Tag Archives: Fitness

It’s Spring Training Time Again!

Why exercise for diabetes_.png

It’s spring training time again! 

Each year as we enter the shorter, colder days of the year I invite you to take time to think about spring.  First, it keeps us aware that the days will get longer again and the weather improve.  Second, this is the time of year we find more reasons not to exercise, yet it is the time of year we need it most.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that comes and goes with the seasons, typically starting in the late fall and early winter and going away during the spring and summer.  Even if you do not have SAD,  it is easy for your mood to drop this time of year.  This, along with the weather and other seasonal challenges puts a drain on  exercise motivation.

Using a spring training mindset about exercise this time of year can be a reminder that it is temporary.  Considering yourself in spring training gives purpose and hope to each and every exercise session.

The fact is, your body and mind area always ‘training’ for something.  Your body is either ‘training’ for less stamina, strength and mobility or more stamina, strength and mobility.  Your body gets used to what you give it.  Since you are in spring training anyway, why not spend this time of year in a way that will make springtime even more enjoyable.  The  added bonus is, exercise is a powerful treatment for the low mood of the season too!

Let’s set your Spring Training plan in motion:

  1. Close your eyes and imagine it is the first beautiful day of Spring.  What physical activities will you be doing?  Brainstorm a list.
  2. What do you need for those activities?  Strength? Stamina? Mobility?  All three?
  3. Choose types of exercise that will build what you need for the activities you want to do.  When you do them, picture how they are helping prepare your body for the activities you want to enjoy in the spring.

This simple act of writing down what you want and your exercise plan to get it, improves your chances of achieving it by about 33% according to one study.   Writing down what you did along the way has also been shown to improve chances of success.   This time of year, we need all the motivational boosts we can get, so take this extra step to write down your plan and progress.

Your mindset matters here too.  Mindful self-compassion is a powerful tool for motivation as well.  I recommend tracking in a way that keeps you present to how what you are doing makes you feel now.  Tracking is a great way to recognize accomplishments of any size, because it is easy to forget what you did for exercise.  When you fall short of your own expectations, use self-compassion to keep you from giving up completely. Use positive self talk to remind yourself this is not about perfection. Something is always better than nothing and consistency is most important.

I will check in on how your spring training is going as winter approaches.  If you need a bit of extra accountability, post your plan in the comments below!

Keep Moving Be Well,

Janet

 

Leave a comment

by | November 13, 2019 · 7:45 pm

Stepping out to help others

Many of our patients find it rewarding to be able to do a fundraising walk for a cause that is close to their heart.  The ability to participate in these is an added bonus of ‘getting your life back’ after weight loss surgery.

Gitkind

If you are a UMass Memorial Weight Center patient, you know about the diversity and dedication of our team.  What you may not know is how each member of our team makes exercise a part of their lives as well.  Like our patients, many members enjoy using their fitness to benefit others too.

Dr. Mitch Gitkind is one of them.  This past weekend he and his wife completed the Boston Marathon Jimmy Fund Walk. Together they raised $1000 in memory of a young woman in their town who passed away a few weeks ago at the age of 18.

Gitkind steps

To be able to do 50,000 steps at age 60, raise money to help others, and come in to work with a smile the next day is the reward of someone who is a regular exerciser.  His daily routine keeps him healthy and young.  The ability to enjoy being part of this and other incredible fundraising events during the year is an added bonus to the many ways exercise adds to his enjoyment of life.

Studies show that our health improves when we help others.  We know exercising regularly improves to health too. When you add this kind of meaning to your every day exercise routine, your  health benefits from exercise are multiplied.  You don’t need to walk 50,000 steps to do it either.  The amount of steps you do, nor the money raised don’t matter. It is the fact that you are adding a broader level of purpose to your exercise time.

Has your regular exercise routine enabled you to complete a fundraising event lately?  Share your story in the comments below.

Keep moving,  Be Well,

Janet

 

1 Comment

by | September 23, 2019 · 5:51 pm

How to lose ten pounds of gym guilt

how to lose ten pounds of gym guilt(1)

The trend in affordable gyms has made it so much easier for many people to exercise year round.

It has also expanded the problem many people have with a gym membership  – gym guilt!

In trying to get more exercise, you might be tempted to join a gym because it’s only $10 a month.    As you may have discovered, your exercise motivation depends on A LOT of factors so getting to that gym might be not so easy.   You may be busy right now and just cannot fit it in.    Often, when trying to lose weight, walking into the gym feels like a spotlight is shining on your extra weight. It’s just too embarrassing to go right now.   You might wait until you feel better about your body and then you will start.

The bigger problem with these low cost memberships is that they are not expensive enough to make you end the membership if you are not going.  When things calm down a bit, or when you lose some weight, you will go, so why cancel it?     In the meantime, that membership fee on your credit card statement each month is a constant ‘weight’ on your mind. Its a constant reminder that you are not exercisign the way you ‘should’.

(No, I am not reading your mind, you are just not alone in this. I see it all the time!)

Lets talk about how to lose the weight of that gym guilt.  Here are some questions to ask yourself so you can finally make peace with using, or losing your gym membership.

  • Is it the commute? Does it take more time to get to and from the gym than its worth?  If your time is limited, no matter how inexpensive the membership, you probably will not to choose to spend your time on a gym commute on a consistent basis.
  • Is it the environment? When you walk into the gym, how do you feel?  Happy to be there or counting the minutes until you can leave? That initial instinct about the gym is so subtle, you may not realize it is the reason your brain finds excuses not to go.  Either find a way to make it more comfortable for you or find a new place to exercise.
  • Is it the people?  There is a definite vibe in each gym.  Some are welcoming and friendly in a very authentic way.  Some are ‘friendly’ in a “my boss told me to say hello when members walk in so I am going to flash a fake smile and say a cool hello” kind of way.  Some gyms are meant for people with very definite exercise goals. If they are not the same as yours, you may feel unwelcome, no matter what you do.  Either give yourself a pep talk reminder that the attitude of others is not your concern or find a more welcoming place to exercise.
  • Is it equipment overload?  It seems that the less expensive the gym, the larger and more daunting it can be.    If you feel overwhelmed by the equipment choices in the gym, know that much of that equipment is not useful anyway.  Find the machines right for you and  stay focused on that.  You don’t need to do everything that is in the gym.  Get a comfortable routine going and do what you enjoy most. (well OK more than the sauna and massage chairs!) When you are ready for a change, learn only one new machine at a time to stay out of overwhelm.
  • Is it too crowded when you go?  Rush hour times at the gym are about as much fun as rush hour time on the highway.  If the crowds are getting in the way of efficiently enjoying your gym time, and you cannot go at another time, seek alternate routes to exercise.
  • Is your body not ready yet?   Some types of exercise are not great for starters.  The elliptical for instance starts at a higher intensity. If you are just starting out you are likely to feel like a failure in about two minutes flat.  Group exercise classes can be motivating but they also are more likely to make you do too much too soon. Gain skills in listening to your body before joining a group. Choose the types that feel best for your body to start and gain some stamina, strength and body knowledge before expanding to other more challenging forms.
  • Is it lack of know-how?  There is no time in adult life that we learn how to exercise correctly.  If you don’t know how to exercise, you are not lacking some skill that everyone else has.  There is a lot of useless exercise information available out there, much of it based on what is marketable, not how your body is designed.  If it does not feel good, it is not good for you.  If you are a UMassMemorial Weight Center patient, contact me to chat about how to strengthen your exercise know-how

Some times the healthiest decision is to let go of the gym membership and exercise at home or someplace else.  Most importantly, lose the gym guilt, it’s is not helpful for your mind or your body.  There are plenty of other options out there and exercising at a gym is not right for everyone.   Find a way to make it work or let it go.

Keep Moving, Be Well,

Janet

 

Leave a comment

by | April 17, 2019 · 7:13 pm

Exercise motivation from an unlikely source

How calorie burning makes it harder to lose weight(12)

This article gives a surprising yet research backed perspective about will-power and making changes that stick.  It is pretty clear that our old way of  making exercise a habit works against us.    If you think exercise has to be hard, and you just need more self control to make yourself do it until it becomes a habit, there is a much more effective way.

We’re using tools that aren’t only weak; they’re also potentially harmful. If using willpower to keep your nose to the grindstone feels like a struggle, that’s because it is.

It turns out too, this way also puts a drain on our health

Those who were better at using self-control did have more success when it came to resisting temptations, but at a cost to their health. Their bodies suffered not only from increased stress responses, but also from premature aging of their immune cells.

What is this unlikely source that is better for our motivation and our health than good old fashion self control?   Fostering emotions like gratitude, compassion and awareness of your own strengths has a better track record for both sustaining motivation and for promoting health.

This is one of the most challenging mindsets to change about exercise.  From my experience the belief in grit, willpower and self discipline comes from the place many of us learned about exercise – through sports.  Think about it, athletes make up the majority of our images and messages about exercise in our culture.    They have amazing self control and discipline and achieve amazing levels of fitness.  How could that model steer us wrong?

An athlete has plenty of reasons to push through and stay disciplined – the competition, team mates, coaches, records – all of these external motivators drive willpower.   We ‘regular folks’ don’t have all of those, so we replace them with other external motivators –  weight goals, challenges, competitions, social media, and accountability partners.

The research is pretty clear though.  Trying to make yourself have more discipline and willpower is stressful and not built to last.   That stress strains health and energy.  It works, but it is just not sustainable, nor is it helping with exercising for long term health.

The easier and more lasting way to motivation for exercise is to  practice the skills of gratitude, compassion and pride (awareness of your personal inner strengths).

If your New Years Resolutions have faded, it may be time to dust them off and look at them through the lens of our updated understanding of lasting motivation.  You could:

  • Keep a gratitude journal, writing down one thing each day that you are grateful for about how your body moved that day
  • Practice a brief self-compassion meditation a few days a week, so you are practiced up on your skill of self compassion for those times you might use self criticism to make you motivated to exercise.
  • Do a Strength Survey to raise your awareness of your inner strengths and how you can use them to keep you motivated to exercise when life tries to get in the way.

How to you use these tools already to keep yourself motivated?  What else could you do to move away from trying to have more willpower to applying these positive emotions to help you keep moving and stay well?

Keep Moving, Be Well,
Janet

 

Leave a comment

by | April 2, 2019 · 6:04 pm

Why all the hype about heart rate? Part 3

How calorie burning makes it harder to lose weight(8)

This is the last part of our series on heart rate.  Check out blog #1 and blog #2 for the full story. 

We have been looking beyond heart rate to see what is really going on in your body with cardio.  This ‘behind the scenes’ look is important because it lets you take charge of self-monitoring your cardio, so it feels right for your body.  When you know what is happening during cardio, it is clear that your breathing level, not your heart rate, is your best guide to getting good cardio exercise for weight loss, health and well-being.

When exercise feels light to moderate, your muscles are able to use oxygen to produce enough fuel. However when exercise starts to feel more and more challenging, it means your body is no longer able to produce energy using oxygen and needs to use other ways to produce energy.  This source of energy production is not as long lasting, so unless you slow down, fatigue will soon make you need to stop moving to let your body catch up.  

The more oxygen your body can use, the easier it is for you to keep moving without getting out of breath or tired and needing to stop or slow down.

The purpose of cardiovascular exercise is to build stamina in your whole cardiovascular system,  so you can move for longer periods of time without stopping.

When the level of an activity reaches a point where your body can no longer use oxygen to produce energy to fuel muscles, it has to go back to creating more energy through the process that does not need oxygen. The downside of using this non-oxygen requiring system is that it produces carbon dioxide. If levels of carbon dioxide get too high, your body starts to shut down, so getting rid of that carbon dioxide is really important. .

When you feel uncomfortably short of breath with exercise, it is because your body is getting rid of carbon dioxide, not because your body is trying to get in more oxygen. When you feel that uncomfortable shortness of breath, it means your body is producing energy in a way that is not sustainable. Its a sign you are not going to last very long at that level of movement. You either need to slow down, so your body is not using so much energy to fuel muscles, or stop so your system can catch up.

How do you build stamina so your body can use more of the long lasting oxygen using system for fueling muscles?  Simply getting your heart rate up will not make that happen.  Moving your body at a level that your breathing is at a moderate to comfortable challenge for an extended period of time, and repeating that on a regular basis will improve stamina. 

You could do this in three 10-minute bouts a day, two fifteen minutes a day, or three thirty-minute sessions a week. The key is consistently challenging your whole cardiovascular system to help your body build the equipment needed to provide fuel for your muscles in a sustainable way.  After about three days, your body starts to lose what it has started building, so do some cardio at least every three days.  

In the end, that consistently with sustained movement at a moderate breathing level will make  everyday activities are easier for your body so you have more energy left over for the activities you enjoy!

Keep Moving, Be Well,

Janet


Please share these posts with anyone you know interested in losing weight with or without weight loss surgery.  Click here to learn more about the UMass Memorial Weight Center

These weekly blogs are general guidelines. These guidelines apply to patients who are cleared by a physician for the type of exercise described. Please contact your physician with any concerns or questions. Always report any symptoms associated with exercise, such as pain, irregular heartbeats, and dizziness or fainting, to your physician.

Leave a comment

by | March 12, 2019 · 7:50 pm

Ready for a Resolution Reset?

February has become the month for taking another look at your New Years Resolutions. Have you noticed there are more and more adds now in February for weight loss programs, gym memberships, and diets? We know that those who started out the year with a sprint toward a goal are by now losing steam. Reality sets in. Oh yeah, my life is a bit full and I don’t have time for what it takes to reach that big lofty goal. Time to make it more realistic.

I have a good friend who is a career coach. Her advice is to wait until February to set goals for the year. She recommends taking January to recover from the end of year craziness. It gives you a some distance from the previous year, so you can use it to inform you about what you want the new year to be about.

I like that idea. It is more humane. It allows some space to breathe and reflect. What is the rush anyway?!

Are you ready for a resolution reset? Fast forward to a year from now. Imagine it’s February 2020. What changes do you want to see in yourself, your life? What do you want to make sure you keep in your life this year? What is no longer serving your well-being and needs to go?

Here is the best part. You don’t have to worry about the answers. Let the questions hang around in the back of your mind as you go through your week. This mindset is enough to help you see what is working and what you need to change to be able to enjoy life a bit more.

What does this have to do with exercise? Your body and brain are ‘use it to keep it systems’. Every cell in your body – muscle, bone, connective tissue, nerve – are adaptable. All parts of you are made up of cells that adjust each day to what they are given. Think about that for a moment. You are made up of about 35 trillion cells! Each one of them can potentially improve when you exercise. They adapt to when you don’t move and when you do.

One perfect example is bone cells. After about 20 years old your bone mass is at its peak. That means that you are at risk to start losing more bone cells than you are producing. When you contract your muscles during strength training exercises, your bone cells get a signal to produce more bone cells. When your muscles don’t pull on your bones, more bone is lost than produced. Use it to keep it!

Enjoy the ‘pause’ this week. Check in on what is most important to you about your well-being. Then set your mind to exercise in a way that gives you more of what you want in the coming year. Then step confidently into the rest of 2019!

Keep Moving, Be Well,

Janet

Leave a comment

by | February 12, 2019 · 6:12 pm

Keep Moving Forward

Keep moving forward. These inspirational words remind us that setbacks will happen. It is part of being on the journey. It’s part of life. Keep moving is the title of this blog, to remind us that movement is a key to health, but also to remind each one of us that setbacks are normal. They are just part of the process.

Looking back, have you noticed that the setbacks lead to the best ‘ah ha’s’? Learn from what is not working and you will find the path you need to follow for lasting weight loss. Focus on what you can learn from setbacks, and you will keep moving forward.

Learn from when your body is saying “no thank you, I cannot do that right now”. The ‘right now’ is a critical thing to remember. Your body is in constant change. Ignore it and it will ‘speak’ louder. Work with it, listen to it and you will keep moving forward. Focus on what your body can do right now, and you will keep moving forward.

Learn from what your thoughts are creating. Negative thoughts will drain your energy faster than anything. Your mindset changes your body. Focus on what is going well each day, and you will keep moving forward.

Keep Moving, Be Well,

Janet

Leave a comment

by | January 22, 2019 · 7:05 pm