A few months ago my health insurance company reached out to me to ask if I’d like to take advantage of Wellness Coaching. Well actually it began a step before that. My health insurance company offers subscribers financial incentives to get healthy. The first one was taking on on-line health assessment for which they gave me a $25 gift certificate. There are activities one can complete for another $75 and the actual periodic chats with a wellness coach will get you another $75. I have a very nice general practitioner who has expressed to me a weight goal for me. Does it go without saying that I don’t see much of my general practitioner? As of this winter that goal had receded to being 15 pounds away and it dawned on me that I needed to reverse that trend pretty darned quick before it receded any further.
So when my health insurer made this offer I agreed to work with a coach. My coach calls me once every few weeks. We set particular goals and then discuss how I am doing to meet them. These have mainly included getting my amount of exercise up and drinking more water. Since I started working on this program I have lost 6 pounds and and inch and a half off my waist. The program has lots of on-line motivational tools and exercises with cute little tracker bars to tell you how you’re doing on them.
I’m not doing everything the program would like to see me do. The main thing I am not doing is tracking all my food daily. I probably should. I have a few excuses for not doing so including that I mainly eat the same set of things day in and day out. I think my plan is to keep that arrow in my quiver so that if I stop making progress I can start tracking and be able to keep going.
For me there was a fair amount of low hanging fruit with respect to my habits. So first off measuring certain foods was a place to begin. Cutting back on splurge meals and evening snacking was another place. Drinking more water was another. Actually I am not really pushing hard enough on that. It sure would help if it weren’t so darned cold out this spring.
One of the main benefits of coaching for me is accountability. While I am plenty smart and know a lot about health and fitness, I do tend to b.s. myself and make excuses about why I don’t do things. (Um, like it’s too cold out this spring to drink enough water…) To make changes I have to be more honest with myself. And yes, while I don’t believe in low-calorie dieting and I do lift weights, it is also true that I have been over-fat for a long time and that only changes in my behavior will change that. Period. And they are changes that I will have to stick with by and large for a long, long time.
Recently I’ve found myself plagued by “golfer’s elbow.” This is like tennis elbow but on the inside of the arm instead of the outside. If you’ve ever had either you know what a pain it is. Being me of course I am self-treating it with trigger point therapy.
The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook by Clair Davies, Amber Davies and David G. Simon is amazing for finding out the cause of what ails you and treating it. The basic concept is that there are little bundles of muscle tissue become contracted into tiny hypersensitive areas that may not hurt themselves but can send pain to other places. They map that all out for you with helpful pictures. I’ve had this problem before with referred pain. To me it makes complete sense that the place that’s hurting may be a symptom and not the cause. I’ve experienced this with for example leg pain that actually emanates from a “crunchy” place in my lower back. I am still grateful to the first person that figured out that one for me, a massage therapist. To treat these crunchy places I use a combination of tools.
One of my favorites is a little orange ball with nubs on it called the Stress Buster Massage Ball. If you are looking for one know that it has to be fairly firm to actually make a difference. A tennis ball also works some but I really like the nubbiness for getting to those little knots. You can roll the ball on your back against a wall and get a pretty nice massage on tense areas. For my arm that I am working on lately I use the kitchen counter.
The book makes the point that most health professionals don’t think of pain in this way. The ones who do are typically people who understand the body and won’t suggest you medicate away the symptom but rather figure out its source and start working on it. Masssage therapists that practice myofascial release will understand this. What’s best about the book is that it is written with the goal of self treatment in mind. How many of us really have both the time and the money to get a series of massages when something hurts? I know I don’t.
The tale is that if you toss a frog into boiling water he’ll jump out but if he’s in a pot which slowly heats up he won’t and will die. It is disgusting to be sure. We used to use it to describe people’s circumstances of living in violent relationships… But I digress.
Lately I have been thinking about motivation. Looking at some of the fitness literature and web information I read I see that the great success stories are often the people who had never touched a weight and then discover weight lifting and proper diet and of course dramatic changes ensue. I think for more of us it’s harder because we are not suddenly discovering a new way of living which we can attack with religious zeal.
Like the frog in the slowly heating water I’ve been lifting weights and doing some type of aerobic exercise for about 35 years. Also I need to shed 10 to 15 pounds of fat. I remember reading somewhere in an article about building muscle how really modest the gains a person who has been training over time can expect to make in a year. So how do I stay motivated to keep doing enough of the right activities? And how do I stay motivated to eat in a way that supports the exercise enough to keep making positive changes?
For me having a variety of activities I can pursue helps some. My preferred forms of exercise are walking in a hilly local park, using the elliptical machine in the new fitness room at my job, lifting weights in my basement and taking the occasional hot yoga class at a local studio. I recently discovered http://www.lauramustloseweight.com which is cool both because of Laura’s personality, and for me, because she is about my height. It’s a good graphic portrayal of both the truth and the possibilities. I guess images and stories help because it’s hard to move from abstraction to action. It would be nice to be motivated more by the positive, e.g. move towards what Rachel Cosgrove calls being a “fit female” than by the negative, e.g. ominous health worries or the image of myself as some sort of lonely Jabba the Hutt. In any case, if I figure out the secret to motivation I promise to share it.
I am happy to take inspiration anywhere I can get it. Seriously. Years ago my pattern with exercising would sometimes be that things got hectic at work and in the rest of my life and I stopped doing everything physical. Those breaks sometimes lasted as long as six months. Thank goodness a friend and I started walking about 4 miles together in a local park on Sunday mornings. I think we’ve been doing that about ten years. One absolutely crucial effect of this routine is that it keeps me from getting into one of those no-exercise phases. There were times when the weekly walk was the only exercise I did. More recently it’s often icing on the cake. The New Rules of Lifting for Women calls it “active recovery” I believe. That is, something you do that’s not actually strenuous enough to be exercise but is good calorie-burning activity that allows you to be ready for more weight lifting the next day.
The fitness efforts of friends real and virtual also inspire me. From friends that are making great strides with their own levels of fitness and sharing awe-inspiring lifting, running and biking accomplishments to those whom I see looking great as they change their body composition in positive ways. Someone tweets that he’s at the gym or someone posts that she’s hit a new PR, that helps me feel inspired to hit the weights myself.
I also find it helpful to work on a program. I am quite capable of coming up with exercise routines for myself but I find that I do better when I have the guidance, structure and variety of routines put together by experts. I know people are sometimes surprised to learn that I work out by myself in my basement and that I do keep at it. Ironically, for me the need to tear myself away from home to go to the gym would at this point in my life be a de-motivator and not a motivator.
Probably the biggest motivator of all is seeing results. This is especially motivating at first when one is making initial gains but one needs to be satisfied with more subtle progress as one goes farther on the fitness journey. A friend of mine recently introduced me to stickk.com which uses a combination of things to get one to set goals and stick to them including making donations to charities that one doesn’t like if one fails to meet a goal, having referees and friends to support the effort. This all coming from the results of a Yale study on what helps people stick to goals. I am not using it yet for that but the possibilities seem intriguing.
Over the years I have found myself often more motivated by preserving or enhancing my looks than my health. Probably I realize that while my health has been generally good in the looks department I really can’t afford to cede any ground. Vanity just motivates me in a way that health doesn’t. Maybe it’s because I realize that as much as I can do to support my health I will die eventually. Who knows? Mainly I think that it’s good to take advantage of whatever I can that keeps me actively pursing health and wellness. It doesn’t matter what my reasons are for hitting the weights as long as I keep hitting them.