Sep 252013

Many people embark on exercise programs with only one purpose in mind – weight loss. And when the pounds don’t melt off in a matter of weeks, they throw in the towel and say exercise didn’t “do me any good.” If that’s your philosophy, I’m here to give you some friendly advice…First, you didn’t gain the weight overnight, so it won’t come off that fast either. Second, if you’re only exercising to lose weight, you might not appreciate the other goodies that are part of the package!

I speak from experience when I say its easier to lose weight when exercise and healthy food are part of a wellness program to make you happier and healthier, not a punishment for overeating. Yes, I was guilty of dashing out for 8 mile runs when I was in college to “make up” for the previous night’s pizza fest, but most of the time, I found myself on a constant roller coaster of fasting and feasting and “punishing” myself with marathon workouts. Healthy isn’t a word that described my physical or mental state during that time.

In my mid-20s, I evolved toward a wellness philosophy. I threw the word “diet” out the window and bought some nutrition books. I cried myself to sleep the night I swore I would never again call Dominoe’s at 2 AM to order pizza (not really). Gradually, I phased out or reduced fried foods, sweets, junk food, and mixed drinks and added more whole grains, fruits, and vegetables to my diet. And guess what? I lost a good bit of weight, but the other benefits thrilled me the most. And they’re the ones that keep me rushing out the door to the pool and the gym most days of the week. Here’s what else comes with that regular workout package…

1) Improved health. Activity and a clean diet can mean lower blood pressure and cholesterol and reduced risk for a variety of illnesses and disabling conditions. Remember, you don’t have to lose weight to experience health benefits with exercise. Studies are demonstrating that.

2) Stronger bones. Regular activity (weight-bearing) will help you maintain bone density as you age and reduce your risk for osteoporosis.

3) Reduced Pain. Many people say they don’t exercise because they hurt too much. Always consult with your physician first, but in most instances exercise and an anti-inflammatory diet can reduce your discomfort. If you have arthritis, you will be better off avoiding impact activities. Warm-water exercise is also a great choice for people with a variety of painful conditions.

4) Improved Energy Levels, Mood, and Concentration. I have to say these three are the big ones that get me out the door and on my way to the pool or gym most mornings. I always feel such a sense of gratitude after a workout, being able to move and feel as good as I do and that carries me through the day, making it much more enjoyable. So if you feel tired, grumpy or can’t remember what you were planning to do next, it might be a good time to fit in a workout!

I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to move. I’ll race you to the door!

Sep 192013

I read a pull-out section in the Wall Street Journal the other day about retirement. I must confess I found it more than a little depressing. Most of the people surveyed didn’t spend any more time exercising than they did when they were employed. What a shame. One of the authors boasted about how she didn’t feel like exercising, so she didn’t, as if that was a positive choice that enabled her to “enjoy life” while all the fit people wasted their lives in misery. I rather wished an article had been authored instead by one of the dedicated men and women I see every morning exercising without fail at the fitness center.

One of the biggest roadblocks I see to success is the tendency to associative negative language with exercise. Negativity always sets us up for failure. One author on Facebook refers to her “evil exercise program.” People who rarely work out describe exercise as painful, agonizing, time consuming, and difficult. People who exercise religiously describe it as relaxing, energizing, enjoyable, and mood-enhancing. Then they bubble on about how it enabled them to drop certain medications, improve blood sugar level, blood pressure and more. Attitude matters more than anything else when it comes to making a plan and achieving success.

For those of you who can’t remember the last time you walked a mile or picked up a weight, I’m on my knees praying I can convert you into an exercise advocate, who uses movement to enhance your life. When I start the day without a workout, I often feel frazzled by midday. When I start the day in motion, I have a sense of calm, focus, and well-being that carries me through until nighttime.

Sometimes non-exercisers appease their own guilt by accusing active people of being obsessive, unproductive, and weight worriers. This certainly doesn’t describe my life or the lives of most of the people I see every day at the workout center! Instead of using negative language to describe exercise and the people who choose to be active, why don’t you try using positive language to get your back side out of the house? Talk to yourself about how that workout will help you focus to complete a task, how it will enable you to be more patient with a taxing family member, how it will improve your health and give your self-esteem a boost when you’re feeling low.

So don’t wait—embark today on your wonderful, exhilarating, life-changing exercise program.

Sep 092013

Exercise tops don’t all fit alike. So put as much thought into how they feel on your upper back and shoulders as to how they look. Five years ago after I suffered a severe rotator cuff injury, I looked at this for the first time. My physical therapist mentioned posture exercises as being an important part of my rehab and said the muscles and tendons in the shoulder complex were more likely to move unimpinged if the upper posturals were in proper alignment.

The next morning I worked my way into an exercise top I planned to wear all day. I felt an immediate tugging in the injured part of my shoulder and then went and looked in a full length mirror to see that the way the top fit, it hunched my shoulders forward. I decided then to get rid of these tops. When you try them on, look in the mirror to make sure the “tightness” equally pulls on the front and the back of the shoulder.  This should be of even more concern to larger breasted women (not me), who will tend to slump forward already because of the amount of weight they have to support in the front.

Even  exercise tops that don’t pull me unevenly sometimes overtighten my neck and upper trapezius with prolonged wear to the point that I’m uncomfortable. Now I try to teach class and then change into a regular bra to avoid unnecessary soreness and strain at the end of the day.

I hope this post will get you thinking about your upper body exercise wear and how you can choose clothing that will keep you more comfortable while in motion and afterward.