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4 posts from January 2013


Healthy Movement Resources and Examples from the White Picket Fence Staff

Here are some of the physical activities that our staff at White Picket Fence Counseling Center love to do:

Diosa Moran, Registered Mental Health Counselor Intern: I enjoy bike riding on nature trails, yoga, dancing and Zumba classes, hiking, and breath work for relaxation.

Jaki Hitzelberger, Registered Mental Health Counselor Intern: As a former athlete, I enjoy a variety of movement now, always switching it up. I enjoy being with others playing sports, biking and paddle boarding, and also working out with light weights. I don't like the word, "cardio," but I like movement activities such as dance. I like to take a month off now and then to focus on other things I enjoy, like reading.

Laura Silvestre, Registered Mental Health Counselor Intern: I enjoy walking my dog around the lake everyday, jogging outdoors, going to the gym, and yoga.

Janet McCurdy, Registered Mental Health Counselor Intern: I am an avid walker, walking about 4 1/2 miles a day. Not only is walking a great exercise for me physically, but it is a time each day that I can listen to music, clear my mind or just enjoy being outdoors. I practice yoga regularly and also enjoy riding my mountain bike.

Rachel Lowe, Registered Clinical Social Work Intern: Various forms of walking- walking dogs or with my baby and window shopping, going on long nature walks, playing on the floor with the baby, and bike riding are my most usual forms of movement.

Kristin Solberg, Licensed Clinical Social Worker: So as most working moms can relate, you can imagine my horror when in the middle of a recent meeting, Sandee began going around the circle asking my co-workers what they did for "movement" in their lives. I felt like I was back in school and I immediately started panicking that she would call on me next! What would I say? I belong to the YMCA but I haven't gone there to exercise in around three years! The only time I enter that building is to bring my kids to basketball or swim lessons. I began thinking about what kind of movement I actually do and I was surprised by my answers.

As a working mom I am always on the go, which means lots of movement! I also take every opportunity that I have with my family to take walks, pull the kids in the wagon, ride bikes, go to the playground (no, I don't sit on the bench with my cell phone!), and to just play in the backyard. So although I may not have as much scheduled exercise time as I would like, I am certainly adequate in the movement department, more than I had realized! Phew! I DO have an answer.

Sandee Nebel, Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Certified Eating Disorder Specialist: I call myself the “ultimate cross trainer.” I take a Yoga class a few times a week: yin yoga, gentle Hatha yoga, or Iyengar yoga (I like to have lots of variety), you may have seen me walking my dog up to Park Avenue, and training at SSP. (I’ve recently hurt my back, , so I am restricted to walking and VERY gentle's been a challenge and a gift of creating extreme self-care.)

Here are some of our suggested resources and tools for your physical activity routine:

  • Personal trainers – one-on-one or in a group
  • DVDs that you can rent or borrow from the library
  • Walking clubs
  • Group exercise programs

Check your community bulletin boards, local newspaper, gym or YMCA/JCC for listings. 


The Powerful Benefits of Physical Activity

At White Picket Fence Counseling Center, we talk a lot about the mind-body connection. Science has shown us that cultivating a positive attitude and peaceful thoughts can actually bring about physical healing.

Can it go the other way? Can increasing your physical activity help to ease your mind and calm your thoughts? Absolutely!

In moving the body, there’s an internal movement that happens at the same time. We feel more whole and well. We come back into our bodies with more physical energy and the stamina to keep up with our daily tasks or add new ones. It just plain feels good (thanks to the release of endorphins – those happy brain chemicals) and helps us be more optimistic.

If strength training is one of the right physical activities for you, you may notice that as you grow stronger physically you also start feeling stronger about your sense of self. It’s a beautiful thing.

These are just a few of the many mental, emotional and physical benefits of incorporating healthy movement into your life. Which ones have you noticed? Which ones would you add?


Getting Physical – What to Do and What Not to Do

Getting physical isn’t about making a resolution, it’s about making a plan that fits you and your lifestyle. If you’re ready to get into action with more physical activity in your life, start with a plan.

Unlike a resolution, this is something you can start any day of the week, any month of the year. Or at this very moment. Then commit to try it for a few weeks to see how it feels.

A lot of people don’t stick with their programs because they try to do too much, too soon because they have an all-or-nothing mentality. This is a recipe for discouragement at best, injury at worst.

We’ll be talking more next week about how healthy movement can heal body image issues. One of the ways it does this is by giving you ways to nurture the body and treat it kindly. When that is your focus, you’re less likely to do the things that harm your body, such as over-eating, under-eating or over-exercising.

Some of the most nurturing movement options include: 

  • Gentle yoga
  • Walking outdoors
  • Moving to music (dancing)
  • Swimming
  • Relaxation
  • Simple stretching

To choose the right activities for you, consider your health issues, how much time you have, how motivated you are and what appeals to you. Once I worked at an agency and a lot of my co-workers were running 5Ks. One of them said, “C’mon, you can do it with me!” I jogged, but I’d never done a 5K before. When she told me she had placed first for her age category in her first event so I figured, “Hey, I can do this. Maybe I’ll even win!”

Well, it was a humbling experience. Not only didn’t I win, I didn’t even place. And it was an agonizing effort – I was so sore it took a week to recover. Running – and winning – a 5K wasn’t an appropriate goal for me. So please, learn from my mistake and consider your activity goals carefully!

To find time for physical activity, start small. If you’re already doing something, add a little more. Or to start, find 15 minutes – take away some TV time, reading time or even a little sleep time. Some find early mornings are best, so it’s out of the way, but anytime is fine.

I remember when I got my dog. Soleil is a BIG dog who needs to be walked a lot. It was too hard to plan long walks, so we did a lot of 10-minute walks. It wasn’t long before I noticed that I felt much fitter.

Little things add up. You may think that spending time in the garden is nothing, but it’s something. Not all of your physical activities need to have measurable outcomes. If you’re up and moving around, it counts! And when you add a little walk here and a game of catch with the kids there, you’ve got some significant activity! You can call yourself the ultimate cross-trainer.

Don’t underestimate the importance of clothing. I played tennis as a kid, and I remember my father saying, “You’re halfway there if you’re wearing the right clothes.” Just by putting on those tennis whites, I felt empowered and more confident in my skills. I hated to admit it, but my father was right.

Here are some things we don’t typically endorse at White Picket Fence Counseling Center, and why:

  • Intense activities such as running, ultra-long workouts, boot camps and hot yoga – we advocate for a more balance, nurturing approach to physical activity
  • Exercising outdoors by yourself after dark – we want you to be safe and not put yourself at risk
  • Improper footwear such as flip-flops or worn-out sneakers – these won’t provide the support you need and may lead to injury

As I said last week, doing something – anything – is something. Make sure it’s something that appeals to you and feels like you can keep up. Next week, we’ll look at the many benefits of physical activity.


Getting into an Active Mindset

A quick reminder that before you start any new physical activity, it’s essential that you have a physical examination and get clearance from your doctor. This is critically important and must be taken seriously.

Along with a physical check-up, you also want to do a mental check-up in order to get into an active mindset. The first shift you might need to make is with the language you’re using. If the word “exercise” has negative associations for you, simply replace it with “physical activity,” “healthy movement” or another term of your choice.

You might also need to let go of some false beliefs or other forms of distorted thinking about exercise, such as all-or-nothing thinking (“I missed my walk today, so I might as well forget about doing anything else”), disqualifying the positive (“I was late and only did half the yoga class – that doesn’t count”) and should statements (“I should be able to walk as fast as her”).

Aside from the amazing benefits that we’ll discuss more next week, healthy movement can also protect you from the impact of a sedentary lifestyle. An October 2012 study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, as reported in the New York Times, found some serious health risks of being sedentary, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease and premature death.

So next, update your expectations of what counts as “real” physical activity. I like to remind my clients that when it comes to healthy movement, something is something. You don’t need to jog, lift weights or do anything you don’t want to do, especially in the beginning.

Your goal is to do less nothing (sedentary, passive activities like working at the computer or watching television) and more something (active tasks that get you moving around).

The next thing to get clear in your mind is: Are you ready to start an activity program? If not, you’ll be on an uphill journey the whole way. One way to think of it is to consider where you are in the five stages of change: precontemplation, contemplation, preparation, action and maintenance.

If you’re not in the action stage yet – be honest – then ask yourself what you need in order to get there. Maybe it’s professional help, like a therapist, life coach or personal trainer. Maybe it’s personal help like a healthy movement buddy.

Once you’re in action, staying motivated can sometimes be even trickier. We’ll talk more about specific activities next week, but for now I’ll just tell you that I have to mix things up in order to stay motivated, e.g., yoga and walking my dog. I know I would burn out from doing just one thing.

Consider now what might derail your efforts and plan ahead for how to handle those things. For example, if a rainy day ruins your plans for a walk, maybe you could have a playlist or CD handy of some songs you like to dance to.

It’s just like if you relapse with your food behaviors – if you miss a day, or even a week, just pick up and get back on track when you can.

Even if you’ve been told not to exercise for a period of time, you can include “rest” in this phase of your activity plan, and approach it with the same discipline as any other goal. You will still be in the mindset of carrying out your physical treatment plan.

Next week, we’ll talk more about specific activity ideas – what to do and not to do.