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Freeze column: Building Healthy Habits with Lots of Help

This is the third in a series of columns that will follow Brent Parks and Norma Honeycutt throughout 2015 following their resolution to establish better health. They will do this by controlling their weight and implementing an exercise program for better cardiovascular health. Both Brent and Norma are committed to heading off chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease that usually accompany severe excessive weight.

Most of the first week, Brent Parks was exercising alone and making good progress at the YMCA while Norma Honeycutt was hoping she had the willpower to change her habits while surrounded by tremendous temptation.

Both Brent and Norma have wonderful personalities, smile a lot and seem to enjoy each other’s company quite a bit. I might have even heard Norma say something like, “Misery loves company!” But if she did, I am sure it was meant as a lighthearted joke. Norma returned from last week’s cruise having achieved her goal of keeping her weight steady. Brent kept exercising and made progress by reducing his caloric intake in conjunction with steady exercise.

They started early this past Tuesday morning at the YMCA, together for the first time in seven days. With positive outlooks, they proceeded to complete 30 minutes of a moderate cardiovascular exercise workout. Then Brent shared his knowledge of the Y’s stretching machines with Norma to close out a good session. Both exercised on their own Wednesday and had good results.

Thursday was time to move out of their comfort zone. Steve Clark, recreation coordinator for the City of Salisbury, regularly takes the body pump class at noon at the Y. He offered to mentor Brent and Norma to get them started on the first day. With a little apprehension, both agreed to take the class. Norma brought along Emilie Scharf, the financial administrator for Partners in Learning. The only problem was that Norma forgot the correct time, and when she arrived to take the class, she thought it was already under way and they quickly joined in. When the class finished, Norma saw Brent and Steve and realized that the body pump class was up next. She and Emilie had taken the tone and abs class by mistake. Being good sports, they joined in the body pump class with Brent and Steve. With only some minor discomfort, all reported a good experience.

Friday morning included another workout on the cardio machines at the Y, this time using the upright stationary bike for a warmup. Brent and Norma are now regularly achieving a higher heart rate during their exercise. I want them to push the heart rate higher for slightly longer periods to increase heart strength. Both are now pushing their heart rates into the 140s and 150s for five to 10 minutes a time. They report that the hardest workout so far is on the stair climber. After just two weeks, Brent and Norma are becoming very knowledgeable about the operation of the equipment and will soon be working on specific programs, rather than just using the machines manually. Those programs will vary the intensity in a planned manner while alerting the operator as to what exercise level will be expected.

Heart rates are important to workouts for several reasons. If someone exercises without raising the heart rate, then the workout’s productivity is limited. It’s the same as when a weightlifter does sets, or a series of multiple reps, at a higher weight to increase strength. By pushing the heart a little harder, the cardiovascular system benefits and gets stronger. You may have heard the term “maximum heart rate.” Start by taking 220 and subtracting your age. If the person is 50, then the maximum heart rate is 170. Our goal is not to exceed the heart rate of 170 in the early stages of workouts and only for brief periods thereafter. The plan for Brent and Norma at this point is to keep most of their workouts in the 145-155 range, a level that will strengthen their hearts much as a weightlifter might strengthen his arms by lifting a slightly heavier weight. Heart rates can also be used to track overtraining.

The highlight of the week was a planned emphasis on nutrition for Friday afternoon. We started at Novant Health with registered dietician Lisa Westfall. Brent’s wife, Wanda, joined us on the tour. Lisa talked with Brent and Norma about weight reduction by focusing on eating behaviors. Lisa gave them printed handouts and answered their questions concerning current eating habits, both good and bad. She suggested that they both eat five small meals a day rather than three larger ones. Lisa gave them a suggested caloric limit for each day. Norma is going forward with a limit of 1,500 calories per day and Brent, being 8 inches taller, was instructed to stay within a limit of 2,100 calories.

Popular “Chef Chris” Herron of Morrison Healthcare joined us briefly and explained some of his personal tips for eating and snacking in the healthiest manner. Herron uses fruit and vegetable smoothies for many of his meals and encouraged Brent and Norma to consider the same.

Next, we were off to Harris Teeter and a store tour led by Val Velte, Novant Health wellness nurse. Some of her suggested tips included sticking to the perimeter of the store for less processed foods, adding fiber intentionally and trying new things. Val told Brent and Norma that food is not for comfort and suggested that other activities replace extra eating at stressful and trying times. She used the tour to make suggestions for healthier options in the meat, dairy, bread and snack sections.

While the store bakery is on the perimeter, Val gently steered Brent away from focusing on that area unless he had earned the right to eat those calories by decreasing other food intake or increasing his exercise. I have found that most strict diets fail and always encourage my own clients to have that special treat occasionally when earned.

Our final stop for the Great Salisbury Nutritional Tour was at Father and Son Produce at the corner of Sherrill’s Ford Road and N.C 150. Partners in Learning, Norma’s employer, buys fresh produce weekly at Father and Son but Norma had never visited there herself. Tim Hoffner, store owner with his wife, Linda, took us on a walking tour of the choices available. Tim explained the science of buying produce locally if possible and having the produce shipped in during the offseason. Much of the current produce is grown in California and Florida. Tim presented Brent and Norma with a $50 gift certificate each to get their healthy nutritional quest off to a good start. Tim did point out with a smile that the old fashioned candy in the market was off limits and would cause a loud buzzer to ring should they go near that table.

With a good week behind us, we plan to head into the third week with some more variety mixed in with the regular cardiovascular workouts. On Tuesday morning, YMCA personal trainer Tammy Swicegood will lead Brent and Norma in a workout circuit that she used for her own significant weight loss. She will take body measurements following the workout.

On Wednesday evening, Brent and Norma will take Zumba at the Salisbury Civic Center with Tracey McKenzie, Rowan’s foremost instructor. Tracey offers a high movement workout to music through Salisbury Parks and Recreation that guarantees to be fun and beneficial as well.

In the coming days, we will visit Ralph Baker Shoe Store and get them in some new shoes that are good for the long haul. Both Brent and Norma need new shoes. It isn’t good when I hear them say, “I have had these shoes for two years, but I haven’t worn them but a few times.” That doesn’t mean they are still new or the proper shoes for their goals. We will get them in shoes that should only be used for their workouts.

Brent said yesterday, “I have more energy throughout the day. I look forward to the exercise and pushing my body a little further in each workout.” Norma agreed, and said, “When we get up and go early, I have much more energy for the day. I can already tell a difference in my aches and pains.” Both are very thankful for all the support, feedback and information on how to make healthy lifestyle changes.

We’re making good progress. Brent and Norma are a joy to work with. See you around Salisbury.



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