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Health and Fitness Lessons From a Recovering Doughnut Muncher

By Leo Valiquette

Pierre and LeoFour years ago, I was overweight, on meds for high blood pressure and very likely to soon be on meds for high cholesterol. I need to do something with myself and a friendly challenge from a colleague led me to local personal training gym Free Form Fitness.

Today, at 47, I am almost 40 pounds lighter and have cut six inches from my waist. My blood pressure and cholesterol levels are both great, without any need for medication. I look better, feel better and can perform better in all that I do (that includes greater confidence and ability to manage stress).

And a recent study has shown, once again, that there is no such thing as fat and fit – extra pounds boost your risk for heart disease, stroke and heart failure, no matter how much you exercise. For me, this is important – heart disease is a risk factor in my family.

Dr. Paradis has asked me to share what I have learned as a result, so here goes:

1) It starts and ends in the kitchen: The old joke is true – you can eat your way through any amount of exercise. Eat fewer carbs and more healthy fats, and have protein with every meal/snack. Stay away from added sugar, refined white flour, added salt, vegetable oils and processed foods like breakfast cereal and crackers. For healthy fats go with coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil and butter instead of margarine. For carbs, eat wholesome whole carbs, like oatmeal, quinoa, brown rice and sweet potatoes.

2) There are tools for this – use them: I’ve been on this health and fitness journey for over four years now, but I only starting using an app to track what I ate last fall. And guess what – it works. After being stuck in the same rut for three years, I lost five pounds in a month using MyFitnessPal to track what I eat. It’s awesome and easy to use.

3) Seek professional help: Not everyone can afford to work regularly with a personal trainer, but knowledge is the key to getting on a routine and sticking with it. It’s well worth the investment to work with a reputable trainer for at least a little while to get yourself on the right path. They can help you understand how to exercise effectively and safely, to achieve the results you want, faster. I know who I would recommend. Dr. Paradis and Dr. McLaughlin can help, too.

4) Stretch, roll, repeat: The older you get, the longer it takes to warm up for, and recover from, exercise. The key is to take the right care of your body by stretching and using lacrosse balls and foam rollers to work out the knots and reduce your risk of injury.

5) My favourite is dynamic stretching: A static stretch, in which you just hold the stretch, can pull a muscle, especially if you are not yet warmed up. Dynamic stretches are ones where you are moving as part of the stretch. These are best to do before your workout. Save the static stretches till after your workout when you are already warmed up.

6) Take the right supplements: Part of the recovery process is taking the right supplements so you don’t feel overly sore, stiff or tired from your workouts. These include quality omega 3 fatty acids (fish oil), and making sure you are getting enough magnesium and other essential vitamins and minerals. It’s difficult to get all you need from food alone and the more you train, the more your body will need. And don’t forget a quality protein powder – a protein shake is the best way to refuel your body after a workout. A good personal trainer can help steer you in the right direction and avoid snake oil products. Dr. Paradis and Dr. McLaughlin can make some recommendations, too.

7) Listen to your body: I started coming to Dr. Paradis after I noted differences with muscle balance and strength between my left and right sides during certain exercises in the gym. Sure enough, it was related to issues in my neck and back which Chiropractic adjustments have helped to correct (too many hours at a desk and a couple of motorcycle crashes in my youth had taken their toll). Don’t accept a limitation to your mobility or range of movement as something you just have to live with.

8) This is a marathon, not a sprint: Four years after I started, I am still learning new things about how to eat and how to exercise, to get leaner, get stronger and increase my flexibility for the good of my joints. I have formed new habits that have become routine. I don’t “diet,” but I do understand the consequences of what I eat and let that govern my choices. So even when I gobble up too many sugary carbs and cocktails when I am out of town at a conference (that was last week), it’s easy to get myself back on track.

9) And there is no magic bullet: We are bombarded with so much advertising about exercise programs and gadgets, and conflicting information about supplements and magic foods that will deliver amazing results. As much as it may be nice to think so, there is no magic bullet, there is only steady and consistent effort over time. But there are experts in the Kanata area you can turn to for sound advice.

Next time, I’ll talk about what I have learned about how to exercise effectively and safely in the gym.

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