Blog Archives

It’s Spring Training Time Again!

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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,



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by | November 13, 2019 · 7:45 pm

This dietitian reaps what she sows from exercise

Team blog series

Narmin Virani is one of our incredible dietitians here at the Weight Center.  If you know her, you have experienced her mindful and calming approach to eating.  She brings that same presence to keep herself moving, and reaps what she sows from exercise.

What do you currently do for exercise?

I love walking outdoors in the spring, summer, and fall.  I try to do this three to four days a week if I can. I love hiking on weekends.  I have also been getting into gardening seriously over the last few years, and love it!  I think of it as exercise for the body, mind, and soul, and I highly recommend it.  There’s something about growing food that makes you connect with it very differently.  In our culture, we sometimes look at food as something that needs to be controlled and feared; gardening can make you look at it as something to be nurtured and savored with joy.

 In the winter, I walk indoors, either at the mall, or simply at home, for 30 minutes, two to four days a week.  Walking at home may sound silly, but I find that if I get a 30 minute walk in, I sleep better at night.  I usually listen to music or a podcast while walking, if I’m walking indoors.  If I’m not in the mood for walking indoors, I dance.  I either do Zumba videos online at home, or I simply put on my favorite dance playlist and dance for about 30 minutes.

I also use weight machines at my local gym, an average of once or twice a week, to maintain strength and lean body mass, as I know we lose this as we get older.  I also do gentle stretching for 10-15 minutes most days before bedtime, to keep my joints flexible, and also because it helps me sleep better.

What has been your biggest challenge with exercise in recent years?

I had a shoulder tendinitis injury few years back.  The reason was unbalanced weight lifting – I was over-working certain muscle groups while not properly strengthening others.  Going through physical Therapy for this injury was an enlightening experience. It taught me the importance of listening closely to my body, and of targeting all muscle groups, while preventing injury.  Before this experience, my main incentive for weight-lifting was to have good muscle tone.  After this, it has become more about being strong, and less about aesthetics or “looking toned”.

How did you overcome that challenge to keep moving?

I took a break from weight training. I did my PT exercises at home for a few months until I healed, before I got back to the gym.  I discovered the importance of listening to my body during that time.

Why is exercise important to you right now in your life?

At one point, in my teens and twenties, exercise was a means to getting and maintaining a certain body shape and weight.  As I have got older, it has become more about keeping myself fit, strong, and energized.  My motivation has become more intrinsic and less extrinsic over the years. My biggest incentive is the significant improvement I see in my sleep quality when I exercise vs when I don’t.

Thank you Narmin!

Keep moving, be well,


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by | November 5, 2019 · 3:38 pm

A busy life does not keep this nurse from exercising

Team blog series


Robin Mason is one of our amazing nurse practitioners. Working full time and raising three busy kids has only made her more creative in finding ways to keep moving.  Check out the strategies she shares below.  

What do you currently do for exercise?

My favorite type of exercise is running. I try to run at least 3 days a week. To keep me motivated I sign up for races so I know that I need to “train” for these. The last race that I ran was the Peach Tree 10k in Atlanta , Georgia on July 4th. I ran with a group of friends and it was a lot of fun. On days that I don’t run I try to get a walk in. On the weekend it is usually 5 or 6 miles, shorter sometimes during the week.

What has been your biggest challenge with exercise in recent years?

As with many people having enough time has been the biggest challenge. Working full time and having three busy kids takes up a lot of my time so I have had to be creative with time management! For example, when my youngest is playing field hockey in the fall or lacrosse in the spring there is at least one game every weekend. Instead of sitting in a chair as a spectator I use that time to walk around the field on the track. I can usually get 5 or 6 miles done in about an hour and a half while still watching the game. In the winter if the weather is okay and she is playing basket ball my husband and daughter will drive to the gym and I will run there and get a ride back with them after the game. Thinking about my time management has allowed me to still be able to watch their activities and get my exercise in as well. The other change was switching from Planet Fitness to the YMCA so the whole family can go. At the YMCA everyone can find something to do whether it is shooting baskets, walking the track, using the weight room or swimming.

Why is exercise important to you right now in your life?

Exercise has become even more important for me as I have gotten older. I think it is so important to keep moving so that as I age I can be the best version of myself that I can be. I think exercise helps to prevent some of the difficulties people can have later in life with mobility. It sets a good example for my kids for sure. Most important it makes me feel good!

Thank you Robin!

Keep Moving, Be Well,



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by | October 30, 2019 · 5:06 pm

Worcester Summer Fitness in the Park Survey for 2020

daydream about next summer.pngAs the shorter colder days of winter are fast approaching, it’s nice to daydream for a bit about next summer.

If you are in the Worcester, MA area, please take a moment to share your ideas for the 2020 FREE Worcester Summer Fitness Series  These are free classes offered in parks all around the area.  The program started this past summer and they are already planning for the line up for next summer.

Click here to complete the brief, confidential survey. 

Keep Moving, Be Well,


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by | October 30, 2019 · 4:59 pm

Moving in the outdoors keeps this physician young and healthy

Team blog series

Dr. Elizabeth Benjevin is one of our physicians here at the UMass Memorial Weight Center.  She shares how she keeps moving by enjoying exercising in the outdoors year round, how she overcame an injury, and stays active on busy days in the clinic.  

What do you currently do for exercise?

Currently I like to mix it up when it comes to exercise.  I enjoy exercising outdoors and being close to nature, so many of my activities revolve around that.  On weekends and my days off I will often go hiking, kayaking or biking in the summer.  During the winter that will switch to skiing – primarily downhill but also cross country as well as occasionally snowshoeing or winter hiking (I use yak trax when walking/hiking to avoid slipping when there’s slippery conditions on the trail.)  I enjoy exercising in the cold.  I realize a lot of people will often hibernate in the winter, but I’ve found that with good warm clothing and practice, one can enjoy exercising outdoors in the cold air.  I often prefer it as I find the cold more invigorating.  But I don’t like being cold so I have invested in some warm jackets, socks (woolen or polyester are much better than the usual cotton), hats, and mittens as well as the footwear.  If I didn’t have these things, I’m sure I would be hibernating as well!   

On days that I am working, I will try to get at least 6000-10,000 steps per day.  I wear my Fitbit and will find excuses to get up and log some extra steps.  It starts in the morning when I park my car in one of the furthest parking spots.  If I have some free time I may walk around the medical school and hospital (outdoors if it’s nice, indoors if not.)  If things are busy then I try to at least get a few steps just walking from my office to the Weight Center front desk – I will often bring charts back one at a time instead of all at once to get more steps as well as to get a break from sitting.  After work, I will often walk with my husband around the neighborhood. 

What has been your biggest challenge with exercise in recent years?

One of my biggest challenges to exercise has been my knee problems.  I had major knee surgery almost 10 years ago.  That knee does have a tendency to act up from time to time.  Often just pacing myself (going on shorter hikes, taking a break from getting my step goal for the day and babying it a little – but not too much because then it can stiffen up) will be all that is needed.  About three years ago when it was not getting better by my usual routine, and I was worried I wouldn’t be able to do my usual hiking and skiing, I finally bit the bullet and made an appointment with my orthopedist.  He recommended physical therapy and what a game changer that was!  With a lot of stretching, a little bit of strengthening exercises and attention to form, I was back hiking again and with much less discomfort than I previously had.  (I had almost hung up my hiking boots so I was thrilled!)

Why is exercise important to you right now in your life?

Exercise is obviously a very important part of my life.  I find that I feel not only physically better but also mentally more alert when I exercise.  It can also be stress relieving (even more so when I can get out in nature) and I feel that it keeps me young.   When I was a primary care physician and saw healthy 80 and 90 year olds in the office, the one thing they all had in common was that they stayed physically active.  It also gives me pleasure – the accomplishment of hiking up a mountain or successfully tackling a black diamond ski trail cannot be beat!

Thank you Dr. Benjevin!

Keep moving, Be Well,


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by | October 21, 2019 · 8:31 pm

Fitting in exercise with a growing family

Fitting in exercise with a growing family

Kayla Scally, one of our nurse practitioners, recently had her second child. With a growing family, she she has found creative and fun ways to keep herself, and her whole family moving.  

What did you do for exercise before becoming a mom?

As boring as this sounds, I walked!  I’ve never been much of a runner, but I’ve always liked walking, especially outdoors!  After work, I looked forward to lacing up my walking shoes and taking a brisk 30+ minute “power walk.”  For me, walking is relaxing and energizing at the same time.  I get lost in my thoughts during solo walks and I like the social aspect of walking with family and friends.  Now that I think about it, I think the best (and most productive!) conversations I’ve had with my husband have been during our walks together!

What is the biggest challenge with exercise in this stage of your life?

Before becoming a mom, I had more free time and a lot less responsibility!  I was self-focused and now I’m family-focused.  So, I think the biggest challenge with exercise in this stage of my life is finding things that I can do alongside my two boys, who are almost 3 years old and 6 months old. Going for a 30-minute “power walk” is certainly out of the question with my toddler.  When he was younger, I could take him with me in our jogging stroller, but now he is at an age where he wants to be free to explore the world and he doesn’t want to sit still!

How has your mindset about exercise changed after becoming a mom?

My mindset about exercise before becoming a mom was that it was something I needed to do to stay in shape.  Now, I consider exercise as something that I want to do to remain healthy for myself and my family.  I also know the benefits of exercise and I know that kids who grow up exercising regularly are more apt to exercise as an adult, so I want to foster this habit starting at a young age… and I think the best way to accomplish this is to lead by example.

Now that you have two small boys, how do you make sure you get enough exercise?

Honestly, I still struggle to make sure that I get enough exercise, but I’m trying!  I am lucky that I have a supportive husband who will watch our boys if I wanted to make time to exercise on my own, but if I do, I feel like I’m missing out on time that I could be spending with my family.  So I’m not going on as many long, brisk walks as I’d like to right now, but instead, I’m trying to incorporate physical activity into play time with my kids.  On nice days after work, our family plays outside with a ball or we ride bikes/scooters up and down the street. I’ll take my 3-year-old on nature walks around our property because he’s fascinated by bugs and rocks.  I might run laps around the backyard, often pretending to be a bear chasing my son (he screams and laughs when I finally catch him!).  Sometimes I’ll run around with my arms stretched wide pretending to be an airplane – and of course my son will join me.  We’ll make up stories about the destinations we’re flying to and there’s certainly always a little turbulence to add to the excitement!  Sometimes I stretch or do some core strengthening exercises while my son is doing self-play in the same room.  My husband is an avid kitesurfer, so I will go for a walk with the boys while he’s out on the water.  We have a pond in our back yard so we’ll take my oldest son out on canoe rides.  When the water freezes, we ice skate on the pond.  I watch my 6-month-old son at home on Mondays so I still go on “power walks” with him in the jogging stroller as often as I can.  Sometimes I walk with the baby to a nearby grocery store and back instead of taking the car.  I also take brisk walks during my lunch, either outside around the perimeter of the hospital or, in unfavorable weather, around the hospital hallways and up/down the stairs, and I park farther away from the hospital so I get in a 10 minute walk to and from my office.

What is your biggest takeaway about exercise in this stage of your life?

My biggest takeaway about exercise at this stage in my life is that doing some sort or physical activity – no matter what it is – is better than doing nothing at all!  Exercise doesn’t have to be a 30-minute walk or time spent at a gym.  Sure, my neighbors probably think I’m silly running in circles in our back yard pretending to be an airplane or a grizzly bear, BUT I’m getting in some cardio AND making memories with my children!  At this stage in my life, that’s what is most important to me.

Thank you Kayla!

Keep Moving, Be Well,


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by | October 15, 2019 · 1:03 pm

Adapting exercise after an injury

Team blog series (1)

Deanna Nole is our Weight Center Coordinator and one of our Dietitians.  She recently fractured her leg and shares her insights about how to keep moving while recovering from an injury. 

What did you do for exercise before your injury?

Before I had my injury, I enjoyed being outside and loved to go hiking, kayaking, and rock climbing. Being outside was always a way for me to deal with stress in my life. Whether it was taking a short walk in the woods or overnight backpacking trips, being outdoors has always helped me to feel good and stay healthy.

What are you doing now for exercise?

Since injuring my leg, I have had to become creative in the ways that I stay active while I am healing. Not only did I have to change my normal exercise routine to include exercises I can do safely that are non-weight bearing such as upper body workouts, stretching, and seated cardio exercises (I am now a HUGE fan of chair Zumba!) but also thinking outside the box on ways to include more exercise. For me, looking at different options other than traditional crutches helped to give me back some mobility, along with making simple changes in my house so I could stay more active.

How has your mindset about exercise/your body shifted as a result of this injury?

I think that one of the hardest aspects of an injury that is not always talked about is the emotional impact that an injury can have on a person, aside from just the physical limitation. As an active person, it was hard for me to see the change my fitness level and ability. But by staying positive, listening to how my body is feeling, and learning to love exercises differently, I have been able to stay healthy while healing.

What is your biggest takeaway from this experience?

My biggest takeaway from this experience is the importance of staying positive during any injury and with a little bit of creativity, you can safely incorporate exercises that you will enjoy and love.

Thank you Deanna!

Keep Moving, Be Well,



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by | October 8, 2019 · 5:57 pm