It’s almost March. Where does the time go? I still feel like I am coming down from holiday madness. The holidays can be intense, and often a tough time for many of us. For me, it’s a lot of travel, family, friends, food, and not enough physical fitness. So when the holidays were over, I made some changes. I made some resolutions. I know you are probably thinking that new years resolutions never usually last, but I am hoping to be an exception. Actually, if I really think about it, these aren’t really resolutions, but rather I decided that I am using this new year as time to hit “reset”.
I am resetting my goals, priorities, and routines. I want to make 2020 a healthier year mentally and physically!
I’ve kicked up my workout routine, aiming for an average of 5 workouts a week, and maintaining a healthy (well.. “healthier”) diet. I know it’s only been a few months of being “strict” with myself, but I can’t deny that I feel AMAZING! My confidence is up, my energy levels are higher, I have more motivation to get sh*t done, and I’ve been sleeping better, which is a major bonus as sleep and I have not always been best friends.
I even feel less stressed.
With all of these changes it’s hard to ignore that they all started to take effect when I became more disciplined with my fitness goals. I have always been active. I played sports in high school and attended daily fitness classes in college, but life as a real working adult makes it a lot harder to be as dedicated to fitness as I once was. I would tend to make excuses more or be too tired when I got home from a long day of work. I’m betting some of you can relate to that or recognize this downward spiral. Well not in 2020! I am making the change and already feeling the positive effects!
These positive changes in energy and increased mood really got me me thinking.
Exactly how much does physical exercise really affect our mental health?
Research tells us that physical activity helps get our brain’s production of the “feel-good” neurotransmitters, called endorphins, fired up and working. These endorphins are responsible for creating that “runners high” we have all heard so much about (I don’t think I’ve ever actually experienced it, running is a nightmare for me). Even more so, science explains that there is a correlation between exercise and higher levels of serotonin. Higher levels of serotonin have been linked to decreased depression rates and improved mood. Researchers also tell us that these endorphins, or “natural pain killers” help to relax the body, improve sleep, and reduce stress.
Well, science is one thing, but I wanted more personal insight from someone I know and trust.
So I turned to my fitness guru go-to for some more feedback. One of my best and oldest friends, Rachel Buckman. She turned me on to the ever addicting hot pilates classes that I’ve grown to love.
I will let her tell you about what she does but trust me, she is overall just a fitness junkie to her core. I always respected her work ethic when it came to fitness, and wanted to get her personal take on exactly what she finds so compelling about physical fitness, her professional perspective on the connection between mental well-being and physical health, and her expertise on why it is so important to incorporate exercise into our lives.
Q: Rachel, before I ask you some questions, can you tell everyone a little about yourself, what you do, where you work, your certifications, and all that good stuff? You can explain it better than I can!
A: Absolutely! First off I’d like to start by saying I’m honored to be a part of your work and I’m endlessly proud of you! Hi guys, I’m Rachel Buckman, 27 years old, and live in Kingston, PA. When I’m not teaching and taking fitness classes, I’m designing custom closets and home organization; think walk-in closets, home offices, pantries, etc. It’s a form of interior design and I absolutely love doing it. But, before that part of my day starts, I’m typically teaching Yoga or Pilates at Melt Hot Yoga. This has been my home studio since day one of my yoga journey which began in 2013. For most of my life I’ve been an avid runner, and that’s all I did as exercise for a number of years. I eventually got hurt (which typically happens if you’re doing too much of just one thing), and that is what led me to yoga – for healing. I fell completely in love with it, specifically the way it made my mind and body feel the complete opposite of how running did; calm. Additionally I fell in love with the incredible people and feeling of community that yoga and Melt had brought into my life.
In the spring of 2016 I quit my job with no idea of what I would do next, and the following day in class, my teacher announced that they were beginning a training in July. I signed up for the training the following day and got my 200-hour vinyasa yoga certification in August of 2016. My forever mentor, Molly Cornell, asked if I would begin to teach just a few days after I finished my training. Shortly after, Molly sent me to an Inferno Hot Pilates training in Brooklyn, NY. I had never taken or even heard of this class in my life, but when she asked, I said hell yeah! It is essentially a HIIT (high intensive interval training) class combined with the pilates principles of finding your center, control, and breath. It was one of the hardest workouts I have ever done and even intimidated me a little bit, but I stuck with it and I am so glad that I did. Not only did these new fitness practices change my exercise routine, but they made my body, mind, and life healthier. This is the short version of my fitness journey, but I have been teaching Yoga and Pilates every single week ever since and love it just as much as day 1!
Q: Rach, obviously I know how passionate and dedicated you are to your health and fitness. However, help me and everyone understand exactly what physical fitness MEANS to you?
A: I’d like to start by saying everyone is different; body, mind, schedule, genetics…the list goes on. To keep it simple, my idea of fitness and health is truly listening to your body, which I know is not always easy. I believe life is all about balance. That includes your exercise regimen, what you eat, and how you take care of YOU. For me, physical fitness includes yoga, pilates, walks, runs, and rest days. I cook at home most of the time, using whole foods and real ingredients. But when I’m out with friends, you best believe I’m ordering french fries. Life is all about your people and your experiences, food is a huge part of that and you shouldn’t allow a strict diet to take away from living your life. My favorite practices of self-care are meditation, getting coffee or taking a yoga class with a friend, doing a face mask and painting my nails, cooking a really wholesome delicious meal while sipping red wine – it’s whatever brings you calmness and joy. So to summarize what physical fitness means to me, its just that, its my self-care.
Q: As a psychotherapist, one of my specialties and true passions is focusing on helping people develop a strong sense of self-worth and self-esteem. Like with myself, I often see a correlation between my clients increase their physical activity and a self-esteem boost. Do YOU think there’s a connection between exercise and a strong sense of self-esteem?
A: I 100% believe there is a connection. There’s nothing like crushing your work out (whatever it may be) and feeling STRONG, accomplished, confident and proud of yourself. So strong that you know you can take that same energy and determination you just put in on your mat or at the gym, wherever it may be, and continue it through the rest of your day. This is a major self-esteem boost in itself. Yes, exercise is incredible for your heart, bones, blood circulation, digestion, the list goes on. But it’s simple; when you feel strong on the inside it projects on the outside. Strength is an empowering, self-esteem boosting characteristic and you can gain it through exercise.
Q: It is hard to deny that we tend to feel better when we look better, but do you think there is more to exercise than trying to look good on the outside that helps us feel good on the inside?
A: Yes, it’s hard to deny that when you look your best, you feel your best. BUT, I believe there’s way more to it than that. Starting with science, exercise releases dopamine to the brain which results in a feeling of instant happiness and confidence. Aside from that, exercise reduces stress and anxiety, leaves you feeling energized, and can even help with insomnia. The work out can be 20 minutes or an hour, you’re still going to benefit from it. I believe your outer appearance reflects your inner being, so if exercise allows you to get all of the above in control, and BONUS you love the way you look, then you’ve found the balance, but the drive should never just be the way you look.
Q: What about stress? You know I am a pretty stressed and anxious person by nature, but I always feel so much less stressed and anxious when I am maintaining a healthy exercise routine. Why do you think the two are connected?
A: There are many scientific explanations as to why exercise helps subside stress and anxiety but I will break it down for you in a simpler way. Exercise is the one time in your day where you are (hopefully) able to focus on just you and your workout. Most of us are connected to our phones, watches, computers for the majority of the day- and when we carve out a time to workout, we allow all of that to go away momentarily. This allows our brain to BREATHE. I also believe there’s few better feelings than a good sweat, and what that good sweat does for us! A detox every single time. Sweating naturally flushes out the kidneys, the liver, your pores, eliminates heavy metals and toxins, the list goes on. Keeping it simple, clean body + clean mind = happy, less stressed and boggled down self.
Q: Okay here is my last question! It is so hard to know how much, how often, or what type of exercise to do. We are all so different and our bodies all need different things, so when you google search something like “how to start working out” you might be so overwhelmed with conflicting information you won’t even start. What do you suggest for beginners? Is there a “right” way or a “wrong” way to work out?
A: My suggestion is to JUST DO IT. I understand that trying something new is intimidating and scary because it’s DIFFERENT. At the end of the day, we are all creatures of habit, but as soon as you break out of habit and step out of your comfort zone, you’re allowing yourself to grow and be open to change. How boring would life be if we had the same experiences every single day? If you’re asking yourself where to begin, I’d say you can start by simply using the outdoors as your playground. Go for a walk, hike with a friend, turn that walk into a jog, hop on a bike, chase your dog around… just get used to moving your body in ways you normally don’t. If you’re intimidated by the gym and where to start, go onto the MindBody app and you can search group fitness classes near you! Try yoga, spinning, pilates, a dance class, anything that sounds intriguing and fun to you. I promise the scariest part is walking through the door that first time and allowing yourself to be vulnerable, once you get past that you’ll realize that you were the only person holding yourself back from what could be a different lifestyle and hobby, new friends, and a strong, supportive community for you.
So there you have it. Exercise is good for us. Good for us physically, mentally, and emotionally. I also wanted to add one more thing. One important skill I have learned in my life over the years is to ask for help. I always ask for help when I have questions, concerns, or doubts. This situation is no different, if you have questions about fitness, there are always good, educated people out there like Rachel who are willing to help! Don’t be afraid to ask questions, it’ll pay off.
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor or nutritionist so I always recommend consulting with your doctor before making any physical changes with diet or exercise.
However, If you are looking to make a change in your emotional and mental health this year, then I can help. Call my office today for a free 15-minute phone consultation and schedule your appointment today.