That’s what You Get for Exercising

Emergency Sling Demonstration (AMM 721) National Museum of Health and Medicine

I was on a Zoom call on Thursday when someone noticed that I was wearing a sling. I explained that I had bicep surgery and she said something along the lines of “that’s what you get for exercising.” I politely (but firmly responded) that I had overdone it at some point which is probably how I got injured, but that I would take exercising regularly over sitting on the couch any day as a strategy for healthy living.

It amazes me the “excuses” people come up with for not taking better care of themselves. Can you imagine someone having accidentally burned the dinner they were preparing at home and then declaring, “that is why I always get fast food?” (Actually, I can.) Ruining a meal is bound to happen once in a while; we either misread a recipe or get distracted and forget that something is on the stove top or in the oven, etc. Most of us just chalk it up to a learning experience and figure out what to make instead. The alternative–eating out all the time (even pre-Covid-19)–is simply not healthy or sustainable.

The same is true with exercising. It is true that those who workout/run/bike do get the occasional injury, and that many of us more susceptible as we age. Even so, the alternative of becoming sedentary is not an acceptable option. Sports injuries are usually repairable. Heart disease, diabetes, obesity and other maladies associated with a sedentary lifestyle are much more difficult to correct. As we live longer, it is all the more important to not only have quantity of life, but quality of life as well.

A large part of my “business” as a personal trainer is working with older adults. These are often those who are most afraid of injury, and rightly so. My clients understand, however, that being active (cardio, resistance, and mobility training) is a recipe for more energy and greater independence. Being able to keep up with grandchildren, hiking the Galapagos Islands, and staying in their own homes are “what they get for exercising.”

Looking at my should in a sling, one could correctly state: “that’s what you get for exercising,” but that misses the point. The fact that I am 57 and am able to run, bike, hike, and pretty much engage in whatever physical activities I desire (once I am recovered from my surgery) is also “what I get for exercising.” I’ll take my calculated risks knowing that in the long run the payoff is worth it.

Falling Apart?

Broken Robot

They say that aging is not for the faint of heart.

Each year, it seems, my body surprises me with something else. Last year I had an emergency appendectomy–not fun at all and with a harder recovery than I expected. Three months later, I finally took care of a long-standing issue with Plantar Fasciitis that led to another surgery–also not the least bit enjoyable with an even harder recovery.

In the midst of COVID-29–which, thank God, I have avoided thus far–I have had a skin cancer with surgery (about which I blogged earlier). I will be having shoulder surgery in the not-too-distant future to resolve bicep tendonosis. And did I mention that some of my labs came back “funky” and I’ll need some more evaluations?

Definitely not for the faint of heart.

There are times when I do feel like I’m falling apart, like I am a broken robot whose circuits and switches are malfunctioning. The weird thing, though, is that I am still running (thanks to the surgery on my foot last year), am still working as a personal trainer, go for long bike rides a couple of times each week, can hike, and do the other activities that I enjoy. It is all relative. I sometimes see pictures of others my age and think that I’m actually doing pretty well, if not excellent. Others who see me tell me how great I look and ask how I keep in such good shape. And yet, there are days where I feel like I’m simply holding on with toothpicks and glue.

My attitude has evolved into the following. My father lived until he was 85. He had a lot of health issues including diabetes, heart disease and Parkinson’s, and did not always take the best care of himself. If I manage to make it to 85 that means I have another 28 years to go (God willing). I plan to do all the maintenance and repairs so that my body will help me to do all the things I want to do as I age. It is kind of like taking care of a car; as long as we are faithful with the upkeep, the car should last a good long while…and may even become a classic!

I know that this is not the end of the surprises. I am sure that other parts will fail me every now and again. I am fortunate that I have access to health insurance and can deal with my issues in a planned way rather than at the ER when the situation becomes critical. I do worry about so many others who do not have the same privileges that I do. This too is part of the social protest movements that are going on.

The main thing is to listen to our bodies, to care for them, to keep them well-nourished, well-exercised and well-rested. We cannot control everything that will happen, but we can keep ourselves as strong as possible so that when parts fail, we are better able to address the issue.

That is my strategy as I make my way into territory that is not for the faint of heart.

Boosting our Immunity

Here is a great post from FitAmbitiousBlond. Something to consider as we make our way through this pandemic. We are not just sitting ducks. Aside from wearing masks, staying home, washing hands, etc., there are things we can do to keep ourselves healthy that help to boost our immune system at the same time.

https://wordpress.com/read/blogs/145951722/posts/2136

Use It or Lose It

Sunday, lazy Sunday

This past week I have begun to do a lot more personal training via Zoom. In addition to my daily 10 am class on Facebook, I have book quite a few of my clients for 30 minute sessions.

A few of them have managed to keep their workout schedules, albeit somewhat modified for the situation. Most of the others, however, have allowed themselves to become sedentary. It is true that they are cleaning around the house, etc., but not a lot of activity that challenges the muscles and raises the heart rate.

A lot of research has been conducted about “backsliding.” Most of it shows that within 30 days one can already begin to see the effects of not working out: loss of muscle tone, decreased stamina, loss of mobility and flexibility. I always thought that number was a bit of an exaggeration. One month! Really? That’s all it takes?

Well, guess what? Some of my clients are really struggling as we get back into a healthy routine. I feel like I’ve had to step back quite a bit from where we were before the quarantine. I am grateful that I am able to help, and this is a warning to all of us.

The situation is difficult. This is all the more reason to take care of ourselves. The inclination is to sit on the couch and snack but that is dangerous. When this is all over (soon I hope), what shape will we be in physically? Let’s also not forget that getting plenty of sleep, exercising and eating right boosts our immune system. By “letting ourselves go,” we put ourselves at greater risk of contracting viruses, etc.

It’s not too late. This could go on for a while. Get up, get online. Google a workout. Find equipment at home that you can use–canned goods make good hand weights, and you can also make use of towels, pillows, etc. Get moving! You’ll be glad you did.

Water…water…

Desert, Jordan

The Weight Loss Challenge where I work is now in full swing. Last night was the first group fitness class offered by one of the other coaches. It was a big group and notable that many had not brought water with them. This is not a formula for success.

We hear a lot about keeping hydrated. We are not like camels who are able to store water for long periods and long distances. We use water to nourish our bodies and we lose water through sweating which helps to keep us cool. We must continually replenish. So what are the rules for water consumption with exercise?

Generall speaking the following guidelines apply:

  • 2-3 cups of fluid 2 hours BEFORE the start of exercise
  • 1 cup of fluid every 10-20 minutes DURING exercise
  • 2-3 cups of fluid for every pound of body weight lost AFTER exercise

You’ll notice that I put “fluid” instead of “water.” Water is always excellent, but there are sports drinks that work as well. It is also better to drink something cool that something hot; this improves the speed of absorption. We also know that there are some liquids that actually accelerate dehydration: coffee and alcohol are two prime examples. This is not to say that you cannot have a glass of wine at dinner after exercising; just remember that this cannot be your primary form of hydration.

Dehydration is not pretty. It can lead to dizziness, loss of conscience, nausea and headaches. Bring a water bottle to the gym or to your class; this will help ensure that you are drinking enough.

Get your exercise on, but remember to get your hydration on as well!

Weight Lifting on a Salad and a Piece of Cheese

Image result for dizziness gym

Twice today at the gym I had conversations with individuals that came back to questions of nutrition and fitness goals.

In the first case, it was someone who signed up for an indoor triathlon. He and I were discussing the best strategies to prepare for a race that is just over a month away. During our talk, he mentioned that he is trying to lose weight and that he is starting a diet in January that is basically all animal-based proteins, fruits and vegetables (and nothing else!). Under other circumstances, such a diet might be a great way to lose weight, but while training for a triathlon it may not be the best approach. It is essential to make sure that we are properly fueling our bodies for the intense training we are doing. By the way, most folks training for races find that the rigorous regimen causes them to lose weight in any case. I directed him toward resources about how to best train for the triathlon and what would be the best way to fuel his body. That diet may have to wait until after the race.

Just as I was about to leave the gym a person came to the trainer’s office and asked for a cup to get some water for her husband who was feeling dizzy. I went out onto the floor to find a young man lying on an incline bench looking pretty pale; he had been doing incline dumbbell presses. I adjusted the bench to put his head down and then we put his legs (knees up) on the bench as well. After some water, he began to feel better. I asked him what he had eaten that day. “Salad and some cheese. Oh, wait, I think a piece of fruit. Maybe a slice of bread.” Yikes! This was the early evening and that was his total consumption for the day. I understand that young men and women want to get that “cut” look and try to eat very lean, but again, we have to make sure our bodies are properly fueled for what we are asking them to do. Lifting weights on that few calories–and carb-free–was not a good idea.

I am not a nutritionist or a dietitian, but my education as a personal trainer does include the background science on how we digest foods, how we fuel our bodies and how we build muscle.

There are lots of resources on the web; before you embark on a serious exercise regimen or training for a race check those our or talk to a nutrition expert. This second young man was lucky that he was with someone else and that he wasn’t on a piece of equipment where he could have really hurt himself had he passed out.

Here are a couple of good articles on the topic:

https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/nutrition-basics/food-as-fuel-before-during-and-after-workouts

https://www.self.com/story/signs-youre-not-eating-enough-before-a-workout

With the New Year approaching and lots of resolutions to consider–including weight loss–do not forget that we need to eat smart and make sure that our bodies get what they need.

Mental Health and Exercise

DSC_8612

A lot has been discussed in the past several days since the mass shootings in Gilroy, El Paso and Dayton regarding mental health.

I am always bothered when mental health gets dragged gratuitously into discussions about gun violence. Mental illness occurs all over the world, and yet we still have a terrible record in the United States when it comes to gun violence and mass shootings. Additionally, the same elected officials who focus on the role of mental illness in our violent culture are often the same ones who have worked to provided greater access to mental health services. (End of that sermon).

As a personal trainer and a rabbi, I am by no means an expert in mental health. I do have some background in pastoral counseling, but I also know when the issue at hand is beyond my training and capabilities; then I refer to a professional. I have also dealt with mental health issues in my family–who hasn’t? A lifetime of living tells me that there are no easy answers, that you cannot just “get over it.” Depression, anxiety, panic disorders, etc., are real and they can be debilitating. The good news is that most mental illnesses are treatable, and success rates are highest with early intervention–which is why it is so important for all of us to work toward de-stigmatizing mental illness.

My own fitness journey really intensified about 11 years ago after my mother passed away. It was not that long after my divorce and after the end of an engagement that did not lead to marriage. I was not at my best. For several years, I had periods when I would go to the gym more regularly and others when I would not. After my mom passed away, a fellow mourner at synagogue services gave me some advice (I have mentioned this in a previous post): “take good care of yourself, this will be harder than you think.” I resolved from that moment to take good care of myself; I made visits to the gym a regular thing and was more careful with my diet. Those decisions–along with the support of family and friends–made a difference. Mourning for a parent was harder than I thought it would be, and taking care of myself was an important part of getting through it. I have stuck with it ever since and it has helped me through emotionally trying times.

Anecdotal evidence aside, there is a firm basis in science for the effect that exercise can have on our mental health. We know about the benefits to our cardio-vascular system, brain health, and musculo-skeletal system, but we do not often talk about what it does for our mental well-being. There are several good articles out there on this topic, and google will be your friend if you want more info.

A few points worth mentioning. Exercising releases chemicals in our bodies that create a greater sense of well-being–in particular, endorphins. The latest research also indicates that increased blood flow, nutrients, and oxygen to the brain as a result of exercise can aid in neurogenesis (the creation of new neurons) in the hippocampus–the part of the brain that helps regulate memory and emotions. For more on this topic, go to: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/what-works-and-why/201803/how-your-mental-health-reaps-the-benefits-exercise.

Additionally, depending on the exercise we are doing, we can develop greater capacity for mind calming (running, swimming, yoga). Small group classes can help build a supportive community. A personal trainer can create a plan to help us reach our physical fitness goals; many of my clients talk about the emotional well-being they feel as a result of the experience as well.

Exercise will not solve the mental health care crisis in our nation. Exercise will also not put an end to violence and mass murder in our society. Exercise is, however, one piece of the puzzle–not just to improving physical health, but mental health as well.

The world we live in is difficult–harder than we think. The advice I pass along: take good care of yourself. Exercise is one way to do that.

More News on Dementia and Lifestyle

Image result for factors to prevent dementia

Well, it’s not really “news” since it is simply reconfirming what we already have seen in recent research.

There are studies recently shared at Alzheimer’s Association International Conference last week that show that there are five factors that have been shown to significantly reduce the risk of developing dementia later in life.

Both studies pointed to:

  1. A healthy diet
  2. At least 150 minutes a week of moderate to vigorous physical activity
  3. Light to moderate drinking (alcohol)
  4. No smoking
  5. Engaging in mentally stimulating activity

Engaging in all five decreased risk of Alzheimer’s by 60% compared to those who only had one healthy behavior. Those who added only one of the habits above saw their risk lowered by 22%!

It is becoming more and more clear every day that the decisions we make about our lifestyles at every point in our lives have implications downstream. There is no point at which we are “too late” to add healthy behaviors, and when we do add them the impact is noticeable.

For the full article in http://www.cnn.com, click here: https://www.cnn.com/2019/07/14/health/dementia-risk-lifestyle-study/index.html

Judaism teaches us that we are to pursue life. This means we cannot simply wait around and see what is in store for us health-wise. We must at every moment, make healthy decisions; not only will we sense the difference now, but in the years ahead as well.

New Study out from NIH and AARP: Over 50? Start Exercising now…

Waiting For Their Turn
Is this what our senior years should look like?

A article in the most recent AARP Bulletin (May 2019, Vol. 60, No. 4, pg. 4) highlights something that those in the Fitness Industry have been saying for years…and now there is even more research behind it.

The study began in 1995 as a joint venture between AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) and the NIH (National Institutes of Health), and tracked the exercise habits of more than 315,000 people ages 50-71. It showed that even if a person has been inactive most of their lives, getting into regular exercise can add years to our lives and quality to those years as well.

The research shows that: “those ages 40-61 who begin exercising after years of physical inactivity can still extend their longevity. They had a 32 to 35 percent lower risk of mortality. The odds of death from cancer and heart disease also decreased. Compared with those who never exercised during the multiyear study, those who exercised their entire lives had a 29 to 36 percent lower risk of death.”

This is good news indeed–especially for fitness professionals who face the skepticism of those who have never been physically active during most of their lives. Of course, the real challenge is changing that behavior in the first place. Those who have felt that exercise or taking proper care of themselves was not a priority earlier in their lives are not necessarily going to “see the light.” Usually it takes a “wake-up call” or “Aha moment” to change the way they act. It should be comforting for them to know that not all is lost; even in their later years, they can have a significant impact on the quantity and quality of years in their lives.

As for change, Judaism has always taught that we are capable of change. Most religious traditions have a similar viewpoint. This is why there is a strong emphasis in the faith community on redemption in its many forms; there is a sense that we can always improve ourselves, and as a result, the world around us. We are not stuck with “it is what it is.” We have the potential to make “it what it ought to be.”

Good news indeed!

A Registered Dietitian Weighs in on your Metabolism

This article, by Samantha Cassety, was featured on http://www.NBCNews.com. It is a pretty thorough explanation of how we can and cannot affect our metabolisms…and just what metabolism is in the first place.

The conclusion is something that those in the Fitness industry have been saying for years: regular exercise is good for us but may not necessarily help us lose weight; our diet is most important to dropping those pounds. On our journeys to weight loss and fitness, we need to assess our approach: we have little control over how many calories our bodies will burn, but we have total control over how many we will put in our bodies!


https://www.nbcnews.com/better/lifestyle/everything-you-need-know-about-your-metabolism-according-dietitian-ncna1000301

A long-ish read but worth it!