Keeping a diary throughout this fitness journey has kept me accountable. It has also chronicled my daily activities, experiences, thoughts, conclusions, evaluations … and, yes, even my complaints!
Last week’s lack of motivation was just a hiccup. Today I had a great deal of energy and enthusiasm. Amazing how our bodies repair and rejuvenate. I will be ready for Eddie to increase the frequency, intensity, time and type of a few exercises this week.
After my session today, it dawned on me that while my fitness journey with Eddie will surely continue into the foreseeable future, my articles for The Jewish Voice are quickly coming to an end. My last commentary (Part 8) will be May 27. I’ve already been asked to write a “check-in” column every so often.
According to both Eddie and Lisa, the weekly empirical data show that I have lost some weight, inches and body fat; I have gained strength, endurance and flexibility. I still don’t want to know exactly what I weigh or specifically how many inches have fallen off my hips – those numbers hardly seem important. What is critical is that I have gained more confidence, which cannot be measured by scales and charts. The three of us agree that feelings are equally significant and confirm other people’s observations: my skin is glowing, my clothes fit better, I am standing taller and I am setting a good example for my family.
Becoming the best version of myself: Strong. Confident. Secure. Powerful. Hopeful. Satisfied. Blessed.
I took a yoga class today with a colleague and loved how “in tune” I felt with my body. Roughly translated, “Namaste” means “I bow to you” and represents peace, honor and reverence. For me, the word evoked a spiritual connection; it reminded me to respect and appreciate my body.
Henry David Thoreau once wrote, “An early-morning walk is a blessing for the whole day.” I would have to agree with him!
The awkward person who accepted this challenge weeks ago is not the same woman who exists today.
Eddie introduced me to some new exercises today. Not only did I pick them up right away, but I was able to add a good amount of weight to each of them!
I know very little about anatomy, physiology, kinesiology, biomechanics, sports conditioning, exercise science or physical education. What I do know is that it feels good when I move my body. God designed us to be active. I have established a greater appreciation and awareness of my mobility, flexibility and agility through this process – something I did not expect to obtain.
“Movement is medicine,” Eddie said. “I really believe that.”
“Me too!” I chimed enthusiastically.
But if you’re thinking it’s too late for you to get fit, I want to share two stories and encourage you to take heart.
Let me tell you about a man I have always admired – my dad. Call it good genes or just good luck, he lives an exceptional life. At 75, he works out regularly and opts to walk 18 holes instead of taking a cart when he golfs every Sunday nine months out of the year. Dad still works full time at an educational collaborative. This is not a job for the faint of heart. Each day my father encounters students between the ages of 15 and 22 years with cognitive delays, communication deficits, neuromotor disabilities, psychiatric issues and/or behavioral challenges. His role is to help these youngsters develop vocational, educational and life skills that will enable them to become productive citizens in their communities. My father acknowledges that his healthy standard of living gives him the upper edge whether he’s in the classroom or on the green.
If you’re like my father, God has blessed you. You are hale and hearty. It’s likely you’ve been active physically and mentally for a good number of years. Many would credit your health, resilience and happiness to an active lifestyle.
Then there’s a woman I’ll call Darlene. Darlene was a chubby child, developed an eating disorder in her early teens and spent the next 30 plus years as a chronic dieter – gaining, losing and regaining weight. She topped off at nearly 300 pounds. That’s a lot of body mass on a 5’1” frame. She lived a sedentary lifestyle and ate poorly, suffered from depression, was pre-diabetic, endured swelling and joint pain in her ankles and had difficulty breathing. For her, a stroke or a heart attack was waiting to happen. Darlene wasn’t fully living, and she was certain that in a few years she’d meet the same fate as her mother – an early death due to an unhealthy lifestyle.
Unexpectedly, Darlene stumbled across a quote attributed to Edward Stanley, a British statesman and the Earl of Derby, in his address “The Conduct of Life” at Liverpool College in December of 1873. He claimed “Those who think they have not time for bodily exercise will sooner or later have to find time for illness.”
Darlene realized that she needed to make significant modifications to her lifestyle. Subsequently, the changes that occurred were nothing short of miraculous. With the help of a Twelve-Step program, a registered dietician, a routine fitness program and personal trainer, as well as the loving support of friends and family, Darlene has altered her eating habits, maintained a 160-pound weight loss, lowered her risk for heart disease, improved her mood, increased social interactions, developed muscle mass and developed what I would consider a “darling figure.” Moreover, she has acquired a new lease on life. She has a sense of purpose today.
Numerous studies have shown that even older people respond very positively to both strength training and aerobic exercise. There can be a huge difference between biological age and chronological age. While you may be 65, you don’t have to feel 65. I read that most doctors and fitness experts agree that simple lifestyle changes, such as those I have described over the past few months, can add years to one’s life.
If that doesn’t give you hope, I can’t imagine what else could. Do you want to be well? Quit making excuses, and do something to take back your life.
It only took eight weeks, but today I realized what was missing from my wellness routine – rest. I’m not talking about an occasional catnap or relaxing on the couch at the end of the day. I’m referring to pure slumber, the natural suspension of voluntary bodily functions and of consciousness.
I have a habit of forcing myself to stay awake to watch nighttime television long past the point of exhaustion. (Gotta see how the show will end, right?) The next day I undoubtedly regret it. Even marginal sleep loss takes a toll on my attitude, energy and mental sharpness. Without adequate hours of restorative sleep, I have been unable to work, learn, create and communicate at a level even close to my true potential.
When I have failed to get consistent and sufficient sleep, I deny my body the opportunity to repair and regrow tissues, build bone and muscle and strengthen my immune system. The idea of getting my beauty sleep isn’t a myth. Skimping on sleep can also increase fine lines and wrinkles, produce sagging eyelids, create dark circles under one’s eyes and cause a paler complexion. Why, sleep may be the closest I’ll ever come to the fountain of youth! Signing off so I can catch some ZZZs.
KARA MARZIALI is the director of Communications for the Jewish Alliance.