MBRC’s Personal Trainer Helps Clients Regain Fitness and Strength After Addiction
When people finally make the decision to enter addiction treatment, their bodies are often significantly depleted from drug and alcohol use. Many experience nutritional deficits, poor sleep and a weakened immune system. For many, exercise for health or enjoyment has been non-existent for months or years.
At Malibu Beach Recovery Centers, Metz Izzet, personal trainer, is helping patients regain their strength and improve their health by incorporating physical activity into each day. He customizes exercise plans to each individual’s ability level and preferences. His goal is to help each person figure out what they enjoy – whether it’s walking or going to a gym or participating in a sport – so that physical activity becomes a healthy habit in recovery.
“I’ve seen so many great results with clients who have taken part in our fitness routines. Energy levels have risen and many of them continue once they leave residential care,” Metz said.
How Exercise Benefits Individuals in Early Recovery
Studies have demonstrated that exercise benefits those in early recovery by improving mood, decreasing cravings and helping people to build confidence in themselves and their ability to remain sober.
Physiologically, exercise increases dopamine concentrations in the brain and activates the same reward pathways in the brain as drugs. Exercise provides a natural way to feel good, while sweating it out helps relieve feelings of anxiety and depression, and potentially wards off relapse.
Exercise also provides structure that can help fill up free time in a positive way.
On top of that, exercise has the same benefits for recovering addicts as is does for others – it can improve sleep quality, improve cardiovascular health and make people feel more energized.
“Sleeping is very difficult for a lot of people when they first come into rehab,” Izzet said. “We get them training early in the day, stretching and getting their heart rate up, which helps them to relax. Then they find they start to sleep better.”
Individualized Training Programs
When working with clients, Metz, who became a certified personal trainer in the United Kingdom before relocating to Los Angeles, takes into account that people in recovery may have significant medical compromise due to past drug and alcohol use. For those with injuries or serious chronic medical conditions, only gentle movements may be appropriate. Others benefit from moderate activity that includes aerobic activity and light weights or resistance training.
Clients can work out in yoga/exercise rooms in the residential centers, or take advantage of surrounding walking and hiking trails. “I get a lot of satisfaction out of seeing people rediscover how good it feels to move the body,” he said.
Each person leaves treatment with a personalized plan to continue following after treatment. One of the issues for people in recovery – and everyone – is sticking with it. Through lots of encouragement and support, Metz strives to help people understand that exercise can be pleasurable and make your body and mind feel great, as well as being good for you.
“I will not ask them to do something they can’t do, or they will not want to come again. I want them to look forward to coming,” he said. “Each workout is personalized. We determine what they want to work toward, then we slowly build toward that.”
“When they see their bodies changing or they feel stronger, it’s a big achievement.”
Metz’s Tips for Working Out in Recovery
- Take it slow to start. If you haven’t exercised in awhile, go easy and listen to your body.
- Find something you enjoy. A study in Mental Health and Physical Activity found that 77% of people in recovery chose walking as their preferred activity, followed by strength training (37%). Walking is great exercise! Go for it!
- Decide if you prefer working out in a group or by yourself. Some like the social aspects of group activities, which leaves them feeling energized and opens up the opportunity to make friends. Some prefer a solitary activity that gives you time to think, reflect and be alone with your thoughts. You might prefer something different on different days, and that’s OK too!
- Find an exercise buddy. You can keep each other accountable. Also, knowing that a friend is waiting can help keep you motivated to show up.
- If you feel stressed, frustrated or angry, get moving. Work and family responsibilities may make it difficult to do organized exercise everyday. If you’re feeling anxious, frustrated or overwhelmed, try taking a quick walk. Sometimes that’s just enough for those feelings to lift and to get you through it.