Workout Wonders!

Many of you know that I recently started to work out with a personal trainer.  What a FABULOUS experience.  I am feeling better than I have in years.  This in spite of ongoing concussion issues.   Maybe rattling the brain was just what I needed to put myself on the road to healthier living.

In the grand scheme of things, I’ve tended toward the middle road letting the motto, “Everything in Moderation”, be my guide.  Well I’m here to tell you that “moderation” can sometimes disguise itself as sheer inertia.  Fast forward to working out…

One of the unfortunate side effects of the concussion was the inability to lift my daughter.  (For those who don’t know, my adult daughter has Cerebral Palsy and needs full care.  That means lifting to transfer her from her chair, bed, etc.)  Though she’s only 90 pounds, I found myself relying almost totally on the ceiling mounted lift I’d had installed the previous summer.  Talk about perfect timing!  As the lift got a workout, I got weaker.  For months following the accident, I wasn’t able to tolerate an elevated heart rate – lifting weight, cardio exercise, even a brisk walk was more than my poor head could handle.  So, I slowed down — WAAAAAY down.  While that might have been just the thing to help heal my brain, my body began to rebel.  The weight piled on and I felt my strength wane.  The mere thought of getting out there for a long brisk walk (a staple form of exercise and meditation for all my life) became daunting and I found myself becoming the quintessential American Couch Potato.

Then my fabulous friend, Janet, came to visit.  Nothing like having your BFF show up looking positively svelte and the picture of health.  We have long supported each other in making life decisions and she motivated me to lace up and join her on a walk.  She slowed way down and I sped up a bit.  About the same height, we’d long been known for our long quick strides and here I was out of breath and struggling to keep half our normal pace.  But I did it!  And I found that if I monitored the pulsing in my temple I could avoid the migraine that was sure to follow an elevated heart rate.  Janet shared that she was training for a 10K.  I hate running so that didn’t entice me in the least.  But she also mentioned lifting weights.  Hmmmm.  My previous experience with weights was a total nightmare!  As a member of a local health club, I received a few “free” personal training sessions.  This was one of those times when I definitely got what I paid for.  The trainer put me on machines and pushed me to do more reps with heavier resistance.  Rather than toned arms, I wound up with tension headaches and stiff aching muscles.  Her response was, “You need to work harder.”  Uh, no…  I quit and went to water aerobics instead.

After the accident, my neck, head and right bicep were a mess – not to mention my lower back and SI.  Amazing what damage a whack from behind can render.  Kathleen Kilburg, the best PT ever, introduced me to core strength.  She also had the most sensible approach to exercise I have ever encountered.  None of that work harder, work through the pain, push yourself rhetoric.  Instead, she focused on proper form, slow and steady improvement, keeping things simple, gradually adding complexity.  All those attributes I love most about Feldenkrais! And most of all, she honored my body awareness and Feldenkrais philosophy.  After graduating, she suggested I try Pilates.  I gave it serious thought but put it off as I focused on increasing my walking and working on the exercises Kathleen had given me.

That mid-August visit from Janet set me on a different course.  The summer weather patterns were wrecking havoc with my head so I stuck with the status quo, ultimately changing my medication and finding that I was able to withstand pressure changes with fewer migraines and less general brain fog.  By the end of October, I felt ready.  There was only one trainer I considered – Cathy Leman of Nutrifit.  Cathy and I moved into my office building within weeks of each other so had known each other for years.  We’d talked philosophy and I felt confident that I’d be in good hands if I hired her.  I couldn’t have been more “right”.  Cathy has been a dream to work with – what a difference from my previous experience.  Like Kathleen (there must be something to that name), Cathy believes in starting small, building slowly and honoring my limitations.  She continues to help me increase my cardio fitness as well as strength with very little upset to my system.  The few times I experienced headaches or even felt I was heading in an undesired direction she shifted gears.  What a wonderful collaboration.

Strength training for women, especially post-menopausal women is highly recommended, dare I say essential.  Study after study points to its importance for maintaining bone health.  I recommend it highly.  Working with Cathy and Kathleen has shown me that you CAN work smarter AND harder.

If you’re tempted to try strength training for yourself, skip the at-home weights and machines until you’ve had a few sessions with a really good personal trainer.  How do you find one?  Begin by looking for someone who understand the needs of someone with your level of physical ability and any limitations you might have.  Ask around for referrals and interview perspective trainers.  If they aren’t in tune to you and your body, don’t have a philosophy of slow and steady, keep looking.  And if you’re in the Glen Ellyn area, look up Nutrifit!

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