It’s best to calm down prior to hitting the gym.

Yes, I know. Exercise is a proven stress reducer. But, if you’re under duress, working out is not a good idea. In fact, research shows it can be risky for our heart health.

If you’re very upset or mad, a strenuous workout might seem like a good way to blow off steam. But that could be extra risky for your heart, according to a study in the October 2016 Circulation.

For the study, researchers surveyed nearly 12,500 people from 52 countries who had experienced a first-time heart attack. They questioned participants about their emotions and activities the hour before their heart attack symptoms began and also during the same hour on the previous day.

Anger or emotional upset was linked to more than twice the risk of having heart attack symptoms within an hour; the same was true for heavy physical exercise. But among people who recalled being angry or emotionally upset while also engaging in strenuous exercise, the risk of heart attack was three times higher.

The findings are a good reminder to try to stay calm and centered when you’re coping with extreme emotions—and to avoid intense exercise during those times.

If you’re experiencing extreme stress or emotions are running rampant; try these relaxing and restorative types of activities:

Tai Chi
Restorative Yoga
Leisurely nature walk
Relaxation / Deep Breathing

Extreme exercise, such as High Intensity Interval Training , Tabata. Long Distance Running, tend to raise cortisol levels.  Over training can also raise cortisol to unsafe levels.  Chronic elevated cortisol levels can lead to a plethora of health issues.

Cam and centered should be the main focus and goal when under extreme stress.

Let Your Feet Kiss the Earth

Photography by Tracy Sheppard
“Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet.”
What a privilege it is to be able to spend time breathing in the beauty of our natural surroundings. Taking our exercise outdoors provides extra health benefits in addition to physical well-being.
Exercising outdoors provides a mental boost. Research shows that spending time outdoors increases energy and decreases stress.
Research shows exercising outdoors increases self-esteem. There is no self-comparison among the trees! Often, a gym setting brings about feelings of inadequacy, especially when ‘new’. Exercise in general increases self-esteem. Taking it outdoors has even more positive effects.
Outdoor fitness is easier to stick with. When we enjoy an exercise program, we are more likely to stay with it. Take a friend along, and you double the benefits.
Soaking up the sun provides added benefits. When the sun kisses our skin, Vitamin D3 is created. This is essential for bone health, metabolic function, improved sleep, increased immune function, and endorphin production.
More cost effective than gym membership. While resistance training (weights) are important to keep age related muscle loss at bay; cardiovascular exercise is also essential for keeping our bodies healthy.
For those on a limited budget, investing in quality walking shoes and weather friendly workout gear, is all that is needed to get out and enjoy nature.
An exercise program, thoughtfully designed, provides enjoyment and depth to life. It provides a rich and multi-layered experience that provides many health benefits, in addition to quality to life.

Gardening as a Workout?

Photography by  Tracy Sheppard
Photography by Tracy Sheppard

Anyone who knows me, knows how much I adore spending time in nature.

That includes spending time in my garden sanctuary. It provides hours of pure and simple enjoyment. Work? Yes, but a good kind of work. A satisfaction ensues, much like the afterglow of a good Strength Training Session, that surfaces after you’ve achieved your personal best. A ‘rolled up my shirt sleeves, and got it done’ kind of feeling.

This describes my morning. Oh, what a glorious morning. Low temps, fluffy clouds in an azure sky! Birds singing, what I believe to be the ‘Hallelujah Chorus’ (at least that is my interpretation of their morning chatter).

And so, as often happens when I’m enjoying a ‘nature moment’, I start reflecting in terms of nature and her parallels in life. Those allegories that, if you really look closely, can be gleaned from the great outdoors. Nature provides an abundance of life lessons if we pay attention.

One thought that I enjoyed was how gardening is a satisfying workout! Exercise doesn’t always have to take place inside the four walls of a Gym. It can (and should) take on forms of movement that are not only effective and produce positive end results, but also provide enjoyment.

My week includes Strength Training (Weights, Resistance Bands, Body Weight movements) a minimum of three times a week on alternating days. On opposing days, I include some form of Cardiovascular Exercise (Power walking, Hiking, Plyometrics, Tabata, High Intensity Interval Training). One day of Rest and Recovery or Active Recovery finishes the week.

On days like today, I will include Walking and Gardening. Gardening as a workout? Yes. Here is why:

Gardening provides not only endurance, but flexibility and strength. It can burn up to 300 calories and hour. It also can work most major muscle groups.

-Mowing, raking, lifting and digging are excellent all-round exercises. But some gardening tasks are great for tackling particular “problem” parts of the body:

-Gluteals/bottoms: Weeding while squatting.

-Abdominals/ stomach and torso: Weeding on hands and knees, hoeing, trimming, picking, turning compost and starting a mower.

-Thighs: Pushing a wheelbarrow, weeding while squatting.

-Back: Weeding on hands and knees, hoeing, carrying water cans, picking, and starting a lawnmower.

-Arms and shoulders: Weeding on hands and knees, hoeing, pushing a wheelbarrow, pruning and turning compost.-


As with any type of exercise: Warm up prior to movement is a must.
Here are a few ideas:

-Do some body balancing exercises to target deep muscles that support the spine before gardening.

-Regularly change jobs; try to limit the time spent on any one activity to 20 minutes.

-Lift correctly (back in neutral, bending knees) and use your legs and abdominal muscles.

-To prevent tennis elbow don’t grip your tools too hard, but use tools with the correct grip size and keep your wrist in a neutral position, which is with the hand straight out.

-Keep hydrated, as dehydration can lead to increased muscle stiffness after exercise – don’t wait until you are thirsty before having a drink and keep fluids with you.

-Try to use both sides of the body when working in the garden, for example when digging, change the digging foot routinely.

-Do some post-gardening stretches and keep stretching regularly.

-Don’t forget the sunscreen and a hat.

I am a proponent of feeding the mind, body,and spirit. If you can enjoy an activity that provides all three; it’s a winner in my book. Gardening provides the body with enjoyable movement. It helps ‘clear the mind’ just soaking in the beauty of nature. It soothes the spirit by removing yourself from cell phones, electronics, social media, every day stresses,and anything else that robs the spirit of peace and balance. It provides solitude so that you can learn the art of ‘listening’.

Oh, and if you’re lucky….it produces some tasty and organic produce or lovely flowers!


Photography by Tracy Sheppard
Photography by Tracy Sheppard

Happy Gardening!

Colorado State University Cooperative Extension Master Gardener

No Gym? No Worries!


Can’t get to the Gym?

No problem! There may be many reasons why a ‘Gym’ setting is not the ideal place to exercise.

Compromised immune system. Many health issues create a weakened immune system making it necessary to avoid as many germs as possible. Clients who are going through chemotherapy are warned to avoid as much physical contact as possible to avoid germs.

Preference to a ‘private’ setting while exercising. Many people prefer a place of solitude, as opposed to a social spot, like a gym, to exercise

Time. We are all time crunched these days, but for some, time is a major player when it comes to fitting in exercise. The gym may not be convenient during the time needed to exercise.

Intimidation. So many people experience a feeling of intimidation regarding a gym setting, especially when new to exercise. A gym can be scary for new exercisers.

-Introverted. There are many people who prefer a more private setting for exercise. ( I totally get it!)

Equipment. Many people prefer to work with equipment that only they use. This also falls under the necessity of remaining as germ-free as possible. Having your own set of resistance bands, weights, and other equipment means less exposure to germs.

Less Stress. Exercising at home, under the careful guidance of a Fitness Professional, can lead the way to a lifetime of enjoyable exercise. Once the proper form, basic exercises, and fundamentals are taught; a client can exercise when it is convenient for them. As a professional, keeping a support system in place is essential. After all, it is not our intent to keep you depending on us. The idea is to coach, mentor and teach you what you need to know so you can enjoy a more active lifestyle.

Everyone is unique. An exercise program can be designed to fit your unique goals, situation and personal likes (and dislikes!)

Introducing a client to the enjoyable world of exercise and movement is a thing of beauty! Newly found energy, purpose, and enjoyment are natural by products of an active lifestyle.

Now that the Holidays are Over

Now that the Holidays are over…

You’ve shopped until you’ve dropped, gave and received presents, recovered from food coma, and uploaded your festive photos on Instagram and Facebook. All that’s left is a fridge full of leftovers and that ‘drained feeling’. The Post-Holiday let-down.

This is typical of the ‘crash’ after the Holidays. In spite of all the good cheer and joy, the days and weeks of socializing, gift shopping, cooking, planning and traveling; the expectations and stressfulness of the Holidays can be overwhelming and often flip a switch inside our brain sending us into overdrive.

The Holiday aftermath. Reality. Stress amplified. Something had to give; exercise routine, meditation, quiet time, healthy meal planning and other self-care may have suffered. Motivation, unanswered emails, over-indulgence in food or drink, too much sodium, neglected routines, all leave the body feeling sapped. There is a reason for this. “The stress of regulating blood sugar during mega-consumptions of junk food can depress our immune systems,” says Justine Campbell, R.D., a holistic nutrition therapy practitioner.

How to face ‘The Reckoning’

1. Unplug. Taking a break from constantly being connected to our devices can drag us down. The feeling of needing to check our devices 24-7 raises cortisol levels and over-stimulates the neurons with too much information, may create anxiety, comparison of everyone’s ‘perfect holiday’ photos (which could lead to envy) and possible depression. Set some time to go ‘Tech-Free’ and be truly present. Set some time during the day to unplug whether it’s during dinner or while taking a walk.
2. Replate your palate.Over-indulgence in food and drink often leads to the attitude of, “Oh well, I’ve already ‘blown it’ so why not eat more junk. After all, it’s the Holidays. The problem is, insulin levels spike when we overeat and the higher they rise, the more drastic the blood sugar crash hours afterward. This tends to leave us feeling irritable, and wanting more sugar. If we have eaten foods that are loaded with sugar, fat or salt for a few days, we end up resetting our palate toward those types of foods, rather than healthier choices. On a more serious note, the immune system is compromised from the food frenzied consumption of junk food.
3. Skip the Guilt. Give yourself some slack. It will take a bit of time to get back on track with your healthier routines. Plate some patience with those extra veggies. Make this the week you write down your goals and expectations and re-align your routine. Rather than totally re-hauling your entire diet; add extra vegetables to your meal rather than trying to scale back on everything ‘bad’.
4. Take time to enjoy. While the weeks leading up to the Holiday may have left you with little time to enjoy due to excessive obligations; now is the time to s-l-o-w down and breathe. Take time to reflect on the beauty of what is around you. Many of us leave decorations up until after the New Year. Now is the time to focus on their beauty.
5. Gratitude. Does anyone write Thank-You notes anymore? Expressing gratitude for gifts and time spent can promote well-being and foster a positive attitude.
6. Looking forward. Research shows that having something to look forward to promotes happiness and elevates the mood. Plan a few fun and simple activities with friends or family. Now is a great time to try something new.
7. Prioritize. Do take time to make your health a priority by including exercise as a part of your day. There is simply nothing better that getting out for a brisk walk. It elevates the mood, oxygenates your body and provides cardiovascular benefits. Find new ways to move! Exercise should be a reflection of your personality. Dance, walk, run, stretch, lift weights or do it all! Mixing up your exercise routine keeps it fun and will provide enjoyment. A Fitness Professional can design a program that is safe, effective and perfect for your fitness level.

5 Lessons from Trees

Take a stroll with me and immerse yourself in the beauty and tranquility nature has to offer.  Listen, if you will, to the wisdom of the trees.  

Photography by Tracy Sheppard
Photography by Tracy Sheppard

“When you go out into the woods, and you look at trees, you see all these different trees. And some of them are bent, and some of them are straight, and some of them are evergreens, and some of them are whatever. And you look at the tree and you allow it. You see why it is the way it is. You sort of understand that it didn’t get enough light, and so it turned that way. And you don’t get all emotional about it. You just allow it. You appreciate the tree. The minute you get near humans, you lose all that. And you are constantly saying ‘You are too this, or I’m too this.’ That judgment mind comes in. And so I practice turning people into trees. Which means appreciating them just the way they are.”
– Ram Dass


Photography by Tracy Sheppard
Photography by Tracy Sheppard


“In a forest of a hundred thousand trees, no two leaves are alike. And no two journeys along the same path are alike.”
Paulo Coelho

Photography by Tracy Sheppard
Photography by Tracy Sheppard

Let’s take our hearts for a walk in the woods and listen to the magic whispers of old trees.

Author Unknown

Photography by Tracy Sheppard
Photography by Tracy Sheppard

Notice that the stiffest tree is most easily cracked, while the bamboo or willow survives by bending with the wind.”

Bruce Lee


Photography by Tracy Sheppard
Photography by Tracy Sheppard

“If you look closely at a tree you’ll notice it’s knots and dead branches, just like our bodies. What we learn is that beauty and imperfection go together wonderfully.”

–Matthew Fox

Aging and Exercise

  • With respect to the aging process, what are some benefits derived from participation in regular physical activity?

Research shows that many of the physiological declines that are typically associated with the aging process can be reversed, or at least slowed down by engaging in regular physical activity. While exercise is not a magic pill or the proverbial Fountain of Youth; it is about as close to it as you can get.

Regular physical activity is well documented to help reduce the odds in developing heart disease, stroke, colon cancer, and diabetes. These are major reasons to develop a habit of regular exercise. There are also factors such as weight loss and control, keeping depression at bay and helping with feelings of anxiety, as well as, fostering improvements in mood and feelings of well-being. Regular exercise can boost one’s mood and feeling of self-confidence. Regular exercise can help reduce blood pressure in people with hypertension. Engaging in regular physical activity can help those with chronic, disabling conditions by improving stamina and muscle strength. Exercise can help keep the body flexible and stiff joints more pliable. Lack of exercise actually can make your joints even more painful and stiff. Keeping your muscles and surrounding tissue strong can be crucial to maintaining support for your bones. Not exercising weakens those supporting muscles, creating more stress on your joints. Certain regular exercise also helps with balance, which can enable a lifestyle of independence as well as promoting safety by reducing the risk of falling and performing routine daily tasks. Another benefit of regular physical activity is in how it aids brain function. Exercise is proven to change the brain in ways that protect memory and thinking skills. This is especially good news as the older we get, the more we may experience ‘brain fog’ and declining memory.

Exercise performed regularly improves physical appearance and when enjoyed in a group setting, provides a good social support. Regular physical activity is the key to staying strong, energetic, and healthy as you get older. If you find an activity you enjoy, it can even be fun. Exercise helps make life pleasurable and expands the quality of life.

by Terri L. Pouliot



High Blood Pressure and Exercise



blood-pressureMore than 75 million Americans have high blood pressure today. Of those people, three out of four over the age of 60 has hypertension. These are very dangerous statistics. If left untreated, high blood pressure can increase the risk of heart attacks, strokes, as well as peripheral arterial disease. It is well documented that exercise improves the overall function of the cardiovascular system. It can also be very effective against lowering blood pressure. Often, hypertension is treated and controlled with medication. A sound exercise program can help decrease blood pressure even further. In many cases, mild and even moderate hypertension can benefit from embracing healthy lifestyle changes, such as increased exercise, less salt intake, managed weight and overall healthier dietary choices.

The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise, 75 minutes of vigorous exercise or a combination of both. That means the aim should be for at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise on most days of the week. Most studies confirm that the hypertensive client should be exercising twenty to 60 minutes of aerobic exercise at 40-70% VO2max. This aerobic exercise may be performed three to five times a week. Heavy weight training should be avoided for the person with hypertension. This is because it can cause a temporary increase in blood pressure. This depends on the amount of weight that is lifted. Since resistance training is known to have long term benefits to blood pressure levels, it can be included if you lift lighter weights with more repetitions. Always get the approval from the client’s physician prior to including any weight training in the program. A sound exercise program can decrease the systolic and diastolic values by as much as five to seven points when followed consistently. It may take up to three to four weeks to begin seeing these improved numbers.

A sound exercise program will also assist in weight management, which can in turn improve blood cholesterol and glucose levels which can lead to health issues if not addressed.

Some examples of aerobic activity that may be included in the client’s exercise program:

Treadmill walking

Stair climbing




Mild aerobic exercises, such as walking or cycling, have the capability to help reduce blood pressure as much as more vigorous exercises, like jogging. The client should be able to carry on a conversation while engaging in these exercises. Many hypertensive clients will be on medication that may alter the blood pressure response to the exercise performed. Always be aware of the list of medications the client is taking and how these drugs may interact with exercise. It is also very important to allow for proper warm-up to avoid a sudden rise in blood pressure during the activity. This is essential. Just as important is the cool-down for the client. Always include an adequate cool-down in your exercise program so the client’s heart rate, and cardiovascular system can safely return to pre-exercise condition.

When including resistance training in with the program follow these guidelines from the American Heart Association:

Single set of 8 to 10 different exercises such as chest press, shoulder press, triceps extension, biceps curl, latissimus pull-down, lower back extension, abdominal crunch, leg press, leg curls, and heel raise.

These resistance exercises may be performed two or three days a week. These moves may be added slowly and monitored carefully. Never include isometric exercises. These strengthening exercises can be incorporated along with the aerobic activity two to three times a week with the physician’s approval.

This web site is for informational purposes only. Consult a physician before performing this or any exercise program. It is your responsibility to evaluate your own medical and physical condition, or that of your clients, and to independently determine whether to perform, use or adapt any of the information or content on this web site. Any exercise program may result in injury. By voluntarily undertaking any exercise displayed on this web site, you assume the risk of any resulting injury.

by Terri L. Pouliot