From the televised days of Jack Lalanne (the “Godfather of Fitness” from the 1950s to 1980s) to Richard Simmons to Jane Fonda, exercise gurus have promoted the health benefits of getting up off your rear end and shaking your booty.
People who, as youths, played sports or worked out, are better prepared to stay fit in the elder years, but it’s never too late to start exercising, including folks who have never lifted a dumb bell or done a jumping jack.
Always consult your physician before beginning a new fitness regime. But do begin a new fitness regime. Why wait until New Year’s to make a trendy, yet empty, resolution?
I resolved to stay fit for life on a day I’ll never forget: Thanksgiving 2010. After an active life, and having exercised from age 9 when I joined the local swim team, at age 54, I had survived two years of Graves Disease (hyperthyroidism), where, among other symptoms, I had almost no strength and slept 18 hours a day.
On that fateful day, I stood in front of a mirror, flexing my stomach muscles – or so I thought. Having been very athletic before my illness, I was astonished to see…nothing. No movement. All in my head.
That did it. I unfurled my yoga mat in the living room and found a fitness channel on TV. In fact, it was called “The Fitness Channel.”
EASY DOES IT
No matter what your physical condition when you begin an exercise program, go easy on yourself. “Train, don’t strain,” was one of my swim coach’s favorite truisms.
If you are used to exercise, but are coming back from a lay-off, ease back into your routine.
If you have never flexed and extended anything but your drinking elbow, proceed with mindful caution. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and you won’t get fit in 24 hours, either.
When I started on November 24, 2010, on one of the days Americans traditionally overeat, there I sat on the padded floor, with my legs stretched out in front of me. I could flex my upper body forward toward my toes about [TA-DAAAA!] one inch. “Disappointing. But, easy to improve from this sad state of affairs,” I thought.
My long road back to fitness started with 5-10 minute daily sessions for all but one day a week. At first, I did only very basic, easy yoga (stretching). My goal was to work out five days a week, so I actually aimed at working out seven days a week. Every day I would ask myself the same question: “Is today a work-out day?” Two days a week I got to say no to myself. You may need to devise a different tactic to make sure you keep up your good workouts. (More on this later.)
Then, by the end of 2010, I added the same amount of time for very light cardio work-outs. A few months later, I added very light hand weights (1-lb to 5-lb dumb bells) to my workouts.
On Thanksgiving 2011, I posted photos of my new, buff-n-tuff self on social media. Compared to the condition I’d been in a year before, my results were just short of phenomenal. I posted more pix in 2013, to encourage others to pursue their dreams of physical well-being.
Perhaps you have doubts about getting started and sticking to your new lifestyle choices, all by yourself? In that case, find a work-out buddy (preferably, someone who won’t laugh at your sweat suit) or engage the services of a professional trainer.
If you are still reluctant about jumping on the fitness bandwagon, consider that healthy people not only live longer, but enjoy life more by improving its quality. Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to touch your toes, if you can’t do that right now?
Bear in mind that there are two kinds of exercise: aerobic, which delivers more oxygen to your body by pumping your blood and increasing your heart rate (e.g., walking, running, and cycling); and anaerobic, which builds muscle strength with less oxygen delivery (e.g., push-ups, chin ups, and crunches).
A well-rounded fitness plan will include stretching, cardio (aerobic), and strengthening (non-aerobic) activities.
Now that (hopefully) you are ready to get started creating a healthier YOU, here are just a few tips I’d like to share, based on my life-long work-out experience:
- DON’T OVERTHINK THIS
It doesn’t matter if you join a gym or “jump around the living room in front of the TV” (as I do). If you sit and “video veg” for long periods of time, try simply standing up and sitting down during the commercials. Then, when you get stronger, add a forward knee-bend leg lift, like marching. Then, add a leg extension toward the TV after mastering the leg lift. The important thing is to do something you aren’t doing now.
- “NEVER GIVE UP, NEVER SURRENDER!” (-Galaxy Quest)
It doesn’t matter if you don’t meet all your goals, whether you express them as times per week, belt loops loosened, or clothes sizes reduced. If you fall off the work-out horse, get back up on it as soon as possible. And remember to ease back in after a layoff.
- YOU FIRST
It doesn’t matter what anyone else around you things about your personal fitness program. This is about YOU, and good health is the best present you can give yourself. Trust me, you will have the last laugh when you are the one who looks good in a bathing suit, not your critics.
THE JEAN BROIDA FIT-FOR-LIFE CHALLENGE
Maya Fiennes (“fines”) says, in her excellent DVD series, “In yoga, youth is defined by the flexibility of the spine. To stay young, stay flexible.”
My quality of life has definitely improved, having kept my promise to myself not to grow both old and decrepit. Since I haven’t died yet, I want to keep moving – and I do! Exercise and general fitness will always be an integral part of my lifestyle, by my choice. Why not makes it part of yours, too?
A fit person is not a perfect person. I have been known to [gasp!] eat sugary foods. Like, pretty much every day. But, I also eat fruits and vegetables. Find what works for you. Dr. Atkins talked a lot about making substitutions in your life, to create an actual lifestyle change, rather than merely follow a new diet or regime.
The notion of “fitness for life” is really a mindset that is pro-health in other departments of life. Not only do fit people work out regularly – walking the dog counts, by the way – they typically choose more nutritious foods.
There are also “mental fitness” classes and exercises to keep those cranial synapses snapping. Studies have shown that people who work crossword puzzles and play quiz (memory) games stay sharper than those who “stop thinking.”
The final component of great human health is your “spiritual muscle” – or faith in a power greater than yourself. Not everyone puts stock into this aspect of fit living, but looking inward, counting one’s blessings, giving freely, and expressing gratitude are very healing actions.
On this day in mid-December 2017, will you accept the Jean Broida Fit-for-Life Challenge?
All you have to do is…DO SOMETHING – ANYTHING – to “nudge” your life into a new direction, toward better health and happiness. Add some exercise, improve your diet, help out a friend (or a stranger), and thank your lucky stars you live in a great nation like ours.
Please use the Comments section below to share your fitness experiences, and let us know how you’re doing.
In closing, may I offer this toast?
“TO YOUR GOOD HEALTH!”