Road to a Healthier Lifestyle


By: Jill Nelson

For most of my life, I’ve been the classic couch potato.  Never gifted at sports, some of my more unpleasant early memories involve the shame of being the last one picked for a team in Phys-Ed class, the embarrassment of performing a dance in front of classmates, and the fear of performing tumbles and leaps in gymnastics.  So I came to exercise later in life, and with a fair amount of baggage. 

My road to a healthier lifestyle really started at UHN with the “10K a Day challenge” in 2007, which I joined to prepare for the Weekend to End Women’s Cancers.  The need to stretch after all that Walking (and the encouragement of my boss) led to an exploration of Yoga.  But three years later, my exercise regime still depended on walking and doing yoga, and my dwindling energy levels told me I needed something more.   I checked out the “Personal Fitness” program offered at the UHN Wellness Centre.  The cost was half that offered anywhere else, so I took the plunge – signing up for 10 weeks.

My stereotype of a personal trainer was of a no-nonsense, strict and painfully fit person who would be appalled at my lack of enthusiasm for jumping jacks, and bored by having to train a middle aged woman.  My first meeting with my trainer at the Wellness Centre dispelled those myths.   Susanna is young, enthusiastic, and was totally focused on helping me, WHERE I WAS AT.   When she asked if there were any challenges to my starting an exercise program, I explained that as a working mom of two busy kids I had no spare time, am bone-lazy and don’t like to exercise.  Undaunted, she helped me set simple and manageable goals.  Early on, my “homework” was to go to a foreign place: a gym.  She encouraged me to give it a try – even if I wasn’t a slim, spandex-clad athlete.  And having gone once, I knew I wasn’t the only one in the gym puffing on the exercise bike in a t-shirt.  After a few weeks of meeting the simple goals Susanna and I set, I felt a sense of accomplishment, and I didn’t want to give it up.  I’ve stayed with it ever since.

Susanna has maintained her cheerful personality and enthusiasm for our workouts (which involve a lot of laughter.)    She works with me to set reasonable goals, encourages me to try new things, and celebrates my victories.   Once a week she emails me an extra “challenge” that reminds me there are a myriad of ways to be more well, and mostly they are enjoyable and easy when they are broken down into smaller bits: get 8 hours of sleep a night; get out in the fresh air, try something new, eliminate salty or sweet snacks for a week.  All good, and all do-able.         

So what’s changed?  Well, I’m still a working mother with two active kids, I’m still pretty lazy, and I don’t love all exercise.  But my perspective has changed entirely.   I love how I feel AFTER working out.  And I’m not averse to sweating anymore, in fact I make room for two spinning classes a week.  I am stronger, more flexible, and definitely have more energy.  I’ve lost weight, and although there’s a ways to go, I’m finding it easy enough to keep it off without dieting, just because of the increase in activity.   The lesson I’ve learned is that you don’t need to completely transform into the spandex-clad athlete to make a positive improvement in your wellness.  Take a step today … it WILL lead to better things.

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About Jav Girl

1) Background: - Originally from Guelph, ONT, - Honours Bachelor of Kinesiology from McMaster University, - Workplace Wellness & Health Promotion (WWHP) Post-Graduate Certificate from Centennial College - Completed my WWHP placement at UHN - Hired at UHN August 2008 2) Passions: - I love to run! Nothing beats a runner's high! =) 3) Achievements: - Competed at the National Track & Field Champions for Javelin [I named my javelin 'Orville' after the Wright brothers who invited the airplane - as I wanted my javelin to 'fly'] 4) "I love what I do because . . . it allows me to help others incorporate aspects of a healthy lifestyle into their lives. I've always wanted to help people get active and live better lives; I just never knew it could be my day job.' 5) Book Recommendation: 'Mindless Eating' by Brian Wansink and 'The Happiness Project' by Gretchen Rubin

One response to “Road to a Healthier Lifestyle”

  1. Heather says :

    Hi Jill, Thanks for sharing your story. This will be very encouraging for many so I will pass it on. Cheers, Heather

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