Breathe. Go easy on yourself. Keep Moving.

Busy week! Have you had one too? A friend sent me this quote today. I thought I would share in case you needed the reminder to breathe, go easy on yourself and keep moving.

Be Well

Janet

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by | May 18, 2021 · 8:20 pm

“You don’t have to wake up in pain because you exercised”. A patient’s story.

“Everyone has been asking me ‘what changed?’ because I’ve been smiling so much the past two weeks”.

This was what a patient said to me today at a follow up visit.

Her response to them was “My workout changed! I am no longer in pain when I wake up! It feels so good to not be in pain!”.

When we spoke two weeks ago, this highly motivated woman preparing for weight loss surgery was exercising five days a week, three of those with a trainer. The trainer had just taken the program up a notch because she was not losing weight.

She described constant back pain and muscle soreness, but continued to go to the gym. “I just have to lose weight” was her justification for the pain. “It will be better when I lose weight”

We discussed why weight loss was important to her. “I want to be around for my kids. I want to be able to play with them and have fun with them again”, she said without hesitation.

Clearly, she is motivated to lose weight and her reasons are very value driven. She was doing everything she was told she was supposed to do to get to that goal. She had changed her whole diet and was very careful to stay on it. She paid for the month with the trainer in advance to keep her accountable so she would be sure to stay motivated to go to the gym.

The results… pain and fatigue. She was too tired to play with her children and the frustration was written all over her face.

When she described the workout she was doing at the gym, I was concerned what she was doing was not right for her elevated blood pressure and putting her health at risk. I proposed a different kind of exercise challenge; to let go of what she though she had to do and try a different way to exercise. I challenged her to try it for two weeks using the online programs we offer to patients and see how she feels. She agreed.

Today was the two week mark. The smile on her face said it all! She has been consistently doing strength training, treadmill walking and yoga at home. She said it feels so much better and has more energy and is happier all day long. The best part though is that her kids have been doing it with her! “we have so much fun doing the videos! they love them!”.

She is not only exercising regularly without pain, she has accomplished her goal for weight loss – to be able to play and have fun with her kids again!

“I want people to know you can workout and not wake up in pain.” She said to me. “It’s a miracle”.

Really it’s just the way our body is designed to move.

If you are in pain from exercising, please know you do not deserve to be in pain just because you are carrying extra weight. There is another way to exercise. Take the challenge and see for yourself.

Keep Moving, Be Well

Janet

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by | May 11, 2021 · 9:29 pm

Three truths about exercise and weight loss

Its a complicated world out there when you are trying to lose weight. Here are three simple truths about exercising for weight loss that can save you some time, energy and stress.

#1: What you do to lose weight is the same for maintaining weight

Weight loss is not the kind of goal you achieve and forget about. Everything you do to lose weight needs to be sustainable to keep that weight off. Before you start an exercise plan, consider how sustainable it is for both your body and your lifestyle. For example, if you are doing a high intensity exercise program to get weight off, ask yourself if you want to do that for your whole life. HIIT training may ‘work’ to burn more calories, but if its not something you want to keep doing, it won’t really work.

#2: If it feels good now, it is good for weight loss

No matter what anyone tells you, even if they are a top trainer or have years of experience working with people in weight loss (myself included), if it does not leave you feeling better now, it will not lead to long term results. Why? because anything that makes you feel worse, sets up a habit to avoid it in the future. When exercise makes you feel better now, your brain wants you to repeat it.

The thing is, only you know how it feels for your physically and emotionally. Exercise that leaves you in more pain, or without enough time to do the things you need to do, or feeling shame about your body or yourself, will keep you struggling to stay motivated. It does not matter how many calories you burn, or how much weight you lose. The way exercise is most helpful for weight loss success is when its sustainable. Listen to your body and exercise in the way that leaves you feeling better physically and mentally and emotionally right away, and your weight loss is much more likely to stick.

#3: There is no one best type of exercise; your body needs a balance of all three

Every physical activity we need and want to do requires a combination of strength, stamina and mobility. If you want to function your best at every stage of weight loss and when you get to a goal weight, your body needs a balance of each of these abilities. That means no one type of exercise is better than the other. Stretching, cardio and strength all help your body feel and function well. Strike a balance between these three types of exercise each week and you are helping your body have the ability to move with more ease at every stage of weight loss.

Test this out for yourself. Look back at past exercise attempts and see what stuck and what faded away. See if these are true for you when it comes to just not losing weight, but keeping it off.

Keep moving, Be Well

Janet

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by | May 4, 2021 · 9:11 pm

Now that the weather is better… Learn how to be an all-season exerciser

This is the most wonderful time of the year to be an exercise physiologist! Everyone I talk to is more motivated to exercise now that the weather is better!

In this lovely time of year, you have two choices with how you think about exercising that can make all the difference in your future springtime enjoyment:

  1. Enjoy spring and summer and don’t think about winter. Hopefully next winter will be better…
  2. Enjoy spring and learn from what you are noticing right now to help you become a self-motivated all season exerciser

Option number two may seem like more work, but when you think about, its much less work than option number one. The discomfort of being in a body that is not ready for the spring activities you want and need to do takes a lot of mental and physical work. The guilt of not exercising all winter when you know you should is a big energy drain too!

Let’s make option number two easier. Take a few minutes to go through these three steps. Writing them down increases your chances of success:

  1. Write down what you notice about what your body lost this winter, based on how you feel now. Do you wish you had more strength? Stamina? Mobility? If you feel great and ready for spring, write down what you did that helped you keep your strength stamina and mobility through the winter.
  2. Write down what you want to enjoy now that is challenging. If you are able to enjoy what you want, write down what worked to keep you ready for that activity all winter.
  3. Brainstorm all the things you are thinking you could have/should have done this winter for exercise. If you did exercise all winter, write down what kept you active.

Tuck this away in your September calendar. In the fall you will be so glad you have a personalized guide to get you started with a motivating plan for exercising through the winter. I will remind you to look at this list when the weather starts getting colder and the days get shorter again.

Now, let’s get out there and enjoy this beautiful weather!

Keep Moving be well, and enjoy spring!

Janet

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by | April 19, 2021 · 7:09 pm

Exercising with a hernia

A hernia is caused by a weakness in the muscle and connective tissue in part of the body. There are many types of hernia but they are most common in the abdominal area. Knowing how to move and exercise can help to reduce pain, and help you minimize the limitations and promote healing of a hernia.

This blog provides basic and general information about exercising with or to prevent a hernia. Consult your physician for information specific to your condition. If you are a UMass Memorial Weight Center patient, contact the center to know if you are eligible for a telehealth visit and we can discuss your exercise plan.

Exercising with or to prevent an abdominal hernia starts with understanding your abdomen structure and function. Your spine is set up to be very mobile to allow for freedom of movement. The abdominal muscles job is to support and protect your abdomen while you move freely.

When the joints of your spine are lined up in their strongest position, its called alignment. The job of the core muscles is to hold your spine in alignment as you move. When your spine is out of alignment, for example when you are ‘slouching’ or when you are standing with your chest out and shoulders back (i.e.: military posture), there is greater pressure from the inside out on your abdominal muscles. If there is any weakness in these muscles and connective tissue that holds them together, that pressure can make the weakness grow, and can make a hernia worse.

Knowing how to position your own body to be in alignment is the first and most important step in helping or preventing a hernia. The more moments of the day you spend in alignment, the more chance the wall has to heal rather than be strained. The first step to exercising with a hernia is not during typical exercise time but to pay attention to how your body is positioned in moments of your day that you are not moving.

The next step is knowing how to use your core to support your abdomen, so when you move you reduce the strain on the abdominal wall. The most effective equipment for strengthening your core is your brain. The ability to contract your core to support your body to stay in alignment as you move strengthens your built in brace that supports your abdominal wall you as you move. Your nervous system is what controls your muscles. When you strengthen your brains ability to turn those muscles on and off consciously, you will be helping them to support you even when you are not thinking about it consciously.

Exercises like planks, sit ups, crunches can all strain rather than strengthen the abdominal wall. Since they don’t teach the core to do its job, and wont make you lose belly fat, they work best when you don’t do them! Simply using your brain to turn on your core to support you as you move is the way to a stronger core.

Finally, choose types of exercise that keep you in this aligned position and able to use your core to support that position. Exercises where you are bent over mean gravity will be adding to that internal pressure on your abdominal wall. Choose exercises you can be upright as much as possible. Exercises like push ups and bent over rows would be an example of positions to avoid if you have a hernia. Do a chest press and row with exercise bands or pullies instead so you can be upright while strengthening these movements. During cardiovascular exercise, choose types that allow you to be in alignment such as a treadmill, and not bent over, like on a spin bike. Choose upright positions and use your core muscles for support during stretching too.

Understanding the structure of your body, how its set up to move with the least strain, and paying attention to body positions throughout your day as well as when exercising, can go a long way for staying strong and moving with more confidence when you have a hernia.

Keep moving, be Well

Janet

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by | April 6, 2021 · 9:37 pm