Guest post from Karen Whittier
Just like every other working mother out there (I know that’s redundant) spare time is something rare. So when I did have the opportunity to get some exercise, I’d go run figuring running gave the most bang for my pavement-pounding buck. Sure I knew runners were supposed to stretch—either before or after running depending on who you listened to. BUT they just didn’t understand…I didn’t have time for that.
Over the years, the body will try to do what it can to keep going. It’s very easy to choose to ignore your body’s signals that things are amiss. I certainly ignored warnings from my body, but I didn’t want to change my workouts or admit anything was wrong. Sooner or later, though, the body’s quiet distress signals will become full-fledged screams.
The usual progression of overuse leads right to injuries. I had a handful of injuries, leading up to the one that definitely got my attention. I was out running when I heard a pop and simultaneously jumped straight up; crumpling on the trail when I landed. Unfortunately I was out a distance from my car and so I did my best to shuffle/limp the rest of the back. My tight, unpliable hamstrings were the culprit and I was forced into some stretching exercises with physical therapy when my injury healed. I even voluntarily tried some yoga classes.
I guess this is an indictment on my intelligence but once I started feeling better I lapsed right back into the prior patterns. It wasn’t too long before injuries and newly diagnosed arthritis knocked me out of action again.
I credit yoga with reclaiming my physical freedom. I’d gotten to the point where, almost every day, I’d be in tears suffering from chronic pain and stiffness from arthritis. I was given more and more medication. None, except cortisone shots, did anything to alleviate the pain and unfortunately cortisone shots are not something that can be done routinely.
I was getting to the point of desperation. I faintly remembered feeling better when I’d done yoga. I decided to commit more fully to it and, sure enough in not too long a time, the range of motion in my hips and shoulders increased; I stood up taller and moved more fluidly. Having my brain work with my body, as partners, has made all the difference! I’m not 100% pain free every day and I’ll never be described as flexible, but I am no longer taking anti-inflammatories and I’m much, much more flexible than I was.
I was so impressed by the results yoga gave me I ended up going through a teacher training program. I’ve been able to unite my passion for health and wellness through yoga with my commitment to fight disease with a new business, Embrace Activism. You might not be able to envision just what you’ll discover once you begin your yoga journey, but I can promise you it’ll be life-changing.
Dear Readers: Add to your online workout buddy list and actively embrace Karen over at her site, www.EmbraceActivism.com.[plus1 count=”true” size=”standard”]
Guest post from Juliana Carvatt
During the summer between my junior and senior year of college, I had multiple surgeries, first to remove the cancer, then to take out lymph nodes to which the cancer had spread, and later to implant a port that would be used to administer intravenous chemotherapy. I was advised to take the year off of school to complete a twelve-month immunochemotherapy regimen, but I chose to complete my degree while I did treatment. I was determined to graduate on time no matter what.
Although I hope to have many more years of living, I doubt there will be few, if any, as challenging as the one I spent going to school, student-teaching, and doing chemo. But with the support of friends, family, and some very accommodating professors, I made it, graduating summa cum laude, right on schedule.
A week after I completed treatment, I bought a membership at the YMCA and decided that I would never take my body’s ability to do miraculous things for granted. After all, it had fought cancer, recovered from three surgeries all less than a month apart, and endured twelve months of toxic chemo. If my body was capable of doing that, the least I could do was honor it. I found myself drawn to running, and although I was never a runner before cancer, after the fight, I somehow tied running to loving and appreciating my body. Starting to run was a turning point for me. It marked the start of a life of living after cancer. That’s why I believe that while treatment saved me from cancer, it was running that saved me from the devastating physical and emotional toll treatment took on me.
Gradually, I was able to do more. I tried not to get discouraged by how little I could do. I set a goal to participate in a 5K race that was eight weeks away. To prepare, I found a walk-to-run 5K training guide online and followed it carefully. On the days I didn’t want to get out of bed and go to the gym, I would ask myself, “Have you ever regretted going for a run?” My answer to that question has always been “No.” Asking myself this is usually enough to get me out of bed!
After I completed the 5K, I explored lots of other activities in and outside of the gym; kickboxing, skiing, pilates, white water kayaking, yoga, dance, and spin classes. I enjoyed these activities, but running was still my favorite. It’s been nearly four years since I promised to honor my body, and I feel I have kept that promise.
Last spring, I began chronicling my adventures as a runner/cancer survivor on a blog, called Hope, Love, Run. I love writing about my experiences and hope that my blog motivates others to push their own limits and overcome personal challenges. I also feel accountable because I share the goals I set for myself in my posts and reflect on them regularly.
Last summer, I pledged to run six miles every day in July so I could win the title of top point-earner on a site called Earndit.com. I successfully reached my goal of running six miles every day for a month, and reaching that goal gave me the confidence to begin training for a half marathon. I ran my first half last November, and this spring I trained for and ran another half marathon to support First Descents, a charity that encourages young adult cancer survivors to push their physical limits. I called this race my cancerversary half marathon, because the race date was within a few days of the five year anniversary of my cancer diagnosis, a date I was once told I might not live to see.
it’s better than I ever could have imagined; I am so happy to be alive! I never thought anything good could come from getting cancer, but now I know that’s just not true. I have developed a passion for exercise and an appreciation for my body that many women spend a lifetime searching for. But most of all, I’ve learned that with a fighting spirit and some determination, anything is possible!
Clinton, New Jersey
Guest post by Mary Ellen Ciganovich
For me, fitness has always been fun! I was lucky enough to have been born at a time when fun meant coming home from kindergarten, doing my homework or chores then grabbing my bicycle and riding around the neighborhood with my friends. In summertime we would ditch our bikes for a game of kickball in the street. Or if we could find a mason jar we would catch fireflies! My neighborhood had a small creek running through it, so on really hot Atlanta nights we would wade through the creek like a band of pirates.
I had a very simple case of petite mal temporal lobe epilepsy but my family took it very hard. They tried to explain to me what epilepsy was but nothing made sense at that age. I was told what I “couldn’t” or “shouldn’t” do but I did not feel any different so I continued to play and stay fit as much as possible. If it was fun, why should I stop? Plus playing outside got me out of the house.
My home life was not the best. We looked like the model family at the movies or restaurants, especially on High Holy days when we would go to church. I was very well-dressed, and as my mother often told me, “at least you don’t look like you have it,” “it” being the epilepsy. I used to wonder what people with epilepsy were supposed to look like!
Our true home life was verbally and emotionally traumatic. When mom and dad fought it would just tear me to pieces. I believed they were fighting about me or I had caused the problem somehow. I am a very sensitive person and did not like to hear them yell and fight and …………… I think you get the picture. When I would get on my bike to ride around the neighborhood I could leave all of their turmoil behind me.
I continued to involve myself in activities that were athletic. My epilepsy was well-controlled though medication so to me it was not a worry. In fourth grade I tried out for cheerleading and continued to cheer through high school. I also took ballet through the Atlanta School of Ballet catching rides to get to my lessons with several worthy friends. I went on to attend The University of Georgia, graduating Magna cum Laude in Education and becoming a member of the Alpha Chi Omega sorority.
Even though my mother and sister told me I could never get married nor have any children–at this time it was illegal in most states for people with epilepsy to marry and/or have children–I did get married and have a beautiful daughter! (You can imagine the ignorance about epilepsy back then.)
I remember when my neurologist told me this diagnosis, my first question was, “Can I still work out?” Exercise always made me feel good and normal, something I never felt growing up. She hesitated for only a moment before saying, “You’re going to work out anyway, aren’t you?” I said “yes” so she told me to “go ahead. It probably won’t hurt.” In 1986 there were no medications or shots to take–nothing but prescriptions to deal with the symptoms. My first symptom was a sharp knife-like pain through my right eye. Prednisone took care of it. Then a sol-u-medrol IV treatment put me back on my feet.
I read everything I could get my hands on about multiple sclerosis. I even called the National MS Society asking them to send me their literature. In 1986 this literature was NOT optimistic. When I received and read this horrible “junk” I called the MS society and told them what they could do with their literature. Then I slammed the phone down and tore it ALL up! I was determined to learn what I needed myself.
What I read about MS pointed at keeping three things in balance
Usually you can find me at the Sports Barn on Lee Highway in Chattanooga, Tennessee. I take lots of classes–such as power flex class, step aerobics, cardio dance, and yoga–because I enjoy them. I also work out on the Precor machines. I played tournament racquetball for awhile but I had to give that up because when I get hot my MS flares up and I start seeing two balls or stumble around as if drunk!
Lately in the heat of the summer I’ve had to back down just to keep my MS under control. You have to know your body. Listen to it. Push yourself to get out there and work out. Meet new people. Make new friends. Find a fitness routine that works for you and DO IT! There are no excuses!! Even on my bad MS days I push myself to exercise because when I finish I feel so much better and I know my MS “monster” is back in its cave!
Being active is fun! It means getting together with some of the most wonderful women in Chattanooga who have become much more than workout buddies – they are my friends, my own little support group. (I would like to tell them Thank You! I hope all of you know how much your kindness, love and unending support have meant to me!)
To all of you reading my story: what is your excuse if you are not working out regularly? Lack of time? Money? The old “I don’t look good enough to go to a gym” excuse?
Guest post from Catherine Garceau
“If I could just recommit to regular exercise, get to sleep before 10pm every night, do the master cleanse for 10 days, and stop bingeing, I’d get my body back,” I thought again and again. But the more I aimed for perfection, the more I found myself plunging into a bag of M&Ms or Doritos (or both!). My dedicated weeks of “perfection” came back to haunt me every time, leading to humiliating binges, chronic fatigue, and depression.
Does any of this sound familiar? If so, I hope you can find, as I did, a whole new way to approach weight loss and exercise. For me, this turn-around started when a naturopathic friend gave me a gift: a Qigong DVD. “Qigong…for weight loss?” my athletically obsessed and skeptic mind chattered. But at that point, I was desperate and willing to try anything. So I began the daily practice of this Qigong (wuyijiehe.com). And to my surprise, little by little, my days became more peaceful and my body calmer. Qigong started to fill me with increased energy from within. Still I wondered: Could I ever get my strong and toned body again? And was it even necessary? I decided I’d only commit if I could do so without imposing harsh and regimented training routines on myself. I flew out into the cosmos my intention to find a ‘whole new way’ of experiencing weight loss, exercise and healing.
Gradually I lost weight as I accepted and embraced my body’s needs for rest, balanced nutrition, and a spiritual foundation of faith. Above all, I followed a ‘no rushing‘ rule—I was in this for the long-term– no more quick-fix.
Synchronicities kept showing me the way. For instance, I’d think of a question I had about one aspect of digestion, and ‘poof’ someone would hand me a book addressing this very issue. I’d follow my love for dolphins and ‘poof’ be offered a job to perform as a Mermaid in Vegas. Just short of one year later, after I had decided to move back with my family to rebuild my life and career, my mother kept telling me about a nearby phys-ed teacher who was attracting up to eighty women per night to dance it up in a neighborhood school gym. Never would I have guessed that Zumba Fitness would be this ‘whole new way’ of exercise for me… but that day, after one hour of Latin inspired aerobics, I came home smiling, sweaty, energized and full of hope!
And just as Qigong had become my body-mind practice to foster deep energy generation and rejuvenation, Zumba classes became my time to forget about my worries, loosen up, and have fun. What was most transformative for me wasn’t the great sweat and cardio I got out of each class, but most importantly, I learned to exercise without the cruel energy of punishment featured by my Olympic training workouts in the past.
Even Dr. Daniel Amen, whom I interviewed for my Wellness Olympiad expert library, confirmed the benefits I was getting out of Zumba: “Few activities stimulate as wide a variety of brain systems as dancing does,” says Dr. Amen. And he was right! Much more than weight loss and toning, my organizational skills got better, my memory improved, my body felt lighter and I refound my zest for life! Everything I had studied for so long and seen manifest in others became my reality too.
Now, in addition to coaching privately and teaching 360 Degrees Of Nourishment, a 6-week course I teach online, I now teach both Qigong and Zumba in my local community. This is all great practice for an exciting future ahead, involving dancing and public speaking.
My greatest hope is that YOU find YOUR ‘whole new way’ to exercise and LOVE your body. Five keys to help you:
Please visit www.wellnessolympiad.com/free for some of the freebies I now offer. Also, look out for my book, Heart of Bronze. Until then, keep it light!
Olympic Bronze Medalist,
Founder of the Wellness Olympiad
Guest post by Shannon Hammer
I came by my extra 100 pounds honestly—too much bad food and too little exercise. Early in my life, I’d developed a “diet/binge” pattern, meaning I’d go on the latest fad diet until I couldn’t stand it anymore and then break out in a binge, consuming every “forbidden” high-fat, high-calorie, and just-plain-bad-for-you food as quickly as possible. In addition, I got no exercise whatsoever. I sat in front of a computer by day and then in front of the TV at night.
After I saw that photo, I started doing two simple things that literally changed my life: I started writing down my food and I began exercising. Keeping a food journal empowered me to plan healthy, balanced meals and curb impulsive eating. I stopped eating the food I was addicted to—mainly sugar and flour—and started eating healthy protein, complex carbohydrates and vegetables.
At 230 pounds, my ankles hurt when I walked across my small apartment so I needed to find an activity that I (1) liked and (2) could do safely. Walking turned into my perfect exercise. Every day after work, I’d put on my headphones, turn up my favorite music, and head out the door. At first I could walk for 20 minutes before I had to head home, sweaty and exhausted. Before long, my legs grew stronger and I could walk longer and faster. After awhile I added ankle weights to make my daily walks more challenging. The weight started coming off, I had more energy, and I just felt overall happier.
I also got bored. Walking—even with ankle weights and fun music—just got too easy. I needed more of a challenge. The problem was I didn’t have the time, money, or confidence to join a gym. The perfect solution turned out to be exercise videos. They were affordable—I could even rent them at my local video store—as well as being private and fun. Videos allowed me to fit exercise into my schedule, stay motivated by providing a wide selection of workout types and levels, and create a balanced routine that incorporated strength, flexibility, and cardiovascular benefits. In addition, I was able to customize workouts to fit my needs; I could fast-forward or rewind through sections (to add extra cardio or abdominal work, for example), do a partial workout if I ran out of time, and multi-task by washing clothes or running the dishwasher while I exercised.
By keeping a food journal and exercising five to six days a week, over a three-year period, I lost over 100 pounds. In 2004 I felt comfortable enough to join a gym, where I still work out six days a week, participating in group classes and lifting weights. Last year I realized I needed to focus more on flexibility, so I added yoga to my routine—the kind of yoga that’s done in a 105-degree studio!
Even though I’ve been maintaining my weight loss for almost eight years, I still write down my food every day. It helps me maintain my weight loss and keeps me accountable so I don’t slip back into old patterns. Several years ago, I got tired of writing down my food in notebooks and Post-It Notes. I wanted a journal that would allow me keep my food plan in one place and also provide daily inspirations to keep me motivated. I looked everywhere and couldn’t find it—the book I wanted didn’t exist. So I figured I’d write it! That book became The Positive Portions Food & Fitness Journal, which was published in 2009.
My life has so completely transformed since that awful January day ten years ago. I now wear a size six instead of a size twenty-four. I went back to college and earned my Bachelor’s Degree, graduating with a 4.0 GPA. I work at a job I love. In 2007 I married the man of my dreams (who’s never seen me fat but he has seen the pictures). I never dreamed my life could be this good.
Adored Readers who are Overweight, Underweight, On-Targetweight: Shannon would love to hear from you and have you visit her site. If you are in Redondo Beach, join her for a workout!
More about Shannon:
Location: Redondo Beach, CA
Occupation: Editor in chief of seven national magazines for a global automotive brand and author of The Positive Portions Food & Fitness Journal (Fairview Press)
Current weight: 123—125 lbs.
Height: 5’5 1/2
Highest weight ever: 230 lbs.
Last date at this highest weight: 2001
Guest post from Suzanne Andrews
I developed bursitis in my hips creating an inflammation so severe that I couldn’t walk without flinching. I suffered through two miscarriages and eventual gall bladder surgery. My condition had gotten so severe I couldn’t even play with my newborn without becoming winded. Exercise was out of the question. I could barely see my toes; being able to touch them was a fantasy.
Every day was another dose of my harsh reality. Commuting to work on the bus was a humiliating experience, as I had to endure the cruel snickers when I couldn’t fit into the seat. My wake-up call came two years later, at my son’s birthday party. When I saw the videotape of the celebration, I didn’t even recognize myself. Staring me in the face, right there on the screen was the reason my hips and back ached so terribly. I had enough. It was time for a change.
A guest panelist and psychologist on the CBS Geraldo show where I worked, told me meditation could help. I was skeptical, but desperate to try anything that would make me feel whole again. I needed to be there for my son. At first I didn’t understand how a sedentary activity like meditation could help me to lose weight. It was not long before I discovered the secret—during meditation your mind is the CEO and your body the dutiful employee. You tell your body what it needs to do and it follows suit.
The ritual of meditation was the spark that jump-started my weight loss plan. I felt energized to exercise daily, choose healthier options and control my portion sizes. The meditation motivated me in ways I never thought imaginable, helping me lose the excuses and get on the track to better health. I started with gentle yoga combined with low impact exercises, which not only helped me to start shedding pounds, but also made my day-to-day tasks more manageable.
Meditation saved my life and prevented my son from becoming motherless at 10 years old. I credit my success to the incorporation of mind, body and spirit that meditation encourages. The same breathing techniques that controlled my appetite and regulated my stress also helped encourage me to exercise enough to develop my lungs and give them power. It was those same healthy, powerful lungs that delivered me from the brink of death when a medical miscalculation caused my heart to stop on an operating table. As doctors frantically fought to revive my lifeless body with CPR, my body started to shut down, turning my lips, hands and feet a chilling blue. Near death, I was transported by ambulance to the intensive care unit. My body was on the verge of giving up. My kidneys shut down and my veins constricted so tightly that doctors could not administer a lifesaving intravenous line.
My body and my spirit were determined to live. I would not die; I would live; I would see my son again. I started to meditate. After five minutes of willing myself to survive and using my meditation skills, my body started its journey back from the edge. My kidneys started functioning again. My pulse strengthened and my veins opened up. Later, my cardiologist would proclaim in amazement, “I’m an Indian doctor and my patient is teaching me how great meditation is!”
After that near death experience, I had a renewed sense of purpose: motivate others and help those struggling with weight find their purpose. My weight could have been a death sentence, but meditation and determination were my pardon. I went from being introverted and soft spoken to a confident, capable and dynamic woman ready to embrace life.
Dear Readers: Join 45 million in the PBS family and catch Suzanne in action on her PBS tv show, Functional Fitness. If her show does not air in your area, get bizzzeeee and email and request that they broadcast the show where you can work out with her. To learn more about Suzanne’s program, Functional Fitness; to work out with doctor-recommended DVDs; and to see a free preview go to www.healthwiseexercise.com
She says you are also welcome to email her at email@example.com. How friendly is that from a tv star?
Guest post by Toneka Pires
Until my mid-twenties, I listened to negative voices that told me I was fat and ugly; I believed I was not worthy. While some of those negative voices came from well-meaning family and friends, many came from my own heart. I didn’t think I could achieve much of anything; I didn’t believe that I deserved to try to achieve more; I didn’t believe that I was a beautiful human being at all. I simply did what others thought I ought to and managed to stay on a course of misery and mediocrity. This was my normal: avoiding thinking too much about who I was, not setting goals for myself, not loving myself nor desiring for more in my life and my well-being. I internalized these negative voices and allowed my self-esteem to plummet.
In 2001, some small piece of me had enough. I took a couple of simple steps; I began to lose a few pounds and channeled the disparaging voices into positive fuel for me to change my life. I set the goal of entering my first fitness show at the end of 2002, not knowing that I would be derailed even before I got on that stage. Two weeks before my first show, a drunk driver hit me. I found myself in the hospital, bedridden and immobile for months, facing more months of physical therapy, wanting to crumble into depression and self-loathing because this body was broken and ugly once again. An entire year of hard work and progress had been taken away from me. I wanted to give up. I did not have the strength to begin this process all over again. A year of progress had been wasted by someone else’s poor and wasted judgment. However I had learned a year of life lessons. Two other peoples’ lives had been lost in that accident, but I realized that I had my life and I held it in my own hands; I could do anything I wanted to with it. I had a second chance to get my life right.
After therapy concluded, I began to truly transform my physique, losing almost twenty-five pounds and gaining in every other aspect of my life. At every crossroad, when I achieved a goal or lost another pound, I found that my determination grew, my focus intensified, and my energy blossomed. I began to look inside myself and saw increasing amounts of self-esteem, love and healing.
Not every day was fueled by a positive cycle. The negative voices that I was able to shut out were not truly silent: you are too curvy; you are not tough enough; you are not pretty enough, you will never have what it takes to make it. In fact, I realized that the higher you climb and the more public accolades you achieve, the more direct people will be in expressing their desire to tear you down. I learned to use others’ negativity to fuel my fire. Over the next six years I faced these challenges, embracing the wellness that my bodily transformation was creating. There were times when I worked so hard I forgot to look to see what I was accomplishing. Sometimes I stopped being mindful of my self-worth and the goals I had already achieved. I didn’t always take ownership of my successes but was quick to own my failures. To this day I have to acknowledge and be aware of what I have accomplished: winning thirteen fitness championships, establishing a successful company, co-authoring my first book, mentoring and tutoring children who are less fortunate (than I), and giving back to the world by actively supporting charities.
Following a path without mindfulness is not a path to success. I believe that we all deserve more. More challenges, more passion, more movement. Enthusiasm, progress, and the embrace of total wellness did not only change my life. They are my life.
My hope for you is that you can embrace obstacles with ease and learn from them; build strength through experience; and know that your defeats provide the seeds of great accomplishments.
Toneka Pires, Los Angeles, CA
Motivated readers: Hie thee hence to Toneka’s websites. Get fitness, competition, and nutritional info at http://www.bwellfit.com/ Check out more about Toneka, who is genuinely one of the most positive, loving people we’ve met: http://www.tonekapires.com/ She has even invited you to email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
guest post by Sima Tamaddon
Exercise was always something that brought balance to my life. For years, I tried to practice the “healthy mind=healthy body” lifestyle. In 1999, my balance was disrupted when I was injured in a severe car accident. Confronted with the diagnosis that I may never walk without assistance, I was determined to prove the doctors wrong. Through my recovery, I discovered yoga, and through dedicated practice, overcame the physical and emotional trauma.
The accident left me in a wheelchair for a little over a month. I had an external Fixator in my right leg for two months and two screws in my left knee. I eventually opted to have them taken out as I wanted to be without them as I finished healing.
I became very dependent on my parents. At times it was difficult to ask for help – since I was a adult and felt I should be able to go to the bathroom or clean up after myself on my own. At the same time, this dependency and accident brought me closer to them. It was as if I was getting to know them all over again, but on a totally different level. Although, I hated depending on them, it allowed me to really get to know them at an age most kids can’t wait to get away. I remember laughing with my mom while watching way too many movies and talking to my dad about who knows what.
On a personal level, I had to examine my habits and stop comparing myself to others, especially my old self. I used to think about the long runs I would take, the way I used to run down the stairs without thinking. The new Sima had to watch every step with careful consideration. It was hard. I also had to literally stop working out. I had to heal. My working out became resting. With much rest and gradual strength training – of not only my body, but my mind and spirit – I experienced an amazing recovery.
Using my newly found passion and strength, I decided I wanted to help others through the power of yoga, and I opened a yoga practice, Soul Surgery. Through one-on-one sessions and personalized instruction, I strove to teach others how to live in the moment: with a full heart, open mind and generous spirit. Clients, friends and family members appreciated the positive impact I was having in their lives and encouraged me to open my own business.
Throughout the entire transformation, I learned a lot. I have stopped getting overly competitive. I began to take a much more holistic approach to fitness. It was no longer about running a certain amount of miles – it was about being healthy. Before the accident I was stuck on how I looked. Now I spend much more time focusing on how I feel which comes from the combination of intense exercise balanced with the inner-soul searching of yoga.
Every day I get up I realize that is is a blessing. When I think I cannot finish a ride or a class I know that it is not how you finish just that you finish…. same with staying on track–it becomes you. There is no program, it just is…
Sima Tamaddon, Alexandria, Virginia
guest post by Jerry and Ginny
Jerry: Then in December of 2009 I experienced a Hemorraghic stroke. My principal deficit from the stroke was extreme mental and physical exhaustion. My energy level varied drastically during the day making it difficult to be productive. I literally crashed after eating and sometimes could not sustain concentration beyond 20 minutes without stopping to rest.
I wanted to take an active role in my recovery and healing so decided to join Club 14 Fitness, a locally owned gym on Amelia Island. Ginny went along to encourage me. We were assigned a trainer and enjoyed working out together. I really benefited from the structured workouts The exercise helped raise my energy level and spirits making me feel more “normal”. Specifically, the exercise helped my circulation, and the sauna afterward relieves arthritic pain.
After the initial 16 weeks of structured exercise I regained the strength and energy I had lost from the stroke and am now a third of the way toward my weight loss goal.
Ginny: I am so glad I went along to the club with Jerry! I definitely gained weight during his recovery from being home more, being less physically active, being stressed, and eating more. Finally I broke through procrastination and had the opportunity to see the results of working out three times a week.
I have dropped two dress sizes and feel amazing. Both Jerry and I are fitting into clothes we have not worn in over 20 years. We have also altered our diet, limiting starches and adding more veggies. Now the gym is a habit and we no longer allow other priorities to interfere with our health and Jerry’s recovery.
Our Advice: No matter how difficult life gets after an unexpected health problem, find a way to exercise. It is good for the body, mind and spirit of the patient and the caretaker!
Readers: What would it take to motivate you to work out more consistently and purposefully?
guest post from Sharon Rosenblatt
I know that people always say that exercising improves your life because of all the health benefits and endorphin boosters but I’m one of those rare cases–exercise has literally saved my life. I wasn’t particularly active when I was younger. I did what I had to in order to stay thin. I participated, but didn’t excel in high school softball and track. Actually, I didn’t really come close to coming close to excelling. After all, I am the height of a standard hurdle. I’m not built for being active—I’m built more to be an armrest for my over 5 feet tall friends. High school sports were mostly just a way to beef up my college resume and make new friends.
College didn’t really change that. I was terrified of the freshman 15 so I started making the gym part of my daily routine along with trying to eat more than two different vegetables a day. Nothing special. I treated the trudge to the gym on the opposite side of campus as a viable escape from the library although I’d always try to take the stairs to the obscure 6th floor to study. Suffice it to say, working out was definitely a small component of my life but nothing I identified with. When I was close to finishing up my sophomore year in college, I went through some tough personal issues that landed me home for a semester on the strict recommendations of everyone but me. I was frustrated, for lack of a better word publishable word. I had doctors give me enough prescriptions to wallpaper a small bedroom and I was in an outpatient therapy program three times a week. After some time, I was getting better in the clinical sense, but I wasn’t fulfilled. I was getting praised for sharing feelings and speaking up in group but I missed that sense of challenge for something larger; something I couldn’t describe.
One of my friends who went to school not too far from my home suggested that we train for a road race. She gave me the details–a Thanksgiving run that was almost five miles. It didn’t have that hokey name of ‘Turkey Trot’ so I didn’t write it off immediately. I hadn’t run five continuous miles, ever. Even when I did track in high school, the most I could muster was a mile. The distance sounded like a marathon. But I was determined because I needed something good to look forward to besides CSI marathons on TV. So I joined a gym near my house. I went at those random hours of the day when it was less crowded and people couldn’t see just how much a tiny girl could sweat. I jogged a mile on the treadmill a day for two weeks. A 12 minute mile. Then I bumped it to two. I pushed myself to work out every day, even weekends. Suddenly, I wasn’t just running, I was running to something–a real goal that wasn’t thrust on me by a medical textbook and diagnosticians. I experienced self-motivation. I hadn’t believed in myself for over a year and seeing myself run my first 5k on a treadmill made me hunger for more miles. I started buying running clothes to make me look forward to working out more. I even bought one of those shoulder iPod holders.
Yet, the worst part of the process for me was dealing with my bodily limitations. I had never pushed myself at the gym before and I had to teach motivation again. I wish I could say that I was pumped from the get go and did two-a-days at the gym. There were some days where I would look at the gym as this foreign place where my kind didn’t go. A five miler was a morning workout for some of my fellow gym goers, and I was huffing through two. It was almost as though I had to learn how to walk again since I had no endurance. I did it without a personal trainer and only the advice from a few web pages. I recall being embarrassed that I couldn’t make myself run that far when people who looked to be less in shape than me could. Yet, I knew it was something I had to do if I wanted to break out from the doldrums of group therapy and repeated trips to the mall.
One way I remedied this was to make fun playlists for my workouts. I picked music that I related to and got me going. That made my workouts seem more like a dance party. However, this became embarrassing because I have the habit of raising my hands when a song tells me to do so. The song ‘Shots’ by LMFAO is especially problematic with the lyrics ‘If you’re feeling drunk, put your hands in the air’ and I’d start waving my hands like a maniac in the middle of the line of treadmills at the gym. I’m still occasionally guilty of this.
Even though I had to walk the uphill portions on race day in November, I still finished. And now, two years later, I’ve completed over a dozen road races (including two half marathons!). I’m running that Thanksgiving race again for my fourth time next year. I had to change my mindset that all runs are a race because I learned that in high school track. I used to get hung up over my mile times and trying to reduce by seconds became a mathematical and psychological nightmare. Since I’m bad at remainders from division and I have short legs, I’ve learned to live with my deficiencies and just run for me—not against me or anyone else.
Over the few years, I’ve found that running recreationally with others, even if it is at different speeds, is the best motivator. I treated running like group therapy—you always have something to learn by watching others. I’ve run with running clubs associated with athletic stores, college groups and just friends. Each and every time, I’ve had fun talking about the meaning of life related to the run. I’ve found runners to be the most grounded, yet philosophical people I’ve ever met. I also try to avoid fitness ruts as much as possible. I’ve experienced treadmill running to be boring after a while. Even if you have to run inside in winter months, at least pick a different position inside the gym or switch up the TV from ESPN to “The Price is Right.” Once the weather got nicer, I’d always try to explore new areas around familiar places. Suddenly, my friendly neighborhood hills seemed challenging when I’d approach them from a different side street.
Running, especially outside, gave me that push that drugs and therapy couldn’t always do. I’m not the fastest or have the best form but I do it because I always know that when I finish a jog or a 10 miler, the euphoria of the finish is always better than where I started.
Silver Spring, MD, USA