Editor’s Note – We are thrilled to present the first in a regular series of articles from Ellis Family Chiropractic – Focused on health and wellness
By Dr. Valerie Ellis –
In my work as a certified pediatric and pregnancy chiropractor, one of the things I hear moms say all the time is they want to exercise but do not have the time, or they don’t know how to get started, or they start and then they hurt themselves. Being a working mom of three I know all of these issues very well. I remember a time when I had two toddlers, I was working part time with my husband in our practice and there never seemed to enough time or energy for anything. I tried going back to work out videos and running, but my timing was haphazard and I was always over doing it and injuring myself. Then after having my third child I decided that I didn’t enjoy feeling exhausted all the time and I needed to get my body back-sound familiar?
As moms we are always juggling all sorts of activities for everyone else and we sometimes forget about our needs while doing all that juggling. The problem with that is all of those juggling events will eventually all crash to the floor if we are not taking care of the person juggling them, and we see this happen with exhaustion, depressed immune systems, and other health issues. Yes, it is hard to add the exercise in, and yes eating healthy is not always easy nor fun (believe me, I love food!), but as you put a plan together and make it all a part of your life, you begin to realize that it really isn’t that hard and the benefits of how you feel are amazing.
So, I put together a year plan for of slowly building up my exercise routine, changing my diet and building a new mindset. I am going to share these steps with you in hopes that if you are struggling with getting into exercise and taking care of your health, this may help.
To start, you must be committed. This can’t be “a try” or “I’ll see how it goes”. You need to get your mind wrapped around “this is for the long haul” and this is a lifestyle that you are choosing for your health. You may have to think outside the box. And this goes for everything from when you will exercise to what kind of exercise you will do. To help with this, it is good to find something that motivates you whether it is to lose the baby weight, reach a certain goal of an activity (like running a race), getting your energy back, or keeping up with the kids. I, myself, found scheduling goals of races, mud runs and monthly activity goals with friends to be my motivation.
Next, pick a time of day and days of the week that will work for you. I recommend at least three days a week and anywhere from 30 minutes to 60 minutes each of those days. By setting the time aside you are more likely to do the exercise and not have an excuse to skip it. I recommend to my patients to schedule it in their phone or a written calendar. This is where you may have to be creative with time or pick a time that maybe a little different for you. You may have to become a morning person and get up before everyone else. Now if you have little ones that are also early risers you may see if you can find a someone to watch your children to give you the time you need. You can get a jogger stroller and just walk and then move to running, or you can join a gym that has child care at it if you children are old enough to be there (some gyms have limitations on children’s ages to utilize their child care). Still, make it a point to have the time scheduled.
Take it slow!!!! One of the biggest mistakes I see moms make is jumping in too fast, too often, and too hard. If you haven’t worked out in a long time or at all, and if you have had your body go through the physical changes of having children, your body needs to get use to what you are doing. Too often I see women come into my office who have injured their backs and/or necks because of jumping into an intense workout routine. Start with walking or an elliptical, add in some light weights or Pilates or yoga. Each week set a goal to either walk a little farther or walk run and start gaining on running more, maybe add a few more reps to the weight bearing exercises you are doing. Whatever it is, I think it is important to hold steady at a level for at least a week and then add to the routine in the next week. If you have no idea what to do or how to do it, check out some of the gyms in the area to see what types of group classes they have and maybe take a friend with you. This is also a great way to meet people and socialize with like-minded people, if that is something you are looking for too.
There are also a ton of personal trainers in the area. If this fits in your budget, I find working with a personal trainer the most helpful and you will benefit from greatly. Even if you set up a handful of appointments for a trainer to teach you how to exercise and to do the exercises correctly, this can keep you from injury and from wasting your energy doing exercises incorrectly.
Stay off of the scale!!! It is good to get a starting weight and it is good to make goals for weight loss, but it is not a good idea to weigh yourself daily or even several times a week. The reason for this is you may deter yourself from continuing your program. In the first two weeks or so of working out you are probably going to have some soreness, which is inflammation occurring. You will probably retain some water and this will add weight. You need to give your body time to regulate. This also goes for when you challenge yourself more with a harder workout. Changing your food habits will also help with this, but initial changes will confuse the body as to whether you are in starvation mode or not. When you limit calories (which is usually the case with trying to lose weight) the body needs time to regulate and mobilize the energy from fat cells to supply the body with energy. So I recommend that after the initial “weigh in” give yourself a couple of weeks before jumping back on the scale and then weight for at least 2 more weeks to a month to weigh yourself again. Also, muscle weighs more than fat. So if you start a weight resistance program (which I highly recommend) you will begin to strengthen and build your muscles—this will initially cause a weight gain and then level out. Body mass is a much better indicator of where you are at. You can do the measurements and figure it out on your own and this I recommend doing once every six to eight weeks (it takes longer to see these results) or again, if you work with a trainer and they can do it for you.
Water, water, water. This is so important to help you with your workouts. We all have heard at this point how important water is for our body. Well, it really is. Not just during your workouts, but throughout your entire day. It washes away toxin, it keeps cells in your body working properly, and it keeps your muscles hydrated with keeps you from being sore and injury. A dehydrated muscle is one that will injure easier and that will keep you from moving forward. It is recommended to take half your body weight in ounces and that is the amount of water you should drink daily. It is recommended that if you work out for an hour you should add in an extra 8 oz. of water during your workout. It is also recommended, if you drink anything with caffeine you should also add 8 oz. of water for every 8 oz. of a caffeinated beverage you drink. Why? Caffeine is a diuretic and depletes you of water, therefore making you dehydrated. If you are not a water drinker start with just a couple of glasses of water a day (and certainly during your workouts) and slowly start adding in more while beginning to remove any drinks that may cause dehydration.
You may have some setbacks-don’t let them knock you off course. There are going to be moments of soreness and even injury. We all can overdo it or even try something that is new and a little too intense and then find ourselves in a world of hurt (believe me when I say I speak from my own personal experience, not just from my patients). Here are some tips: First, ice areas that are sore and get that inflammation down. If you tried something and it caused you injury, then slow up and pull back. Do a less intense workout (maybe the weights were too heavy this time and you need more time to build up). Maybe that workout isn’t for you? Some people cannot do things like jumping (nor should they based on their body), or some have issue with running or anything jarring to the body. Find a different exercise and stay away from that. Maybe it’s time to find someone to help you with the aches, pains and injuries. When someone is working out I believe it is important to give your body some TLC in the form of chiropractic care, massage, and/or acupuncture. These are all natural forms of care for your body to help it in its healing, resetting muscles, realigning the spine and helping you prevent injury.
Don’t be too hard on yourself. If you miss a day that you should have exercised, especially if someone is sick or your kids had a million activities that day, just get back on to it the next scheduled day. Remember, this is a process. If going to a gym doesn’t work out or a class becomes just too hard to get to then find another way and put together something at home, maybe get the kids involved too. They will learn their habits from you so having your children see you exercise, eat healthy and even takes breaks is a good thing.
Reward yourself for your great progress!!! Find some fun ways to reward yourself because this is hard work! Some people like to get a calendar and put stars on it for great workouts, some like to have a little treat at the end of a couple of weeks for all their hard work, and some people start scheduling a monthly massage or seeing a chiropractor to help out their sore muscles and keep themselves healthy and treat themselves all at the same time.
Dr. Valerie Ellis is a Certified Pediatric and Pregnancy Chiropractor. “Dr. Val” and her Husband, Dr. Adam Ellis Ellis, Own and Operate Ellis Family Chiropractic, located at 155 Genesee Street in New Hartford. New patients are welcome and can call 315-732-3007 to schedule an appointment.