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Empowering the self

WHAT IT TAKES: Staying active, mind and body, is a matter of personal responsibility

  • Health professionals and residents talk about what it takes to stay healthy, mind and body, your whole life long Thursday, April 28, 2016 (Priscilla Morrill / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript). Priscilla Morrill—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript...

  • Health professionals and residents talk about what it takes to stay healthy, mind and body, your whole life long Thursday, April 28, 2016 (Priscilla Morrill / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript). Priscilla Morrill—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript...

  • Health professionals and residents talk about what it takes to stay healthy, mind and body, your whole life long Thursday, April 28, 2016 (Priscilla Morrill / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript). Priscilla Morrill—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript...

  • Health professionals and residents talk about what it takes to stay healthy, mind and body, your whole life long Thursday, April 28, 2016 (Priscilla Morrill / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript). Priscilla Morrill—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript...

  • Health professionals and residents talk about what it takes to stay healthy, mind and body, your whole life long Thursday, April 28, 2016 (Priscilla Morrill / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript). Priscilla Morrill—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript...

  • Health professionals and residents talk about what it takes to stay healthy, mind and body, your whole life long Thursday, April 28, 2016 (Priscilla Morrill / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript). Priscilla Morrill—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript...

  • Bob Grippardi, of New Ipswich, on the arc trainer at the Bond Wellness Center, working with Nancy Griffin on range of motion. Grippardi has had multiple sclerosis for 30 years. For the last five years, he’s been working out to keep the symptoms at bay. “I don’t dare quit,” he said. Inset: Caren Lewis, of Rindge, is heading up a new walking group, the Trailblazers Walking Club. Thursday, she talked about her own path to good health. STAFF PHOTO BY Priscilla Morrill

  • Health professionals and residents talk about what it takes to stay healthy, mind and body, your whole life long Thursday, April 28, 2016 (Priscilla Morrill / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript). Priscilla Morrill—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript...

  • Caren Lewis said walking is a passion, and her path to fitness. Priscilla Morrill—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • Health professionals and residents talk about what it takes to stay healthy, mind and body, your whole life long Thursday, April 28, 2016 (Priscilla Morrill / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript). Priscilla Morrill—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript...

  • Above: Grace McGlynn, of Rindge, said enjoys the social aspects of belonging to a gym. Priscilla Morrill—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript


Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Monday, May 02, 2016 7:2PM
By PRISCILLA MORRILL

For Caren Lewis, of Rindge, making time for herself is becoming more and more of a priority. She’s had a passion for walking all her life, but in recent years life has been getting the way of her routine, one she says that helps her clear her mind and stay fit. But she’s recommitting herself and inviting others to join her in a new walking club in Jaffrey.

“Everybody has their something that’s holding them back – their work, their back injury. There’s always going to be something to hold you back,” Lewis said Thursday at the Jaffrey recreation facilities on Howard Hill Road. “I just have to keep my body going.”

Lewis isn’t alone.

The Ledger-Transcript talked with health and fitness specialists and residents of the Monadnock region who say making a commitment, sticking with it, and holding yourself accountable are the keys to maintaining an active lifestyle, mind and body, your whole life long. Staying active is a daily, moment by moment practice that’s all about empowering the self.

Lewis is leading a new group, the Trailblazers Walking Club, sponsored by Jaffrey Parks and Recreation Department. Just started in mid-April, walker meet at 7 a.m. Tuesday and Thursday mornings at the Union Street entrance to the Rails to Trails next to the Community Ball Field.

Lewis said she sees it as a great opportunity to kickstart her walking routine, after a knee injury has kept her relatively sedentary the past couple of years. It’s a humbling place to be, she said, but she sees walking with a group and connecting with others as good motivation. “I’m doing it. I’m out there with everybody,” she said. “I love to walk. I used to be a really avid walker. … Walking has always been my thing, whenever I wanted to lose weight or get in shape.”

And being out in nature is a bonus, she said.

The mother of two children, Lewis said it’s been all too easy over the years to not make time for herself. But her oldest will graduate from high school this year, and Lewis is seeing a window of opportunity to get active again.

”Now I feel I can give myself permission to focus on myself,” she said.

Lewis has been at this point before, she said, but she’s learned she has to start out slow and not push herself too hard at first. “I get this mindset like it’s all or nothing,” she said. “I think I can do what I used to do when I haven’t put the work in to build up to where I was.”

While the walking club it right up her alley, Lewis said it was Recreation Director Renee Sangermano who was inspired to get it going after being at a conference where the U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy called for a national campaign to get people walking.

The American Heart Association recommends people walk 30 minutes five times a week, Lewis noted. “That’s something people should be able to do,” she said.

Lewis’ father died at age 61; he’d suffered from heart disease and diabetes, but Lewis thinks there’s more he could have done to stay healthy.

“It was all related to his lifestyle. It was all things he could have changed, if he had just listened to his doctors, to the people around him,” she said. “I don’t want to end up that way.”

More than anything, though, Lewis said she wants to feel good. “It’s more of the way I feel when I don’t have the weight on,” she said. “I just want to try to make me more of a focus.”

Make the decision to do it

Longtime yoga teacher Trish Strauss said staying active is really very simple: “You make the decision to do it. … That’s it.”

“Granny D made the decision to walk across America for a cause and she did it,” Strauss said. “Just make the decision.”

Figure out what you enjoy doing, then take baby steps as you build up your practice, she said, whether it’s yoga, or walking, or whatever it is. “I always say start with the body. The body gives the brain things to think about,” she said.

One of her students at Breath & Balance Yoga in Jaffrey plays the piano for an hour each day, which is not just a physical activity, but one that also engages her mind. “She started with the body; she’s watching what the brain is doing and she’s evoking an emotion: ‘I love it.’ How much more connected could you be?” Strauss said.

Walking is a great place to start for someone who wants to get active again, Strauss noted. “Walking is one of the healthiest things you can do and it costs you nothing. … You can’t overdo it,” she said. “The brain is entertained by walking around and then the emotions come: ‘Oh, I feel good.’”

It’s the flow of energy in the body that any practice helps you align with, she said. “It’s always about the flow of energy. It’s what’s directing you, and that’s what you’re tuning in to,” Strauss said.

Getting back to your practice after an injury or a busy time at work can be daunting, but Strauss sees it a little differently. “If you really look back, you’ve been on the path for a very long time,” she said. “It’s called life and it’s just a matter of how you’re living your life. How do you want to feel?”

It’s important to remember that when you make the decision to be active, it’s something you’re doing for yourself, Strauss noted. “Take your power,” she said. “When you’re feeling healthy and happy and independent, you’re feeling freedom.”

Making connections, going places, doing things

Having goals has helped Grace McGlynn stay active over the years. The Rindge resident grew up in Virginia in what she calls an active family, but girls didn’t play high school sports in the 1970s, she said.

”Girls did girly things,” she said.

But camping and waterskiing were pastimes she enjoyed. “Then when I got married and had twin boys, it got really active,” she said.

Over the years, keeping up with her sons has helped McGlynn keep moving, even after long days at work and a long commute. Two years ago, she broke her ankle, but that didn’t stop her; she was determined to visit her son who was studying abroad in South America, so she walked anyway, she said. Her doctor was amazed at how fast she recovered.

“For me, it’s about getting out and seeing things and doing things, and you can’t do that if you’re not active,” said McGlynn.

McGlynn’s husband can walk for walking’s sake, she said, but not her. She’s got to have somewhere to go and people to meet, which is why she enjoys getting her exercise at the Bond Wellness Center in Peterborough.

“Almost everybody I’ve met here, it’s not just about the exercise; it’s about the social interaction,” she said.

And as long as she’s moving, McGlynn said she knows her mind is active, too: “Part of having an active mind is having an active body. You can’t separate it. It’s related.”

Personal responsibility

Nancy Griffin, wellness services manager at the Bond Wellness Center, wrote a thesis on what motivates people to workout, looking at the difference between people who are dedicated to exercise and those who are quick to give it up.

She found that the dedicated had started early on the playground. “It’s getting parents to help kids develop those habits,” she said.

For people Griffin’s mom’s age, women in their 70s, it’s a lot tougher. “It’s a whole education of that generation,” Griffin said, particularly women who did not have the opportunity to play sports growing up.

Griffin’s clientele is mostly older and the focus is on helping them find the right exercise routine, she said, but they also talk about keeping the mind active. “I joke with them about it, but it’s really no joke,” she said.

Her colleague, Denise Thomas, said, “Whatever you do to your body while you’re exercising has such healing powers for the whole system.”

Thomas and Griffin are getting the chance to educate a whole new group of people about the benefits of exercise through a new referral program at Monadnock Community Hospital: Exercise as Medicine. It’s in the beginning stages, but they’re already getting referrals from select departments at the hospital for patients who get four weeks free at the Wellness Center.

Griffin knows some of those referred will go on to make exercise a priority and some won’t. “I don’t know how you make it a lifelong journey,” she said.

Thomas said it all comes down to personal responsibility and listening to how you feel. “It feels good to know I’m making a difference in my life,” she said, about her own practice.