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Exercise During the Pandemic… and thereafter

JH hikingJanet Hall, RN, NP, Certified Personal Trainer

 In the early days of the shelter-in-place order, it seemed unfathomable that it would last more than a few days. Feelings of fear, anger, sadness, loneliness, grief, anxiety or depression (or varying degrees off them all) were overwhelming for most of us. Many of us grappled to regain a sense of autonomy and control over our lives and we struggled to see more than a few days ahead. But now there is evidence all around us that we may be “getting back to normal”  or, more appropriately, to start to carve out a “new normal” sometime soon.

A couple of weeks into the pandemic, I believe I started to experience an internal shift which lead to a decision to try to adapt, rather than resist, to a new reality… “intentional resilience” was a phrase that repeatedly came to mind. And the only way that I knew how to do this was to quite intentionally release all things, people and situations that I could not control and, instead, focus all of my energy on those that I could.  I immediately curtailed the influx of unreliable media sources and governmental messages. My next step was to establish a regular exercise routine. I was surprised at how quickly these two changes brought on a renewed sense of peace and motivation… I began to feel as if I could take a deep, full breath again. My sleep and food choices improved. I was (much!) nicer to my family. I smiled and laughed easier…

 

Exercise is a gift, a conscious choice, to be accessed easily and frequently.

 

But, in order for it to be sustainable, it has to be desirable. This begins with taking a look at what motivates us, that is, understanding what drives us to exercise is crucial to sustained physical activity. Simply knowing the recommendations for physical activity (i.e.: 30 minutes of moderate exercise, 5 days per week on average) is often not enough to motivate long-term.

 

After a bit self-examination and research, I’ve come up with a three “COVID19-related motivators” for regular exercise:

 

  • Effect on our immune systems: There is no true way or reason to “boost” our immune systems. Our main goal should be to maintain a strong immune system and exercise a vital component – research shows that regular exercise can prevent or at least reduce the severity of respiratory complications related to the Corona virus. There is also new research that shows that exercise enhances the circulation of a powerful antioxidant (EcSOD) which is helpful for people with lung, heart, kidney and autoimmune diseases. Data shows that even one single exercise event is helpful to immune function!

 

  • Improved mood: Exercise releases neurotransmitters in our brain (i.e.: Gaba, Dopamine and Serotonin) that help reduce anxiety and depression. Evidence shows that moderate exercise (e.g.: a 20-30 minute walk after dinner) will brighten your mood significantly! We all feel better when our weight is down, our muscles feel toned, our clothes fit well… we begin to drink more water, make wiser food choices, and stand up straighter when we exercise at regular intervals. During these times of uncertainty, regular exercise will help us maintain a sense of autonomy and control over our lives. Looking forward, our goals for our “new normal” should include our new exercise routines which will help in coping (just in case more unexpected changes that may come our way!

 

  • Fun: Knowing what you enjoy is extremely important particularly for those who normally who do not find exercise fun… being outdoors? playing with your children? surrounding yourself in nature? Perhaps there is there an activity that you enjoyed before the (greater than?) 40-hour work week or grueling commute that you would like to circle back to? What new activity or workout interests you? Many of us are surprised by how much we enjoyed an activity that we previously viewed as “un-fun!” There are countless (often free) online resources for a variety of yoga, Pilates, Zumba, HIIT, dance (alone or with a partner), resistance training, and many others.

 

Friends, give yourselves the gift of exercise…

 

Whether it is to get into excellent physical condition or making a conscious choice to be kinder and gentler to yourself and your loved ones… everyone’s goal is different. Allow yourselves the release of tension and anxiety and open yourselves up to feeling better, breathing deeper and, most important, smiling more.

References:

Should, and how can, exercise be done during a coronavirus outbreak? An interview with Dr. Jeffrey A. Woods Weimo Zhu  J Sport Health Sci. 2020 Mar; 9(2): 105–107.

 

Nieman D.C., Wentz L.M. The compelling link between physical activity and the body’s defense system. J Sport Health Sci. 2019;8:201–217.

 

Campbell J.P., Turner J.E. Debunking the myth of exercise-induced immune suppression: redefining the impact of exercise on immunological health across the lifespan. Front Immunol. 2018;9:648.

https://news.virginia.edu/content/exercise-may-protect-against-deadly-covid-19-complication-research-suggests

 

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Exercise During the Pandemic… and thereafter

Janet Hall, RN, NP, Certified Personal Trainer

JH hikingIn the early days of the shelter-in-place order, it seemed unfathomable that it would last more than a few days. Feelings of fear, anger, sadness, loneliness, grief, anxiety or depression (or varying degrees off them all) were overwhelming for most of us. Many of us grappled to regain a sense of autonomy and control over our lives and we struggled to see more than a few days ahead. But now there is evidence all around us that we may be “getting back to normal”  or, more appropriately, to start to carve out a “new normal” sometime soon.

A couple of weeks into the pandemic, I believe I started to experience an internal shift which lead to a decision to try to adapt, rather than resist, to a new reality… “intentional resilience” was a phrase that repeatedly came to mind. And the only way that I knew how to do this was to quite intentionally release all things, people and situations that I could not control and, instead, focus all of my energy on those that I could.  I immediately curtailed the influx of unreliable media sources and governmental messages. My next step was to establish a regular exercise routine. I was surprised at how quickly these two changes brought on a renewed sense of peace and motivation… I began to feel as if I could take a deep, full breath again. My sleep and food choices improved. I was (much!) nicer to my family. I smiled and laughed easier…

 

Exercise is a gift, a conscious choice, to be accessed easily and frequently.

But, in order for it to be sustainable, it has to be desirable. This begins with taking a look at what motivates us, that is, understanding what drives us to exercise is crucial to sustained physical activity. Simply knowing the recommendations for physical activity (i.e.: 30 minutes of moderate exercise, 5 days per week on average) is often not enough to motivate long-term.

After a bit self-examination and research, I’ve come up with a three “COVID19-related motivators” for regular exercise:

  • Effect on our immune systems: There is no true way or reason to “boost” our immune systems. Our main goal should be to maintain a strong immune system and exercise a vital component – research shows that regular exercise can prevent or at least reduce the severity of respiratory complications related to the Corona virus. There is also new research that shows that exercise enhances the circulation of a powerful antioxidant (EcSOD) which is helpful for people with lung, heart, kidney and autoimmune diseases. Data shows that even one single exercise event is helpful to immune function!

 

  • Improved mood: Exercise releases neurotransmitters in our brain (i.e.: Gaba, Dopamine and Serotonin) that help reduce anxiety and depression. Evidence shows that moderate exercise (e.g.: a 20-30 minute walk after dinner) will brighten your mood significantly! We all feel better when our weight is down, our muscles feel toned, our clothes fit well… we begin to drink more water, make wiser food choices, and stand up straighter when we exercise at regular intervals. During these times of uncertainty, regular exercise will help us maintain a sense of autonomy and control over our lives. Looking forward, our goals for our “new normal” should include our new exercise routines which will help in coping (just in case more unexpected changes that may come our way!

 

  • Fun: Knowing what you enjoy is extremely important particularly for those who normally who do not find exercise fun… being outdoors? playing with your children? surrounding yourself in nature? Perhaps there is there an activity that you enjoyed before the (greater than?) 40-hour work week or grueling commute that you would like to circle back to? What new activity or workout interests you? Many of us are surprised by how much we enjoyed an activity that we previously viewed as “un-fun!” There are countless (often free) online resources for a variety of yoga, Pilates, Zumba, HIIT, dance (alone or with a partner), resistance training, and many others.

 

Friends, give yourselves the gift of exercise…

 

Whether it is to get into excellent physical condition or making a conscious choice to be kinder and gentler to yourself and your loved ones… everyone’s goal is different. Allow yourselves the release of tension and anxiety and open yourselves up to feeling better, breathing deeper and, most important, smiling more.

 

References:

Should, and how can, exercise be done during a coronavirus outbreak? An interview with Dr. Jeffrey A. Woods Weimo Zhu  J Sport Health Sci. 2020 Mar; 9(2): 105–107.

 

Nieman D.C., Wentz L.M. The compelling link between physical activity and the body’s defense system. J Sport Health Sci. 2019;8:201–217.

 

Campbell J.P., Turner J.E. Debunking the myth of exercise-induced immune suppression: redefining the impact of exercise on immunological health across the lifespan. Front Immunol. 2018;9:648.

 

https://news.virginia.edu/content/exercise-may-protect-against-deadly-covid-19-complication-research-suggests

 

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We Can Do Hard Things

Clayton Taylor, NASM-CPT, BA Psychology

dawn climb

We can do hard things.

Sometimes it’s having a difficult conversation; sometimes it’s getting out of bed and putting pants on.

This morning I missed a session. I feel guilty for cancelling on my client, and angry at myself for allowing it to happen. It’s 8:15 am and I want to crawl back into bed and start again tomorrow. But I know (from experience, lol) that it’s not what will help today.

We can do hard things.

Instead of turning on the tv, I lay down on the carpet in my living room, face-down. One hand pressed to the ground, then the other. With my hands in place, I push up with my chest from the floor: one, two, three, four; and I’m back on the ground. It’s not particularly challenging for me from a physical standpoint – the push-ups themselves are modified with my knees on the ground for a reduced weight load – but I might as well be lifting the earth itself.

We can do hard things.

I’m standing now, feet apart with a solid stance. As I lower myself into a squat I feel the burn of the lactic acid making my muscles groan. But then, all of a sudden, like ocean water sweeping over dry sand, relief. It’s only momentary, but I know where to get more.

The pull-up bar looks like its 15 feet high. As I pull it close I can feel my muscles struggle to lift me. In my mind that struggle is a metaphor for all the times that I tell myself I’m not enough. But I am. You are.

You are enough.

I am not a trainer because I’m an Iron Man Adonis. I’m a trainer because I know what it’s like to not want to get out of bed in the morning. I’m a trainer because I know what it’s like to feel defeated by your own hand. And I’m a trainer because I know what it’s like to decide that, despite all of that, I’m going to do things that make me feel good.

I’m a trainer because I want to help others do the same.

Clayton Taylor trains out of Tri Valley Trainer in Pleasanton, CA.
TriValleyTrainer.com  925.487.6858  clayton@trivalleytrainer.com

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Can Explosive Movements be Low Impact?

Guest Author: Sara Solomon, NASM-CPT

When we hear “explosive” in terms of movement, we tend to think of Plyometrics – Box jumps, tuck jumps, hand-release push ups – just to name a few. These types of exercises are highly effective for increasing speed, stamina, and muscle endurance while engaging core stabilizers. However, explosive movements can be stressful on the joints. This is not ideal for those who are relatively new to exercise or are nursing injuries.

The good news is that explosive movements can be executed without a lot of impact. For example, a speed squatplank may replace a jump squat. Both are full-body, explosive movements, yet the speed squat doesn’t require propelling your feet off the ground, therefore reducing impact. The depth of your squat can still be full-range, even without jumping. Staying in the top part of the range will also achieve similar results while limiting the load placed on your joints.

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Working Out When You Don’t Want To

Guest Author: Clayton Taylor, BA Psychology SFSU, NASM-CPT

       What can we do when it’s clear we should exercise, but don’t want to? Below is an outline and brief description of exercises and techniques that can be performed in your living room or in your desk chair. These tools can be used as needed. Click on links for access to further resources.

  • Meditation

Heh, I’ve long wanted to begin an article about working out by recommending something other than actually working out. The reality is however, that meditation may very well be the single most important exercise on this list. Mayo Clinic describes meditation and it’s benefits more effectively and with more authority than I, but basically, practicing meditation can be a way to reduce mental ‘noise’ and serve as a kind of resting reset for our body and mind.

How to Meditate – NY Times

7 Ways Meditation Can Actually Change the Brain – Forbes

  • Kegel Exercises

Kegel exercises are well known to have far-reaching benefits for women’s sexual health. What’s less commonly known is that Kegels provide significant benefits to men as well. These benefits range from improved sexual function to promoting fecal continence (Mayo Clinic, 2018 – 1). Women’s health benefits are similar, with an emphasis on bladder control (Mayo Clinic, 2018 – 2). Learning to do Kegel exercises has another plus: it teaches us to tense and release.

  • Tense and Release
    Tense and release, or better known as Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR), is a technique that’s used effectively in treatment for anxiety and insomnia, as well as relieving pain and high-blood pressure (WebMD, 2018). Essentially, it is the same process as Kegels, but applied systematically and mindfully throughout the rest of the body.

How to do Progressive Muscle Relaxation – AnxietyBC

Tense and Release for teens – Anxiety Canada Youth

  • Warm-up arm rotations and walking in-place
    Yup, just like in PE class. Extend your arms to the sides, making a t-shape with your body, then rotate your arms in small circles for 60-90 second or until compelled to release, then switch directions. Then repeat this process making larger circles with your arms. In conjunction with walking in-place, this exercise will help to warm your muscles to the appropriate temperature for light anaerobic work.

 

  • Pushup from knees
    Perhaps the best-known strength exercise in the world, pushups can simply seem like too much when you don’t want to workout. Modifying the pushup so that your knees are on the ground instead of your feet lightens the intensity and can be a great way to trick your brain into thinking it’s not actually working. Coupled with slow, consistent execution, these modified pushups can be further adjusted to sufficiently challenge all levels of athleticism. Other variations (discussed below) can be used as well to adjust difficulty.

 

  • TV squats (yay!)
    This one’s always my personal favorite.  Stand in front of the TV, and do squats (or lunges). Training authority Jonathan Goodman describes in detail ways to vary your workout. Variations numbers 5 (time), 6 (weight), and 12 (range of motion) in particular are effective ways to get more out of these exercises.

 

  • Stretching (only when warm)
    Stretching is an important tool that allows our bodies to recover properly. Once we’re warmed up, these techniques can be used as often as is beneficial. Stretching helps protect our bodies from incurring unnecessary damage during your workout, as well as out in the world. Benefits range from increased flexibility and range of motion, to helping with back pain and stress (Lindberg, 2018).

 

  • Cardio (as desired)
    Adding a cardio component serves to further balance and intensify your workout. For many, it is an integral piece of an effective workout plan. But sometimes, we just plain don’t want to. If you find yourself here, don’t distress! It’s okay. Normal even. Limit or even eliminate it from the program this time if it’s helpful. Just remember, participating in cardio can turn a good workout into a great one.

 

  • Repeat as needed.

 

Once through, this circuit offers substantial reward. Repeated and modified to challenge each individual, it presents a foundational skill set that is the basis of the best and most challenging workouts the world has to offer.  

These tools can be mixed and matched as is desirable, but it is important to remember that together, they create a nearly full-body workout that can be increased in intensity to any level, providing a framework for people of every level of athleticism. Whether you’re a beginner or a decorated Olympian, these skills can help you to work out, even when you don’t want to.

Clayton Taylor trains at Tri Valley Trainer inPleasanton, CA. He holds a BA in Psychology from San Francisco State University and is certified with the National Academy of Sports Medicine.

 

 

REFERENCE
all websites accessed Dec 2018

https://www.anxietycanada.com/sites/default/files/MuscleRelaxation.pdf

https://www.health.harvard.edu/bladder-and-bowel/step-by-step-guide-to-performing-kegel-exercises

Goodman, Jonathan. 13 Ways to Vary Any Exercise.https://www.theptdc.com/2012/11/13-ways-to-vary-any-exercise/ Accessed Dec 2018.

https://www.healthline.com/health/benefits-of-stretching

Lindberg, Sara. Medically reviewed by Daniel Bubnis, MS, NASM-CPT, NASE level II-CSS. Stretching: 9 Benefits, plus Safety Tips and How to Start. Accessed Dec 2018.

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/mens-health/in-depth/kegel-exercises-for-men/art-20045074– 1

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/womens-health/in-depth/kegel-exercises/art-20045283– 2

https://www.mskcc.org/cancer-care/patient-education/pelvic-floor-muscle-kegel-exercises-women-improve-sexual-health

https://www.nafc.org/kegel/

https://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/strength-training-101-how-to-squat-properly/

https://www.nytimes.com/guides/well/how-to-meditatehttps://www.shape.com/fitness/workouts/know-your-basics-how-do-lunge

https://www.verywellfit.com/stretching-101-2696342

https://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/features/cardio-workouts-to-try#1

https://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/muscle-relaxation-for-stress-insomnia

https://youth.anxietycanada.com/tense-and-release

 

 

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Training Clients Who Manage Anxiety

clayton trxGuest Author: Clayton Taylor, BA Psychology, SFSU, NASM-CPT

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, roughly 31% of U.S. adults and adolescents (ages 13-18) will experience an anxiety disorder.
-(Harvard School of Medicine, 2017), (Kessler et al., 2005)

       How do you motivate a person to exercise when he or she doesn’t want to stand? This is a question whose answer extends well beyond the purview of this author’s professional expertise. What I can speak to however is my personal experience as a physical fitness professional, student of psychology, and person who manages a clinically diagnosed anxiety disorder. This essay is meant to provide a starting point for other fitness professionals, as well as laymen, to begin to understand how to better coach people who manage anxiety.

Folks manage their anxiety in all sorts of ways. When it comes to working-out however, easing in can benefit both those who prefer a more aggressive style and those who don’t. For example, a new client who is apprehensive to work out can benefit from a low-intensity, incrementally challenging exercise that builds confidence and a basic foundation of physical skills. On the other hand, a client may be more comfortable ‘jumping out of the plane’ so to speak. While this attitude is admirable on the surface, it can ultimately set an anxiety-prone client back, if not appropriately coached. Starting with meditation and hang stretching can be a great way for a client to start to feel out his or her own body before moving on to an appropriately challenging workout lead by mindful instruction, application of time- and range-variations, as well as specific exercises and techniques that may offer additional benefits to those who deal with high-levels of anxiety.

Starting with meditation can be the necessary cleansing process before a person submerges herself into physicality. It can be lead with guided visualization accompanied by appropriate audio cues (calm, lyric-free music), breathing techniques, and most importantly, consistent, gentle reminders to let go of one’s thoughts. The idea is that we work towards preparing both the client’s mind and body for exercise. 5-10 min should suffice, depending on the individual. Some will not be interested in the meditation and will want to move right on to the hang stretch. If this is the case, be accommodating, but continue to incorporate the use of meditation moving forward, and remind the client that learning to meditate in and of itself is a paradox, and that we should continue to use and develop this skill, as it is arguably one of the most important skills that can be learned by anybody, in particular a person who deals with extra anxiety.

The hang stretch allows a person to begin to engage their bodies in a way that will show current strength/flexibility, and also where gentle improvements can be made immediately. It is important at the beginning stages to ease the client into doing this safely. Begin by having the client leave both feet on the ground, supporting 100% of his/her weight, then gradually transferring tension and weight to the hang itself. Recommend no more than 30% to a beginner, to be adjusted according to client needs. This protocol can be repeated with a standing hamstring stretch for lower body evaluation, as well as an excellent start for anyone who has any kind of lower back or lower body flexibility issues.

A natural transition into strength training can be made right here at the end of the hang stretch. Beginning the strength portion of a workout in the same position as the relaxing and expanding stretch just performed can be a fun way to make it not feel like exercise. After a brief rest from the hang stretch, encourage the client to begin to appreciate the effects of strength training by challenging them first with assisted pull-ups (feet on ground for beginners), then eventually working up to full-range and intensity. We can call it our prison-yard warm-up (ha). Exercise can be modified to horizontal rows or similar. End with a few minutes of physically varied, but relatively tranquil cardio, and transition to inclined push-ups.

At this point, you likely have an idea of the fitness level of your client, so the idea is that you want to take this part of the workout as an opportunity to raise the intensity to the appropriate place for the person you are working with. This can range anywhere from assisted (inclined) push-ups to free-weight chest press. Any kind of guided machine is NOT ideal for a person with anxiety, however. This is because body weight exercises and free weights enlist ‘stabilizer’ muscles that require the brain to process and learn to modulate in a more complex and ultimately effective way. Basically, the more stimulating the exercise is both physically and mentally, the more effective it can be for alleviating symptoms of anxiety. Time variations and range variations can also be an invaluable tool when seeking to increase physical and mental stimulation.
From this point a combination of strength and cardio to be determined by the client and trainer involved can be used, but with a few key points in mind for the trainer:

1. Be patient.  Being patient is nothing new to a trainer, but for a client who struggles with overwhelming anxiety in their day-to-day, simply showing up may have been a challenge in-and-of itself, for a variety of reasons. The best way that you can help your client is to aid them in finding their comfort zone.

2. Be kind. It might seem to go without saying, but being kind is an absolute caveat when working with folks with anxiety. There is a time and a place for tough love, and generally speaking, this is not it. That being said, this person often does benefit from an assertive approach, especially when backed by logic and expertise.

3. Be consistent. Consistency is the life-blood of learning. Consistently providing a safe environment of fun, kindness, and patience allows people the opportunity to learn and grow exponentially.

4. Don’t forget to have fun.  It may sound silly, but the reality is that by the time that you’re done being all the things listed above, you may very well need to do a check-in with yourself. It can be a challenge accommodating somebody who manages mental health issues, but I assure you, helping somebody face and overcome a hurdle like this will ultimately pay out dividends to both you and your client, often in ways that you may never see or know. So smile! Be happy! It’s why we got into this business in the first place.

Clayton Taylor trains at Tri Valley Trainer in Pleasanton, CA. He holds a BA in Psychology from San Francisco State University and is certified with the National Academy of Sports Medicine.

 

 

Harvard Medical School, 2007. National Comorbidity Survey (NCS). (2017, August 21). Retrieved from https://www.hcp.med.harvard.edu/ncs/index.php. Data Table 1: Lifetime prevalence DSM-IV/WMH-CIDI disorders by sex and cohort.

Kessler RC, Chiu WT, Demler O, Merikangas KR, Walters EE. Prevalence, severity, and comorbidity of 12-month DSM-IV disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2005 Jun;62(6):617-27. PMID: 15939839

 

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Knowledge is Power

libraryWant to have a more accurate and deeper understanding about what it takes to be in the best shape possible? Here are the top 5 most popular of Dan’s Pleasanton Patch health fitness articles from the past year:

Five Things You Didn’t Know About Losing Weight (but should)

What’s Missing in Your Motivation?

Feel Less Worry and More Worthy

What Your Dog Knows About Your Body

How to Make Fitness Fit

 

 

 

 

 

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Push-Ups for Pooches

“Dan is extremely professional and down to earth. He has an unparalleled ability to make you want to get up in the morning and work out. Dan_PaintI’ve lost over 30 pounds and have added lean muscle. He’s given me the motivation and skills needed to live a healthy lifestyle.” – Tosh Cero

“Dan is knowledgeable, professional and worth your time and money! He helped my husband and I get much stronger (safely) and improved our cardio fitness. Excellent, fun trainer – I highly recommend him!” – Barbara Inderbitzen

“I have been scheduling two private sessions a week with Dan for over two years. I believe I have very high expectations of a private training session: a full body workout, creativity to maintain interest, sense of satisfaction (tired and sore, but no pain) at the end of each session, great health advice and discussion without feeling bullied, someone thoughtful and bright, clean and safe environment and equipment, and a full session at a reasonable cost. Dan meets these expectations. I know that I think, feel, look, and live better because of my sessions with Dan.” – Mark Linsky


Grant me the opportunity to help you live a higher quality life and help me help others in the community as well. Beginning January, I began donating 100% of my first session fee for new clients who purchase three or more sessions, to a local non-profit organization. March’s recipient is Valley Humane Society.

Together we can make a profound positive difference in yours and others’ lives. Contact me at Dan@TriValleyTrainer.com or here to learn more or take advantage of this offer.

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