Podiatrist & lifecoach Michelle McCrumb believes in starting small

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Photo by Ralph Stewart

Michelle McCrumb’s approach to health and fitness is gentle and gradual. A longtime podiatrist who has added wellness coaching to her offerings, she advocates starting small, doing what’s comfortable, and adding to the challenge slowly but surely. She insists that even starting the tiniest exercise plan can lead to a productive fitness routine in time.

“If you start by walking only one minute a day, by the end of one month you’ll be walking half an hour,” she said during a recent conversation in her Heel & Sole Podiatry office in Vineyard Haven.

As a podiatrist, many of Dr. McCrumb’s patients are senior citizens, overweight, or diabetic – those who can be prone to foot problems. But she stressed it is not necessary to be ill, elderly, or obese to need more exercise. People of all ages lead sedentary lives, do not eat right, or exercise regularly, she said. Many are too tired after working, studying, and caring for family to worry about nutrition or fitness at day’s end. Some do not realize what they’re missing. But even those who see value in exercise and healthy eating often find it a challenge to make time to work out and prepare good food. Dr. McCrumb strategizes with them creative ways to fit healthy habits into their lives.

This new pursuit began about two years ago when she noticed so many foot-care patients complained they could not exercise.

“People come in and their feet hurt, so they’re not exercising as much, so they gain weight because they’re not exercising, then their feet hurt more,” said Dr. McCrumb. “I found myself saying the same things over and over.”

Realizing that people in many situations had pain or discomfort that discouraged them from trying exercise, Dr. McCrumb wanted to intervene.

“I developed a plan to help people reverse that cycle,” she said. “It’s really important that they keep moving.”Starting with the intention of creating her own program, Dr. McCrumb discovered valuable supports were available. Both the Institute of Lifestyle Medicine of Harvard Medical School and Wellcoaches (a school for life coach training) offered the training she wanted. She took courses from both institutions, online and in the Boston area. At one seminar Dr. McCrumb was amazed to see some 600 students from around the globe, attesting to worldwide interest in the field. She is delighted that preventive medicine and wellness education is growing, and believes it will become more prevalent in the future, helping people prevent disease and stay fit.

According to Dr. McCrumb, people say they lack time and energy for exercise. But when they get sick they make dramatic changes to restore health.

“I want people to take care of themselves before they have a medical crisis,” she declared.

The process

At the first meeting, Dr. McCrumb and her client work together to find motivation and define goals. Whether it’s having energy to play with grandchildren, being fit enough to hike on vacation, lose weight, improve health, or do daily chores with ease, having a reason is important. They then work to develop a “doable” routine and set short- and longer-term goals. At first, it may be as small as walking, swimming, or cycling only 5 or 10 minutes. If walking is painful, she suggests non weight-bearing options.

“Everyone can do something,” she explained. “And finding 5 minutes a day is easier than finding 45 minutes.”

At subsequent appointments, clients report progress and pitfalls, and revise their plan, slowly increasing the challenge.

“People feel so good when they’ve done something. You build on your success.” she said.

Along with exercise guidance, Dr. McCrumb provides advice on healthy eating habits. Although not a trained nutritionist, she shares a wealth of useful, common sense information – avoid processed foods, cut out sugar and white flour, and eat plenty of fruits and vegetables.

Dr. McCrumb sets a shining example for her clients. Last year she pledged to exercise daily. She walks, bikes, or works out on the elliptical machine, has lost 20 pounds, and radiates good health. “I’m just in such better shape.”

Her clients have seen success too. Some now walk or attend a gym regularly for water aerobics or other activity. One client lost 35 pounds. People come to Dr. McCrumb for support in losing weight, reducing physical pain or stress, building strength and energy. One woman sought help reducing home clutter – and succeeded!.

“I want people to stay healthier as they age,” said Dr. McCrumb, adding that fitness is important to stay independent. She stressed that exercise and healthy living can help prevent problems like diabetes, obesity, osteoporosis, cardiac issues, and even depression. She said developing a healthy lifestyle is important for people of any age; she would especially like to consult with teens to encourage them to get started early with good habits.

Dr. McCrumb called the Vineyard an ideal place to stay healthy, thanks to a wealth of resources including gyms, classes, farmer’s markets, and the great outdoors.

“We’re so lucky, we have so many opportunities to exercise, get out of doors. We can enjoy nature and take care of ourselves at the same time. There’s so much we can do here that’s free.”

To contact Dr. McCrumb, call 508-696-8877.

Additional information

Along with Michelle McCrumb, DPM, there are other professionals on the Vineyard who offer coaching and counseling for better health, fitness, and well-being. Each has an individual style, focus, and training, and may work with clients during one-on-one appointments in person, online, by phone, or in group workshops.

Coaching is geared to each client’s specific needs and goals, and is likely to address nutrition, eating habits, stress reduction, fitness, and balanced lifestyle.

In addition, physicians, nurses, chiropractors, nutritionists, physical therapists, and a wide range of natural health practitioners are glad to suggest useful tips and guidance. Among those who provide wellness coaching and consultation are:Holly Bellebuono (vineyardherbs.com), Vineyard Herbs.Bennett Coffey (bennettcoffey.com), Healthy Living with Bennett.Roberta Kirn (bewelldanceforever.com)Patti Roads (roads2health.org), Roads 2 Health.

Phyllis Kugler (workoutandvtc.com)