Browse Month: August 2018

When Walking Isn’t Such Great Exercise

I see it all the time—people who are deconditioned or obese are told that walking is the best exercise.

For some, it is. It’s convenient. It doesn’t require any special skills. All you need is a good pair of shoes. And it’s easy to increase the challenge in incremental steps (literally!).

But it’s not so good for everybody.

Walking can aggravate imbalances in the body and create pain—in the lower back, the hips, the knees, the feet. And then it’s a slog. And potentially harmful. This is especially the case for people carrying excess weight on their frames.

And for those people, it’s best to start with mobility and stability exercises, which Dr. Google can provide but which are best taught by a physiotherapist or personal trainer. This is optimal for avoiding pain when walking.

For those not ready or able to seek out a physiotherapist or personal trainer, the pool is an excellent place to start. Not swimming, yet. Just hanging out in chest-deep water and moving. The water provides support and, not inconsequentially, nurturance. It’s a pleasurable environment for somebody with extra fat because fat is buoyant. (It’s a very different story for muscular individuals, but that’s not who we’re talking about.) This is a safe, low-impact way to move. And if you want to get a bit more of a workout, aquafit classes are effective and essentially risk-free.

I’m also a fan of strength training for the plus-sized person. Ever notice how big Olympic weightlifters are? For pumping iron, a larger body is an advantage, and plus-sized individuals who are deconditioned can make much more rapid progress with weights than with aerobic exercise, which in turn is motivating. Once a foundation of strength is built, then aerobics will be easier. Get some instruction, and then go for it!

Chair exercises are another way to get going. It’s surprising how effective exercising sitting down can be, and this may be an option for those who absolutely don’t want to be seen in a swimsuit 1 or are intimidated by the gym. The best option is a local class, provided the instructor is competent and compassionate, but there are lots of chair workouts on YouTube as well.

So, if walking floats your boat and makes you feel good, do it! But if not, don’t feel like a failure… but do find something else that works for you.

If you have any other ideas, please comment below.

 

 

The Value of a Coach You Can Relate To

So, it’s been another year (and a bit). Where have I been? What happened to this blog, anyway?

Well, I’ve been struggling with depression and weight gain. And I’ve been beating myself up and wondering how I could be a health coach when I’m so overweight myself and so prone to depression. How could I be credible when “clearly” I’m not able to achieve success myself?

And then I hang out on personal trainer and health coach pages on Facebook and YouTube and see things that make me so angry!

That is, some of it makes me angry. Not all coaches by a long stretch are so lacking in understanding about the myriad factors that contribute to obesity as the ones who raise my ire, and some are truly sensitive to their obese clients. But I don’t think a lot of them really know what it’s like to walk in an obese client’s shoes.

And that fires me up to be the coach who truly understands.

There’s a term in the coaching business, limiting factors, that the fit-all-their-life coaches often can’t relate to. I’m talking especially about the “just eat less and move more” mentality—the lack of understanding of circumstances such as the social and emotional hurdles an obese person who wants to optimize their health may be facing.

I’ve even seen coaches who have chosen to gain weight on purpose and then lose it “in order to understand” what their clients go through. What I’ve observed are people with a solid baseline of health and fitness allowing themselves to go to pot for a short time and then returning to baseline, complaining about how difficult it was. Yeah, right. If they can do it, so can you.

No, no, and no! There’s a world of difference between that stunt and trying to lose weight when there is no baseline of fitness (at least not in recent history) and perhaps years of coping with life in ways that aren’t amenable to leanness and good health. Not to mention genetics, mental health, environment, and social support, among other factors.

Perhaps I’m the one being insensitive now, but I doubt very much that those coaches who “struggle” to lose the weight that they’ve intentionally put on really do experience what their long-time-obese clients face. And they certainly shouldn’t use their contrived experience of losing weight as a tool to belittle their clients’ efforts.

Those of us who are plus-sized coaches truly get it. We’ve walked—and are still walking—in those shoes. With a solid foundation of knowledge about fitness, nutrition, and behaviour change, we need to get out there and use our understanding of what it’s like to be obese—our experience with those limiting factors—to offer solid support to our clients. Perhaps we will even coach them to higher levels than we ourselves have attained. That is, after all, a coaching relationship prevalent in the professional sports world.

I’m in a good place now. After half a lifetime of trial and error, I’ve gotten past the depression with the help of the right antidepressant at the right dose. So when I see some of that stuff on Facebook and YouTube… Yes, I’d better put those doubts about my credibility in their place and make myself more available to the people who need a coach they can relate to and who will relate to them.

I challenge other plus-sized people with an interest in nutrition and fitness to do the same.