Exercise as Therapy

For me, exercise is my primary stress reliever. Without it, I’m a bundle of nerves, easily aggravated and just short-tempered in general. Over the past few weeks I’ve been dealing with a pretty significant sprain in my foot. The injury has had a dramatic effect on my activity level and frankly my attitude as well. I had to learn to accept that while I might not be able to exercise to the same intensity or frequency, there were things that I could do despite the limitations from the injury.

This brought to mind a very dear friend of mine. She faithfully exercises a number of mornings a week without fail. In fact, when I first met Nancy, I was a recent college grad and had very sporadic workouts. Between my age and my metabolism I was able to maintain a reasonable weight. I remember admiring her dedication to getting up and exercising in the morning before work. I’m not much of a morning person so I couldn’t imagine (at that time) exercise being a great reason to get up early! Several years later and more miles than I would like to count that separates us, we are still great friends, and she’s still faithful to her morning workouts!

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My motivation is to get the endorphin rush and the calming feeling after a workout.

My Motivation for a Regular Workout Routine

by Nancy Neiman Flaharty

I like to do workout videos (some are still VHS!) in the privacy of my own home. Most of the videos are cardio mixed in with light weights or strengthen moves. My favorites are by Kathy Smith and Chalene Johnson. (It’s important to find an instructor you like. Some of them, who shall remain nameless, get on my last nerve.) I’ve never joined a gym and prefer it that way.

I work out pretty regularly. Mostly, I work out 4 to 5 times a week. My friends who have a hard time maintaining a regular workout routine often ask me how I am so disciplined. I don’t think of myself as that disciplined but I can see where they are coming from.

This is what I tell them: I was diagnosed with Graves’ Disease when I was 23. Before that the only exercise I got was dancing all night in the clubs of Hollywood with a cocktail and cigarette in hand. But after treatment for Graves’ Disease I became hyper­anxious and suffered panic attacks. I had to take two separate doses of radioactive iodine which sent my hormones into a tizzy. One night, the anxiety was so bad I felt like I was going to jump out of my skin. At the suggestion of a friend, I put in the VCR (yes! The VCR!) one of the Kathy Smith video workouts that I’d tried earlier in life and promptly stored, untouched in a cabinet for years.

I put everything I had into this 40 minute low impact workout trying to get rid of the tortuous panic and low and behold, at the end of that workout, I finally felt relaxed. It must have been the combination of the endorphins and the complete depletion of energy. Since then I have been hooked.

Unfortunately, I smoke a pack of cigarettes a day and my diet is known to contain McDonald’s, mac and cheese, and burritos on occasion, but I have been able to maintain my fitness level and weight doing these aerobic videos for the better part of 25 years.

My motivation is always to get that endorphin rush and that feeling after a workout that calms me. Plus, I always do my workouts in the morning. I have my 20 ounces of coffee and a couple cigarettes, then hit it. I know, not the best formula, but it is what I do. When I am done, I already feel like I accomplished a personal goal that day and it’s only 8 AM!

So while Nancy’s diet and smoking aren’t a prescription for clean living, she keeps her commitment to exercise. Through her regularly scheduled workout routine she is able to keep anxiety in check and her body strong.

I can’t stress the importance of finding a workout routine that works for YOU and establishing a regular workout schedule.

As Nancy said, not every workout instructor is going to mesh with your personality – and that’s okay! Find one that teaches with a style that inspires you to stay committed and work hard. Just like you wouldn’t give a friend a lame excuse to skip a coffee date, don’t let lame excuses get in the way of exercising. Put it on your calendar in ink and don’t cheat yourself by skipping it. The more exercise becomes a regular part of your daily routine the easier it will be to stick with it.

Want to get started in finding an exercise routine that works for you? Give me a call (574-387-1344) or drop me an email. Let’s talk about your likes and your dislikes and identify some possibilities.

6 Ways to Combat Stress

Did you know your body has no way to differentiate between short-term and long-term stress?

More importantly, do you know that chronic stress can be a major factor in preventing you from losing weight?

When it comes to stress I would almost consider myself an expert. Not only do I suffer from perfectionist and OCD tendencies – I am a complete control freak. Not a great combination – just ask my husband!

We’ve all heard of the “fight or flight” response that our body has when faced with a situation. Stress can affect the body much in the same way.

When a person is in a chronic state of stress their body works to store as much as it can to prepare for the pending “fight.” The problem is when you are in a chronic state of stress your body cannot “shut down” it’s natural process of storing the fat and nutrients you will need to compete in the battle and can result in retention of unwanted pounds.

Let’s not forget about what many of us tend to do when stressed…eat more unhealthy foods, drink more alcohol in an attempt to relax, or maybe even smoke cigarettes. It’s obvious without saying that all of these things can have negative effects on your system.

So what’s the solution? Let’s take a look at some effective ways to combat stress and improve your health and quality of life.

First, examine the source of the stress and determine if there is anything that you can really do about it. If so, create a logical plan for overcoming the stress. For instance, work can be a great source of stress for many people and unless you are financially secure, quitting isn’t exactly an option. So take a look at your workday. Do you need to be better about setting limits on your responsibilities or the number of hours you are committing to your job? As a reformed workaholic I can tell you I know the difficulties of pulling back, however, in the end you will be a much better employee (and person) for doing it.

Second, find a way to release your stress. We all have activities that bring us pleasure. Find a hobby that helps you to release tension. For me it’s running, for you it might be reading a book or playing video games. Whatever it is, take the time to indulge in your hobby at least a couple times a week. I think you will notice a significant difference in your stress level once you start doing something of enjoyment purely for yourself.

Third, get out there and move. Getting in a good workout can help you not only blow off some steam but also increase the production of endorphins in your system. The release of endorphins can produce a feeling of well-being, which counteracts the stress.

Fourth, surround yourself with positive people. It’s very important that as you focus on achieving better health that you examine the health of your relationships. Let’s face it – some relationships are simply toxic and contribute to stress and bad habits. When you surround yourself with positive people you will find laughter and smiles come much more easily, which in themselves are a great combat for stress!

Fifth, breathe. All too often when we are stressed we take quick, shallow breaths, which drastically reduce the amount of oxygen flowing through our blood. Reduced oxygenation intensifies the physical affects that stress has on our body. Slow down, breathe in deeply and exhale fully. Try it even just for one minute and I’m sure you will experience a diminished level of stress.

Finally, smile. Even when it’s hard, smile. It’s extremely hard to let stress take you over when you have a smile on your face!