Fitness, Guest Post, My Story

Facing Challenges and Overcoming Fears

 By Monica 

Rock climbing.

As good as we are at watching what we eat, sometimes we do slip and have a  little too much (or a few too many sweet treats).  There is a program where I work that helps employees learn how to eat healthy and exercise to lose weight.  Several people in my department have done it and enjoyed it, but I was always reluctant – I didn’t really like going to the gym.  But, when the new session started a few weeks ago I finally signed up.  I’m so glad I did. 

On the first day, we had an assessment of where we are now so we can track our progress and chose a goal for what we wanted to accomplish.  There are several teams doing this program at once, and each meeting starts with a rally where the program’s leader shares with the groups where each team is as far as weight loss, steps taken, and amount of exercise.  The team with the most improvement for the week gets a trophy.  It keeps you motivated to work hard and win that trophy!  

The most unexpected thing about this program is how much I’m enjoying being there and doing the exercises.  It’s changed how I look at going to the gym.  Before, I’d been afraid of not knowing how to use the equipment properly and too shy to ask for help.  Going through this program has helped me overcome my shyness; now I’m not as scared to ask questions if I don’t know how to use a machine or need help getting started.  I’ve also enjoyed meeting with our nutritionist and learning more about mindful eating and portion size. 

I feel great, my clothes feel looser, and I know I’m getting stronger.  I really recommend finding a program like this.  Being with a group can help keep you motivated, and some of the nutrition information might stick with you to help improve your family’s eating habits.  If you have a gym near you, check out their class schedule.  Many offer things like yoga or Zumba; ask if you can try a class to see if you like it.  And don’t be afraid to ask questions if you need help.

(Photo Credit: Bryan Wintersteen)

Fitness, Guest Post

Overcoming Barriers to Fitness (Weight Management Part 3)

By Mike Bento, Personal Trainer
The Clubs at Charles River Park

Blue Dumbbells. Photo Credit: Christa Richert

I like to think of fitness as a risk management tool.  What you do today can have an impact on both your current state and on your future.  Developing a healthy lifestyle can help lower your blood pressure, reduces your risk of having a stroke, and can help protect against developing cardiovascular disease and certain cancers.  But there’s an emotional component to fitness as well. 

As your fitness level increases, daily activities become easier; you find you want to do more.  And more than that, you start to feel good.  Your mood improves, you have more energy (especially at the end of the day and the end of the week) and your sleep gets better.  All of these “extra” benefits are just as important as actually working out because they help you stay consistent.  Sticking with it is crucial—to really see results and get the full benefit of your routine you have to make exercise a habit.

But just as there are emotional factors that can help you build momentum, there are others that can be obstacles to beginning (or staying with) your fitness routine.  For some people, it’s fear of change.  If you’ve never really exercised before, starting a fitness program can mean moving outside your comfort zone.  Change can be difficult or even scary.  It doesn’t happen overnight; it takes time and reinforcement, but it does get easier as you go along and start seeing results.  Maybe it’s your clothes feeling a little looser, your waist getting a little smaller, or just someone commenting that you’ve lost weight.  Or maybe you notice your blood sugars are easier to control, or you’ve lowered your blood pressure.  And maybe it’s that you just feel better.  Any or all of these things can be the right motivation to keep doing what you’re doing.

At the end of the day, you are the only person who can do this for yourself.  It’s one thing in your life that you have complete control over.   And that can be very empowering.

Photo Credit: Christa Richert


Exercise Buddy

Earlier this year, the New York Times website featured an article about several recent studies into the exercise habits of dog owners.  What they found was people who owned and walked their dogs exercised more regularly and were often more active than non-dog owners.  While we would never recommend getting a dog just for the potential exercise benefits, there is something to be said here for exercising with a companion. 

Have you ever talked yourself out of exercising because you’re too tired, too busy, etc (it’s okay, we’ve all done it)?  If you have a hard time keeping up with your routine, finding an exercise buddy can help you become more consistent.  Making plans to meet up with someone at the gym keeps you accountable—you’re more likely to go if you know someone is waiting for you.  

Once you get started, the two of you can motivate each other to work just a little bit longer or a little bit harder than you would on your own.  You may even develop a little healthy competition to keep doing your best.  And, if you’re having a particularly difficult or challenging moment, your companion will be there to lend the support you need to keep going.      

Even if you have a well established fitness routine, you can still benefit from bringing someone else along.  Exercising with a buddy can combat the boredom factor that sometimes happens when going it solo, and having someone to talk to can make exercising more fun and enjoyable.  And, the more enjoyable the activity is, the more likely you’ll stick with it.  Finally if nothing else, exercising with a buddy is an opportunity to spend time with a friend or family member while doing something good for your health and Diabetes management

Do you have a workout buddy (four legged or otherwise)?  Do they motivate you to exercise?

(Post content reviewed by the Clubs at Charles River Park.  Photo Credit:  John Nyberg)
Fitness, Guest Post, My Story

My Daily Exercise

By Monica

I usually take my lunch away from the office.  It’s not just to get away from my desk for a little bit, it’s a chance to do some exercise while I’m at work.  I used to have a gym membership but it just didn’t work for me.  Getting to the gym, needing to change clothes and getting back to work in such a short period of time was stressful!  Now, instead of going to the gym I go for a walk at lunch. 

When the weather is nice, I walk up to City Hall.  On days when it’s cold or rainy I still go for my walk but instead of going out, I walk around the first floor of the hospital.  It’s great because no one needs to know I’m exercising and while the pace may be slower, at least I’m still moving and burning calories.  A friend gave me a pedometer recently and I’ve been wearing it for a week or two now.  Seeing how many steps I take while at work and how many calories I burn in just half a day is amazing.  Wearing the pedometer has motivated me to walk even more.  

At home, I sometimes go to the park (it’s a great option if you have kids and time to go for a walk after dinner) but more often I spend time gardening.  I grow flowers as well as vegetables like green peppers, cucumbers and squash— things that need to be watered every day.  Gardening is also very relaxing, and even if you have a small yard or live in an apartment you can still grow some fresh vegetables for yourself.     

Here are some other suggestions for getting exercise.  If you take the train or a bus to work, get off a stop early and walk the rest of the way.  We’re lucky to have a T stop right outside Mass General, but maybe you can try getting off atPark Street.  If you’re going shopping, find a parking spot farther away from the store (and wear comfortable shoes, not high heels).  Take the stairs if you can.  I rarely take the elevator if I’m going down stairs, and make a point of walking up the stairs to my office at least once a day—and my office is on the seventh floor. 

The most important thing is exercise can be anywhere.  It doesn’t have to be just outside or at the gym.


Warm Up, Cool Down

Young woman stretchingRegular exercise has a number of benefits for overall health and wellness.  It can help with reducing stress, strengthening the heart and bones, and is a key factor in weight loss and management (to name just a few).  Regular physical activity also plays a role in helping to control blood sugar.  But did you know that what you do immediately before and after exercise, regardless of the activity you choose, is just as important as the exercise itself? 

Before starting your exercise session, it’s best to do a warm up.  It doesn’t have to be anything strenuous—in fact it shouldn’t be.  The purpose of a warm up is to prepare the body for more strenuous exercise by raising the heart rate slightly and increasing the flow of blood and oxygen to the muscles.  A low-impact version of the activity you’ll be doing (i.e. walking and jogging before going for a run) is a perfectly acceptable way to warm up, as is using a foam roller.  How long you warm up varies by individual and activity, but a good guideline is 5-10 minutes before starting more strenuous exercise. 

In addition to getting the body ready to move, warming up properly can help prevent injury and improve performance.  Think about it this way:  an elastic band kept in a desk drawer is easier to stretch and less likely to break than one that’s been in the refrigerator.  Your muscles are just like that elastic band; warming up makes the muscles (as well as ligaments—the connective tissues in joints) more flexible and respond to commands more efficiently. 

A cool down is like a warm up, except in reverse.  Where the purpose of a warm up is to increase blood flow and body temperature, a cool down brings the heart rate and breathing back down to resting.  Gradually slowing down your activity level can also prevent feelings of dizziness or lightheadedness that’s caused by blood pooling in the legs and feet (which sometimes happens when you stop exercising suddenly).  Just like a warm up, the length of time spent doing a cool down varies by individual but the general recommendation is again about 5-10 minutes. 

Granted, sometimes it can be difficult to find the time to exercise period, let alone add extra time at the beginning or end.  Diving right in might seem like a good shortcut, but taking the time to warm up and cool down properly is better for your body and can help get the most out of your workout.  In short, that “extra” time is time well spent. 

 Finally, a few reminders: consult your health care provider before starting an exercise program, monitor your blood sugar and keep a snack or fast acting glucose on hand in case of lows.

(Information reviewed by the Clubs at Charles River Park)

Spring Fitness Ideas

woman running outside wth dogAre you finding it harder to feel motivated to exercise?  Is your regular exercise routine feeling a little well, dull?  You may be in a bit of a fitness rut.  

Let’s face it, winter sometimes means exercise is primarily an indoor activity (it’s cold and windy, it gets dark early, there’s a mountain of snow on the sidewalk, etc).  Doing the same exercise in the same setting, whether at home or at the gym, does get tiring after a while.  If this sounds familiar, it may be time to give your routine a pick-me-up.  Not only is it a great way to combat the boredom factor, it’s great for your body too.  Adding variety to your workouts keeps your body guessing so you can continue to build strength and endurance.  As the weather gets milder, there are plenty of opportunities to mix up your routine with some outdoor exercise. 

One of the best outdoor activities is walking. It’s an easy and effective way to exercise, and since there’s no fancy equipment required (aside from a good pair of sneakers) it’s an activity you can do anywhere.  You can go for a walk at lunch or stop at the high school on your way home from work and do a couple of laps around the track.  There are plenty of great places to walk in Boston, as well as a number of hiking and walking trails in many of the state parks and forests.  

Take a pedometer with you to track the number of steps you take—see if you can work up to 10,000 steps a day.  Pedometers vary in price and number of functions (some only count steps, while others measure things like distance traveled, calories burned and average speed) and are available online and in department or sporting goods stores (there are even pedometer apps for the iPhone or iPod touch). 

Do you usually ride the exercise bike at the gym?  Mix it up by going for a bike ride instead.  The new scenery will make your ride more interesting, and changes in terrain add a greater degree of difficulty than a stationary bike (and, if you’re looking to reduce your carbon footprint, biking is an environmentally friendly mode of transportation).  Don’t have your own bike?  The city of Boston recently announced plans to launch a bike share-program this summer.  Participants can rent bicycles from kiosks located around the city; so if you live in or near the city, you can still enjoy the benefits of an outdoor bike ride. 

Another great benefit to biking (and walking, too) is the ability to bring along a friend.  Working out with a buddy can help you stay motivated to stick with your routine, and you both can push each other to work harder.  Whatever activity you choose, it’s a good idea to talk to your healthcare provider before starting an exercise program.  Also, be sure to monitor your blood sugar and carry a snack or fast acting glucose to treat potential lows.       

What are your favorite spring-time exercise activities?  Do you garden?  Play sports? Run?  We’d love to hear your suggestions.

(Information reviewed by the Clubs at Charles River Park)