Get moving – Nevada City writer learns about health benefits of regular exercise
“To sustain and increase your activities of daily living, have more energy, feel generally better, to lose weight and to improve a chronic health problem, there is no substitute for movement and exercise,” says Grass Valley certified personal fitness trainer and post rehab conditioning specialist Jennifer Murray of JENN-FIT.
Movement helps you develop strength, flexibility and aerobic fitness. And if you have health challenges such as arthritis, fibromyalgia, MS or other immune system disorders, strength and flexibility training can dramatically improve your life.
I should know. Fourteen years ago, I developed chronic stiffness, pain, and extreme fatigue with no discernible cause. After a myriad of tests, a forward-thinking rheumatologist finally diagnosed my condition as fibromyalgia. But what now? Understanding of fibromyalgia as a real medical condition was in its infancy.
I began reading whatever I could get my hands on about immune system diseases. And one theme was clear – movement was good for what ailed me! I began working out, very gently at first, with a trainer in New Jersey, where I was living at the time.
By the end of six months, I was playing tennis again, the fatigue happened only occasionally, and the aches and pains were tolerable.
Then, in 1995, a series of difficult life events caused me to stop my physical routine for a long time. My husband and I moved 3,000 miles back home to California. My mother passed away; my father had a series of strokes; and I had a serious fall, breaking my foot and permanently injuring my knees. There was just no time for me (or so it seemed). Before long, aches and pains, chronic fatigue and stiffness were constant companions again. In 2001, my kids, no doubt seeing what a toll my flared fibromyalgia and developing arthritis were taking, gave me a wonderful gift – three months of personal training with Jennifer Murray.
It didn’t take long for me to see results – increased energy, a lessening of stiffness and pain, better balance and aerobic fitness. I could actually jog up the 26 steps to our house again! And work all day and play at night if I wanted to.
Now, I will be the first to say that this progression was (and is) not a seamless one. I have good days and not-so-good days. Self-discipline is always a challenge – especially when dealing with chronic illness. But, I also know how much stronger and more energetic I feel if I keep moving. Most important, I control my disease. It does not control me!
Having someone show up and work with me is essential. You tell yourself you can do it alone. But then you don’t. “The accountability of having someone there, especially when exercise is not your favorite thing, makes it possible to keep doing what you really love to do,” says Murray. “Clients say if I didn’t come to their house, they wouldn’t exercise at all!”
“I try to have a gentle answer for all the excuses,” says Murray. “If a client consistently forgets and wants to reschedule, I say ‘no.’ The contract is on their behalf, and it is a tool to motivate. If a client is having a flare up of a chronic condition or is stressed from too much scheduling, I suggest we just move, do range of motion where the muscles are invigorated but not taxed. People often say they just haven’t had the time. I remind them that exercise increases blood flow to the body and brain. That ultimately makes you more available throughout the day to accomplish all the things you want to do.”
And if you can’t afford a private trainer? “Grab two friends and meet me at the studio or come to my dance and strength training classes.” says Murray. “They’re only $7 a class. I had one client who quit smoking, stopped spending money on lattes and used that to pay for her personal training. People spend a lot of money on unnatural products that falsely keep them going. Those things aren’t cheap and they mask our bodies’ own power.”
Yes, I do give myself permission to do less when it seems appropriate. On a pain- filled day, rather than thinking I am a failure because I can only do 20 minutes on the exercise bike, I pat myself on the back for doing something, knowing that tomorrow I will do more! It is important with any chronic condition that in addition to dedication and commitment, you also give yourself understanding and compassion. Whatever you are doing now is more than when you were doing nothing.
Another benefit of all the movement and weight training is weight loss. With the help of Weight Watchers, I lost almost 50 pounds last year. And losing the excess weight helped with the arthritis, too. There was just less to carry around. “Do you love to eat fine food?” asks Murray. “Exercise helps to ‘cap’ your body weight, enabling you to enjoy a splurge every now and then.”
Everything we read, everything we hear, tells us that if you keep moving, you extend your life. “If men walk 2.5 miles a day and women two miles a day, they will increase their cognitive functions significantly as they age,” says Murray. Recent research findings from the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health and Brigham and Women’s Hospital show that … “reduced physical activity [is a] strong and independent predictor of premature death in women.”
Making you a priority is not self-centered. It is a necessity – for your work, your family, and your community. “I love to see people excel in mental and physical happiness,” says Murray. “It’s why I do this work. I honor the human body and am delighted when individuals’ outlooks on life change and grow as they become stronger and move more purposefully toward their goals.”
Lynn Wenzel is a writer living in Nevada City.
What is JENN-FIT?
Personal fitness training at the client’s home. All equipment provided except cardio machines. Workouts can include weight training, yoga, step and dance. Cost ranges from $45-$80 a session.
Studio training for singles, couples or groups of up to three participants. The JENN-FIT studio in Grass Valley is equipped with elliptical bike, treadmill, Bowflex, universal weight equipment, swimming pool, sauna and spa, as well as various balance and functional fitness aids. Cost ranges from $25-$80 a session.
Dance classes are for women only, Monday, Wednesday and Friday, 8:45-10:15 a.m., at the Grass Valley Center for the Arts, upstairs in the Sierra Dance Institute. Classes combine ballet, jazz, ethnic and popular dance with strength and flexibility training and core strengthening. $7/class. Beginners welcome! No dance experience needed.
For more information, call 530-913-6877 or e-mail Jennifer@Jennfit.com
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