BDN Health contributor Diane Atwood restarted regular workouts following a pandemic-induced break after finding a trainer, Samantha VanDeMoere, through her alma mater, St. Joseph's College in Standish. "My body has been begging me to start working out again," Atwood writes. Credit: Courtesy of Diane Atwood

Back in January 2017 I started working out at a local gym with a strength coach. It was a new experience for me, but it wasn’t long before I not only got stronger and more confident. I also had more energy.

We kept a fairly regular schedule, but then along came COVID and I stopped going to the gym in March of 2020. We tried virtual sessions, but they weren’t the same, and forget about getting into a home routine of my own. The longest that lasted was a week, maybe two.

I have been able to stick with a weekly yoga class, first online and more recently in person while masked. As wonderful as yoga is, it’s not enough. My body has been begging me to start working out again, but unfortunately, I had to search for a new trainer. I found a great one at my alma mater, St. Joseph’s College in Standish. Her name is Samantha VanDeMoere, and her goal is to eventually become a physical therapist.

I qualify to work with Sam because I’m a St. Joe’s alum. Her other clients may include students and faculty members. We all benefit, and Jenna Chase, the college’s associate director of health and wellness programming, says that includes Sam and other working students.

“It is a great way for them to have hands-on learning and begin to build their professional portfolio,” she explained. “I always cheer on the students who engage in internships and personal training as they will be one step closer to finding a job in their career path since they will graduate with experience already under their belt!”

Fortunately for me, along with what she’s learning in school, Sam had a summer job in a physical therapy clinic and gained experience working one-on-one with older people. We’re a special group, you know!

One of the first things I asked her was what advice she would give someone if they’re trying to get moving after nearly two years of not being motivated.

“I would definitely say start slow,” she said. “You don’t want to start out doing too much because that’s how you get hurt. Start slow and then keep building up. The more you do, the better your mind and your body will feel. It’s getting going that is tough, but once you get there, it gets easier.”

I can vouch for that 110 percent. In the first week of working with Sam, some of the exercises were challenging. After a few weeks, I feel much more confident and stronger. The other day, I was walking in Portland and realized that my stride was different. It felt more purposeful. Does that make sense?

I also notice that I feel more energetic than I had been lately. And upbeat. I think I may already be meeting some of Sam’s expectations!

“I expect you to overall feel better about yourself,” she said, “and I hope that when you finish a workout, you feel more motivated throughout the day as well.”

The slow start plan that we came up with includes seeing Sam twice a week, walking twice a week, going to my yoga class once a week, and doing whatever strikes my fancy over the weekend. So far, I find it quite manageable and frankly, inspiring. I am so excited to have some kind of routine again, and who knows where it will lead me.

Each session starts with a warm-up and ends with a cool-down. One day’s workout focuses on gaining strength and the other on balance. These are two important priorities, especially as you age.

“What we’re doing now are basic movements to get your form going,” Sam explained to me. “For instance, we’re doing double leg and arm movements, but will progress to using single legs and arms. That will help with your stability and your balance overall because you’ll be using your core more with one limb.”

I said it once and I’ll say it again. I am so wicked excited to be working out again. Sam will be graduating in May so that doesn’t give me a lot of time, but certainly enough to experience some good changes and to get back on a lifelong path of staying as strong as I possibly can.

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Diane Atwood, Health contributor

Diane Atwood has been sharing stories about health and wellness for more than 30 years, first as a reporter on WCSH6 and then as the marketing and public relations manager for Northern Light Mercy Hospital....