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“5 Lifestyle Tweaks That Will Dramatically Improve One’s Wellbeing” With Athletic Trainer Beth Drayer

The number one reason people should be exercising daily, whether that be yoga, running, lifting weights, boot camps, walking, whatever gets you moving, is to keep moving. The ”Use it or lose it” principle is real! If you want to be able to reach an object on a high shelf, you better be able to […]

The number one reason people should be exercising daily, whether that be yoga, running, lifting weights, boot camps, walking, whatever gets you moving, is to keep moving. The ”Use it or lose it” principle is real! If you want to be able to reach an object on a high shelf, you better be able to lift your arm over your head. If you don’t move your arm over your head regularly you will lose that range of motion. It is a lot easier to maintain a range of motion than to learn to get it back. So, I like to say, “daily motion to stay in motion!”.


As a part of my series about “5 Lifestyle Tweaks That Will Dramatically Improve One’s Wellbeing”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Beth Drayer. Beth grew up with an older brother and was always playing sports, and loved it! When she went to college she knew that she wanted to stay involved with athletics and study the body, so she became a Certified Athletic Trainer. 21 years later she is still continually learning as much as she can about the body and how to apply it to all of her athletes (she believes everyone is an athlete in some form)


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the story about how you first got involved in fitness and wellness?

Sure! As a kid I was always active, from swimming everyday over the summer to playing tennis to running around with the neighborhood kids. I knew that I never wanted to stop playing. When I went to school I wanted to stay involved in sports, and the body just fascinated me. I knew I needed to keep the two combined, and basically, fell into the Athletic Training program. There I was deeply involved with the teams that I worked with and was learning everything I could about the body. I was hooked. After I became a certified athletic trainer and graduated that’s when I realized how much more there was to learn and how much there was to teach my athletes, from general nutrition to body maintenance. I have also gone through my own health journey and discovered how important fitness, nutrition, and mental health play into well beingl!

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

Travel used to be a big part of my job. I love to travel. There are many things that happen on the road. One of my most interesting trips was with a USA basketball team to China. It had its highs such as getting off the bus with hundreds begging for autographs (“no really, you don’t want my autograph I don’t play”), and banquet meals. And it had its lows such as basically having to dig a hole on the side of the road in order to use the bathroom, and calling my mom, as I was boarding a train, to tell her I loved her and that I wasn’t going to see her again. We had some issues with our travel plans during this trip. We were in a town who’s name translated into “natural prison”. It was a beautiful area surrounded by mountains which meant that it was isolated and hard to reach, and the plane only came every other day. The day we were supposed to fly out the town was fogged in, and the plane couldn’t land. So we hopped on a train for a 14 hour ride then a bus for another 14 hours to get to our next stop, which would have only taken 3 hours by plane. I seriously wasn’t sure though, that we were making it out….the prisoners hadn’t so I was a bit skeptical!

Can you share a story with us about the most humorous mistake you made when you were first starting? What lesson or take-away did you learn from that?

One of my biggest mistakes early on was not setting good barriers with my athletes. It was hard, we listened to similar music, watched similar TV and movies, just shared a lot of common things. They didn’t see me as an authority figure. You also have to understand that I have a bit of a baby face and they were all taller than me! I looked and acted much like them (I still may….). I had been getting a bit frustrated with a few kids and how to get them to listen to me and give me the respect that I deserved. Looking for some help, I visited my high school athletic trainer while I was home over the holidays. This is what he had to say, “I understand. I had the same problem when I first started out. I grew a mustache and that helped a lot….I don’t recommend that for you though.”

After this experience I was very careful and deliberate in the relationships that I formed with my athletes and the boundaries that I set with them.

Can you share with our readers a bit about why you are an authority in the fitness and wellness field? In your opinion, what is your unique contribution to the world of wellness?

The combination of my professional career working with Division I athletes and the elderly, and my own personal fitness and wellness journey provided me a unique outlook on this field. I now view the people I work with in a holistic aspect, not just an ankle or knee injury. It can’t just be that. I need to take the psychological, lymphatic and neurological systems, into consideration, in addition to the musculoskeletal system side of the injury. I also need to take nutrition into the rehabilitation process as well. Everything contributes to a person’s wellbeing. This is slowly coming more into practice, but it is not yet the norm in the world of fitness and wellbeing.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Dan Monthley. He is the wrestling athletic trainer at Penn State University. When I was a student athletic trainer at Penn State I was working in the same training room as Dan, but with a different team. I was scared to death of him, he was just intimidating. Plus I had heard some stories, so I kept my distance from him but made sure I was on point with everything I did in the training room. One day he came up to me and asked me to work a wrestling tournament that Penn State was hosting. I was honored and terrified all at once. Up until this point in my training I hadn’t really done much except cover intermural sports. Basically this entailed handing out band aides, and with my current sport of soccer handing out water and stretching some people. I didn’t feel comfortable or ready for wrestling yet! He explained how it would work and said that there were several other students working so I would be paired up with someone more experienced. On the day of the tourney I was assigned a mat with another student. They said they would stay with me unless one of our wrestlers was on another mat. About half way through the day things had been fairly uneventful and the upper level student left to cover one of the Penn State wrestler’s matches on another mat. I felt OK since things had been smooth so far. Of course about a minute into the 1st round one of the guys had his head smashed into the mat. The ref immediately called me onto the mat. I ran over and start asking some questions and tried to calm the guy down. When he finally picked his head up off the mat, blood was just gushing from his nose which was definitely off center. I looked up at the ref and said that he would be unable to finish. At about the same time Dan came running over from the other side of the gym. Saw that I had handled the situation appropriately, patted me on the head and said “good job Drayer” and walked away as I continued to help the athlete.

After that tournament he took time in the training room to teach me stuff that we don’t learn in the classroom. He has the most magical hands, he can feel things that most people can’t and taught me to trust what I feel. Through my ups and downs and ins and outs of my career he has always been in the back of my head giving me confidence that I’m on the right path and I am doing what I was meant to do.

He probably has no idea about how much he impacted me….I should send this to him!

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. We all know that it’s important to eat more vegetables, eat less sugar, exercise more, and get better sleep etc. But while we know it intellectually, it’s often difficult to put it into practice and make it a part of our daily habits. In your opinion what are the 3 main blockages that prevent us from taking the information that we all know, and integrating it into our lives?

First thing is that there is information overload! There are thousands of sites online giving information, some of it contradicting, and it is really hard to work through it all. It’s just really overwhelming! It also makes it really hard to tell where to start. Do I focus on nutrition, sleep, exercise….or try to do it all together? Who wants to try to change their entire life all at once? It’s really difficult. They say it takes a minimum of 21 days to create a new habit. I feel like it takes a lot longer to break an old one! So overwhelm is definitely a main block for people.

Second would be an event. “I have a wedding next week, I’ll start after” “The holidays are coming, I’ll start after” “we are going on vacation, I’ll start after”. These are just the excuses that I have used, but there will always be something coming up, birthdays, holidays, Mondays, Saturdays. At some point you just have to realize that you are just going to have to learn to work through these events. Not eating cake at one wedding will not be the end of the world for you! It really is a form of FOMO (fear of missing out), but can you tell me the last time something happened at 2am and you said, “thankfully I wasn’t asleep for that!”? How many amazing can’t miss events happen from 12am to 6am? (trust me there are some, I’ve been there). But on a regular weekly (and weekday) basis….not many, so what is keeping you from having regular sleep patterns?

Third, yes we (as a collective) know that eating more veggies and less sugar, as well as moving and sleeping more is better for us. But we go about our days feeling “OK”. We don’t really know what feeling GREAT actually feels like. We aren’t in tune with our bodies enough to know that our “OK” may not actually be good. So there really isn’t any motivation to make the changes. There needs to be a why. And that point is different for everyone. Our favorite jeans don’t fit anymore, we aren’t as active as we used to, we have pain with activities So not truly being in tune with our bodies can be a huge block for us.

Can you please share your “5 Non-Intuitive Lifestyle Tweaks That Will Dramatically Improve One’s Wellbeing”? (Please share a story or an example for each, and feel free to share ideas for mental, emotional and physical health.)

5 Non-Intuitive Daily Lifestyle Tweaks, in no particular order, to improve one’s wellbeing:

Play/Fun

Breathe

Laugh

Touch

Social

Let’s start with Play/Fun. Not everyone is an athlete and wants to play sports or do something physical (but if you do you kill 2 birds with 1 stone). Roll in the grass down a hill in the summer. Build a snowman in the winter. It can be a card game on the computer/phone. Just do something that is playful and fun! We as a society, it seems, have lost our ability to play. It is looked upon as childish….but look how happy and stress free those kids are. I’m not saying blow off all your responsibilities, but take a few minutes during your day and have fun! It is a great stress relief!

Breathe. This one is gaining a lot of attention lately, and rightly so! Your breathing has a huge affect on your emotional state and wellbeing! Just think about the last time your boss yelled at you, or you yelled at an employee how your breathing reacted. You were probably breathing short rapid breaths. This is the same reaction your body would have if a lion were chasing you. Not exactly a state of relaxation and wellbeing. Now think about sitting by the ocean, taking in slow deep breathes of the salty thick air and how relaxed you would feet. This is the state of calm and wellbeing. Learning to be intentional with our breathing can change our emotional state in just a few minutes a day. If you can start and end your day with some intentional breathing for just 3–5 minutes, you can reduce your stress and your body’s release of cortisol, which in small doses is good and normal and needed for your body. But, if your body is in a constant state of cortisol release it can begin to have negative effects on your health. The old adage of” breathe and count to 10 when you are mad”….there is actually has some truth to it!

Laughing. I have always said that laughing is exercise for your soul. When was the last time that you had a good laugh? I mean belly cramping, juice squirting out of your nose laugh? How good do you feel after that? The endorphins that are released when laughing create similar levels as those released during a workout. So if you can’t get an actual workout in….get a good laugh in! Recently I was sitting in traffic (I live in Los Angeles, I am always sitting in traffic!) and was flipping through the stations on Sirius XM and found a comedy channel. Thankful we were at a dead stop or I probably would have hit the car in front of me because I was laughing so hard! It also noticeably brought my stress levels (if you have experienced LA traffic you know what I am talking about) down and made my drive much more tolerable!

Touch. It is one of the basic needs of humans. In this digital age we are more and more deprived of physical touch. There is a famous study done by Harry Harlow using monkeys, depriving them both of touch and food for a time period. Once they were allowed to choose between the two they chose touch. Touch is an exchange of energy. Have you ever had a bad day and someone gave you a hug? Did you notice how much better you felt after that? Touch communicates connection, so whether it be a hug, hand shake or massage getting contact and touch should be a daily practice.

Social. Having social support can have a tremendous effect on our wellbeing. It has direct affect on our immune system, as well as our physical and mental health. It decreases the occurrence of stress, depression, and anxiety. I am thankful for my mom and the countless times that I have called and vented to her. But the instantaneous relief of just saying things out loud and being heard, reduces my stress. This is an immense help to my well being.

As an expert, this might be obvious to you, but I think it would be instructive to articulate this for the public. Aside from weight loss, what are 3 benefits of daily exercise? Can you explain?

Weight loss is everyone’s number one reason for daily exercise….but not mine. The number one reason people should be exercising daily, whether that be yoga, running, lifting weights, boot camps, walking, whatever gets you moving, is to keep moving. The ”Use it or lose it” principle is real! If you want to be able to reach an object on a high shelf, you better be able to lift your arm over your head. If you don’t move your arm over your head regularly you will lose that range of motion. It is a lot easier to maintain a range of motion than to learn to get it back. So, I like to say, “daily motion to stay in motion!”.

A very close second reason to exercise daily is the endorphin release. These are the feel good hormones that are released in your brain. These hormones help reduce stress, anxiety and depression! Why would you not want that every day?!

The third reason is to reduce pain. I know that many people think and have been told in the past, “if you have pain, don’t move it”. But more and more studies show that the earlier you begin motion the better (this does not apply to broken bones, but as soon as they are healed the quicker you can restore motion the better!). Our bodies were made to move, so we should allow them to do so! A lot of the time the little aches and pains we get actually feel better as we move them more.

For someone who is looking to add exercise to their daily routine, which 3 exercises would you recommend that are absolutely critical?

Number one has to be a squat! I don’t care if you have to start out doing ¼ squats and work your way to squatting to a chair as a target, and eventually move into a full body weight squat. Or even if you are on your hands and knees and rock back and forth (same motion different position). If you never even load your squat that is fine (but I prefer you do). That is the number one movement pattern that everyone needs to have for the rest of his/her life (you need it to be able to poop…assuming you will need to continue to do that for a while). So just start doing some squats!

Number two would be thoracic twist. So much of our days are directly in front of us. There is very little twisting motion in our lives, and it is so important to maintain it! My favorite is sitting on a chair with feet flat on the floor and knees at 90 degrees. Place hands behind your head (like in a sit up) and rotate as far to the right as possible, then side bend to the right as well. Take 3 nice long deep breaths in and out, lift up and try to rotate to the right slightly more. Repeat those steps for a total of 3 time to each side. Watch the video Here

Number three would be a tall kneeling weighted pass around. This is a great full body exercise and lights up your core. I think it is easier to start here than with a plank. If kneeling is too hard it can be done standing, but in kneeling you activate your glutes right way, in standing you need to be actively using your glutes, but both are great exercises. In a kneeling position pass a weight around your body from hand to hand. Check out a video Here

In my experience, many people begin an exercise regimen but stop because they get too sore afterwards. What ideas would you recommend to someone who plays sports or does heavy exercise to shorten the recovery time, and to prevent short term or long term injury?

My biggest recommendation to aid in recovery and prevent injury is stay hydrated! When you work out you produce toxins. They may be the waste products from breaking down glucose (energy source in your body) or protein (muscle, in order to build more you actually break a bit down), or they may be by products of breathing. In order to move all of these out of your body you need to be hydrated. Your lymphatic system is basically your garbage disposal system and it contains about 2 liters of fluid. When you are dehydrated this system does not work efficiently, leaving waste in the system which causes muscle soreness. Hydration also plays a huge role in injury prevention. Our tissues move and glide around each other and water is a huge part of that lubrication system. When we are dehydrated those tissues can get “sticky” and can be prone to injuries. So do yourself a favor and stay hydrated!

There are so many different diets today. Can you share what kind of diet you follow? Which diet do you recommend to most of your clients?

Ah this is a tough one. I have tried them all! Seriously from Weight Watchers to Paleo and Autoimmune Paleo to Keto to the Blood Type to the Zone! I have been on a diet journey to say the least, and this is what I can say. Each person is different and there is no one diet that everyone should be on. Diet is as individual as your finger print! Each person has a diverse microbiome in his/her gut that is specific to that person and that can determine what foods that person is able to break down efficiently to absorb its nutrients. And that is really the purpose, of eating to fuel our bodies and get the nutrients we need to continue running efficiently. There are tests out now that will tell you what is inside your gut and which foods are recommended for you and which you should avoid.

With that said, there are still some general guidelines that I believe are appropriate for everyone; eat lots of veggies, some protein and some healthy fats. Avoid processed sugars, items that come in a box or a bag and GMO’s. It’s fairly simple. Not easy all the time but simple.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story?

Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield. Probably the only book I have read more than once. I actually read it about every other year at this point. I go back to it when I feel like I’m going off course, and it helps me get perspective and refocus. Each time I read this book I get something new from it. I am in a different stage in my life as the book describes different stages as well. The first time I read it, it grabbed me immediately because I had some similar experiences. Each time I am blown away by how I have grown in similar progressions. Without going into much detail though, there is a part that discusses human interaction and competition for power. The first time I read it, it changed me instantly. I deal with people on a daily basis and having an understanding from this perspective changed how I approach people in general. Each time I read this part now I evaluate how I am doing with that and get new insight as well.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I have a very good friend that has a T-shirt company called Backgetters . The Shirts have some inspirational message on the back, “You Matter” “You are Loved”. The idea is to spread these messages. I love this idea! People compliment me every time I wear the shirt (and I wear it a lot!). With all the disconnect we have in the world with our increase in technology, true connection is being lost. Think of all the shootings there have been. Maybe if those people hadn’t felt so isolated, maybe if they knew that someone out there had their back and cared for them there would have been a different situation. If this could spread globally there could a be chance at peace. Instead of alienating and isolating, come together and be inclusive. We are far from this Utopia but it sure would be nice!

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?

So many to choose from! “Not all those who wander are not lost” J. R. R. Tolkien seems pretty appropriate for me! Though I started out on this path in the wellness world and working with athletes, my journey to where I am now certainly was not straight. After I graduated with my BS in Kinesiology and my new Certification as an Athletic Trainer, I worked in a school that was k-12 for a year in SC. Then I moved back to NJ and worked in a Physical Therapy clinic in the morning and a school that was 7–12 in the afternoon. I then moved to Oregon to pursue my MS in Exercise and Sport Science. From there I found myself in Los Angeles working at a Division I University. After 9 years I was burnt out! I had been making my own snack/nutrition bars for a while because I didn’t like what was on the market at the time. I left the university to try to bring one rendition of the bar to market. I worked several other jobs in the meantime (barista, baked cakes for a local restaurant, made a protein brownie for a local delivery meal company, was a personal trainer, taught a fitness class at a high school). I did this for about 3 years and finally decided to take the lessons from those experience and go back to Division I college setting. I was at this school for 2 years and then moved on to be a physician extender at a pediatric orthopedic doctor’s office. It was during that time that I realized my passion and talents were with treating and helping people out of pain and moving better and feeling better. Which brings me to where I am now, doing exactly that! So definitely not a straight path but each of those steps got me closer to now.

A close second would be “Don’t be a Dick” a pretty easy way to look at how to treat each other in this world!

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

Cal Ripken Jr. I went to my first National Athletic Trainers Association (NATA) national convention in June 1998 in Baltimore Maryland just after I graduated from Penn State University. Cal Ripken Jr was the keynote speaker. This was just a month before his record breaking streak of 2632 consecutive games played in MLB ended. He mentioned then that the streak would not have been possible with out the work of the team’s Certified Athletic Trainer Richie Bancells. I would love to be able to sit down with him now and get his perspective 21 years later. What types of injuries and illnesses had he played through? What things did Richie Bancells do with him to get him through? Was this streak something that he consciously strive for, at what point was the decision made to not play and, what was the real reason? He had taken himself out of the line up to break the streak. How has that experience impacted him now? Does he still use a certified athletic trainer? What is his relationship with Richie Bancells now? (Certified Athletic Trainers tend to form some strong bonds with their athletes. We are a connection oriented profession). These are just a few of the many questions I would ask him over breakfast (love breakfast food!) given the opportunity!

What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?

IG: https://www.instagram.com/bethdrayermovement/

FB: https://www.facebook.com/BDMovementNutrition/

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!

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