When I was a kid
I was that kid who was always practicing dance moves. I wanted with all my heart and soul to be a ballerina. I loved everything about ballet: The practice, the attention to detail, the movement, perfected over years of practice. I loved the tutus, the buns, and the black leotards and pink shoes. The first book I ever purchased was a book on the basic ballet positions. Each night, I slowly and carefully practiced the positions before going to bed.
My mother was not at all on board with ballet, instead I was given piano lessons, which I endured for two of the longest years of my life. Finally the piano teacher noticed that I had not progressed beyond the first song in the first book. She asked me if I practiced. Of course, I practiced. My mother set the timer, and I’d sit at the keyboard. I’d labor over the first song in the first book, which I still had not mastered, while dreaming I was a bird. As soon as the bell rang, I was out the front door and down the street.
With ballet a firm no, I knew I had to find other ways to express myself physically. In the fifth grade, we were introduced to gymnastics. It looked a little like dance, so I signed up. While I was never a stellar gymnast; (I am 5’7”) it did help me develop into a strong athlete. I did finally get a shot at modern dance in middle school, but it was far too late for me to develop the skills I needed to become the prima ballerina I longed to be. In addition to gymnastics, I was an avid skier, bicyclist, tennis player and I dabbled in track and field, though it wasn’t a favorite. After high school, I danced, then took up volley ball and aerobic dancing.
By my mid twenties, I was working in an office.
My life had become sedentary, I gained weight and my body ached to move again. A friend suggested I join a gym, and quickly, I was hooked. I must say a good part of my getting involved was due to the gym’s manager. He set up work out plans for everyone and introduced us around. When I was a bit reticent to join aerobics, he made sure the aerobics instructors and I connected.
While in my twenties and thirties, a lot of the working out I did was to maintain my figure.
Over time, I got burned out getting up early to go to the gym or hitting the gym on the way home from work. Quite frankly, I’d become bored lifting weights and slogging along on the treadmill watching one of the six or eight televisions replay sports highlights or the news. After a while, the goal of keeping a svelte figure became less and less attractive, not because I didn’t want a cute figure, but because working out at they gym had become such a grind, I was no longer motivated.
This working out thing, it seems like such a drudge some times, yet our bodies need some form of exercise to stay healthy and strong, especially as we head into the later years.
Fitness at 60
I’m not going to go into a whole bunch of statistics about how exercise helps us stay healthy and improves our quality of life. Nor am I going to talk about how building muscle mass and maintaining bone density is so important as we head into our later years. We’ve all read those articles, and if that type of information doesn’t already inspire you, it’s not going to.
Unfortunately, the American lifestyle does not lend itself, nor really encourage a “healthy” lifestyle. Unless one lives in a big city or a one of the new “walkable” communities, we tend to drive everywhere. Many of us have given up our passions for dance and sport when business and family life intervened. Sedentary habits are hard to break, but if you want to make this chapter the best ever, making room for healthy habits has to be on the agenda.
Bottom line, it’s on us to decide how we go forward.
We know there are no guarantees that healthy eating and fitness will extend our lives. Maybe we’ve over exercised and hurt ourselves at some point along the way and we don’t want that again. Maybe we’re over coming illness or a long period of not having time for a healthy diet or fitness regimen and we know getting back in the saddle is going to be hard. The only thing I can tell you is this: the women in my life who have lived the longest and were healthy up to the end were women who walked daily. From my point of view, I’d rather be as healthy as possible going forward, so I continue to make time to exercise.
This week’s questions:
- Do I want to increase the amount of exercise I do?
- What type of exercise do I want to do?
- What, if anything do I need to do to prepare for more exercise?
- What motivates me?
- What inspires me?
As soon as you make up your mind to improve your fitness level and you know what you want to do to get improve your fitness level, make sure you schedule it in your calendar and break down any potential barriers to your being able to do it each day.
For example, I committed to walking 20 minutes each day when I started getting back into shape several years ago. I lived in a beautiful neighborhood, so walking around the neighborhood was the plan. I’d get up and put my walking clothes on so I’d be ready to go. I’d drop Brooke off at school and headed out on my walk when I got home.
On sunny days, I’d get right out and walk. However, on rainy or hot days, I needed a plan “B”. So I’d walk in the mall. I then purchased a used treadmill. I made a point of fitting in my twenty minutes no matter what.
Power tip: I find it’s best to set a specific time to do this each day, otherwise, it’s easy to let it slip.
I put a star on my calendar for each day I met my 20 minute goal and did a little happy dance at the end of each month when I achieved a full 30 day streak. I got fun music for the days when I had to use the treadmill. Soon my walking was a habit; it actually felt a bit odd when I didn’t do it. Best of all, the better I felt, the more exercising I did. My success with walking lead me to try yoga and ultimately ice skating. It also helped motivate me to improve my diet. Next week: Small tweaks to your diet that make a big difference.