When I was younger I used to run around and play all day. We’d ride our bikes or play tag. I also played soccer from the time I was about seven and my family used to go skiing in the winter and swimming in the summer. I was a pretty active kid and moved my body without even having to think about it. I didn’t go “exercise” and I certainly didn’t think about burning calories or getting a beach body. After a few serious knee injuries and surgeries in high school, I decided to hang up my soccer cleats and for the first time ever I had to actually think about working out. I’d go to the gym or roller-blading (remember when we did that?!) or walking with friends. But it was suddenly something I had to schedule into my week or it didn’t happen.
Why is it that we take the fun and play out of movement when we get older? Why does “exercise” or a “workout” feel like something we have to do rather than something we want do? We know the importance of moving our body to our health and longevity. It helps regulate our metabolism, promotes better sleep, keeps our hormones and blood-sugar balanced, increases our ability to focus and concentrate, improves our mood, and increases our energy levels. But how about making it fun and easy again?
Here are a few of my favorite tips and suggestions when it come to moving your body:
Do something fun and that you look forward to doing. Moving your body is meant to be enjoyable!! If you are feeling like it is a “should” or a “have to” or another thing on your “to do” list, then maybe reconsider what you are doing for your movement. You are so much more likely to stick to a regular routine of moving your body if it is something you love to do!
Don’t like to run, no problem! Just walk. Walking is a great way to move the body, get some fresh air or see your neighborhood. You don’t need a treadmill to go for a walk, but if you have access to one, this can be a convenient option in the winter or very hot part of summer. Even if you don’t have time to go for a long walk, take a ten minute stroll at lunch time to get some fresh air and a break from your desk. Or park a bit farther away in the parking lot. These movements can really add up over the course of the day.
Yoga: Again, you don’t have to pay high prices for a yoga class. Some people like going to yoga class for the community, the support and guidance of the instructor, and to get into a certain mindset. These are all good reasons to go to a studio to practice yoga. But don’t let access to a studio stop you from moving and stretching your body. There are a number of great DVDs out there (like this one from Rodney Yee that is a good place to start) or free online sources for yoga. Even just doing a few stretches on your own in the morning before you start your day, mid-day at the office, or right before bed can make a big difference.
If you have trouble with your feet: try swimming, “water running,” or water aerobics. I get it. I’ve had problems with my feet too (plus challenges with knees after three knee surgeries as a teenager). If your feet need a break, then find an activity that puts less pressure on them like water activities.
Go with a friend! Not only is it more fun to workout with a friend, but you are creating accountability. You are a lot less likely to cancel on a friend, plus it can be a great way to relieve stress and catch up with your bestie.
Lastly, here are a few of my favorite ways to move my body:
I love to walk and do so for at least 15 minutes almost every day. Some times it is just 15 minute walk to and from my office. Other times I walk for over an hour chatting with my friend or family on the phone. Other times I make a walking date with a friend and walk the lake near my house. Another good tip, if possible, is to do some of your errands while walking. Pick up that birthday card for your sister or drop that bill off at the post office. Sometimes it can be helpful to have a goal or purpose in your walking as well as a motivator. Best part about walking? It’s free, it’s convenient and it’s really enjoyable! I love being in my neighborhood, seeing the flowers change over the seasons, getting some fresh air and sunshine. I am lucky enough to live in a place where I can walk outside just about year round.
I also love to dance. Did I grow up as a dancer? No. Do I sometimes have two left feet? Oh yes. But do I love to move my body to fun music anyway? Yes!!! My favorite place to shimmy and shake my body is called Hipline near my home in Oakland, California. Hipline is a really unique and special place created by two sisters, Samar and Gabriela. It’s an all-women, body-lovin’, empowering, fun community of incredible instructors and welcoming members of all shapes, sizes, and backgrounds. I always look forward to going to class and I always leave with a smile on my face. If you live in the area and want to check out Hipline, they have a free pass for first-timers. (And I promise, I’m promoting them because I love them and not because I get anything for it.) If you aren’t in the area, then I encourage you to find a dance class near you. Try a Zumba, salsa, hip-hop or African dance class and see how good your body feels! And you could always just have a dance party in your own house—put on some good music and dance with your kids, your partner or just yourself!
Lastly, I love to stretch my body. I have been doing some sort of yoga for almost 23 years. I’m not always consistent with my practice, and I certainly would not call myself a yogi. In fact, because of some of the challenges with my knees, I have to modify and adjust quite a bit in most classes (and I’m totally okay with that!). I think the key with taking a yoga class is finding the right fit. So if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Really. The personality, style and approach of the instructor can make a big difference. There are many different types of yoga that involve different poses, length of time in those poses, and even how vigorous the pace of the movements are. You might even want a different yoga class at different times of the day or week. I might be in the mood for something more rigorous in the morning but later in the week look for something more restorative and stress-reducing. If you are new to yoga, start slowly to avoid injury and remember it is not a competition!