I am not a fitness guru nor am I a qualified exercise therapist. But one thing that makes me a good candidate to talk about fitness, specialized or in general, is that I can speak from experience. I do not have a degree in sports science or sports psychology but I can relate well with fitness in the sense that I’ve played sports with modest distinction. My motivation for writing this post is that I’d like to encourage those of you to tone down your exercise regimes.
Let me begin by sketching my background. In high school I played first team girls’ hockey for a number of years. In my final year of high school I only gave up the sport to focus more on my studies. At that time, I was enjoying my running more and it was a more flexible pursuit that I could practice while still studying. I thought, at the time, I showed more promise in road running than hockey, but little did I know. I played tennis for a while but didn’t fare well, particularly in doubles.
My motivation for writing this post on the need to take your exercise regimes a little less seriously and begin to have more fun with it comes mainly from the personal experience of trying to do too much. Funny enough, while I was obsessed on the road, I was also obsessed at my study desk. And it was only in my last two years that I took a more relaxed approach towards my studies which, of course, helped me excel during my finals. Sadly, it was too little too late for me on the road running circuit.
But by the time I returned to exercising a few years later, I already had a more modest approach towards the regimes. I was now too old to lop chunks of minutes off of my previous PBs. I was never going to run under two minutes ten for the eight hundred on the track, nor was I ever going to break the three hour mark in the standard marathon again. So I thought I may as well relax and enjoy myself and let my body decide how fast it wants to go or how many more circuits it wants to take on in Central Park.
Just two or three times a week, for not longer than thirty minutes at a time, I now do body toning exercises rather than lifting weights in the gym. I do this in my living room on an old mat and put on a bit of light, background music to help me through the minutes. I cancelled my gym membership yonks ago. I gave up waiting in line for my turn to use the equipment. And while I can be a crowd pleaser myself, I did not enjoy bumping into sweaty, frustrated, mean-spirited and stressed bodies all of the time.
And if you like loud, pumping noise, you’re probably far better off going to a late-night club on the outskirts of town. You’ll get a better and far more enjoyable workout forgetting all your troubles of the day dancing on the dance floor. Just make sure the club’s clean, respectable and safe. And make sure you are able to get home safely afterwards in the taxi. Skipping rope is an intensely difficult exercise for those who are a bit on the heavy side. But start with just one or two minutes at a time and you’ve already had a massive cardiovascular work-out.
Swimming does that too. But for most of us, this remains difficult. In Jersey the other day, this guy’s mom asked me whether I could swim. As athletic as I am, I still can’t manage more than a few strides at a time. But never mind that. All you need to do is take your body to the shallow end of the municipal pool, steady yourself along the railings and begin by gently kicking your legs. You can also stand on your feet and mimic swimming strokes with your arms.
Cycling at a modest pace is good too. Although I’d much prefer it if you do this if your neighborhood or nearby park has designated cycling lanes. Cycling on busy public roads, to my mind, is far too dangerous and your mind is preoccupied with dodging traffic and watching out for rogue drivers all of the time. To compensate, you can always get yourself a stationary bike and pedal for a half hour or so in your living room, listening to your favorite music or even watching a show on TV. Some girls even managed to do a bit of reading this way. While the body is being exercised moderately, the mind also remains focused and/or preoccupied.
I have to close with my favorite exercise. No matter what pace you do it at and no matter where, walking is always great. No-one is asking you to lumber up stairs, but do take the stairs at work instead of a crowded elevator. Take advantage of your nearby parks or even your neighborhood (if it’s a safe one). You can walk peacefully in solitude or in friendship with one of your buddies. And if you’re physically challenged at this time, do your walking at a pace that does not put too much strain on you.