Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Mentors Make The Journey A Little Less Lonely

In the last year, I’ve gotten several emails from people who seem to have no one to talk to about losing weight, no one to guide them or show them the ropes. I know there are countless books out there, programs to follow, websites to read, but there’s something about having one or a few people you can talk to, ask questions of, and follow their example that takes weight loss from a lonely, sometimes scary proposition to a successful venture.

I’ve been thinking about the people who mentored me in this journey. I’ve received a lot of good (and some bad) advice over the last four years, but mentoring goes beyond advice. It’s a relationship, either formal or informal, in which someone more experienced teaches or models behavior or concepts to someone less experienced.

I owe a great deal of gratitude to a few folks I met on the Weight Watchers message board I joined in early 2005 who patiently answered my questions about food and exercise. They went beyond advice and offered not only their personal experience, but directed me to other sources of information as well. They also took the time to follow up with me to see how I was doing.

Mentors are more than role models. It’s the personal interaction between two people that gives the relationship depth. I know it’s possible to lose weight and exercise without mentors, but perhaps alone is what makes the journey more difficult.

I’m curious: Who were/are your mentors? Is there someone who got you started or keeps you going on your weight-loss or fitness plan? How did you find them?

In the spirit of mentoring and offering help to those who are just starting out, I thought I’d throw a reader’s question out to you for your feedback. Jo wants to know about strength training. Because of my arthritic feet and knees, I don’t do much lower-body specific strength training (I’d never get up again if I tried a lunge!) so I’m wondering if you could help her with some advice on what you do, both upper and lower body.

Here’s what Jo wrote: “I am anxious to introduce exercise into my daily routine, but like you, I don't jump out of bed looking forward to it. (I've never exercised in my life!) I intend to start walking this week, but I'm also interested in some weight training exercises. I have a torn rotator cuff, too, so I'd be curious to know what you do. Could you possibly share that with me?”

I first need to caution Jo not to do anything until she talks to her doctor, particularly about her rotator cuff injury. After an MRI and diagnosis, I chose not to have surgery, but rather I consulted my chiropractor who recommended Active Release Muscle Therapy and physical therapy exercises to strengthen my rotator cuff muscles. I have been doing both for more than a year now and while I still have some pain and weakness in my shoulders, much of that is related to arthritis and not the tear, something surgery will not cure.

I have found several exercises – using dumbbells, a barbell, and my own body weight – to strengthen my abs/core, biceps, back, triceps and shoulders that don’t aggravate my condition. I recommend the books “Body For Life for Women” by Pamela Peeke, “The Body Sculpting Bible for Women” by James Villepigue, Hugo Rivera, Nicole Rollolazo, and Robert Kennedy, and “Strength Training For Women” by Joan Pagano. Also, look to your local gym for personal trainers who specialize in training people with arthritis or sports injuries. Be very careful not to overdo it and always, ALWAYS listen to your body. While some pain is to be expected when you first start to exercise, excessive and long-lasting pain isn’t.

Thanks, as always, my awesome readers for inspiring me and keeping me on the right path. I can’t imagine walking this path alone

7 comments:

nmburleson said...

It is a hard path to walk alone. I found my mentor at the gym. She's never had a huge amount of weight to lose like me, but she understands my food issues. It really helps to know that there is someone out there that understands the urge to eat it all right NOW!

Jo, Lynn is right you should definitely consult with your Dr first. Then if you're a member of gym I would talk to one of the personal trainers and see if they can set you up on a program that will be OK to do with your knees. I do walking lunges, squats, leg extension and a hamstring curl using an exercise ball. I would say to start slow and pay attention to what your body tells you!

I wish you lots of success!

Take care!

Vickie said...

If you are going to the doctor anyway (which is what everyone is suggesting and I do to) I wondered about getting an order for physical therapy.

I messed around with a sore lower back for SEVEN years and then finally was forced to the doctor after a non-related female surgery made my back worse (probably positioning of my body during uterian surgery).

I did 3 months of physical therapy and it was the best thing that ever happened to me. At my request - the PT showed me how to work my whole body taking my back into consideration. I can work my core now - better than ever before - with a disk out in my back.

If you take this route - ask your doc to include as many other things as you can think of in the PT order (mine was knees and back) so that you can get more time in your appoinments. My PT was willing to let me stay and use the treadmill for as long as I wanted - because I could do that on my own - as long as no one else needed it.

I walk (mostly outside, treadmill in ice of winter), do free weights, yoga and pilates year round. In the summer I also swim. But I do all of this more intensely now - and my back is fine as I know how to work around it.

Shawnda said...

My husband is my biggest mentor for exercise. We try to exercise together and I love it. It helps that he struggles with his weight too so he helps me stick with it and I help him stick with it. I have lots of other motivation. As far as blogs go I am partial to yours Lynn and Roni's. I always take the time every morning to check in on both. I have also found inspiration in the biggest loser. I cannot believe this is the first season i actually tuned in as it has been on for a while but now I am hooked. I love it!

MizFit said...

I use all the blogs I read as mentors/reminders/nudgers...

but your post as reminded me how I DO NEED a dayjob mentor to prod me along in that realm.

searching. searching.

Lynn Haraldson-Bering said...

Hi, guys. PubsGal tried to post this, but the site hiccupped and so I told her I'd post it for her: "I saw your article about mentorship and tried to comment, but I think the site hiccuped. But I did want to say that while I don't have any "offline" mentors, I do have a number of folks in the blogging community to whom I look for guidance and inspiration. I owe a debt of gratitude to you (yours was the first blog I found, after reading all the "big loss" articles on cnn.com) and Barbara, too, of the "Refuse to Regain" site; Carla of "MizFitOnline" (how she keeps up with all of the Bumbling Band, I'll never know); Lyn of "Escape from Obesity"; Roni of "Roni's Weigh"; Debbie of "debbie weighs in"; Jenny Ruhl of the "Blood Sugar 101" web site...not to mention other bloggers I've found through you all...nice folks like "Juice" of "Positively Losing" and Joy of "Joy's Journey in Weightloss" and the cheerful Christie O. at "Baby Tea Leaves" and my new "motivational match-up buddy" (via MizFit) "SeaBreeze" of "The Gym is My New Boyfriend"...I'm sure the list will grow over time.

And what I'm finding most encouraging is how generally polite and kind this online community is. I've seen others that aren't quite so nice (for example, the comments section of the SF Chronicle's SFGate.com web site can be downright vicious, although their parenting blog, "The Poop," keeps it very positive."

Mara said...

Lynn you are my mentor. When I saw you on Oprah and started reading your blog I knew I could do it. Your encouragement and how you maintain your weight loss keeps me on track and you also understand the food addiction and what we all go through. Thanks for always being around and I know I can accomplish my goal with you by my side.

For my training without my trainer I would not be where I am. I work hard but without her I would not accomplish what I do.

Mara
http://24stepstogo.blogspot.com/

debbyweighsin said...

Hi Lynn, I wrote a post recently about some of my mentors. I love the online community, but I still do feel it is good to have a flesh and blood community to turn to.

As far as weight training goes, I think it is really important to use proper form, so all the suggestions are great--personal trainer, physical therapy, gym program. But if none of that works, how bout a weight lifting video. I have a Rachel McLish video that is really great (I am dating myself, because I think she was famous in the 80's and this is only available on video, not dvd. But you can find it real cheap online.)