David Freeze: Better habits are producing fun and results

Published 12:00 am Monday, February 16, 2015

With some real positives and two hiccups, Brent Parks and Norma Honeycutt have now rolled through their sixth week of exercise. They continue to gather useful information and try new avenues for calorie burning.

From the beginning of our wellness journey, I had looked forward to Brent and Norma hearing one of the best nutritional speakers in the area. Michelle Henrickson, a registered dietician in cardiac care at Novant Health, always brings a fresh look at exercise nutrition for an active lifestyle when she speaks to my beginning runners classes. I have heard her talk numerous times and always get some new information.

While Brent and Norma were both scheduled to come to Michelle’s presentation at First Methodist Church, only Brent joined the 30-plus new runners. We kept looking for Norma, but when she was 15 minutes late, Brent laughed and said, “It’s just now about time for her to walk in.” I was wondering if any of you saw her that night because we didn’t either. With various excuses, Norma did arrive on time the next morning for her workout.

Michelle told Brent and the new runners that calorie needs are different, depending on gender, age, body composition, training regimen and activity. All calories should come from healthy food choices. Carbohydrates should supply roughly 60 percent of the active person’s diet. Michelle said, “There are plenty of diet books out there, and more coming all the time. Lots are out there because someone simply wants to sell books. You can’t exercise without adequate energy, and carbs provide that energy.” Good carbs come from grains, fruits, milk/yogurt and starchy vegetables.

Protein should make up about 15 percent of your diet and is essential for building and repairing muscle tissue. It also aids in fluid balance and promotes immune function. Good protein sources are lean meats, dairy foods, dried beans and peas, nuts, seeds, tofu, hummus and soy based foods.

Good fats are also a part of the essential diet requirements. Fatty fish, nuts, seeds, oils (olive, canola, peanut) avocados and olives should make up about 25 percent of the diet. Fats are an energy source, provide essential fatty acids and transport vitamins. Only very limited amounts of saturated and trans fats are part of a healthy diet.

Proper eating before, during and after exercise was also addressed. Eating a light carbohydrate snack before exercise tops off muscle energy stores. Eating during exercise includes the proper mix and timing of fluids, carbohydrates and electrolytes. After exercise, intake centers on fluid and energy replacement and adequate protein to promote muscle repair, growth and recovery.

Examples of proper serving sizes of various foods prompted significant discussion. Michelle said, “The proper serving amount of pasta is only about the size of the palm of your hand. A serving of meat is the size of two fingers.”

The biggest wake-up call came from five pounds of simulated body fat. Michelle told the class, “I have been in surgery, and the real thing looks and feels just like this.”

Brent continued with regular machine cardio workouts during the week, keeping his weight- bearing activity to a minimum. One morning, he soaked his ball cap as the sweat dripped off of it. His only fallback during the week was not counting his calories with myfitnesspal.com as expected. Norma made her regular appearance at Zumba and tried another circuit training class. She actually stepped way out of her box and ran the stairs three times up and back. She said, “The instructor told us that we could take a water break or run the stairs. I chose the stairs and still can’t believe it.”

Both looked forward all week to a workout session in the pool with Hurley YMCA Fitness Director Ester Marsh. Friday morning, she met with Brent and Norma to improve the efficiency of their swimming and increase the calorie burn.

Ester said, “Brent has good form in the pool, he just needs to increase his stamina and efficiency.” She had him count his strokes from end to end of the pool and then try to slow down while lengthening his arm reach. The result was fewer strokes to actually go faster. “Norma swims well enough in her own way, but I want to get her to use her legs more and improve her reach as well. She bends her legs too much, so we worked on using the knees less,” she said.

Ester had them run in the water and use boards and floats to help improve efficiency. She advised use of boards, floats and flippers for more efficiency and to make sure they drink plenty of water before and during their pool workouts.

Brent and Norma are scheduled for their second official workout with Tammy Swicegood today. Tammy did an early workout with them and excited both with her own recounting of significant weight loss. On Thursday evening, they plan to attend a yoga class. I expect to increase the tempo and intensity of various workouts so that they continue to challenge their own limits.

I asked Brent what has been his biggest challenge so far in our program. He said, “It has been the effects of the weight-bearing exercises on my feet.” His heels have been tender and so far kept us from pushing too hard on running and other movements. As for where he has made the best progress, Brent said, “I have quadrupled my endurance on the stationary bikes and ellipticals. My last question concerned what he has noticed about himself that is different. Brent’s answer: “My clothes are fitting more loosely and my energy level is higher and stable. I no longer have the highs and lows of blood sugar fluctuations.”

When asked about the biggest challenge and early rewards of her new wellness program, Norma said, “It is almost like a part-time job taking care of my health. The challenge has been making it a part of my daily routine. I find my balance and stamina improving and now I can jump three times in a row with both feet off the floor.

“I am surprised at the level of determination that I have,” she continued. “I see the others in class and think that if they can do it, then I can too. Group exercise has always been hard for me, but now I find that group exercise is where I push myself the most and I like it. Another reward is that I am ready to go to sleep at night, but that might be because I have to get up at the butt crack of dawn to go exercise!”

Today is halfway through the first 12-week segment. Remember that we are shooting for 20 pounds lost over those 12 weeks. See you next Monday with new weight loss totals.