Tag Archives: Goals

What is yoga?

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Often, I am asked the question, “what is yoga?”

As a certified yoga teacher and exercise physiologist I love answering this question, because yoga is so much more than a form of exercise.    Yoga is one little word with so many approaches and interpretations.

The word yoga means “to unite”, to bring together all the parts of you – thoughts, emotions, body and heart to the present moment.   The purpose of the movements in yoga are to prepare your body for meditation, so your thoughts are less likely to be distracted in the past or future when meditating.    Five thousand years ago, it was understood that for our thoughts to calm we need to move first. 

Therefore, the movements in yoga are not about making your body look a certain way.  The power of the poses are in the mindset with which you do them.    Forcing your body into a position it is not ready to do and toughing it out, or criticizing yourself if you cannot do it well, is not yoga.  Moving your body into a position with the intention of listening to it, being kind to it,  by finding the level that is just challenging enough to hold your attention in the present moment is yoga.

Depending on how you do those movements, yoga can improve stamina, strength, balance, mobility – we can’t really put it in one category of fitness because it depends on how the movements are used.

But it is all yoga as long as you are moving in the present moment as an act of kindness to yourself.   It does not matter if this is done in a chair or on a yoga mat . It does not matter if you sweat.  It does not matter if you are very flexible.

“You can’t fail at yoga” is what I tell all my classes.   I find we need the reminder often because we tend to assess our ability to do an exercise based on our “performance”.  Because yoga is based on your mindset as you move, you cannot fail.  Yoga reminds us to shift our attention to how it feels on the inside, not how it looks on the outside.  Sometimes that shift happens easily, sometimes it takes a constant reminder to come back to the present moment and practice listening to your body.  This is why yoga is called a “practice”, not a “perfect”.

If you have ever felt like you “failed” at yoga, it was not yoga.  There are many yoga videos and classes that are designed to work with your body by using a chair or modifying poses to find what works best for your body right now.  Seek an instructor that teaches yoga by the true definition of the word.

Next blog we will answer “is yoga good for weight loss”?

Keep Moving, Be Well

Janet

These weekly blogs are general guidelines. These guidelines apply to patients who are cleared by a physician for the type of exercise described. Please contact your physician with any concerns or questions. Always report any symptoms associated with exercise, such as pain, irregular heartbeats, and dizziness or fainting, to your physician.

Please share these posts with anyone you know interested in losing weight with or without weight loss surgery.  Click here to learn more about the UMass Memorial Weight Center

 

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by | March 26, 2018 · 6:25 pm

Tracking True Fitness

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In a past blog, we looked at why fitness trackers do not really track fitness, based on the definition of fitness for health and well-being:

“The ability to carry out daily tasks with vigor and alertness, without undue fatigue, and with ample energy to enjoy leisure-time pursuits and respond to emergencies” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

In other words, fitness is measured by how well you can do what you need and want to in every day life.  Exercise is training for life!

One important part of fitness for daily life is your stamina – how easily can you do the activities in daily life that require you to move continuously for an extended period of time?   If you feel short of breath or tired after doing an activity like walking from your car to a store, or doing housecleaning, it’s a sign your  cardiovascular system is overworking for the task at hand.

Measuring your total steps or miles per day does not necessarily improve stamina.   For  building stamina we need continuous movement done regularly so your body can adapt, making it easier to move for longer period so of time. To build stamina, its best if the level of that activity is at a comfortable challenge for your breathing.  These regular longer bouts of movement at the just right level for your body provide the practice your cardiovascular system needs to improve stamina.

The Active 10 program by Public Health England is focused on helping people focus on building stamina in the same way fitness trackers help people remember to move more during the day.  Instead of total steps, the goal is to move continuously for three 10 minute bouts a day.

They recommend walking at a “brisk” pace, but remember, brisk is relative to your body’s ability. Brisk means moving so your breathing is at a moderate to comfortable challenge – NOT uncomfortable.  It does not really matter how fast you go or how many miles you cover.  The Active 10 App is a wonderful free tool for tracking your bouts of walking in this way.

You can track true fitness by making a simple list of all the things that currently make you short of breath or fatigued if you do them for too long.  Check in each month to see if these activities are getting easier.  This is a true measure of fitness –  that ability to do daily activities with more ease.

Let your fitness tracker reminder you to avoid prolonged stillness. This is an important health goal.    But also remember fitness is about building stamina and for that we need longer bouts of movement.  The bonus is, when you use your daily life as a measure of your fitness, your motivation to move is more likely to be stronger as well.

Keep Moving, Be Well,

Janet

Please share these posts with anyone you know interested in losing weight with or without weight loss surgery.  Click here to learn more about the UMass Memorial Weight Center

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by | March 12, 2018 · 6:09 pm

It’s that time again, part 2

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Back in October, we had to make a choice.  What is this winter going to be about?  Will it be about hibernating or spring training?  Will we let all those great brain chemicals from being physically active on the nice long days just fade away, or will we keep moving even when it’s cold and dark outside?

How did your spring training plan go?

If that question was met with an “eye roll”, that’s OK.  This blog is not about checking in to see if you have been “good or bad” this winter. It’s all good, as long as you are learning!  Really!

In October 2018, I will be asking you the same question – What is your spring training plan?   When I do, you will want to be fueled with personalized information about what works and does not work for you to keep moving all winter long.

Take a moment to jot down your answers:

  • What did I learn over these past four months about staying physically active through the winter? 
  • What did I learn about what gets in the way of staying active in the winter? 
  • Based on this information, what will help me stay active next winter?

Place this information on the October page of your 2018 calendar.  Now, give yourself a pat on that back, knowing your spring training plan for next winter just got an upgrade!

Keep Moving, Be Well,

Janet

Please share these posts with anyone you know interested in losing weight with or without weight loss surgery.  Click here to learn more about the UMass Memorial Weight Center

 

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by | March 7, 2018 · 3:47 pm

Test your knowledge – answers!

list-2389219_1280This article , providing information about exercise and weight loss for people with arthritis was our first “test your knowledge” blog to boost our savvy fitness consumer skills.

What myths did you find?  Here are the ones I see:

  • The image:  Connecting information about exercise with images of “six pack abs” only increases the idea that the purpose of exercise is to look a certain way, and that having toned abs means you are healthy and fit.  This is just not the definition of fitness.   I know some very fit people who are carrying extra weight and have a strong core so they are able to do what the want and need to do in life more easily; that is the whole point of fitness.
  • The title:  “tighten up abs” in a way that is pain free.  The purpose of exercise for arthritis is to build strength around arthritic joints in a way that reduces inflammation and supports joints with movement.   Tightening abs is about how they look not how they function to reduce arthritis pain.
  • The exercises:  If you have arthritis, getting up and down off the floor is a challenge, if not impossible.  Most importantly, our core muscles are stabilizers that are used 99% of the time in an upright position, and need to be trained in that position, not while laying on the floor.  Check out this blog for more info on a truly functional core.

How did you do with your savvy fitness consumer skills?  We do these types of blogs every so often so we can enjoy exercise without the myths draining motivation.

Keep Moving, Be Well,

Janet

These weekly blogs are general guidelines. These guidelines apply to patients who are cleared by a physician for the type of exercise described. Please contact your physician with any concerns or questions. Always report any symptoms associated with exercise, such as pain, irregular heartbeats, and dizziness or fainting, to your physician.

Please share these posts with anyone you know interested in losing weight with or without weight loss surgery.  Click here to learn more about the UMass Memorial Weight Center

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by | January 17, 2018 · 3:22 pm

Resolutions… Why Wait?

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Here is a link to a blog by an insightful career coach.  The blog is from last year and directed toward career goals, yet the message is timeless and crosses all areas of well-being – including weight loss goals.   She proposes three questions to ask yourself each January….instead of setting resolutions.  Why not set resolutions?  Because January is a great time for recovery from the holidays and reflection of the year past.  December is no time for reflection as the holidays fill our days with a longer to do list and more emotions to sort though.

Here are the questions revised for this year and for reaching your health and well-being goals.

  • What went well in 2017?  What were your accomplishments that you’re really excited about?
  • What did you learn in 2017 about what makes it easier for you to maintain a healthy weight?
  • What would you have done differently? This third question will begin to prepare you for  having some 2017 goals that are based on what you learned last year rather than just a reaction to the holiday stress.

So, enjoy a January free of pressures to set resolutions.  Take a walk to help your brain learn and be creative as you ponder these questions.  When you return, jot down the answers.  Let them “simmer” a bit until February 1st.

Wait to set resolutions and you will be ready to set goals for 2018 that are well thought out and and more lasting .

May you discover an overflow of health and happiness in 2018!

Keep Moving, Be Well,

Janet

These weekly blogs are general guidelines. These guidelines apply to patients who are cleared by a physician for the type of exercise described. Please contact your physician with any concerns or questions. Always report any symptoms associated with exercise, such as pain, irregular heartbeats, and dizziness or fainting, to your physician.

Please share these posts with anyone you know interested in losing weight with or without weight loss surgery.  Click here to learn more about the UMass Memorial Weight Center

 

Leave a comment

by | January 2, 2018 · 1:52 pm

Pain, exercise, and mindfulness: Part 1

Pain is one of the biggest barriers to exercise.  Beyond the obvious limits it creates, pain leads to what we call a spiral of inactivity:

Cycle of inactivity

Pain makes us move less. Since our body is a “use it to keep it system”, when we use our body less, we lose strength, stamina and mobility, which means movement is more challenging, and so we move less.  Over time this inactivity causes stiffness, making movement less comfortable.  After a time of less activity we lose muscle mass which means less support for painful joints.  Both of these can lead to more pain, and the spiral continues.

The way out of this spiral is to move in order to regain strength, stamina, mobility, function and support around joints. However, what if you have pain when you move? Should you push through pain or listen to it?  It feels like a catch 22 and the spiral seems irreversible.

Add to that the all too common “no pain no gain” approach to exercise and the “suffer through in order to get to your goal” approach to weight loss.  These can often make pain worse, and leave us believing we need to work through the pain to get to our goal. This discomfort and the frustration it causes can create not only physical but  mental barriers to weight loss.  It may seem hopeless, but it is not.

The first step is awareness about how our approaches to exercise and to weight loss are making it more difficult to turn the spiral around.   Athletes need to push through pain to gain a competitive edge.  For health and well-being, pain is your body trying to tell you it cannot tolerate that level of movement right now.   Ignore it and it will only “speak” louder.   There is no gain in pain.

If you have tried the “get through the first few weeks of a diet until you see results” approach to weight loss, you know it is just not sustainable in the long run.  There is no badge of honor for those weeks of suffering through hunger, derivation, sore muscles and fatigue.  Not only does it leave us with less motivation to try again next time, it makes our brain look for comfort – and food is a quick and easy source of comfort.

If you goal is to lose weight to feel better, why suffer through exercise in order to feel better?   Why not take a direct line to feeling better even before the scale moves?  It is possible when you drop the “suffer through” approach and listen to your body with exercise.

This week simply notice your mindset when it comes to exercising for weight loss and the long term effects of it.  It helps to keep in mind, weight loss is not a goal.  Goals have an end.  Sustainable weight loss is a shift in what we do and how we think.  Mindfulness helps us make that shift. Next week we will take a closer look at the research on mindfulness and pain to uncover how it can help with exercising when you have pain.

Keep Moving, Be Well,

Janet

These weekly blogs are general guidelines. These guidelines apply to patients who are cleared by a physician for the type of exercise described. Please contact your physician with any concerns or questions. Always report any symptoms associated with exercise, such as pain, irregular heartbeats, and dizziness or fainting, to your physician.

Please share these posts with anyone you know interested in losing weight with or without weight loss surgery.  Click here to learn more about the UMass Memorial Weight Center

 

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by | November 29, 2017 · 7:05 pm

Is stacking wood exercise?

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“Wood warms you many times” my friend said when we first got our wood stove. So true!  We had a truckload of wood delivered yesterday and I was “warmed” for the first time by this wood while stacking it into piles in the wood shed.

Whether you are preparing your wood for winter, raking leaves, cleaning your home, or running around after your kids, you might wonder – does this count? It must! I am tired after. I worked up a sweat. My muscles are sore. Look how many steps I got!  This must count for exercise. Surely I don’t need to go to the gym on top of all of this, do I?

I had these questions in mind as I stacked wood yesterday.  I did my strength training in the morning.  Did I need to do that if I was stacking wood in the afternoon?

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While stacking wood I could keep some of my attention on my body, but not all.  I had to pay attention to the job I was doing.   Knowing the days are getting shorter, I felt the pressure together this job done, so was driven push through fatigue and discomfort in order to get it done. Fortunately, once it is done, I will not need to do it again until next year!

The word exercise means something performed or practiced in order to develop, improve, or display a specific capability or skill”.   Remember from a few blogs ago the qualities that make something an exercise:

  • structured
  • consistent
  • purposeful

My strength training was structured into my schedule,  every other day in the mornings.  It is done consistently year round, because I want the benefits all year long.   The exercises I do are purposeful with movements of daily life that I want to get and stay strong  – squatting, climbing, lifting overhead, pulling, pressing.  The sets, reps and weights are chosen for the purpose of strengthening my body and metabolism.

Compare this with stacking wood.  Structured only by the need for wood so I do it for about a week once a year.   (unless someone else decides to start doing it or I get rid of the wood stove).   It is only consistent for that one week of the year.  (thankfully!).  It is purposeful, but not for the purpose of strengthening my body even if that is a side effect for that one week. The purpose is to get the job done so that I can stay warm this winter.

pexels-photo-302810So, is stacking wood (or something like it) exercise?  Nope.  It is not consistent, purposeful or structured enough to keep my body strong all year long.  Is it still a great physical activity that will give me health benefits from moving more?  Yes!  Both add to health and well-being.  Both are important… but one does not replace the other.

Strength training consistently and purposefully made stacking wood easier.

The extra bonus is, exercise “warms” me up too!

Keep Moving, Be Well,

Janet

These weekly blogs are general guidelines. These guidelines apply to patients who are cleared by a physician for the type of exercise described. Please contact your physician with any concerns or questions. Always report any symptoms associated with exercise, such as pain, irregular heartbeats, and dizziness or fainting, to your physician.

Please share these posts with anyone you know interested in losing weight with or without weight loss surgery.  Click here to learn more about the UMass Memorial Weight Center

1 Comment

by | November 8, 2017 · 4:00 pm