Erin Risius, MA, joined Green Mountain at Fox Run at the end of 2013 as program director. She brings a dual background in fitness and counseling and discusses how Green Mountain’s fitness program helps women make liveable, doable lifestyle changes.
How does Green Mountain help women make fitness a permanent part of their lives?
We help our participants shift their focus from “I need to fix myself” to “I choose to care for myself.” This really forms the foundation of the Green Mountain approach, and I support it wholeheartedly because it’s rooted in helping others empower themselves around self-care rather than being defined by unrealistic cultural standards and a number on a scale.
I am passionate about showing women that there is a way to create positive change without deprivation and pain.
That this journey can be about enhancing one’s life NOW in a way that enables them to become their own authority on what truly nourishes them – physically, mentally and emotionally.
“In order to understand what your body needs, you have to care about yourself enough to listen.”
I know this to be true for myself, and I have witnessed in those I work with that cultivating body awareness through mindfulness is a key component to bridging that gap between insight and action around the practice of self-care.
So, how can someone use mindfulness to exercise?
Mindful exercise is about tuning into how the body feels with exercise when it comes to the intensity, type, duration and frequency. It’s about honoring the body’s limits and conditions and, when ready, gently challenging those limits. It’s not about “all or nothing,” but about cultivating the practice of paying attention – of going off auto-pilot and bringing a sense of curiosity and observation to the table in order to respect, not overrule the body’s cues. This approach is key for exercise adherence and enjoyment.
Did you ever personally struggle with making fitness an enjoyable presence in your life?
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For years I used food and no pain/no gain exercise as way to cope with stress, not realizing that my way of coping was negatively impacting my mental, emotional and physical health. As a result, I struggled with depression, severe acne, and chronic digestive problems, to name a few. I was only using exercise as a means to an end.
How did you make the switch to making exercise enjoyable?
The practice of mindfulness with exercise allowed me to shift from overexercising to moderate exercise – and I actually enhanced my level of fitness and health as a result. Whether you are overexercising or not exercising at all – the end result is that the body’s needs are being ignored.
While training to be a personal trainer, I was fortunate enough to find a mentor in the fitness industry who taught me how to feel and honor my body’s cues during exercise, which enabled me to find that “middle ground” that is key for optimal health. This is what we do at Green Mountain. Help women find their own “middle ground” so they can sustain the healthy behaviors they start here.
Based on your own experience, how can you help women who come to Green Mountain?
I understand professionally and personally how the journey toward better health can feel challenging and elusive, as well as overwhelming amidst all the misinformation out there. Often we follow advice or programs that we think are in our best interest based on what everyone else is doing, but when it comes to healthy weight management, diet and exercise fads need to be avoided, not followed.
My goal is to help women clarify the path that is in their best interest for whole health and then identify what they personally need to stay on that path.