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I have a few friends over 50 who get up every morning at 4:30. One of them heads to her freezing cold garage and hits the treadmill. Meanwhile, another group of women arrive at the gym around 6 for a powerlifting lesson. These women hardly ever complain. They appear to be at peace with their discipline, just sort of floating easily through their day, accomplishing all they’ve set out to do. They’re hard workers too. They make good money. They smile easily and often. We exchange morning greetings and as we do, I secretly hate them. Not really hate, but more like envy. They’re doing 155 pound squats for reps at 6:30 in the morning, and I can barely keep a thought together in my head. For some people, having the discipline to succeed comes naturally. For others like me, we have to “trick” ourselves into being achievers. Call it “habits of success” if you will. I prefer to call it “mind games.” One “master mind-gamer” is Jane Hann. Jane is approaching 60. She is a high-functioning, well-respected environmental manager. She oversees 25 employees. She makes a roundtrip to Denver nearly every weekday. And get this … she LOVES her job. She is one of the most disciplined people I’ve ever met. Not in a crazy way, but in a healthy, well-balanced way. The only difference between people like her and people like me is the “A” word. Go ahead and laugh. It’s okay. I’m actually talking about “attitude.” Attitude towards life, exercise, the world, people … even herself. Jane makes it look easy, but it doesn’t come naturally. She has to outthink herself. Consequently, she has developed amazing insight about how to deal with people, how to problem solve and how to stay disciplined. I recorded an audio podcast with her, and I want to share some of the highlights here. Because let’s face it, some of us need to be tricked into getting in shape.

Jane Hann

VICKI: Would you say that one of your main responsibilities at work is to motivate those people to do their best?
JANE: My job, as I see it, is to help people do what they need to do in order to do their jobs well.  Sometimes it’s as basic as getting them funding or removing obstacles in the workplace. But this could also mean helping them be appreciated by their customers by teaching them how to add value to their customers’ daily life.   And helping people feel appreciated actually results in motivating people to do their best and to be their best.
VICKI: So I’m thinking this can be applied to fitness.  How long have you been exercising?
JANE: I’ve been exercising all of my life, but I actually started exercising on purpose in college following surgery and skin grafts from a malignant melanoma.  I was restricted from activity for months while the skin grafts were healing.  At the end of that time, I found myself breathing really hard after climbing a short flight of stairs.  And that was not an acceptable condition to me. Later in life I’d been doing hiking, biking, backpacking, snow sports and that kind of thing. 
VICKI: But then just recently you had an injury that left you unable to exercise.  Talk about what that was like. What did that do to your motivation?
JANE: About a year and a half ago, I was hiking Pike’s Peak and broke my lower leg bones and dislocated my ankle on my right leg.  And I was about a mile and a half from the summit.  So a helicopter ride and two surgeries later, I found myself weak, and even though I tried to keep active, it was very discouraging.  I couldn’t hike mountains and ride bikes like I used to.

I did a little here and there, but the strength and the balance just wasn’t there. And when my high-school age niece wanted to go backpacking with me last summer, I had to tell her no.  I wasn’t strong enough.  So I wanted to do something to change that.  The things I was doing weren’t getting me there. 
VICKI: How were you feeling overall — health-wise?
JANE: I was finding that slowly over time, as I was getting older, I was getting weaker in other places.  My muscles were getting kind of flabby and overall — it snuck up on me.  And I think it was this broken leg that made me realize that it was an overall health problem.
VICKI: And hiring a personal trainer was one of the things you had to do to get moving again.  But more than that, you had to play some mind games with yourself to help you stay motivated.  Do you want to share some of those with us?
JANE: Well, I’ve got quite a few strategies in both exercise and in business.  Hiring a personal trainer was twofold for me.  I was walking and jogging, sometimes up to six miles on the weekends, but still feeling weak.  I needed some new ideas on how to get stronger and where I wanted to be.  I also needed weekly accountability.  I knew it was really important that I do something consistently in order to get to where I wanted to be. And the weekly training helped that happen.  As I got stronger, I became more motivated.  You can do this with a personal trainer, a coworker, a spouse or a friend.  And when you translate that to business, the more value you add to yourself, the more you’re appreciated. The more you’re appreciated, the more you want to do the work to get you to appreciate it again!
VICKI: You talk about strategies, but then you also mentioned some tricks that people can do;  just little things to help them, to remind them, or to propel them to get in shape.
JANE: One is — just give it a try.  I mean, you can have so many excuses, but did you really even try it?  I mean, in your head, you’re thinking about the reasons why you wouldn’t want to do something.  If you just give it a try, you may find that it isn’t so bad, and you might actually have fun.  So that’s one. Another is, visualize what success looks like.  What do you look like?  What are you eating/wearing?  Who are you with?  What does your typical day look like when you are at your “ultimate you?”  Don’t wait until you’re there.  You can get started now. Doing exercise and watching my diet is part of getting to where I want to be. Another is, listen to the excuses you give yourself and address them. I didn’t want to do planks because my carpet was itchy.  So I put a yoga mat on the carpet right by my bed. When I got off my bed, I had to step on the mat. So not only is it not itchy, but it’s right by the bed, so I can do it before my day gets busy. You make up excuses, so listen carefully to what those excuses are and then remove the excuse. Another one is — bribe yourself.  I love bagels.  They’re not good for me.  But I can allow myself a half-toasted bagel after I do a three mile run.  And sometimes that’s what gets me into my running shoes because I want that bagel!  In business, I make myself finish the task at hand before I can get up and get another cup of coffee.  So for me, bribing really works. Before I broke my leg, I used to make excuses about bad weather.  I didn’t want to go out and do my runs.  So I had got a membership to a nearby gym and at lunch I would go and run on the treadmill looking at the snow outside the window.  No more bad weather excuses! I’ve learned through leadership in business, be brave enough to make the change you need for a better future.  In business it might be that I need to change how my team is performing, whether it’s through training or reorganization or communication.  And you can do the same. You can train people how to treat you, if you don’t like how you’re being treated.  So the key is to focus on what gives you joy in your life.  What brings you joy? Everyone wants joy.
VICKI: Everyone wants joy, but it’s difficult for people who feel like they’re trapped.  I know a lot of seniors feel trapped in either their bodies or their houses or their living situations, or whatever it happens to be.  So what about the seniors who feel like they can’t make a move, or they can’t get motivated, or they don’t even see the point?
JANE: You don’t have to look at the big long-range goal and say, “I’m doing that.” You can look at the short little ones that are right in front of you.  For me, it was getting out once a week and getting some exercise and doing something.  There is always something you can change.  It may take time, but eventually you will see a progress towards that goal.  The goal doesn’t have to be a big grand one.  The goal can be, “I can get up off the floor a little easier.” Or, “I can pick up my plant to put it in the sink a little easier.”  The value of persistence is about not backsliding, but in doing what brings you joy.  Maybe you need to hire somebody to help you with part of that.  Or maybe you’re just going to have to accept that it won’t happen overnight, but you still keep going.  At the end of the day, you need to try to believe.  You need to bring joy to your life. If getting outdoors and being around nature brings you joy, you need to do that as much as possible.  Everyone wants joy in their life.  You’re not alone in this, and you’ll find people along the way to help you.

About me: I am an A.C.E. Senior Strength Trainer at Flex Gym & Fitness. You can reach me at victoryfitnessteam@gmail.com or call 719-445-8566. Always consult your physician before beginning any exercise program. If you experience pain or difficulty, stop and consult your healthcare provider. This article is not meant to take the place of any treatment or activity your physician has deemed necessary. 

A client of mine shocked me with a confession while on the Elliptical one day. She said, “Sometimes when I see an overweight person struggling to walk, huffing and puffing, I judge them. I can’t help it. I know I shouldn’t look down on them, but I do.”

     After thoughtfully considering what she said, I went to my locker and emerged with a 25-pound weighted vest. 25 pounds of dead weight is not light, by any means. She grunted audibly as I placed it over her small frame. Her eyes got really wide when she realized my evil plan … I would make her do the remainder of her workout with the vest on. The pull-ups, goblet squats and deadlifts that she executed with prideful ease were suddenly challenging in ways she could never imagine. Just walking around the gym was a challenge. The weights wobbled to and fro, forcing her to use her core to keep from toppling over. Everything was a struggle. Even sitting on the toilet took a sort of concentration and exertion she’d never known as a small-framed person.

     I didn’t chastise her for her guilty confession. Some people, whether they realize it or not, judge the big guys and gals … not knowing what being large actually feels like. If you’re an obese individual, you know the very depth of what I’m referring to.
     But here’s the good news: While you’ve been living with obesity you have actually been working out much harder than we skinny folk. You’ve been lifting more weight, doing heavier leg lifts, and burning more calories.  So believe it or not, when you set your mind to it, you’re going to lose weight much faster than your thinner friends. Here’s why:
     As a bigger person, you have a higher metabolic rate naturally, which means you need more calories to maintain your weight.  When you go into caloric deficit (on a diet, for instance) you have more options for calorie reduction.  So if you need 3000 calories per day, you can cut that by a third and lose weight without too much difficulty. From a physics standpoint, a heavier object will require more “work” to move than a lighter object. Work equals calories burned. Let’s say you weigh 200lbs and your buddy weighs 150. If both of you work out at the same intensity for the same amount of time, you will burn more calories. If you both decide to eat 500 fewer calories a day, you will lose more weight initially, much faster than your buddy.  As you gain muscle, your metabolism will get a boost, resulting in even higher calorie burns and a healthier/leaner you.
     And here’s the best news of all … underneath all that adipose layering, there is a beautiful set of well-developed muscles waiting to be revealed to the world. As an obese person, you’ve already been working hard for every step you take. Which means your muscles are already surprisingly developed. In fact, bodybuilders go through what’s called a “Bulking Phase” before they get “shredded” for competition. The Bulking Phase isn’t glamorous. You won’t see bulking pictures in GQ Magazine. But know this – in order to get competition-style muscles, you need to bulk up. So for those of you who are overweight, you now can tell your friends that you have been in a “Bulking Phase” and are getting ready for phase two.

Not everyone wants to look like a bodybuilder. Don’t worry … you won’t. Most competitive bodybuilders use anabolic steroids (and other drug cocktails) in massive amounts to achieve that look.  But know this … as you lose weight, you don’t have to be afraid that you won’t have any muscles at all. The muscles are there, otherwise you wouldn’t be able to carry yourself around. The larger you are, the more developed your muscles are likely to be.

Tim Bell is a perfect example of a healthy weight loss transformation. After encountering some family tragedies over a four-year period including loss of lived ones, financial distress, bankruptcy and many other challenges, he hit bottom.  

“I had not been taking care of myself. I was a daily cigar smoker and had put on a lot of weight. I did not exercise, I was growing old fast. The Peach Tree Road race was being held on the 4th. It is the biggest 10K race in the world. My brother said to me, “Next year we should commit to running in it.” I said, “I am in”. The goal had been set. This was my opportunity to work on me. That was it. It was my calling. As I am writing this, I have lost 40.4 lbs., more important, I feel and see the change. It has been a difficult task but very well worth it.”

Tim Bell – Overcoming four years of tragedy with a new fitness goal.

If you are a large person in a “Bulking Phase” and you’re considering a journey back to healthy weight, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  1. By being large, you’ve developed a thicker skin, a tolerance for failure and a determination to keep moving no matter what. These are necessary traits for athletes. The journey will probably take you between two and seven years. Get ready for the long haul.
  2. For every 5lbs of muscle you gain, you burn 500 more calories per day. You will need to burn more calories than you consume each day. It takes a deficit of 3500 calories to lose 1lb. To do this safely, see a licensed nutritionist.
  3. When losing weight it’s important not to focus on the success of others but only to measure your progress based solely on yourself. 
  4. The closer you get to your goal the harder it will be to lose the weight. There will be times of plateau and even times of setback.
  5. Finally, some words of wisdom from Craig Ballantyne: “The harsh reality is that most people do not want to see you succeed. People will try to hold you down. Find others who share your goals to lose weight, and so that you can leverage their knowledge, commitment, support, and success. Research shows that when you hang around others who succeed that you will also succeed.”

So bottom line, don’t knock the big folk. They’re working out harder than most of their peers just by being big. With the right weight loss and exercise program, they have a better chance of maintaining attractive, healthy muscle development than the rest of us.

REFERENCES: Troy Taylor, NASM Elite Trainer, National Academy of Sports Medicine, Ann Prokenpek, NASM Elite Trainer, Bodybuilding.com, TransformationContest.com, FOX8 Cleveland, YogaPosesAsana.com, EarlyToRise.com

Vicki Morgan CPT ACTION is a Senior Strength & Fitness Instructor at Flex Gym and Fitness. You can reach her at 719-445-8566. Remember to consult a physician before beginning any diet or exercise program. If you experience pain or difficulty, stop and consult your healthcare provider. This article is not meant to take the place of any treatment or activity your physician has deemed necessary. 

6 a.m. in the health-happy Favre household. Mr. Favre and the dog have already been around the neighborhood for their usual 3-mile morning run. After everyone leaves, Mrs. Favre is ready for her jog. She grabs the leash, grabs the dog and takes off. In the middle of the day, she goes on another 2 mile walk/jog, dog in tow.  When her 9 year-old football star son gets home, he grabs the leash and goes on his 5-mile afterschool run with their faithful furry friend. Mr. and Mrs. Favre enjoy their nightly walks … another two miles … just the two of them, with the family pet.

This was their routine for nearly two years. As busy as they were, they still had time for fitness. But, as busy as they were, they didn’t notice how skinny their dog had become. One afternoon, the son grabbed the leash and called the dog. The dog did not come. He called and called. The whole family was looking for the dog, who they found cowering underneath the couch. The dog, it seemed, had had enough. For the next two weeks, the dog ran and hid every time he heard the jingle of the leash.  He had discovered new and inventive places to hide. Upon examination, the vet said he was entirely pooped out and a little hungry!

We don’t like to think that we’re abusing our bodies when we train. We like to think that we’re “pushing ourselves” or “challenging ourselves”. The old adage, “No Pain, No Gain” still rules our hearts and minds. We think we’ve mastered our bodies; we’ve assumed control. We are certain that if we stop training, we will lose everything we’ve worked so hard for and just shrivel up and die.

Believe me when I say, I have dear, dear friends who believe this. They cannot imagine taking one day off from “pushing themselves to the limit”.  Even when they’re sick, they get up at 4:30 and go to extremes to stay fit. Some of them take it too far. Those that overtrain are prone to injury, infection, pain and burnout. And in my humble opinion, they aren’t running gleefully towards fitness; they are running away from death and disease.

Which one are you? One who trains joyfully towards fitness? Or one who trains because you’re in fear for your life? For most people, it’s a healthy balance of both.

Not everyone who pushes themselves overtrains. In fact, overtraining is a rare condition. Overtraining does not mean training too much. The sports science definition is “A physiological state caused by an excess accumulation of physiological, psychological, emotional, environmental, and chemical stress that leads to a sustained decrease in physical and mental performance, and that requires a relatively long recovery period.”

Overtraining is much different than Overtaxing.  How can you tell if you’re overtraining? It’s a fine line. If you do a workout that is too rigorous, you’ll stress the nervous system.  In addition to the normal muscle soreness and fatigue, you may feel something similar to a hangover.  You may lose focus and energy. A headache might trouble you for days.

Those symptoms may indicate a simple case of overdoing it. When you overdo it, chances are you’ve overloaded the hormonal system.

It’s likely you’ve elevated your cortisol, which causes inflammation and depletes testosterone. Both men and women need normal levels of testosterone. Working out too hard has its risks. But overtraining is a different animal. If you’re the most rigorous athlete in the room, constantly sore and drained yet not seeing any noticeable results, you could be overtraining.  Overtraining will kill your progress and replace it with muscle loss and apathy. It’s more of a mental state similar to burnout, depression, or illness.

STRESS AND OVERTRAINING

Overtraining Syndrome begins with the release of stress hormones (glucocorticoids like cortisol, for example) and an overexertion, or fatigue of the adrenal glands. If you already suffer from job stress, relationship difficulties, grief or chemical toxicity, you are at high risk for overtraining.  With that said, a few no-gainz workouts does not mean you’re overtraining. It means you’ve either got a hidden injury or you need to back off for a week. If you actually develop honest-to-goodness Overtraining Syndrome, it will take you months to recover … not days or weeks.

STIMULUS AND OVERTRAINING

Most fitness junkies are actually addicted to the stimulus, using your muscles not so much for gains but for the emotions and sensations you experience during the workout. Stimulus addicts rarely lose motivation to train. Your enthusiasm will keep you reading up on the latest training techniques and being proud of what you’ve mastered. But take heed. If you pride yourself on working harder than everybody else you know, you may end up with a feeling of stagnation or failure when the physical results don’t come. In fact, people around you who don’t hit it as hard as you may even seem to get better results! Why? Because you’re forcing your body into cortisol overproduction, rendering your workouts at least 50% useless. Not that cortisol in and of itself is a bad thing, but too much of it reduces the amount of pregnenolone that you have available to produce testosterone. Hence, you may notice increasing flab and decreasing muscles despite your pounding away … and you may generally feel like crapola.

HITTING ROCK BOTTOM

Overtraining manifests itself as the blues. No energy. No motivation. No joy. You get an anxious feeling when it’s time to go to the gym. You can barely drive yourself there. You have to drag yourself onto the treadmill even though you’re dreading it. You can’t even imagine picking up a 5lb dumbbell. The thought of it just about makes you get sick. And despite being the hardest worker you know, you keep hurting yourself.  The gains are not happening. In fact, you’re getting weaker. The doctor can’t find anything wrong with you. Even though the condition is rare, you probably have Overtraining Syndrome. The Favre’s dog is a perfect example.

NOT HITTING ROCK BOTTOM

Most of you probably don’t have it. So for the rest of you whiners who are simply pushing yourselves too hard lately, take a few days off. It won’t kill you to rest. Don’t be a showoff. Humble yourself into submission and give your hormones a break. Then get back in the saddle whether you feel like it or not, and hit it hard!

Vicki Morgan A.C.E. is a Senior Strength & Fitness Trainer at Flex Gym and Fitness. You can reach her at seniorstrength.pro. Always consult your physician before beginning any exercise program. If you experience pain or difficulty, stop and consult your healthcare provider. This article is not meant to take the place of any treatment or activity your physician has deemed necessary. 

Doctor with stethoscope and stomach on the hands in a hospital. High resolution.

In part one of this blog, I talked about the importance of gut health, which is vastly different than having a “fit” exterior. In other words, you may have nice muscle definition and low body fat, but overall health begins on the inside. Case in point … a person struggling with a folate deficiency may look terrific, but feel rundown mentally and physically.
TRUE HEALTH BEGINS ON THE INSIDE
Complete body wellness stems primarily from the gut, and a healthy diet is one of the keys to that door. But does exercise help? Absolutely. In recent studies and clinical trials (performed within the last year), researchers have found that regular exercise changes the microbiota in the gut, stimulating the production of fecal Short Chain Fatty Acids, or SCFA’s. SCFA’s have a direct and indirect influence on our well-being. Researchers worldwide have concluded that SCFAs critically support immune regulation as well as organ and tissue metabolism.  The SFCA Butyrate is especially effective against chronic inflammation, metabolic disorders and atherosclerosis.  Other diseases that are associated with a negatively altered composition of the microbiota include obesity, coronary heart disease, diabetes and ulcerative colitis.
The results just keep rolling in. I encourage you to do the research. These studies are done independent of diet. For those of you who shy away from the “D” word, this is excellent news. You can start moving and grooving your guts and improve your health, without going on a diet! Don’t be surprised though … once you start exercising, you may start craving healthier foods. Follow those cravings.
Here’s just one example of the many recent studies being done: A research team was formed by Jacob Allen (Postdoctoral Researcher at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Ohio) and Jeffrey Woods (Professor of Kinesiology and Community Health at the University of Illinois). They recruited 18 lean and 14 obese sedentary adults and sampled their gut microbiomes. The subjects began an exercise program of supervised cardiovascular exercise, 30-60 minutes three times a week for six weeks. The team sampled the participants’ gut microbiomes after the exercise program and again after following six weeks of sedentary behavior. There was no required diet. The result? Fecal measurements of SCFA, especially butyrate, increased as a result of the exercise program. When the subjects returned to sedentary life, the levels declined.  This was confirmed every which way including genetically.
LET’S GET MOVING
So let’s get moving … bowels and otherwise! With the blessing of your health care provider, begin an exercise program consisting of supervised cardiovascular exercise. Three times a week for 30-60 minutes with a commitment of six weeks should do it. If you’re unable to do that kind of cardio, consider a low intensity program. Low intensity exercise is enough to reduce your transient stool time, thereby reducing the contact time between pathogens and your gastrointestinal mucus layer. And THAT means you reduce the risk of colon cancer, diverticulosis, and inflammatory bowel disease. Switch to high intensity interval training and you increase fat and sugar oxidation, which generates adenosine triphosphate (ATP Energy). 

Zumba, Water Cardio, Drumming Class, Step Class, Body Pump, Hot Hula … all of these have a Silver Sneakers’ version if you need to start slow. One final note: It’s important that you don’t exhaust yourself and over train. Overtraining creates body-stress and may have an adverse effect on your gut microbiomes. Same with insufficient recovery. Remember to refeed in accordance with the recommendations of a trusted athletic nutrition source.
Here’s to healthy stool production, a helpful array of microbiomes, increased fecal Short Chain Fatty Acids, less disease and more energy overall!

Vicki Morgan C.P.T. is a Senior Strength Trainer at Flex Gym with ACE certifications in Post-Orthopedic Recovery and Nutrition Essentials. At age 55, she enjoys powerlifting and bodybuilding. Reach her at seniorstrength.pro. Consult your physician before beginning any exercise program. If you experience pain or difficulty, stop and consult your healthcare provider. This article is not meant to take the place of any treatment or activity your physician has deemed necessary. 

Senior man with glass of fruit smoothie sitting in the kitchen

NO GUTS, NO GLORY
No, this isn’t a pep talk about the courage to get in shape. This is a “pepsin” talk for people who, quite literally, don’t have the guts to get healthy. They have the courage, but not the guts. By guts, I mean intestinal fortitude, a clean colon, healthy liver and a strong core. You may be successful in the gym, but your health is still in jeopardy without gut health and core strength. You may have nice muscle definition and low body fat, but physical appearance has very little to do with overall health. Needless to say, gut health goes far beyond diet. Core strength goes far beyond having six pack abs.
FARM FRESH FOODS & GREAT GRANDMA’S CONCOCTIONS
I know a lady in her late 70’s who’s slightly overweight. She never bothered to exercise. We were lunching together at a church picnic and she’s enjoying ALL the yummy stuff … basically eating whatever she wants. I’m sitting there with my bunless grass-fed beef burger, broccoli bits and unsweetened applesauce. “Doesn’t any of that junk food bother you?” I asked. “Nope” she replied. “I can eat just about anything.” After much conversation, we discovered the answer to this great mystery.  As a little girl, she was raised on a farm. Her entire family worked the land and ate fresh, homemade, unprocessed foods (as did almost everyone from that generation). When she did get ill, her mom would administer great grandma’s homemade medicine for whatever ailed her; cough, flu, stomach ailments … chigger bites. In sharp contrast, kids from my generation and younger were treated to a host of preservatives, fillers, dyes, sweeteners, prescription drugs, GMO’s and poisonous foods disguised as “healthy”. Consequently, we’re allergic to everything, can’t eat anything and are medicated way beyond reason. Yes, we can do 100 squats in a CrossFit session. Yes, we can lift heavy weights and run 5 miles a day. But we can’t eat a freakin’ sandwich without getting the runs and breaking out in hives.

Now I’m asking myself, “Is this what healthy is supposed to feel like?”

FIRST, THE BAD NEWS.
As the New Year turns a corner, many of you have considered joining a gym and getting in shape. That’s great. But if, after all the diet and exercise, you still have stubborn belly fat, irritable bowels, fatigue and food sensitivities, you may have an unhealthy gut. The point of getting in shape is not just to look good; you should feel good too. Without a healthy digestive system, your body won’t be able to recover. Your supplements, protein powders and expensive veggie drinks will simply slide unused through a skinny hallway of nearly petrified fecal matter (your colon) and into Colorado Springs’ septic system. Well … that’s one way your money goes back to the city government!

IN PART TWO …  
True health begins on the inside. In my next blog, since this is about Fitness, I will address exercises that you can do to strengthen your gut and colon. Plus, I’ll share a valuable checklist so you can be sure you’re using safe, healthy methods for muscle recovery and regeneration.

Vicki Morgan C.P.T. is a Senior Strength Trainer at Flex Gym with ACE certifications in Post-Orthopedic Recovery and Nutrition Essentials. At age 55, she enjoys competitive powerlifting and bodybuilding. Reach her at seniorstrength.pro. Consult your physician before beginning any exercise program. If you experience pain or difficulty, stop and consult your healthcare provider. This article is not meant to take the place of any treatment or activity your physician has deemed necessary. 

If you’re reading my blogs, you may be at the point when you’re ready to do something about your state of fitness. If you’re already training, maybe you’re ready to step it up a notch. If you’re not training, maybe you’re ready to start. High blood pressure, diabetes, osteoporosis liver fat build up, muscle loss … these things don’t go away on their own. So it only stands to reason that you would want to take action. Hiring a Personal Trainer may NOT be the best first step however.

As a Personal Trainer, I’m probably shooting myself in the foot here, but I’ll gladly do it because I hate to see people hire a trainer when what they need is a physical therapist. I see so many older folks, limping and hobbling around with the same Personal Trainer year after year. They’re hobbling because they have underlying imbalance, postural and muscular issues that cannot be corrected with exercise. 

Will exercise help them? YES. Will they make significant improvements without correcting the underlying issue? NO. In fact, training without addressing an underlying issue can cause further damage … especially if the trainer is uncertified or new, and has absolutely no clue how to perform corrective training. Will trainers happily collect money from imbalanced clients for years without improving their mobility? YES … the greedy ones will.

So let’s find out what different practitioners do, and don’t do.

PHYSICAL THERAPISTS

According to The American Council on Exercise, Physical Therapy students spend at LEAST 7 years in formal education; earning first a Bachelor’s Degree in Physical Therapy, kinesiology, sports medicine or a similar field. Then it’s off to graduate school where they’ll earn a Doctorate Degree in Physical Therapy (DPT). Upon completion, they study 8 hours a day for three to six months to pass the NPTE (National Physical Therapy Exam for licensure).  Physical Therapists also need to be licensed by the state they practice in and fulfill state requirements such as jurisprudence exams, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. They must also take continuing education courses to keep their practice updated to maintain their license.

THE ROLE OF A PHYSICAL THERAPIST

Physical Therapists diagnose, treat and rehabilitate patients who have an injury or disease that limits their movement. Their job is to help patients move independently, alleviate pain and prevent disability. They often work with patients with joint and muscle pain, multiple sclerosis, arthritis, cerebral palsy, stroke, spina bifida, injury, and post-surgical conditions. 

PERSONAL TRAINERS

Welcome to the soapbox, folks. You may be shocked to find out that personal training does not have an educational standard and is self-regulated. Certifications are available, and the most respected of them take 4-9 months of full time study, with a pass rate of around 58%.

Requirements to be a Personal Trainer: 18 years of age. They should also be CPR and first-aid certified. That’s it. There is NO REQUIREMENT for formal education, legitimate licensure or continuing education. The best organizations will offer continuing education, specialty certifications and informative publications for their participants. Reputation is what distinguishes the good organizations from the shoddy ones, but there are no official standards in place. 

The fitness clubs decide for themselves who will train their precious members. Some will allow “uncertified” trainers to work at their facility, or they may offer some sort of “quickie certification” to trainer wannabees. These “quickie” certs cost the newbie about $200 and are easily obtained. Heck … I’ve even seen ads online for $79 certifications. Are we shocked? NO.

So your trainer may have a master’s degree in biomechanics with five years of experience working at a clinical setting, or may have a quickie license with no experience whatsoever. If they’re smart, they’ve memorized the “training lingo” very well and can hustle you into a co-dependent relationship that will last for years.

THE ROLE OF A PERSONAL TRAINER
The role of a Personal Trainers is to design exercise programs and help clients execute them to maintain or improve their health. If your trainer does not have a designed program in place for you, ask for one. Besides programming, Personal Trainers also motivate clients to a healthier lifestyle, help prevent injuries with proper form and follow through with the client’s physician or Physical Therapist’s advice. They should also screen clients’ movement patterns to make sure that they can move freely without pain or limitation.

ARE YOU ON THE RIGHT ROAD?
You may complain to your trainer about severe back pain, troubles with mobility, diabetes-related symptoms. These issues blur the line between fitness and medicine, and by law, your trainer is required to at least suggest that you see a proper health practitioner. Problems like these are beyond a trainer’s expertise, and if he/she has your best interest in mind, a recommendation will be given.

A friend of mine is a Physical Therapist. He has a National Certification in Athletic Training. He has worked with athletic teams on all levels including high school, collegiate and professional. He’s quick to point out the value of both PT and fitness training: “Research shows that Physical Therapy can get you moving better, aligned better and feeling better, but it is exercise that’s going to keep you there, and prevent you from re-injury.”

Lately, he has noticed a decrease in how many PT sessions insurances were willing to cover. He was concerned that he was sending his patients out without the strength they needed to perform activities of daily living. For this reason, he works in tandem with an outside trainer. Working with a trainer allows him to co-monitor a patient who’s just been released from PT.

That way, he can make training recommendations and keep informed of the patient’s progress. “We get patients so that they’re functional again, but we want to take them beyond that … into higher goals and also the preventative stage. If they don’t continue to maintain and advance, they’re going to end up back in our clinic with another injury … somewhere else. The people that are able to continue to exercise stay healthy. We’re here if they get reinjured, but if we can prevent that from happening … that’s the whole goal.”

THE BOTTOM LINE

When in doubt, see a Physical Therapist. Don’t rely on your Personal Trainer to perform the work of a Physical Therapist. While PNF stretching and foam rolling are well within the scope of practice for a Personal Trainer, manipulation and massage therapy are not.  If you experience significant pain during regular physical activity that others don’t seem to have, it may be time to address then with PT, then return to your Personal Trainer afterwards. By the same token, PT’s are not gods. They can be wrong, and I’ve gone to battle with a few of them regarding squat form, functional movements and strength training. BUT … when the chips are down, your Personal Trainer should be mature enough to realize that the ultimate decision rests in the hands of the licensed health practitioner … and the client of course!

See you at the gym!

Vicki Morgan A.C.E. is a Senior Strength Trainer at Flex Gym. Reach her at seniorstrength.pro. Always consult your physician before beginning any exercise program. If you experience pain or difficulty, stop and consult your healthcare provider. This article is not meant to take the place of any treatment or activity your physician has deemed necessary. 

Squinting, blinking, making faces, rolling eyes and sticking out the tongue.  Standard operating procedure for a young brat. Who would have imagined that these foolhardy things we used to do as kids would resurface as the latest fad … Facial Yoga?
Actually, it’s not new at all. For generations, men and women from Asia have passed down the practice of facial exercises for fitness, peace of mind and beauty. Cleopatra and other well-known beauties were thought to have practiced facial exercise.  Following suit are celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow, Reese Witherspoon, Madonna, and Jennifer Aniston.
It only stands to reason that if exercising your body increases blood flow, tones muscles, improves skin condition and relieves stress, so does exercising your face. Face Yoga is generally given two thumbs up by doctors, because it’s a non-invasive method of smoothing out lines and wrinkles. No drugs, no injections, no recovery time. No Botox, no surgery and best of all, no cost. It just takes dedication and patience, just like anything else that’s worthwhile.

So how does it work? When you stimulate the muscles of the face by forcing specific motions, the three layers of skin … namely the hypodermis, the dermis and the epidermis … respond. It’s like training any muscle. Collagen and elastin production is stimulated. The Central Nervous System receives messages of new use and movement. When you work all the layers correctly, you increase the blood circulation, which allows more oxygen and nutrients to reach your skin’s cells. Remember, your skin is the largest organ of the body. Slathering it with expensive moisturizer is just a small part of how you should maintain your face. If you stick with it, you’ll end up with visible results … a healthier complexion and skin which holds moisture more ably.

It’s never too late to start. What’s true for the muscles in your body is equally true for your face. You’ll need to make a habit of it, however. An effective routine is 20 minutes a day, 5-6 days a week. Facial Yoga experts report noticeable, long-term results in those who stick with it for two weeks or more. And it only gets better. After a few months, people usually start to notice other benefits such as reduced tension and better facial hydration. Hey … there’s certainly no harm in trying, and it’s better than a kick in the head (as the saying goes).
I personally don’t teach facial exercise, but former college teacher Fumiko Takatsu does.  When she was 36 she got into a terrible car accident. She developed a fear of aging and lost all self-confidence. To help herself recover from what essentially was PTSD, Fumiko created her own brand of Face Yoga. Fumiko claims to be the first person to advocate Facial Yoga in Japan, and has been practicing yoga for over 30 years. You can find her at faceyogamethod.com.

Vicki Morgan A.C.E. is a Senior Strength & Fitness Trainer at Flex Gym and Fitness. You can reach her at seniorstrength.pro. Always consult your physician before beginning any exercise program. If you experience pain or difficulty, stop and consult your healthcare provider. This article is not meant to take the place of any treatment or activity your physician has deemed necessary.