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Path to wellness: Jennifer and Michelle making huge strides

Warmer weather and more daylight are bonuses for my year-long training program with Jennifer Payne and Michelle Patterson. Payne is nurse manager for Novant Health and Patterson holds the lofty title of director of fun for Patterson Farms, her family’s business.

February has been a smooth month for both of them, but it has been mostly focused on their running improvement. Hardly anyone would expect me to complain about this as it is my biggest area of expertise. However, my goal remains to improve their overall body strength and balance as well as their vastly improving cardiovascular health.

Kristy Bell is not currently in a structured program although I hope she will return to one in the future.

Both Jennifer and Michelle are slightly overweight but both share a bigger focus of reducing stress and improving their health to the point that blood pressure medicines aren’t needed. Generally with regular exercise, improved diet and wellness comes the ability to handle stress. Jennifer and Michelle both have fast-paced jobs and families with kids still at home.

Here were some of the highlights for February. Our exercise together has mostly been outside because both of these ladies love the outdoors. We meet twice a week, usually on Monday and Friday, to work out and talk. Both Jennifer and Michelle are fun, interesting to listen to and they have lots in common with each other. When I text or email them about the upcoming workout, generally one or both will say, “Let’s run!” Neither especially likes the stationary bikes.

Both women can easily run 4 miles now and have plenty of breath left to talk along the way. I plan to extend that distance but not too much farther, probably topping out at about 5 miles. Michelle is the faster runner, but Jennifer is picking up her pace. She said, “I never thought I could run four miles!” Michelle had done it probably once before and often relates running to improving her health. She has a treadmill at home and uses it when she only has a short time to grab some exercise.

One of the most fun mornings for me was just last week when we ran in the light rain. Still nothing but smiles from them and me too. So far, we are beginning our runs on Brenner and finishing on Fulton and are receiving lots of encouragement from passersby.

We used a circuit training workout at the Hurley Y that includes a series of timed efforts on nine machines and quick one-lap runs around the upstairs track in between.

Both also attended an exercise-based nutritional presentation by Novant Health registered dietician Michelle Henrickson. Jennifer, who already has an exercise science degree, said, “I already knew most of the things that she addressed but I needed a reminder on the proper nutrition before and after exercise. I am low-carbing it except for more carbs before workouts.”

Michelle said, “I always find it hard to eat breakfast, which I know is the most important meal of the day. I am drinking more smoothies now and eating more salads. Definitely I am drinking more water. I can’t wait for strawberry season to get here.” She is a diet soda fanatic and has promised that she has reduced this to one a day.

When asked for thoughts on our program so far, here are some of Michelle’s replies. She said, “I feel good about our progress so far, but of course I wish the weight would come off faster. Exercise is becoming more of habit and I miss it on the days that I can’t find time. I have learned that I can make time to exercise but it is still a challenge to make daily exercise fit with my own and my family’s schedule.”

Jennifer agreed, saying, “People are starting to notice that I look slimmer and are telling me. That is very encouraging. I have learned that I am fitter and stronger than I thought.” Jennifer uses the cardiac workout area at the hospital during the week to supplement her running. Hospital staff can use this excellent facility when patients don’t need it.

With two months complete, Jennifer is now down 12 pounds and Michelle is down five. The change looks good on both of them and is noticeable. Both of their highly charged personalities are fueled by results, and I have no reason to doubt that good progress will continue. Jennifer wants to lose 10 more pounds during the month of March. Michelle wants to lose three. Both have a 5K on their mind soon.

My challenge is greatest in finding time to get their more complete workouts done. Both the YMCAs and the Forum are offering great classes, and it looks currently like we can open an 8 a.m. slot at least one morning each week to do this. I think that both women have realized that they need the exercise and must make time for it. What I don’t want is for them to worry about being somewhere else during their exercise, thus causing more stress. I will make sure that March includes some blood pressure testing and expect improvement. Jennifer and Michelle are already looking forward to getting their inches measured again at the first of April.

One constant has been their unfaltering positive attitude. In fact, I love kidding them about this. One morning last week, I jokingly told them that we might go 5 miles and Michelle said, “Are you sure we can’t do more?” March looks like a lot of fun. We’ll check back at the first of April.

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