They say we get wiser as we age.. I do believe this to be true only if we take in the world around us, digest it, absorb it and apply it to our lives.
I grew up knowing the benefits of exercise. My dad, an organic farmer by passion, was my role model in terms of fitness. He would walk 5 - 10 miles every day.. and, this was before walking was even popular. Nobody walked back then! He would challenge me to accompany him on his walks.. which, for the most part, I had no interest in. Then one day when he walked 10 miles and told me he felt great afterward, I asked him if I could walk with him when he decided to do 10 miles again. It was 2 days later and he said he was ready. That, in and of itself, impressed me! Two days later? Really? He was about 45 years old and was ready to walk 10 miles after just a 2 day rest? I was 15 and was begrudging it. I decided to take the challenge.
First off, it was a great time to connect with my dad. We talked about so many things on that walk and laughed about many of them. When I would complain that I needed a rest, he would say, “Just breathe and keep walking, although you could slow down the pace.” We stopped after 5 miles, took a little breather, and then walked the last 5 back home. Wow! I felt SO good afterward that I kept talking about it for days. I realized I accomplished something I thought I couldn’t do, connected with my dad, felt more confident and began to think about what exercise program I could incorporate into my life (besides gym class at school).
Fast forward to my mid-20’s, 30’s, 40’s and part way through my 50’s.. I ran! Yes, running became my form of exercise. I entered into marathons (no — not the New York Marathon, although I contemplated it), ran about 5-7 miles every day and did some cardio as well on most of those days. I was definitely fit but had a gnawing lower back pain most of the time.
In my early-50’s, something shifted. I became interested in nutrition, changed my food selections, ate mostly organic, explored different super foods, and began to change my form of exercise. I started researching how stress (even in the form of exercise) can cause various physical and emotional symptoms and I also began taking a look at how I felt before and after exercise. It was the first time I made the connection between dreading something but doing it anyway because I thought the benefits would win out. Boy was I not listening to my body.
I always tell my clients that our bodies know. We just don’t listen all the time. That “gut feeling” or “intuition” is usually our bodies way of telling us that something is out of balance and we need to address it. Many times we ignore that voice and continue doing what we do until we get physically sick.
I now view exercise as something pleasurable that I plan into my day. Pilates is my form of exercise as well as 12 minutes of a high intensity interval workout on an elliptical machine. I do some form of Pilates every day — an ab series, some footwork on a reformer and some spinal articulation such as shoulder bridge, rolling like a ball or open leg rocker. Planks are always a daily part of my routine as they are an all-body exercise.. I love that! For my high intensity interval training, I get on the elliptical and set the timer for 12 minutes. I start on a level 2 and pedal for 1 minute, change it to level 10 and pedal vigorously for 1 minute, change it back to level 2 for two minutes, back to level 10 for 1 vigorous minute and back to level 2 for two minutes, back to level 10 for 1 vigorous minute and back to level 2 for two minutes. I keep pedaling at a level 2 until I have burned up 100 calories and then I get off — I am usually getting off at the cool down with is about 13-14 minutes in. Voila!!!! Done! The important thing to remember is to breathe in and out of your nose the entire time — no breathing into the mouth!! That’s important. You shouldn’t be panting. If you are, change the level and intensity.
Find an exercise routine that works for you. Exercise is stressful on the body so keep check on not overdoing it. Do something you look forward to doing. Stretching is wonderful first thing in the morning and a brisk walk can do wonders.
Our bodies are meant to move.. we should be moving into older age with ease and grace.. not physical decline due to years of pushing the envelope too far. Mindful exercise is key to optimal health. Think about what you like in the form of exercise and incorporate it into your daily routine. Challenge yourself but don’t overly stress your body — it’s just not sustainable.
What’s your exercise routine these days?