Slow and steady is how to start the race

By: Tiffany Esshaki | C&G Newspapers | Published April 10, 2019

 Brooke England-Wagenknecht, of Chesterfield Township, recently traveled to Bali to enjoy a yoga retreat.  Though she’s a graphic designer for C & G Newspapers, England-Wagenknecht is also  a certified yoga and barre instructor.

Brooke England-Wagenknecht, of Chesterfield Township, recently traveled to Bali to enjoy a yoga retreat. Though she’s a graphic designer for C & G Newspapers, England-Wagenknecht is also a certified yoga and barre instructor.

Photo provided by Brooke England-Wagenknecht

 Brooke England-Wagenknecht, of Chesterfield Township, poses with her husband, Adam Wagenknecht, and son Luke, now 8, before and after her fitness transformation.

Brooke England-Wagenknecht, of Chesterfield Township, poses with her husband, Adam Wagenknecht, and son Luke, now 8, before and after her fitness transformation.

Photos provided by Brooke England-Wagenknecht

METRO DETROIT — On any given weekday, it’s not an uncommon sight to look out a window at the C & G Newspapers building and see a tall, slender woman in bright and cheery athletic gear stride by.

Brooke England-Wagenknecht is a veteran graphic designer in C & G’s art department who spends her days juggling time in front of the computer with motherhood. Sometimes, she needs to literally and figuratively run away from it all.

But seven years ago, if you had told her that she was on her way to being a marathon runner, barre instructor and world-traveling yogi, she might not have believed you.

“When I was really young I played sports, and I was always moving and always active my whole life. But once I got pregnant, I pretty much just stood still,” said England-Wagenknecht, of Chesterfield Township. “So I packed on the pounds that way, and then I was also struggling with postpartum depression. And the meds for that made me gain weight too.”

After a while, frustration got the better of her, and on a lunch break one day, she headed to a nearby park. Not for her very first jog or to attempt a little pincha mayurasana (that’s yoga terminology for handstand). Nope, she just wanted to take five minutes to sit by herself away from obligations to breathe some fresh air. She sat at the park and took photos of the sights.

“I just wanted an out,” she said.

Her motivation wasn’t necessarily fitness related, but soon her escape outings turned into lunch break walks. Then, over time, she tried a combo of jogging and walking. Then she began bringing her yoga mat along for some short meditation sessions. The efforts kept building, but only when she was strong enough, and only when she was ready.

“Immediately, I noticed clearer thinking. I was calmer, happier,” she explained. “It was slow progress. I would walk farther. My breath got stronger; my legs got stronger. I don’t think I could’ve just started out running. I’m so hard on myself, I would’ve given up.”

England-Wagenknecht’s journey would hardly be a surprise to Julie Falbaum, a licensed master of social work, of River’s Bend counseling in Troy. She specializes in helping clients who are stuck in a rut trying to lose weight or build energy, and they have realized that the “diet du jour,” as Falbaum says, isn’t cutting it.

“They may be struggling with weight, but there’s some recognition that diets don’t work and it’s about something else,” she said. “They need something individualized. Which might mean less sexy.”

Falbaum explained that there’s a reason there are endless diet regimens out there, each claiming to be better than the other: It’s because they don’t work. Well, of course, sometimes they do. But real results, ones where pounds come off healthfully and permanently, are when someone figures out their own hangups.

“To put it succinctly, most diets give you an eating plan and a moving plan. This is how you eat — keto, paleo, Jenny Craig — and this is how you move. But in reality, most people know how to eat and how to move,” Falbaum said. “Weight loss involves eating and moving in an individualized way. If you figure out that you mostly overeat when you’re alone, then you need to address the lonely. If you’re angry, address the angry. The one-size-fits-all diet plan isn’t going to work because we aren’t one size fits all.”

Sure, some people could switch overnight to a lifestyle of eating salads and taking regular cycle classes, and they’ll never look back. Others need to address weight problems from four perspectives: eating, moving, emotions and mindfulness. The first three, those are pretty self-explanatory.

“That mindfulness piece of, ‘Do you taste your food?’ ‘Do you eat until you feel full?’” Falbaum said.

And if the motivation to get moving isn’t there, Falbaum said England-Wagenknecht’s method of doing the things that make you happy is a great place to start.

“Figure out what you like, and capitalize on that,” she said. “If you love to be outside, take the dog for a walk. Or if you don’t like to move at all, work on something like walking and not driving to the mailbox. You’re outside in the fresh air and sunlight — that will help.”

England-Wagenknecht’s love of nature — and frustration with life’s headaches — is what drew her away from her desk and eventually into her running shoes.

“Think about what’s the No. 1 thing you enjoy right now, and take that and run with it,” she said. “If you like being outside, just go sit outside and smell the fresh air for five minutes. Just sit there. I get that it can be really hard when you’re suffering from a lack of motivation. So start with what you enjoy.”