Thursday, November 10, 2011

Wellness Month: Meet the Experts- A Fitness Professional

A fitness professional is a person who has training in the field of fitness and exercise, most often in instruction (fitness instructor) and may learn to teach classes such as aerobics, yoga, Pilates and/or other exercise modalities as well as personal training. 
An exercise modality is a system or form of exercise that is designed to elicit a very specific response from the body of the individual who is engaging in the exercise. In the case of aerobics, most people are trying to get their body to shed excess bodyfat and to increase their level of cardiovascular endurance. Weight or resistance training exercisers are usually trying to grow or tone their muscles to make them stronger, bigger, or more attractive. People who practice Yoga are usually after a stronger mind/body connection in order to gain more energy or awareness.
A fitness professional may have a college degree in exercise science, human kinetics, sports medicine or other related fields and/or hold a certificate from a nationally recognized certifying agency that requires demonstration of teaching skills showing proper technique, cueing and musicality as well as a written test covering such topics as fitness theory and practice and the various systems of the body involved in physical exertion. Fitness professionals should have CPR/AED/First Aid certification as well. 
The role of a qualified fitness professional is to adhere to an industry standard code of ethics. One widely accepted industry code of ethics has been put forth by the IDEA health and fitness association, the world's largest fitness association for fitness and wellness professionals. It states that:
As a member of IDEA Health and Fitness Association, I will be guided by the best interests of the client and will practice within the scope of my education and knowledge. I will maintain the education and experience necessary to appropriately train clients or teach classes; will behave in a positive and constructive manner; and will use truth, fairness and integrity to guide all my professional decisions and relationships.  
Further information on the code of ethics for trainers and group exercise instructors can be found at:
IDEA Code Of Ethics For Personal Trainers
IDEA Code Of Ethics: Group Fitness Instructors
With scientific research clearly showing that exercise and good health are closely linked, the work of fitness professionals is becoming increasingly diversified as they respond to the various health and fitness needs of their clients. And with rates of obesity and sedentary living rising at alarming rates, fitness practitioners are also increasing their efforts to target and motivate the vast majority of the population who do little or nothing when it comes to exercise. [Source: IDEA] 
For more on the role of a fitness professional try these links:
LiveStrong- Role of a Fitness Instructor
SportsNHealth- Role of Fitness Instructor

So far we have heard from various women who work in the fitness and wellness field- a massage therapist, a nutritionist, a yogi, a breathwork therapist and a hypnotherapist. Now let's meet a fitness professional. Please let me introduce myself, Shannon Stoughton, the Joy of Fitness Mom of one and lover of exercise, because it just make you feel darn good! I'd love to  tell you a little bit about what I do and how my role as a fitness professional helps round out the nurturing your whole self for optimal well being series. Thanks!
Shannon Stoughton, Washington, DC metro area based
AFAA certified fitness professional and owner of Joy of Fitness

How and why did you become a fitness professional? In other words, what is your story?
I became a fitness professional roughly a year after the birth of my daughter. I had never gained so much weight in my whole life as I did when pregnant. Let me tell ya, I had a hankering for bread products for which I whole-heartily indulged, much to my doctor's chagrin and to my waistline's ballooning (despite the little bundle of joy growing within). I loved being pregnant. However, I didn't love the results of my let loose dieting during pregnancy- a muffin top that five years later I am still working on getting rid of. After giving birth to my sweet baby girl and subsequently finding out about all these medical issues I had such as: borderline high cholesterol, genetic blood clotting disorder, increased chance of heart disease due to the extra fat around my waist and my family history of the disease, feeling of isolation from being a first time mom and staying at home, I knew I needed an outlet- a way to meet other moms. Most of all, I needed to get off my rear-end and better my chances of living a long, healthy, productive life (I am so dramatic!). So, I decided to take a stroller based fitness class. I not only found a renewed interest in exercise, I met amazing women, fellow moms- many whom remain my good friends today. 

When I found out the owner of the fitness program I was attending was looking for instructors, I jumped at the opportunity. I became Baby Boot Camp pre and post natal certified (and later AFAA certified), started teaching and haven't turned back. I love exercise and sharing my enthusiasm and knowledge with others. Through my training and experience, I came to understand that losing the baby fat takes patience and time in order to do it in a sound way that includes regular exercise and healthy eating habits.

You see, I had been an athlete in my teenage years and exercised for sport, but didn't fully appreciate the many physical and psychological benefits of a consistent exercise regimen until after becoming a mom. Motherhood among many things has taught me to embrace chaos, along with my middle-aged mommy figure. I enjoy exercise for how it makes me feel first and foremost (alive, productive, happy) which helps me stick with it. The other stuff: better health, slimming down waistline, firming-up of arms...well that's nice too!

What exactly do you do? I help people get fit, stay fit and enjoy it. My goal is to provide safe, effective workouts that help my clients shape-up, increase energy and mood, and most of all to live a healthier, happier life. I like to a take a fusion approach to fitness, incorporating cardio, strength, core/abs and flexibility as well as focusing on whole body movements. I keep up-to-date with the latest scientific news as it relates to fitness, health, nutrition and incorporate what I learn into routines that are relevant to my clientele. I really try to keep my mind open to new fitness ideas and approaches to help my clients get the most out of the workout.  I listen. I share my knowledge. I blog.  I adjust. I research and find answers if there is something I do not know. I refer to the appropriate people when something is beyond my capabilities. I am my clients best fitness advocate.

How do you fit fitness into your everyday, busy life? 
I always say you gotta start somewhere, sometime. There is no time like the present to start an exercise regimen. The good news is there is something for every body, need and budget, every day of the week, 365 days a year. Try out different things. Start a walking group in your neighborhood, at lunch during working hours, and as you get in better shape, you can ramp it up to a running club with maybe the goal of running a 5K race. Stand more. Yes, that's right. Stand in your office while taking a call. Stand while waiting in the doctor's office. Just stand more! Really, I just read an article about the correlation of sitting to mortality. Here's the facts folks and a good blog article from Harvard Business Review about converting from a sitter to a stander. 
The Many Benefits of Standing at Your Desk
Sitting time and mortality...
You could take a fitness class through your local recreation center, YMCA, health club, or join a gym. Buy a fitness video and set-up some time in the early morning or evening that's your time for exercise. Don't worry about missing your favorite TV show. You can watch it later. Plus, it's not as important as being healthy and feeling great! Or try a boot camp style class. Yoga. Pilates. Work with a trainer to help you get started, motivated and to provide a safe, effective routine. Lot's of fitness professionals nowadays offer group sessions, lowering the cost, upping your fun and adherence. 

The point is there is something out their for you and with a little effort trying various modalities you'll find something that clicks. Most likely you'll like several different things and that's good, because mixing it up between cardio, strength, flexibility workouts is not only recommended for optimal physical fitness to keep you healthy, your workouts remain fresh and challenging which helps keep you motivated. Check out this link for the American College of Sports Medicine guidelines for physical activity ACSM EXERCISE AND WEIGHT LOSS GUIDELINE for more information about how much you should be exercising every day. 

Anything you would like to add?  Be active. Be happy!

Thanks for indulging me and hopefully I've convinced you, (if not completely scared you away), that adding exercise to your everyday life can help you improve your health, both physically and psychologically, for optimal well-being. 

Peace and here's to your good health.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Wellness Month: Meet The Experts- A Hypnotherapist

Hypnotherapy: The term "hypnosis" comes from the Greek word hypnos, meaning "sleep." Hypnotherapists use exercises that bring about deep relaxation and an altered state of consciousness, also known as a trance. A person in a deeply focused state is unusually responsive to an idea or image, but this does not mean that a hypnotist can control the person's mind and free will. On the contrary, hypnosis can actually teach people how to master their own states of awareness. By doing so they can affect their own bodily functions and psychological responses. [Source: University of Maryland Medical Center ]

Have you ever wondered why the hell you just ate that second bowl of ice cream when you know you shouldn't have or why you chew your nails, bite your lip? Maybe you hate to exercise even after being told by the doctor, "You better or else!" Yet, you just can't seem to get motivated. Me too! However, my bad habits tend to revolve around eating sweets, eating sweets and well have I said this before, eating sweets. Oh, well let's throw in procrastinating too. All to often after eating sweets I not only feel quilty, but experience the emotional roller coaster of sugar highs and lows. Add the procratinating and subsequently stressing out, you get a recipe for disaster- uncomfortable physical manifestations such as tension headaches, sore upper back and neck muscles as well as indigestion and mood swings.

In my journey to become more aware, open and attune to my emotional triggers and responses and finding ways to help me kick my unhealthy habits, I have become fascinated by the prospect of being able to affect one's bodily functions and psychological responses through avenues that have one tap into the subconscious in order to better understand consicous choices, actions, reactions and such. That is why I was so excited when I found out a former client and friend, Katarina Oberg, began a hypnosis service for women called Spirtual Spring, LLC.  I wanted to learn more, so I asked her a few questions about her practice and thought I'd share them as part of the Wellness Month: Meet The Experts series on nurturing your whole self for optimal well-being.
Katarina Oberg, MSW, CH
DC based Hypnotherapist
How and why did you become a hypnotherapist? In other words, what is your story? Why did you start using hypnosis in your practice?  I decided to become a hypnotherapist when I was ready to go back to work after staying home with my daughter for a few years.  My background is as a social worker working with families and I wanted to stay in the helping field.  When I learned about hypnosis, I felt I had found the perfect fit for me to help people overcome difficulties in their lives.  Hypnotherapy provides goal oriented solutions to common problems, such as weight issues and stress.  I feel I have really expanded my toolkit for how to help people reach their goals with my hypnotherapy training in addition to my background in social work. 

What is hypnotherapy, hypnosis? What's the purpose and how does it work? For example, someone comes to you who wants to lose weight, stop smoking...? Please explain.  Hypnosis might sound a bit mysterious, but it is really a natural state of waking consciousness.  When you are hypnotized, you slow down the conscious mind, which is the busy, critical, and logical part of your mind.  Instead, you become more aware of your subconscious mind. This is the part of your mind that remembers everything, generates your emotions, and is very creative.  And most importantly, it also controls habits. 

So while you might be in full agreement with your everyday logical mind about the need to change a habit, this logical approach does not typically address or reach your subconscious beliefs so it is often unsuccessful despite your best intentions.  For example, you might be determined to lose weight, but somehow you continue with your old habits, despite the objections of your logical mind!  

With the help of hypnosis, you gain direct access to your subconscious mind and you and your hypnotherapist can create new and more productive ways of dealing with any problems in your life. In other words, when you come to agreement with all parts of yourself, then true and lasting change comes into your life. 

How could hypnosis fit in to a person's overall fitness and/or wellness? You hear these terms health, fitness and wellness a lot - explain.   Specifically, hypnosis and related techniques can help you give up cravings for specific unhealthy foods or anything else you want to quit doing.  It can also help you release negative feelings about exercise and improve body image.  Hypnosis can also help you let go of stress and set new priorities in your life, freeing you up to do more of what you really want to accomplish.  

Anything else you'd like to tell our readers.
While hypnosis is not magic, it really can be effective for anyone who is looking to change their habits and health for the better.  You will not lose weight or become healthier with hypnosis alone, but with the help of hypnosis, you can let go of anything this is mentally or emotionally holding you back from being healthy and fit.  In my case, I was overweight and really did not like even the thought of exercising or limiting my favorite unhealthy foods.  But with the help of hypnosis to overcome my resistance to change, I have easily lost 40 lbs. in about five months’ time and I now enjoy exercising two to three days a week.

Thanks Katarina for enlightening us to the affects hypnosis may have in helping people overcome unhealthy habits. Next up, we'll learn from a fitness professional about how a consistent exercise regimen can help you be healthier and happier. Guess who that may be...