Inhale and Exhale. Repeat 3 more times

This is how I start.

“Today is a NEW day. Do what you CAN. Are YOU listening to your body? You CAN do it!!”

This is what I repeat.

My clients are of all ages and abilities and they are all physically impressive.  They can move their bodies fast to get heart rates high, lift weights to build lean muscles, and stretch parts of their body to increase flexibility.  You might think they are working on their physical health!  What if I told you all of this was a prescription for their mental health?

ADHD, Eating Disorders, Anxiety, Depression, OCD, and PTSD are some of the illnesses that affect my clients. I work as a Personal Trainer and Fitness Instructor. My clients use exercise as a way to cope with mental illness on a daily basis, in addition to their medications. It is wonderful how you can change the way you feel by exercising–and it doesn’t take much! Studies have shown as little as 10 minutes at a time releases endorphins, lowers anxiety, and relieves depression.  My clients are better able to focus and concentrate after their morning run, exercise class, or weight training session. One in five Canadians struggle with mental health issues. I am excited to raise awareness for fitness professionals to be more empathetic to these clients.

You don’t need to wear shoes, fancy or expensive clothes, or have any equipment. Barefoot in your pajamas is just fine!

Using your own body weight is the best way to exercise. I love to ask my clients to go up and down the stairs 10 times in a row. Try it! Your legs will surely feel this and you will be impressed with how high your heart rate can go. I also love to challenge my clients to do any exercise for just 1 min. It is amazing how much your muscles can do in a short amount of time.  Do this every day and you will see how strong your muscles can become.  How much better you would feel.  Guaranteed!  Not many other things in life are as certain.

Some days pushing for 100% is not going to be possible.  Reward yourself for showing up because arriving took a lot of effort!

Meeting your exercise buddy or coach for a work-out for an hour once or twice a week can help you stick to your exercise routine.  Keeping up email/phone/text conversations during the rest of the time is very helpful for staying motivated. It is important to have an exercise buddy or coach who recognizes your good days and bad days and understands what you are going through in life. Adjust goal targets, change your sequence and listen to your body. Over time, there will be more good days than bad days, and you will have a renewed sense of confidence. You want to always end your sessions with a sense of accomplishment.

Learning to keep perspective and having a daily achievable goal are also helpful. I like to keep my clients on track each day by sending them a short reminder email they receive when they wake up. When my clients can focus on the here and now and not the rest of their lives, we get a better workout session.  We get better results!

Mindfulness can be naturally incorporated into physical exercise.  

Many of my clients love to run. There is a meditative part that comes into play after a certain amount of time spent running.  The feeling is unlike anything you have ever experienced. This is the so-called ‘runner’s high.’ If you suffer from ADHD or OCD, I recommend starting each day with an exercise or running session before tackling your day.  Physical exercise has been shown to improve attention, concentration, and reduce obsessive thinking.

You can experience clarity of mind when you take a moment to close your eyes and tune into the sensations of your body after a good run.  

I remind my clients that running is a high-impact activity.  Mixing up distances, adding in days of resistance training, and ‘rest’ days, are important in reducing risk of injury so that you can continue to enjoy this brain-healthy activity.

Others prefer a more social choice. I teach a morning fitness class for a group of mothers. These ladies show up after a chaotic morning of making lunches and bringing their kids to school. The ladies who leave the session are remarkably different than those who arrived.  It is amazing what happens when you take an hour to breathe, focus, move your body, and relax!

Endorphins are released in response to physical exercise.

These brain chemicals interact with receptors to trigger positive feelings. This is the goal of exercise–Period! I have clients who have a hard time getting started and are apologetic about what they didn’t do since the last time we were together. I have clients who apologize during exercise because they have to stop. This is where having a variety of exercise choices becomes important.  If you are not feeling up to cardiovascular or resistance training, you can still release those endorphins by foam rolling or stretching

Do what you like so it is fun!

None of us are always in the mood to exercise.  I teach classes with a variety of equipment and always work in different parts of the body. Some people love working out with their friends while others prefer to be alone. My clients often tell me that they aren’t in the mood for a workout at the beginning of our session but once we get going, they end up appreciating that we started.  Everyone feels energized in the end.

Teaching self-compassion, giving or receiving a hug, using a softer tone of voice, being an open ear, and a safe confidante are all wonderful parts of my job. I give everyone a pair of “magic socks” that help give them energy each time we exercise together. You often just need a little push, your favorite song, a high-energy snack, or a bright top, and you can get all the benefits too. The outcomes can be truly wonderful.

Start moving your body today!


The views expressed in these blogs are the author’s own and not necessarily reflective of those of Psychotherapy Matters.  Copyright © 2016

Heather Speer
Heather Speer

Heather is a Certified Personal Trainer and Fitness Instructor in Toronto. For the past 12 years, she's had the pleasure of working on her passion: helping people to achieve their fitness goals. She loves teaching people how to use their body through exercise.

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One response to Inhale and Exhale. Repeat 3 more times

  1. Heather is a brilliant teacher. Actually, guide and mentor are better descriptions in the work she does in helping us achieve our fitness goals and the mind-body connection.

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