Oct 312011

A soak in the hottub can feel good after a long swim

I was swimming a series of 6 200 freestyles in my Masters workout this morning and relishing the experience of feeling fit. I wasn’t out of breath, my legs didn’t feel heavy, I didn’t feel my stroke fall apart or physical pain strike at the 150. Instead, I had this incredible feeling of freedom. And power. Every stroke felt long and smooth, every push off the wall powerful, every breath like my lungs had plenty of room and more for the air. The water rushed by my body like a massage, reminding me of my sleekness, my strength, my speed. And instead of thinking “this hurts,” I thought “Wow, it feels so amazing to be in such amazing swimming shape!” And indeed, I did feel amazing and have been feeling that way a lot, as if the water is really my domain.

I wish people struggling to make time or find the motivation for workouts could jump inside my body for just one workout and experience the sheer joy I feel being a fast, efficient swimmer. You don’t have to be a swimmer to enjoy that fantastic fitness feeling. You can be in walking shape, running shape, cycling shape and more. I have been out of shape (in the water and on land) before and I know it feels like the absolute dickens to workout when you are deconditioned and your body is fighting hard against you establishing a new inertia of activity over sedentary living. You have to hang in there long enough to experience that “I’m fit” elation. The fact that I love being fit means I don’t struggle with weight and heart disease and diabetes won’t be a part of my future.

So if you’re not there yet, keep trying because it is a goal worth achieving. To elevate your fitness level to that place where you just might hear that voice of gratitude inside your head saying, “Thanks for making this all possible, for letting me live in this amazing body that can do so much more than I ever imagined.” And then you will know that fitness has become a part of your life that you will never let go. And if you are there, please share your experiences of enlightenment with other readers.

Oct 252011

Whenever my fitness classes start to feel stale rather than fresh, I know its time to learn more. Conferences and research get me pumped back up. At fitness conferences, such as Fitness Fest and IDEA, I learn new techniques, exercises, and research relevant to my work as a fitness professional. I run out the door bursting with excitement to put what I’ve learned into practice. I literally can’t wait to teach my next class.

It should be like that with your workouts as well. When enthusiasm flags, you seek a way to bring that excitement back to exercising. If your strength training workouts are putting you to sleep, you hire a trainer to show you exercises that are safe, yet different from what you’ve been doing. If you are tired of going it alone during workouts, you join group exercise classes or a group of individuals that do an activity you enjoy. If you have reached a plateau where you aren’t seeing any improvement, you try cross training with less familiar modalities to kick your body back in high gear.

Here in Tucson, we have groups that meet to do many different activities including swimming (we have at least 4 Masters teams – azlmsc.org for Arizona; see www.usms.org for a list in other parts of the country), hiking, running (Southern Arizona Roadrunners – www.azroadrunners.org), mountain biking (Sonoran Desert Mountain Bicyclists – www.sdmb.org), and road biking (Greater Arizona Bicycling Association – GABA – www.bikegaba.org). For those of you who live in SaddleBrooke, there are groups for you right in your neighborhood. I recently learned that the SaddleBrooke Hiking club even has a daily fitness walk at 6:30 that meets at the HOA 1 basketball court (a newsletter on the group can be picked up in the HOA 1 fitness center). Even residents who don’t feel comfortable walking on uneven surfaces can get out there and walk and meet new people.

If your current group exercise class isn’t meeting your needs, shop around until you find a class you find one that’s fun and meets your fitness objectives. Many people I work with report getting excited about trying a new kind of group exercise format such as Zumba or taking lessons to improve their golf or tennis game.

Knowledge can get you excited about working out, too. It can be empowering to read how taking charge of your fitness can reduce your risk of getting Type 2 diabetes, improve bone and muscle density, energy level, reduce body fat, improve HDL (good cholesterol), reverse the “age” of your muscle cells, and much more. Many fitness enthusiasts attend fitness conferences and read every article out there about health and fitness. If knowledge fuels your fire, go out there and get educated! Women’s Health, Men’s Health, Fitness, American Fitness, and the IDEA Fitness Journal are just some magazines I read often. It is important to use your intellect and reasoning to evaluate the quality of what you are reading. There is a lot of misinformation out there as well. Sometimes discussing what you’ve read with a fitness or medical professional can be helpful. The American College of Sports Medicine is a reputable source, which offers annual recommendations pertaining to cardiovascular and strength training for individuals wanting to maintain fitness and/or lose weight.

Whatever you need to do to bounce out of bed excited to move that body, figure it out and then go for it. Your body and mind will be glad you did.