During my youth I mistakenly equated health with athletic ability. I had little to no athletic ability. I was the last girl chosen to be on any team sport in gym, the subject that always prevented me from getting straight As. I don’t come from an athletic or a physically active family, and healthy eating was not always impressed upon us because food choices were simply made based on what my parents could afford. It’s not a criticism; it’s simply the way things were.
Health education increased my awareness of healthy living and good nutrition. I began to change my eating habits and to exercise. I’d like to say I’ve been consistent, but over the years habits and consistency have wavered.
In my early thirties while working 12-hour nights and returning to school, I purchased a Nordic Track: a cross-country skiing machine. Despite my schedule, I used it for 1 hour a day, 6-7 days a week until a coworker, an exercise fanatic, advised me to change my routine because that really was not the best way to exercise. On his advice, I changed my routine to every other day, then every 2 days, then a few times per week. Eventually I lost interest, and my Nordic Track became a giant clothes hanger.
For a time I lost interest in exercise and gained weight. I then joined the Y, and discovered the stair master. By then, I was so out of shape I could barely last 5 minutes, but I persevered and mastered those stairs working my way up to 45 minutes per session. I was toned, my butt was tight, and I was smaller in dress size than I had ever been in my adult life. Not knowing what we know now about high impact exercises, my knees paid the price for my vanity. Between pain, costly membership, and relocation, I divorced the Y.
I won’t bore you with my long history of gym memberships, fad diets, prepackaged food systems, weekly weight loss weigh-ins, exercise equipment purchases, DVDs, and metabolism-increasing pills and shakes.
Move ahead a few decades: A year ago I again joined a gym and signed up for personal training sessions that cost more than the monthly maintenance fee on my condo. I was desperate after a few sessions with a nutritionist who was less than professional in discussing my weight issue. The good news: I did things with my body I didn’t think were even possible. Physically, I had never worked my body so hard as during those HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) sessions and the benefits in strength and endurance were visible. The bad news: My knees again became an issue and between the limitations the pain imposed and the cost, I stopped. This time, however, the pain in my knees endured. An orthopedist, the third I’d seen in about 6 years, prescribed 4 weeks of physical therapy and then another 4 after I finished the first set.
Physical therapy made a significant difference with regard to pain and mobility, but it also made a difference in terms of toning and weight loss. Those slow deliberate exercises that didn’t leave me panting and begging for mercy had many of the same effects as my jarring, high-impact stair master sessions and some of the HIIT exercises. Yes, the aerobic component was missing but with time I can return to walking long distances.
I commend those of you who found the barre, Pilates, and yoga while the rest of us were gym hopping, high-impacting, embarrassingly weighing-in, and wasting hard-earned cash on anything that promised to slim us down faster without starvation.
My experience with exercise, fitness, and finding what works is not unique. Fitness is a life-long struggle, but if you can relate to any part of my experience, I suggest that instead of gym hopping and the like, find an exercise you enjoy-dancing, yoga, barre, biking, etc.
There are ways to accomplish your weight and fitness goals without injury and without pain.
Below are a few links to entries from the Falling Overbored blog-a gentler approach to fitness.
- Barre 101
- Learning to Plank: A 30 Day Challenge
- How I Finally Learned to NOT Cancel My Workout
- Get Pumped for Your Workout with This Playlist
My Fitness Pal also has a blog called Hello Healthy that focuses 4 health-related activities: eating, moving, living, and learning. Here, you’ll find informative blogs entitled 4-Week Walking Plan for Beginners (DVD not required) and What Type of Workout is Right for You and many more.
Exercise should be fun and should leave you with a sense of accomplishment for doing something to improve your health. We can reach our health and fitness goals while enjoying the path we take to get us there.