Kicking off one of the first Alternatives workshops on Thursday, personal trainer David Richardson emphasized the need for a strong support network and specific individual goals in achieving fitness and wellness milestones.
In "Exercising Your Way to Wellness," Richardson elaborated on the link between physical fitness and mental wellness. When we are fit, he said, we are happier, more productive, and possess more optimism to get through the obstacles of everyday life.
"The more you feel good, the more you can get done and accomplish," Richardson said.
Richardson opened with a story of his aunt, who died prematurely at the young age of 25. According to Richardson, his aunt was morbidly obese, and he believes her addiction to food displayed symptoms characteristic of substance abuse or other mental health issues.
"Because my aunt was morbidly obese, she wouldn't go to the doctor for five years," Richardson said. "She was struggling with a mental health issue, but didn't want to go see someone who would tell her something negative about herself and lead to further depression."
After his aunt passed away from a heart attack caused by a blood clot in the knee, Richardson learned that we all need to make a daily effort to stay healthy before the consequences of an unhealthy lifestyle become too advanced to reverse.
However, many find a commitment to a healthy and active style challenging, whether it's due to a lack of time, motivation, or belief that they can achieve.
"How can we find a way to really find a specific goal that will allow us to use health, wellness, and fitness towards any obstacle we have in life, whether it's mental health, substance abuse, or obesity?" Richardson asked.
His answer lies in having support — even if it comes from just one friend — and having defined goals that motivate you.
"Your goal has to be something that fires you up so much that if it was posted everywhere throughout the house – as a picture, note, or some other form, you suddenly want to do a push up," Richardson said. "And much as I do it on a daily basis as a professional, I still couldn't do it alone. Even I have a motivational coach and a personal trainer."
Common obstacles to physical activity include too many goals, a lack of motivation, and perceived difficulty, according to Richardson.
To get around these obstacles, Richardson recommends implementing four simple steps including setting one easy and measurable goal, writing it down, reporting to others, and adding other motivators as needed.
In addition, Richardson believes that goals should be specific, easy, measurable, and attainable.
"By following these steps, we can avoid the common misstep of setting unreasonable expectations, which ultimately leads to disappointment, burnout, and lack of sustainability," Richardson said.
Workshop co-host and consumer Jennifer Padron told of her dramatic wellness transformation after committing to a physical fitness regimen.
"Through fitness, I found I can now function well without needing to take daily psych meds," Padron said. "I was intrigued, and decided to try [a fitness program] with a treatment team. Now I only take one med. In 1996, you could line up my meds in a line from the morning to the evening."
In addition to noticing a drop in her med consumption after starting an exercise regimen, Padron also found that she continued to lose weight after coming off her medication.
"I lost more weight when I came off meds," Padron said. "Now I'm only diagnosed only as overweight, and I used to be morbidly obese. My BMI was 39 before surgery; now it’s 30. My goal weight is only 25 pounds away. I’m serious when I say if I can do it, you can do it."