Got Joint Pain? Treatment + Prevention Tips from Altru’s Orthopedic Experts

Behind Joint PainJoints work hard. They connect bones, allow movement and provide support to other parts of the body. Joints take a lot of impact and keep you in motion.

A joint that is injured, worn out or affected by disease can cause pain and get in the way of day-to-day activities. Many options exist for treating joint pain, depending on severity and if the pain is acute or chronic. Understanding the best treatment option for you will help you get on the road to recovery faster.

Acute Pain
If pain is sudden or caused by injury, treatment can range from at-home care to medical interventions such as casting, bracing or surgery.

  • At-home Care:
    If your pain and symptoms are less severe, you should be able to manage it at home. Try the RICE method (rest, ice, compression and elevation) along with an over the counter anti-inflammatory medication, such as Advil (ensure you take any medication as directed). Ice should be applied in 15-20 minute segments, once every few hours. If pain continues or worsens, consult your physician.
  • Medical Care:
    If your pain is sharp and accompanied by inflammation, tenderness and a sense of heat around the joint, you should schedule an appointment with your provider. If your pain is more severe and resulted from an injury, especially if you are unable to use your joint or it appears deformed, seek immediate care. Visit the emergency room or urgent care when your joint can be assessed. Most likely, the provider will ensure your joint is stabilized and your pain is managed. Then, you will be referred to an orthopedic specialist who will take over your care plan.

sports injuryChronic Pain
If joint pain is something you’ve been dealing with for a long time, talk with your doctor to understand the cause. Some chronic pain is caused by a disease or ailment, such as arthritis, or it could stem from an old injury.

  • Physical Therapy:
    If you have long-term pain, your doctor might recommend physical therapy. A physical therapist can work with you to strengthen the muscles around the joint and improve range of motion. You might also see a physical therapist after having a joint replacement, or when recovering from injury.
  • Weight Loss:
    Chronic joint pain can be more severe if you are overweight. Weight loss through diet and exercise can lessen the impact on your joints, helping to reduce pain. It is important to be cautious when starting a new exercise plan, especially if you are healing from an injury or have a medical condition. Scheduling a consultation with a health and wellness specialist is a good way to safely ease into a new routine.
  • Joint Replacement:
    If your joint pain is chronic (long term) and if affects your day-to-day life, you may consider joint replacement. For the right candidates, joint replacement surgery can be the answer to your chronic pain and can help you get back to an active life.

Keeping your joints healthy is also important. For ways you can take a proactive approach to joint pain, check out these ten tips for avoiding joint pain. For more information on how to care for your joints, and to learn about Altru’s Orthopedics team, visit 

Dr. Darin Leetun has over 15 years of experience in orthopedic surgery and sports medicine. He has been team physician for USA Hockey since February 2010 and for US Ski and Snowboarding since 2009., He accompanied USA hockey team to Germany in 2013. He is board certified by the American Board of Orthopedic Surgery with specialty certification in sports medicine. In his free time, Dr. Leetun enjoys golf, personal conditioning and hunting.

Choose to Move, Even in the Cold

Choose to MoveBrrr! As the seasons change and temperatures drop, it’s easy to want to go into hibernation mode. To pull on the comfy sweats, slip into fuzzy slippers, pour the hot cocoa and settle under a blanket on the couch.

If the only exercise you’re doing lately is working your thumbs on Candy Crush or the TV remote, now’s the perfect time to shake up your routine. Here are four ideas to get you moving before and during the holidays.

1. Join the Zumbathon. This event (November 15) at the Altru Family YMCA invites participants to honor loved ones who have battled cancer. It will feature a Zumba® Fitness class followed by door prizes and refreshments. All proceeds benefit Altru Cancer Center. (Get all the details here.)

Calories burned in 60 minutes of Zumba: 540*

2. Hit the gym. Maybe Zumba isn’t your thing. That’s okay. From swimming to spinning and everything in between, gyms offer multiple options for group or individual activities. Start scheduling gym time now before the holiday craziness hits. Treat it like an appointment with yourself you cannot miss.

Note: If you’re an Altru employee, take advantage of gym membership discounts at Choice Health & Fitness, Altru Family YMCA, Altru’s Medical Fitness Center or your hometown gym.

Calories burned in 45 minutes of spin class: 358*

3. Sign up and start training. The 2015 Frozen Feat 5k/10k is February 14, just over three months away. Now’s the time to sign up and train through the holidays to keep yourself on track. What’s not to love about a frosty and fun race in the middle of February?

Calories burned in 40 minutes of running: 456*

4. Go shopping. Make your list and check it twice. Squeeze in some cardio while shopping for loved ones (try one of these 9 healthy holiday gift ideas).

After Zumbathon on November 15, snap a selfie with Santa at Scheels.

Calories burned in three hours of walking the stores: 890*

And, when the dreaded white stuff starts flying again, there’s even more fun to be had (and calories to torch).

  • Build a snowman.
  • Go sledding or ice skating.
  • Ski cross country, or even try snowshoeing.

The Greenway of Grand Forks/East Grand Forks has over 15 miles of groomed trails to enjoy. Grand Forks Park District offers both indoor and outdoor skating options, and Grand Forks Downtown Development Association is opening a new stick-free, family focused ice skating rink in Town Square.

Even in the middle of winter in the middle of the nation, there’s no reason to spend your evenings in the middle of the sofa expanding your middle. What kind of active fun are you planning? Leave a comment.

See also: 8 Tips to Prevent Holiday Weight Gain

*Calorie calculations based on 150-pound female.

What’s the Best Weight Loss Plan for You?

So you’ve decided it’s time to lose some weight. Maybe it’s a little, maybe it’s a lot. One thing’s for sure: you need to make a change and you are not sure where to start.

There are literally thousands of weight loss tools and programs available, not to mention fad diets, supplements, workout plans, body wraps, smoothies with super powers, juicing… it’s extremely overwhelming. Altru’s Weight Management team provides rules to follow and information on programs they recommend to help you make the right choice.

Four Rules to Follow:

Ann_provider talk

1. Involve Your Doctor
It is important to consult your primary care provider before starting a new weight loss plan. Considering your health picture and weight loss goals, your doctor can provide recommendations on plans that will be safe for you to start.

“A discussion with your primary care provider is essential for you to reach your health and fitness goals,” advises Ann Mason, FNP. “Weight gain can be multifactoral, sometimes caused by more than just sedentary lifestyle and excess calories. Consider discussing other causes of weight gain with your primary care provider, such as certain medication, sleep apnea and hormone imbalances, as these will require different interventions.”

Rachel_group class

2. Consider Your Personality
If you are an introvert, a group program might not work for you. Individual appointments can get you started on the right track and help educate you about food and exercise options based on your needs.

On the other hand, if you know you need accountability, a structured program with weekly check-ins is a good option. “Group classes provide a supportive environment where participants are able to share challenges and successes,” states health and wellness specialist Rachel Aure. “Participants learn from each other and support one another as they work towards similar lifestyle goals. Belonging to a group adds accountability, which can help you stay focused and motivated.“

Jenn_nutrition coaching

3. Be Reasonable
If a plan or diet sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Or, it might not be safe. “If a diet eliminates an entire food group, it may be putting you at risk for nutritional deficiencies,” cautions registered dietitian Jennifer Haugen. “Or, it may involve eating a lot of a certain food, which can be unhealthy. If you are trying to determine if a diet is a good pick, evaluate if it is sustainable long term; often times, fad diets are not.”

If you are confused if something is a fad diet or a healthy diet, work with a trained professional to determine which plan is best for you.

4. Think About The Past
If you’ve tried a plan in the past, what worked well and what didn’t? Did you make excuses not to work out? Was the diet plan too hard to follow? Take these things into consideration as you start your new weight loss journey.


Program Offerings
Altru offers different options for those looking to lose weight and get healthy. Each program looks at your overall health and guides you to healthy choices that fit your individual needs. But, it’s not one size fits all. See where you might fit best based on these guidelines and recommendations.

Nutrition and Fitness Coaching might be right for you if:

  • You prefer individual appointments
  • You want expert advice to get you started, and follow-up along the way
  • You have specific dietary requirements
  • You are new to exercise, or your activity is limited due to a medical condition or injury

If you want expert advice to get you started on the right path, coaching might be the right pick for you. You can work with a dietitian to review your specific needs and develop meal plans, and get exercise advice tailored to you specifically. Or, you can choose nutrition coaching and skip fitness, or vice versa. You guide the content and support you receive, which is a great benefit for those with more specific goals in mind.

Medical Weight Loss and Lifestyle Change Program might be right for you if:

  • You want a structured program with support and education
  • You are motivated by being around others with similar goals
  • You have medical conditions that might require medical monitoring during weight loss
  • You would like to lose around 10 percent of your body weight

This program offers a comprehensive approach to weight loss with nutrition and fitness education and medical monitoring. It includes classwork as well as individual follow up and offers long term monitoring and support. It also incorporates a structured meal plan with meal replacement products during the first 12 weeks of the program.

Weight Loss Surgery might be right for you if:

  • You have a BMI of 35 – 39.9 (Check your BMI here)
  • You are over the age of 18
  • You have health problems such as diabetes, hypertension or sleep apnea
  • You have a BMI over 40, but don’t have other obesity related health issues
  • You have not succeeded in losing weight with other measures, such as diet and exercise

Weight loss surgery, such as LAP-BAND®, is an option for severely obese adults who have failed to lose weight with conservative measures such as diets, exercise or medications. Individuals who choose to have surgery for weight loss must commit to significant changes in their diet and lifestyle for the rest of their lives. “Surgery is not the easy way out,” states weight loss surgery physician assistant Shellie Wright. “Surgery is a tool to help with lifestyle change. Successful weight loss after surgery is less likely without changes in diet, exercise and eating behaviors.”

It is important to understand that this life-changing decision must be carefully considered by you and your provider.

Altru’s Weight Management Program offers solutions for weight loss, weight management and lifestyle change at any level. Our providers, dietitians and exercise specialists offer comprehensive options to fit your needs. Each journey begins with a consultation and health assessment, which will guide you to the right program for you.

To start your journey, contact the Weight Management Program Coordinator at 701.780.6729 or

Living with Food Allergies | New Support Group in Grand Forks

NutsMilk, eggs, peanuts, soy, fish, shellfish.

To some, this may look like part of your grocery list. To others, this list of the most common food allergies waves huge red flags.

On the Rise
Food allergies are on the rise and can affect people of any age. The latest studies tell us that one in 13 children deal with a food allergy on a daily basis. If everyone dealing with food allergies were put together, they would make up the fifth largest state in the US.

Food allergies develop from an abnormal response of the immune system. Instead of learning that a food is not harmful, the immune cells start to view the food as a germ. Every time it is ingested, a series of chemicals is released that causes the symptoms people feel.

Food allergy symptoms range from minor to life-threatening. Symptoms can include hives, swelling of the face, lips and tongue, difficulty breathing or swallowing, lethargy, feeling faint, vomiting and diarrhea. These occur very soon after the food is eaten. Anaphylaxis is a life-threatening allergic reaction that includes many of these symptoms.

If you have experienced any of these symptoms, it is best to stop eating the food that may be causing the symptoms and be evaluated by an allergist. At the appointment, bring a detailed list of all foods and their ingredients you were eating when the reaction occurred.

Food allergy testing consists of skin and blood tests that can detect specific allergies. The testing should be relatively pain-free.  An allergist will determine the appropriate testing method. It is important to know if there is a true food allergy, as people have had life-threatening reactions from unknowingly eating something they were allergic to.

If you are allergic to a certain food, it is best to avoid that food altogether. Your allergist will work with you to establish an individual treatment plan in case you would come into contact with your allergy food. Should a life-threatening reaction occur, epinephrine should be immediately given, followed by emergency medical care.

Food Allergies and Daily Life
Receiving a food allergy diagnosis is life-altering. It means changing how you look at everyday activities, such as buying food in the grocery store, making meals with your family and visiting restaurants. Some people react just from being touched after someone has handled the food they are allergic to. It is quite scary to know that you or someone you love can be seriously harmed by food.

Food Allergy Support Group

Beginning October 30, join others in our community who deal with food allergies at Altru’s monthly Food Allergy Support Group. Connect with and learn from local community members who face the same daily challenges as you.

Khan, FatimaDr. Fatima Khan works in Altru’s Allergy and Immunology Department. She is also a clinical associate professor with the UND School of Medicine and Health Sciences’ Departments of Medicine and Pediatrics. She received her medical degree from the University of Illinois in Chicago, and then completed her residencies in internal medicine and pediatrics at Yale New Haven Hospital in Connecticut. Her interest in food allergies lead to her pursuit of a fellowship in allergy/immunology at the University of Washington in Seattle. Outside of work, Dr. Khan enjoys biking, music, movies and travel.

10 Tips for Avoiding and Treating Joint Pain

Did you know you can take certain steps to prevent joint pain? Dr. Darin Leetun, Altru’s Orthopedics, shares 10 tips for avoiding and treating joint pain.

10 Joint Care Tips1. Maintain proper weight.
Excess pounds put extra force on joints, causing them to wear out. Even a small weight change can take the load off of taxed joints.

2. Avoid hard surfaces.
When exercising, stick to surfaces with cushion. Top picks are a soft trail or track. Even a road (when safe) beats cement.

3. Strengthen your feet.
Wearing proper shoes is important, but you can also help your feet withstand impact by strengthening them. Walk barefoot around the house.

4. Improve your form.
During activity, proper form can protect you from injury and pain. Learn about your form with a gait analysis at the Sanny & Jerry Ryan Center for Prevention & Genetics.

5. Go for a swim.
Don’t compromise your workout when dealing with joint pain. Choose non weight-bearing exercises, like swimming, to stay in shape.

6. Strength train.
When done right, strength training can preserve bone density. If you are new to it, schedule a session with a personal trainer. They will show you the ropes and ensure proper form.

7. Stretch.
As we age, muscles and joints stiffen. Stretching keeps them loose and prepared for impact. When stretching, avoid bouncing or pulsing. Big, fluid movements are the best way to warm up and stretch.

8. Eat right.
Berries, soy products and salmon have anti-inflammatory properties that are good for joints. Try this joint-friendly smoothie.

9. Do physical therapy after an injury.
Many injuries cause imbalances, the effects of which don’t appear until years later. Stick to your recommended physical therapy plan, including continued at-home therapy, if advised.

10. Seek care.
If you have pain, swelling, locking, catching or anything out of the ordinary, seek medical care. Catching an injury sooner rather than later can prevent serious complications. If you are concerned with your joint health, contact Altru’s Orthopedics. Our team of experts can help get you safely back on track.

Dr. Darin Leetun has over 15 years of experience in orthopedic surgery and sports medicine. He has been team physician for USA Hockey since February 2010 and for US Ski and Snowboarding since 2009., He accompanied USA hockey team to Germany in 2013. He is board certified by the American Board of Orthopedic Surgery with specialty certification in sports medicine. In his free time, Dr. Leetun enjoys golf, personal conditioning and hunting.

6 Tips for Staying Well This Fall

Healthy FallSick of hearing about all the things that could make you sick? Let’s refocus for a minute. Here’s what you can do to keep yourself and your family healthy and well this fall.

1. Wash your hands. Wash your hands. Wash your hands. Remember what your mom taught you. Use soap and warm water and scrub for 20 seconds (about the time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” twice). Hand washing is key to preventing the spread of germs. 

2. Clean and disinfect surfaces. Light switches, appliance handles, door knobs, remote controls—give ‘em a good wipe-down regularly. 

3. Avoid contact. Steer clear of people who are sick, and avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. This is how germs spread. 

4. Rest up. Get plenty of sleep to avoid getting run down. If you or a family member does get sick, rest at home for at least 24 hours after the fever is gone.

5. Do all the good things you do normally. Eat your veggies. Hit the gym. Take a quick walking break to manage stress. Boost your immune system by treating your body well. 

6. Bump it. Bend it. Block it. What does this mean?

  • Bump it. Fist bumps spread fewer germs than handshakes.
  • Bend it. Cough or sneeze into the bend of your elbow.
  • Block it. Get vaccinated to stop the spread of the flu.

Altru employees show us how it’s done:

If you do nothing else on this list, at the very least, get a flu shot (or mist). See the list of upcoming public flu clinics coming to an Altru Clinic near you. 

See also:

4 Nutrition Trends: Mythbusting with Altru Dietitians

Fad diets are popular and sometimes even provide quick weight loss fixes. Unfortunately, they only offer a temporary solution to an often lifelong problem. Let’s hear from four of Altru’s dietitians as they bust myths and reveal truths behind popular nutrition trends.


1. Myth: Gluten free diets result in weight loss. 

Truth: A gluten free diet is followed when someone has been diagnosed with Celiac Disease. A gluten free diet consists of eliminating barley, rye, oats and wheat. Weight loss may occur if you eliminate most chips, cookies and desserts. If the chips, cookies and desserts are replaced with gluten free items, the calories are usually the same, due to using a different form of flour. So, if you haven’t been diagnosed with Celiac and want to lose weight, reducing calories and increasing exercise is the way to go.

Nutrition Mythbuster: Danika Warner-Noreen, RD, LRD, CDE

2. Myth: Juicing (the process of removing juice from fresh fruits and vegetables) results in weight loss. 

Truth: Juicing is no healthier than eating whole fruits and vegetables. Juice is often lower in nutrients, and the fiber content is near zero. Whole foods usually contain more vitamins and minerals, as many of these nutrients are in or near the skin, which gets discarded as pulp when juiced. Your body does not absorb nutrients better in juice form.

Yet, juicing isn’t all bad. Additional truths:

  • Some juicers do reserve the extracted pulp. This fiber-rich pulp can be added to soups, stew and quick breads for added benefit.
  • Juicing may improve nutritional intake by incorporating fruits and veggies that may not get eaten due to flavor or texture preferences.
  • Juicing can be used as part of a sensible weight loss program, which would also include a variety of nutritious whole foods. 

The bottom line: when enjoyed in moderation, fresh-squeezed juice can be a nice way to get in more vitamins and minerals from a variety of fruits and vegetables. However, the best way to lose weight and promote optimal health is to eat a well-balanced diet made up of foods from all food groups.

Nutrition Mythbuster: Lynn Holum, RD, LRD, CDE

3. Myth: Since dietary supplements are easily available – and don’t require a prescription – they are safer than drug products and can be used to self-treat illness without a health professional’s advice or supervision. 

Truth: Taking supplements will not necessarily improve your performance and can be dangerous. More is not better. Studies have shown that some herbal products interact with drugs and can have a wide range of effects, including:

  • St. John’s Wort may interfere with drugs used by organ transplant patients, and drugs used to treat depression, seizures and certain cancers
  • Some alter effectiveness of oral contraceptives
  • Garlic, ginko, danshen and dong quai can cause the blood to thin

Always consult with your health care professional prior to taking dietary supplements.

Nutrition Mythbuster: Jennifer Haugen, RD, CSSD, LD

4. Myth: Avoid carbohydrates to lose weight. 

Truth: Cutting back on carbs may help you lose weight in the short term, but this is mainly because you are eating less food and calories. Significantly reducing carbohydrates means you will miss out on nutritional benefits provided by healthy choices, such as whole grains, fruits, starchy vegetables, dairy, and dried peas and beans. Low carb diets are restrictive and hard to follow. The weight you lose will likely be regained.

Nutrition Mythbuster: Becky Westereng, RD, CSSD, LD, CDE  

Lifestyle modification, rather than quick fixes, is the way to go for long-term weight loss and maintenance. If you are looking to manage your weight by changing your diet and exercise for the better, check out Altru’s Weight Management Program or visit with one of our dietitians.

10 Reasons #30DaysofRunning Rocked Our Socks Off

In no particular order, all equally awesome.

1. Lace Craze

Orange laces went like wildfire. They were mailed, delivered, up for grabs and tied on walkers. By the end of the month, over 900 pairs were in a shoe near you.

2. In the News

Thanks to Grand Cities Woman and the Grand Forks Herald, #30DaysofRunning got some serious love.

3. Faithful Followers

The tweets and Facebook posts were abundant! The inspiration and energy from our social media friends helped get us through the month. Here are a few of our faves:

Twitter FB4. Wild Hog Wednesdays

Rain, shine, wind, bugs. It did not matter what the deterrent was, the crowd was always great at Wild Hog Wednesdays. Good news – these festive runs will be held all summer!

5. Blogified

Area runners showed us their passion, motivation and will to “just keep running” through these inspirational stories:

6. Ned & Kathryn

Up and at ‘em every morning, our friends Ned and Kathryn showed us that an active lifestyle can keep a smile on your face and pep in your step at any age.

Ned and Kathryn

7. Family Fitness

This June, a Friday with your family meant swimming, walking, playing tag and more. Pizza and movies were left in the dust as healthy, happy families kicked off summer.

8. Run for Your Buns

We all love to run; why not do it for your buns? Nearly 200 runners joined together as we raised funds and awareness for colon cancer prevention.

9. Runners

You are what it’s all about. If not for the beginners, weekend warriors, marathoners and everything in between, #30DaysofRunning would just be another #hashtag. The enthusiasm to run toward a healthier community ensures #30DaysofRunning will be back in 2015!

10. Your Call!

Since #30Days is all about you, the runners, we want YOU to tell us what we missed on the list. What was your favorite part of #30DaysofRunning? Share your #10 by July 6, 2014 for a chance to win a Wild Hog ½ Marathon registration.

Untold Stories of Local Runners, 2.0

Untold StoriesEvery runner has a unique personal biography. It reveals the get-up or give-up moments. It shows the light-hearted and fun side of running. It displays motivation, courage and willingness to improve. Most importantly, it explains how lives are forever changed by simply putting one foot in front of the other.

These are the untold stories of local runners. Grab a seat. Stick around for a while. Read on, and be inspired to run.


Andrew Knight | Red River Runner | Music Therapy Assistant Professor


My wife and I went to Barnes & Noble one day. She was looking for yoga books and I, tagging along, saw a book in the next section called “The Non-runners Guide To Running A Marathon.” I thought ‘I’m not a runner,’ so I bought it and followed a plan to run a marathon.

Early on, I learned how awesome runners, as a cross-section of society, are. If you are looking to hang around the best people in the world, join a running group. We’re super fun, usually extremely good looking (especially our toned legs…), and are not ashamed of discussing blisters, sweat, smells, body things, etc. since it’s all a part of our running makeup.

I am not sure what I am capable of, so running is a constantly evolving goal to see what my body can really do when I sign up for events. When I don’t have events, I find running is my reset button to clear my head, move my body, and better focus on being a good husband, father, and guy-that-you-might-run-into-and-enjoy-talking-to-for-a-few-moments.


Sarah Exner | Clinic Office Nurse | Mom of Two, Soon Three

SarahIn the fall of 2010, I attempted to run. Shortly after, I found out we were expecting our second child. I quit.

In June of 2011, our son was born. He was colic and only seemed happy in his stroller. We put on a lot of miles walking! I decided to give running a try again. If I could make it past a certain landmark, great! If not, I kept pushing. Before long, I could make it around the whole bike path (.75 miles).

That spring, the high school was sponsoring a 5K fundraiser. The race was 1.5 miles one way; then you turned around at the halfway point and ran back to the start. I ran (more like a slow jog) all the way to the turnaround point. I rested for thirty seconds then ran back. It was amazing! That’s when I became hooked.

Since, I have made some great friendships and completed numerous 5Ks, two 10Ks, a half marathon and, most recently, Fargo Marathon relay (at 15 weeks pregnant). I ended up losing 60 pounds overall with running and portion control. And, I have more energy to keep up with my busy boys.


Holly Benjamin | Pediatrics Nurse | Fargo Half Marathoner

HollyI have always disliked running. As a kid I would avoid it as much as possible. The “mile run” in elementary school was torture. As an adult, I realized many people love running. I have coworkers who talk about how great if feels afterwards, especially a race. I also needed to become more physically active. So, I tried running…. I still hated it… But I tried again… And again…

In January 2012, a friend of mine told me I need to try again. She had a great plan that she was sure I could do. It worked! I went from not being able to run for two minutes to running my very first 5K.

I have one person with me on every run: Brianna. She is my I Run 4 buddy. I have never met her, but we message back and forth several times weekly. When I am struggling with a run, I focus on her. It gets me through every time.

I love running because I can! And because it is a good stress reliever. I love the feeling I get after a run, whether it is a great run or a rough one. To me it is huge to say I’ve run a mile, much less 10 miles.


Brad Larsen | Computer Nerd | 5K Challenger to Regular Runner

BradThe genesis of the running occurred when my friend and I were bantering one day, and we ended up with a friendly bet that I could not get within 9 minutes of him in a 5K race. I was 35 years old and was carrying the “residual self-image” that I was in the same shape as I was in college. The truth: I was 80 pounds heavier than when I entered college.

We executed our bet at the Cat’s Incredible 5K on August 11, 2007, and I lost badly. I lost by more than 3:30…per mile…over a short distance of three miles. Yikers. Something had to change.

I like the discrete nature of the workout. I’m going a set distance or a set time. When I have achieved that distance or time, I’m done. I like the feeling of having the workout be over and having completed something tangible that I can write down (example: I ran 3 miles). I like the numbers and the statistics and the raw data I get from my GPS watch/phone—computer nerd through and through!


Jess Brammer | Stay-At-Home Mom | Morning Runner

JessI live in East Grand Forks and I’m a stay-at-home mom of two active boys ages four and 19 months. When I’m not shuttling my kids around town, you can find me at the gym, running outside, reading or enjoying a girls’ night.

I started working out my sophomore year of college to get into shape. At the time, I could only walk on the treadmill. When I started to become more fit, I was able to give running a chance. Running was something I found that I enjoyed and was a great cardio workout.

Running is my “me time.” I get up early every day while the family is still asleep in order to complete my run and to make sure I have no excuses later to skip it. I try to get a workout in daily because it allows me to recharge my batteries. I find it hard to take a day off. If the weather is nice enough, I enjoy taking my kids out in the jogging stroller and incorporating some family time into it.


Want more? Read the first batch of Untold Stories of Local Runners from 2013.

#30DaysOfRunning is a great way to start your own running biography. Everyone has a different reason to get their run on, so discover yours. There’s still time to commitment to the movement and get involved.

Be happy. Be healthy. Be a runner this month.

What’s your running story? Share it here.

30 Days of Running

Exhilaration. Go further. Deep breath. One more song. One more lap. One more minute. 

These thoughts flood my mind as my feet hit the track or pound the pavement. Now, I’m not an accomplished runner with dozens of marathons under my belt. Far from it, in fact. Only two short years ago I made the commitment with a friend to start a healthier lifestyle. Running became part of my habit.  Soon, I feel in love with the way my feet hit the ground and I was hooked.

Those first steps weren’t easy. I’d run one minute and walk five. But, I stuck to my training calendar and pushed myself a little further. After the first month, I reached my goal: I ran 30 minutes without stopping. I couldn’t believe it. Success!  It no longer felt like effort or merely exercise. It’s become a lifestyle, and I look forward to it. Even better, no equipment is needed. Feet, shoes, ground, and go!


Runners are like family. Ever notice the head nods with a smile by the passerby’s on the sidewalk or track? How about the friendly waves of drivers as we share the streets?  What better way to celebrate the healthy lifestyle that running brings than with a specific focus? Thus last year’s birth of 30 Days of Running.

30 Days of Running was inspired by a social movement based out of Minneapolis, Minn., Theirs challenged people to get on their bikes for any length of time during the month of April. Then, talk about it online. Our challenge is similar. The main difference is that this one uses your feet rather than two wheels.

Backed by Altru Health System and supported by a myriad of community businesses and organizations, 30 Days of Running celebrates its second birthday on June 1. Even better, national running day is June 4. 30 days in June. 30 days of running. Coincidence? Sounds like the stars have aligned if you ask me.

Make the Commitment
Never ran before? Training for your first 5K? Experienced marathoner? Weekend warrior? No matter your experience level, we want you to commit to get moving along with us during the month of June. Make the commitment here. 

If you need routes or tips, we’ve got all that, too. Just visit for tips to keep you going and routes that many of us are taking. With all of us running together, we are running toward a healthier community.

LacesLace Up Those Sneaks
Wherever someone is lacing up their sneaks, we’re there. Two legs. One leg. Prosthetic legs. Push for a healthier lifestyle. Seasoned runner. First-timer. Winter, spring, summer, fall. We’re there. If you have the passion burning inside of you to get up and move, you’ll find us. Throughout the month, there are different challenges:

  • Two-Mile Tuesdays: Hit the road for two miles of exercise.
  • Wild Hog Wednesdays: Join the Wild Hog Half Marathon committee in a few different routes around Grand Forks.
  • Family Fridays: Get off the couch and get active with your family.
  • Far As You Can Go Saturdays: Set a personal goal for your distance or time. Tell us how you’ve accomplished it.

Then, go online and talk about it. Tell your family and friends how you did. We’ll watch the conversation and enter you to win challenge prizes: shoes, yard games and Wild Hog Half Marathon race registrations.

We’ll keep you interested and on pace. Even better, pick up a sweet pair of orange laces to show that you are part of the #30DaysofRunning crew. You’ll find these at area running events, Scheels All Sports, Choice Health & Fitness, Altru Family YMCA or by asking us on Altru’s Healthy Choices Facebook page.

You don’t need to be an experienced distance runner. Just push yourself to do a little more every day. Every stretch of a run matters and counts. Of course, some runs will be better than others. Be proud of the dedication you put in and how far you’ve taken yourself.

Let’s run together toward healthier lifestyles. Let’s run toward a healthier community. Join the movement. Be part of #30DaysofRunning.

DeAnn BurckhardHailing from the Magic City (Minot, N. Dak.) and now a Minnesota transplant, DeAnn Burckhard has been part of Altru Health System’s family in public relations since 2003. She’s the co-creator of Altru’s #30DaysofRunning with running buddy and colleague, Annie Berge. When DeAnn isn’t playing make-believe and dress-up with her two young daughters, she can be found running up and down the beautiful streets of the Grand Cities. 


Make your run the best it can be. Take advantage of discounts at the Sanny and Jerry Ryan Center for Prevention during June to learn how proper nutrition, footwear and form can take you further. Get the details.