I took a walk this morning, a good old-fashioned walk, at a brisk pace. I feel pretty good about that. No, it probably won’t have me “bathing suit ready” by summer, but in addition to optimism, I am working on realism. I am in my late 30s. My lifelong dream of looking like the 24 year old on the cover of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue is officially over. I didn’t look like that 15 years ago and, not that I was ever going to rival Irina, but I blew any chance to make the most of a young body by eating cafeteria food and drinking nickel beers. I am certainly not going to pull off sexy in the sand after giving birth to five children and living in a house with a bar. I am shooting for acceptable and not repulsive this summer. I am also shooting for a long, healthy life.
You can’t pick up a magazine or turn on the news without seeing the latest in workout trends. As with dieting, these are great if they work for you – if they motivate you and get you moving. If not, there is nothing wrong with the tried and true methods that have been working for years. Turn off the home shopping network and put on your sneakers.
- Walking – You don’t need a gym membership, you don’t need to be in great shape. You do need good walking shoes to avoid injury and, either a good playlist or a good friend, to avoid boredom. The amount of calories burned depends on your weight and speed. A decent estimate is that you will burn between 60-100 calories per mile.
- Running – I can’t run. Really. If a wild animal ever chases me, call me “lunch”. I used to be able to run – when I was about seven. Since then, I only run around, run my dishwasher, run my children’s lives, and run up my credit card bill. The few times that I have tried to run, it was a contest between my chest, thighs, and shins to see which was going to explode first. My goal, this summer, is to be able to run a 5K – because I like the sound of it. “I’m training for a 5K.” Or, “How far did you run today?” “Oh, just a quick 5K.” Not only does it sound cool, running is great for your cardiovascular health, great for your mental health, and, like walking, does not need a whole lot of equipment or time. Running will burn more calories than walking based on time, because you are moving more quickly. But, it burns about the same amount of calories when calculated by distance.
- Weight lifting – Weight bearing exercise is essential for bone and muscle health. More on this later in the week. If you want to fight osteoporosis, fight sagging arms or actually fight someone, there is no substitute for lifting heavy things. Start small and increase your weights for your ability and for your desired results.
- Stretching – Granted, joints and ligaments aren’t sexy, but neither are ace bandages and casts. Don’t underestimate the importance of staying limber as you age. Even if you can’t get to the yoga studio, make some time each day to work on your range of motion and your flexibility. It can protect you from injury and make you feel younger, taller and more energized.
- Playing – Tennis, basketball, soccer, raquetball or just general horsing around in your yard or local park are great ways to get in shape. Just because you are having fun, doesn’t mean you didn’t build some strength and burn some calories.
I stopped getting proofed at the liquor store many moons ago. The compliment I now receive most often is, “You look good for having five kids.” I am not sure what I am supposed to look like after four pregnancies, but I’ll take what I can get. As I said earlier, it is time to accept the things I cannot change. While I am fairly resourceful, I cannot change the passage of time nor the effects of gravity. I will, though, strive to change the things I can. I know that exercise will make my jeans fit a little better and ease the shock factor on the scale. More importantly, I know that it will decrease my stress, strengthen my bones, loosen my joints and be good to my heart in many ways. I used to think of it as a luxury for those who had the time. I know, now, that it is a necessity for those who want to have more time. Find something you like and just do it. (Do I have to pay royalties to Nike for writing that?)
Tomorrow: New trends in exercise.