Erase and Rewind #4 - Younger Blog
Posted on 28 February 2016
1 We all begin at the beginning
Some have no sad stories, and we are happy for you. For those who want to know that sad stories can have a happy ending, read on. For those who just want to cut to the chase of the how-to, skip to 'Tear it down, build it up'..
When my first husband passed away, I was relatively young, barely thirty. But I did not look or feel thirty or young. The personal and work-related stress of the years preceding his death taught me the truth of the adage ‘it’s not the years, it’s the mileage'. I had grown up blessed with a metabolism that allowed me to eat anything and not put on weight. But by the time my husband died, I had put on forty pounds. Grief added to the work stress in my life and, a year later, I looked twenty years older.
My well-intentioned friend Candy was an aerobics instructor. Her prescription for snapping me out of it was simple: she took me to run on the beach. In a couple of minutes she was a speck on the horizon, and I could not even plod in the wet sand. Other friends talked me into buying a stepper and step videos. Half-way through, I turned it off and never turned it on again. I saw joggers and got the bright idea to set the alarm for five in the morning so I could run before work. I set off and half block later the stitch in my side forced me to return home. How was I supposed to exercise to improve my health and lose weight when I barely had the energy to move?
I was working long hours at IBM as a technical writer, stressed by deadlines that became tighter as my department downsized and spread the work out among the remaining writers. I refused to go home and cook 'just for myself' so after work I would eat out, trying a different cuisine each night. I ate while reading a book so that I could isolate myself from the couples seated around me, a reminder that I was alone and no one was waiting for me at home. My friend Candy again tried to help me. She was concerned because I caught every cold and flu bug. She invited me to one of her aerobics classes. When the students hopped to the right, I hopped to the left. After a few minutes, I could no longer hop. I did not try again, because I did not need another reminder in my life that I was unhealthy and clumsy.
One day, I drove by a place near my home that would begin to change my life. It was a small body-builder’s gym in a strip mall. Why something so completely out of my normal world would seem interesting, I do not know. Perhaps the fact that I seemed to be out of options drove me to check it out. I joined and every day after work I went directly to the little gym. I was clueless, but I watched the body builders using the free weights and tried to imitate what they did. I did not know at the time that weight lifting is also beneficial for the heart and that my workouts with the weights were providing the cardiovascular benefits that I desperately needed after a decade of desk work.
As my heart rejuvenated, my energy levels increased. Whether the cardiovascular benefits were also energizing my mind, I did not know, I only know that for the first time since I was a teenager I wanted to write again and I wanted to learn new things. The increased energy also created the need for a physical outlet, and I began to play music and dance in the house. My dancing became more energetic and so did my workouts with the weights. My energy continued to increase, and I joined a group of friends that ice-skated on the weekends. Because I grew up in the city, I was always a late bloomer when it came to learning sports and physical activities. In my very late teens, I had learnt how to roller skate (remember roller disco?). Now, here I was in my mid-thirties learning to ice skate.
Your mission: if you already have an activity that you love, take it up again. If you don't, be adventurous. If you life near water, try paddleboarding or canoeing. If you live in an urban area, take the stairs as much as you can. If your destination is only a few blocks from the train or bus, walk. If you can join a group activity, especially with a friend, do so. Whether a hard-body gym or Curves, consistency is the key. Talk a few friends into walking or going to the pool either before or after work. Plan ahead for the weekends and find an activity (wall climbing, hiking, walking in the woods or winter sports) that will get you out into fresh air. Remember to incorporate stretching, especially when you get up in the morning. Not only will you become more flexible, but you will prevent unnecessary injuries.
Start a diary, paper or online. Keep track of even the smallest amount of time that you spend stretching or in any form of excercise. Don't wait until tomorrow: start today, even if it's only five minutes. It adds up.
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