Finding Fit

I remember it being so easy to stay fit as a child. I spent most of my time outdoors. I played organized sports, but that was only one or two days a week for an hour at at time. I rode my bike, hit tennis balls against the garage, shot hoops, played tag and capture the flag with neighborhood friends. I only came inside or back home when I got hungry or it got dark. Although, I clearly remember running and jumping in a pile of leaves over and over again for hours well after dark one crisp Autumn night. In the winters (Massachusetts winters were long, cold,and snowy) I would don a hat, mittens, snow pants and jacket, boots, and sometimes googles and trudge through the snow for hours building forts and snowmen, having snowball fights, sledding, or just running around trying to catch snowflakes on my tongue. In the hot summer months if I wasn’t playing tennis, I set up the sprinkler and spent hours running back and forth through it. I had no problem in high school staying in shape as I was a three sport athlete. I ran cross country and track, and spent the winter months racing on the ski slopes. I continued my athletic endeavors through college and beyond, competing in sprint triathlons and mountain bike racing. I even spent two years working as a snowboard and tennis instructor. It wasn’t until graduate school that I lost my way in terms of finding a way to stay fit. Ironically I was in school for a health related field. It was at this time, though, that I focused more on nutrition and learned quite a bit about that aspect of healthy living. Soon after earning my master’s degree, I got married, and had a couple of children. I tried running a few times a week, but pushing a stroller with thirty pounds is not easy, nor fun. The time to run alone was either the wee morning hours or late at night, and I am not a treadmill running type of gal. Once my children were in school (part time) I vowed to run, bike, or swim at least three times a week for at least thirty minutes. Running and I have a love-hate relationship. I love the endorphin high I would get from a good run. I loved being outdoors in nature. But that first mile of a run I just want to lay down on the sidewalk and cry! Anyhow, I would maintain this for a few weeks, but I always had excuses as to why I couldn’t continue. I needed sleep. It was too dark. I didn’t eat enough. It was too cold. It was too hot. Now that I have every morning free (my youngest is in morning Kindergarten) and three afternoons (thank you Kindergarten enrichment at Learning Tree!) I have time to focus on ME! I decided to join the local gym because maybe I needed others to motivate me. I needed my competitive edge back. So I joined our local Gold’s Gym and for the last two months have been steadily attending one or two classes a day at least four times a week. My goal is six days, but between my children’s sport commitments and the childcare job I have, I have to give up one, sometimes two days a week. Finally after years of not feeling very fit, I feel like my old self. I feel like I am in the best physical and mental shape of my life. For someone with anxiety disorder and bouts of depression, I am amazed at how much exercise diminishes these. Not only do I look better…. stronger…. more toned, my mental clarity has improved greatly in the last two months. I finally found my fit and enjoying it at the same time!

My husband is continually coming up with a plan of attack for his next workout because he knows if he doesn’t he just won’t exercise. Sometimes he is seriously training for a half marathon. Sometimes he is following a series of workout videos like P90x or Insanity. This week he consulted the strength and conditioning coach at the boarding school where we live and came up with a strength workout he plans on following for the next few months. When I asked my husband about cardio he mentioned his plan to do some long bike rides since he recently purchased a revamped road bike from our school bike guru. While my husband doesn’t exactly enjoy working out like I do, he knows it’s in his best interest and our family’s best interest to stay healthy. Therefore he is constantly changing the routine so he doesn’t get bored.

My paternal grandparents were the epitome of health. They downhill skied through their seventies. They cross country skied, hiked, played tennis through their eighties, and if it weren’t for Parkinson’s which took Papa when he was 92 he would still be clearing trails on the Appalachian trail and teaching my children to ski. I believe I got my love of the outdoors from him. Gram (age 90?) continues to hone her mental skills by playing bridge, reading, knitting, and visiting with friends.

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I have a friend who swims thirty minutes every day before work. Recently she joined a Master’s swim program to increase the intensity of her workouts and keep her motivated. My mother-in-law not only walks four miles a day six days a week and lifts weight to stay in shape, she also plays tennis three times a week for a couple hours each time. A pre-school teacher I know cycles about one hundred miles a week. Sometimes she wakes up at the crack of dawn get a ride in. Friends of mine who live in the northern and western parts of the country take full advantage of their surroundings by hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing, skiing, skating, etc. You have to find what works for you. So get out there and find your fit!

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