile race in the country — proving that there is no set “type” for the BCBSR runner. The one thing they all have in common is their dedication to living a healthier lifestyle. And with more than 40,000 runners who participate in the BCBSR ever year, there’s no denying that Philadelphia truly is a city that is dedicated to healthy living.

When I asked Independence Blue Cross (IBX) associates to share why they run, their stories were as diverse as the runners themselves. So far we’ve featured Dennis and Jenny. For the final post in our series, meet Jon — who made this race a family affair — running the BCBSR with his daughters.

Jon and his daughter Molly after the BCBSR a few years ago

Jon and his daughter Molly after the BCBSR a few years ago

Follow the BCBSR on Facebook or Twitter for more IBX runner profiles to get you motivated in the months leading up to the race.

Jon R.

Is this your first time running or are you a BCBSR veteran?
This will be my 22nd BCBSR (out of the last 23 years). I did not run one year many years ago when my wife ran one time and I was with my girls at the finish line for the race.

Have you started training yet? If so, what does your training consist of?
Yes, I just ran the Philadelphia Marathon at the end of November.

How do you stay motivated through the winter months?
I just continue to try and stay in good physical shape, which is plenty of motivation for me, especially as I get older and enter the latter part of my running career.

Do you have any goals for this year’s BCBSR?
Always to finish, have fun, feel good, and have a respectable time.

What is your favorite part about running this race?
The overall route of the race, how it makes the city shine on a Sunday morning in May, and how the race exhibits, on a grand scale, that there are a lot of individuals in the Philadelphia region that care about their health!

Do you have any advice for first-time runners?
Have fun, enjoy the day, and feel really good about the accomplishment of running a 10 mile race!

______________________________________________________________________________
This year’s BCBSR takes place on Sunday, May 3, 2015.

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Sarah B.

As a copywriter at IBX, I frequently write about health and wellness topics. I am passionate about reading, writing, and travel. Because I’ve never met a dessert I didn’t like, I am always trying to stay active — whether that’s running, spinning, hiking, yoga, Pilates, or Barre. I also try to balance out dessert with fresh, in-season veggies from my local farmer’s market, and I love trying out new recipes.

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Finding inspiration in the crowds of the Blue Cross Broad Street Run

If you made it into this year’s Blue Cross Broad Street Run (BCBSR), congrats! Now the fun begins — training! Like many of you, Independence Blue Cross (IBX) associates are starting to train for this year’s BCBSR. I recently asked them to share their stories of how they train in the winter, what keeps them motivated, and why they come back to this particular run year after year. And although each runner has a different approach and reason for running, their sentiment remains the same — they love the BCBSR!

Last time we featured our first runner, Dennis. This week, our spotlight is on Jenny — a veteran runner who feeds off the energy of the crowds.

Follow the BCBSR on Facebook or Twitter for more IBX runner profiles to get you motivated in the months leading up to the race.

Jenny

Jenny after a recent race

Jenny P.

Is this your first time running or are you a BCBSR veteran?
I think this will be my 6th time. Last year, I rode the bus to the parking lot after the run with an older gentleman who has completed every single one!

Have you started training yet? If so, what does your training consist of?
Not yet. But, I try to run 2 days during the week with a longer run of 6 miles or more on the weekend.

How do you stay motivated through the winter months?
I remind myself how hard it is to start up again after a long pause. And with access to free treadmills on the 9th floor of our building, what is the excuse not to run?

Do you have any goals for this year’s BCBSR?
To finish, have fun, and not hurt myself.

What is your favorite part about running this race?
I love that it runs through the heart of Philadelphia and so many people come out to cheer all along the course. I’ve high-fived Mayor Nutter and Ed Rendell heading through Center City before. You feel like a rock star for that moment. Oh, and I love hearing the Rocky theme blaring at FDR park — a much needed pick-me-up before the end.

Do you have any advice for first-time runners?
Just be patient. It may take a mile or two before the field thins out and you don’t feel so crowded. And have fun!

_____________________________________________________________________________________
This year’s BCBSR takes place on Sunday, May 3, 2015.

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Sarah B.

As a copywriter at IBX, I frequently write about health and wellness topics. I am passionate about reading, writing, and travel. Because I’ve never met a dessert I didn’t like, I am always trying to stay active — whether that’s running, spinning, hiking, yoga, Pilates, or Barre. I also try to balance out dessert with fresh, in-season veggies from my local farmer’s market, and I love trying out new recipes.

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Keep your ticker in tip-top shape

Berry HeartConsider these odds: If you play the Powerball lottery, your chances of winning the grand prize are about 1 in 175 million. But whether you’re a woman or a man, your chances of dying from heart disease are 1 in 4.* It’s a sobering thought, especially if, like me, you have a family history of heart attack and stroke.

The good news – and there is good news – is that there are simple things you can do to improve your odds when it comes to the game of life. Talking to your doctor about your heart health is an important first step, and the American Heart Association is just one trusted resource for tips to help you start the conversation. Here are some other ways you can be heart smart:

1. Calculate (and conquer) your risks.
Do you have high blood pressure? Do you have high cholesterol? Do you smoke? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you’re at increased risk for developing heart disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control, about half of all Americans have at least one of these three risk factors. Other risk factors include family history, diabetes, and poor diet. Use this Heart Disease Risk Calculator to get a quick assessment of your risks with easy-to-follow steps for reducing them.

2. Give your heart the nourishment it needs.
Sadly, your heart can’t live on love (or potato chips) alone. To keep it pumping properly, the American Heart Association recommends eating a balanced diet low in salt, sugar, and saturated fats, and high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Take this list of 10 heart-healthy foods to the grocery store to help you stock up on healthy staples, like berries and quinoa (say it with me: keen-wah). Then use these basics to whip up delicious, heart-healthy meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

3. Brush your teeth (Yes, really.)
As this infographic illustrates, smoking, drinking too much alcohol, and not being physically active can all contribute to heart disease. But do you know that poor oral hygiene may also be linked? Scientists believe that bacteria that cause gum disease may travel through our bloodstream and cause blockages in our arteries, which can lead to a heart attack. Be sure to brush and floss regularly to stop bacteria in their tracks.

It’s always easier to make lifestyle changes stick if you make one small change at a time. Since I know my family history puts me at risk for developing heart disease, I’ve been cutting out sugary drinks, like soda and bottled ice tea, and drinking more water.

What’s one small thing you’re doing to help keep your ticker in tip-top shape?

Save the Date: Walking is one of the best ways to improve your heart health. Plan to join IBX as we encourage everyone to get up and get moving for National Walk @ Lunch Day on Wednesday, April 29, 2015. Taking a bike ride is also a great way to get your heart pumping. IBX is the proud sponsor of Indego, Philly’s new bike share system, which launches this spring.

*Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Heart Disease Fact Sheet

This material is intended for reference and information only and should not be used in place of advice from a doctor or a qualified healthcare professional.

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IBX Insights Team

Health care delivery is in the midst of reform and rejuvenation — an exciting prospect, but one that can also cause confusion and questions. With IBX Insights we want to be your first line of member-focused information, helping you understand the new health care model, how it affects your quality and cost of care, and the opportunities available through IBX to improve your health. Join the conversation with IBX associates who work every day to make health care more accessible and transparent for you.

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Can I get health insurance during the “special enrollment period?”

MarriedIf you missed this year’s open enrollment deadline, you may still be able to get health insurance for 2015 if you have a baby, get married, lose your coverage, or experience another qualifying life event.

You may be eligible if you:

  • Lose your coverage. If you had coverage through your employer and lost your job or had a plan that’s being discontinued because it doesn’t comply with the Affordable Care Act, you may be eligible. Also, if you have coverage through your spouse’s plan and you get divorced, or your spouse passes away, you would also be eligible for a special enrollment period. If you lose your coverage, call us to see if you qualify for a special enrollment period.
  • Have or adopt a baby. If you have or adopt a baby, you qualify for a special enrollment period and can apply for coverage for you and your family.*
  • Move to a new coverage area. If you recently moved, say, from California to Pennsylvania, you would qualify for a special enrollment period and could enroll in a new individual or family plan in Pennsylvania.
  • Get married. If you get married, you and your spouse qualify for a special enrollment period and can apply for individual or family health coverage.*

*Keep in mind that if you already have an Independence Blue Cross (Independence) health plan, and have a baby or get married, you can add your baby or spouse to your current Independence health plan under our normal policy change process.

There may be other unique situations where you can qualify for a special enrollment period. If you believe you qualify, but do not see your life event listed above, please call us at 1-888-475-6206.

Enrollment time frame is 60 days
If you experience one of the life events listed above, you have 60 days from your event date to apply for a new health plan. In some scenarios, you can submit your application early to prevent a gap in coverage. If you experience a loss of coverage, you have the option of applying up to 60 days prior to your loss of coverage. If you move into a new coverage area, you can apply 30 days prior to your move.

If you do not qualify for a special enrollment period, your next opportunity to apply for coverage is the 2016 annual open enrollment period, which opens on October 1, 2015, for coverage beginning January 1, 2016.

Learn more about the Special Enrollment Period.

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IBX Insights Team

Health care delivery is in the midst of reform and rejuvenation — an exciting prospect, but one that can also cause confusion and questions. With IBX Insights we want to be your first line of member-focused information, helping you understand the new health care model, how it affects your quality and cost of care, and the opportunities available through IBX to improve your health. Join the conversation with IBX associates who work every day to make health care more accessible and transparent for you.

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Gearing up for the Blue Cross Broad Street Run

Dennis after completing the 2013 Philadelphia Marathon

Dennis after completing the 2013 Philadelphia Marathon

I was curious to find out how some of my fellow Independence Blue Cross (IBX) associates are preparing for this year’s Blue Cross Broad Street Run (BCBSR), so I asked them to share their stories. Runners at IBX are enthusiastic, passionate, and welcoming, and are always eager to share their love of running. Plus, they just seem to love the BCBSR!

Follow the BCBSR on Facebook or Twitter for more IBX runner profiles to get you motivated in the months leading up to the race.

First up is Dennis, a late-comer to the running scene (he took it up at 51).

Dennis M.

Is this your first time running or are you a BCBSR veteran?
This will be my 7th BCBSR.

Have you started training yet? If so, what does your training consist of?
I never stopped running but will be kicking into higher gear in February. My routine is 2 treadmill runs during the week, a 5K, and a 5 mile. When training for a run like BCBSR, I will do an outside Sunday morning run, to build up endurance and miles. I will start the outside runs in February. I have a couple runs before BCBSR, so I am training for those as well.

How do you stay motivated through the winter months?
I go to the Independence Blue Cross Fitness Center. I run on the treadmill, use the elliptical trainer, do ab work, and various weight exercises.

Do you have any goals for this year’s BCBSR?
No. At my age, I don’t expect to get faster, so as long as I finish in the 1:30s, I am happy.

What is your favorite part about running this race?
The BCBSR is just a fun run. The crowds are great and it is very well organized. Running down Broad Street is great — very scenic, very flat. For me, it is also nostalgic. The start is near where I grew up and the run brings me through the neighborhood where both sets of my Irish immigrant grandparents settled when they came over from Ireland in the early 1900s. I dedicate all of my BCBSRs to my grandparents. The BCBSR is why I started running to begin with. I was never a runner, not even as a kid, so my running experience began at 51 years old. I was starting from scratch and had to first get my breathing technique down, then work on building endurance and distances. I ran my first BCBSR in 2009, and I’ve since run a marathon. The BCBSR was where it all began and it is still my favorite of all the runs.

Do you have any advice for first-time runners?
Do the necessary training that includes some outside runs. Increase your carb intake in the couple days leading up to the run. Make sure you eat something before the run, such as a bagel. Hydrate before, during, and after the run. An energy gel or energy beans during the run will help keep you from “hitting the wall”. Lastly, during the run, feed off of the energy of the crowds and just enjoy the experience of running down Broad Street.

_____________________________________________________________________________________
This year’s BCBSR takes place on Sunday, May 3, 2015.

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Sarah B.

As a copywriter at IBX, I frequently write about health and wellness topics. I am passionate about reading, writing, and travel. Because I’ve never met a dessert I didn’t like, I am always trying to stay active — whether that’s running, spinning, hiking, yoga, Pilates, or Barre. I also try to balance out dessert with fresh, in-season veggies from my local farmer’s market, and I love trying out new recipes.

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Top three ways to fake an island getaway this winter

Rock climbingThat yoga retreat in Costa Rica never seems to work out, does it? Instead, take your tropical vacation in smaller doses, right here in Philly. Here are our top three mini-getaways, no bug spray, plane ticket, or sunblock required.

1. Enjoy a beach yoga micro-retreat
Not all hot yoga is Bikram—the strict style that challenges you to hold poses while sweat trickles into your eyes. New studios offering Vinyasa-style hot yoga have been cropping up around Philadelphia. It’s like a regular flow class, only heated. Plus, each of these studios offers discounts for new students.

2. Scale a mountain in the suburbs
There are a ton of indoor rock climbing facilities in the Philadelphia area. Each offers classes for beginners for children and adults as well as advanced terrain for serious climbers.

3. Sip a tropical drink by the space heater
We know how nice it feels right now to wrap your hands around a steaming cup of coffee or tea, but after your workouts, you’ll be ready for something cool and fruity.

Pennsylvania Pina Colada
Add your blender:

  • 1 banana
  • 1 cup frozen pineapple chunks
  • 1 cup coconut milk (Try the unsweetened, lower-fat blends that come in cartons over the coconut cream from a can)
  • Few cubes ice
  • Touch of honey
  • Optional: ¼ tsp turmeric. This anti-inflammatory ingredient will add a golden color to your drink.

Blend until smooth, and enjoy.

For more ideas on where to sweat it out indoors, see our Google map.