Since embarking on this journey, I have come to realize that there is no “last stop.” While I initially had no particular destination, I have enjoyed the sights along the way, and I want to continue my travels.
I had set goals and hoped to achieve certain conditions, but the real markers were a new-found joy and sense of well-being. This profound and unexpected change occurred gradually, and it seemed almost too good to be true, as if it had been scripted as a happy ending to this written column.
Without sounding too schmaltzy, I must acknowledge that I could not have done this without the reassurance, support and commitment from Eddie Fleury. I am grateful to Lisa Mongeau and Fran Ostendorf for dreaming up this idea and having faith that I would actually last eight weeks. I also want to thank the J-Fitness and BodySoul staff, my Alliance colleagues, Dwares JCC members and readers like you who encouraged me. Every “keep up the good work” or “way to go” ignited my desire to carry on.
While my “Fitness Journey” articles were often filled with familiar platitudes (and maybe some proselytizing), here is one I haven’t yet shared: Wellness, good health, exercise, aging, courage and acceptance are not mutually exclusive. They are truly in accord with one another. So get motivated and get moving. I look forward to seeing some of you trudge this road with me.
Here’s to feeling healthy, staying fit and loving life!
KARA MARZIALI is the communications director of the Jewish Alliance.
Kara’s top 5 Fitness Journey tips
Check with your doctor. Obviously. Though I doubt he or she will discourage you, ask your physician for medical clearance before you start to exercise, especially if you have an existing health condition or you’ve been inactive for a long time.
Evaluate and accept where you are fitness-wise today. Once your doc gives you the thumbs up, have a personal trainer assess your current fitness level. Even if you don’t plan on working with a personal trainer on an ongoing basis, he or she can help you get started and set some goals. I have truly come to value working with a personal trainer. It may sound like a luxury, but it is one of the best gifts you can give to yourself.
Make a plan. What do you want to achieve? Do you want to lose 20 pounds? Do you want to lower your blood pressure or get off your diabetes medication? Do you want to run a 10K? Do you want to bench press 100 pounds? Do you want to get on the floor with your grandchildren and be able to get back up? I found that setting goals (and having the freedom to adjust them along the way) was critical. As I discovered, a fitness program should be based more on goals and fitness level than on age.
Start slowly. Learn to walk before you run. Or better yet, start at a crawl. What you think you can tackle may not be in your best interest. Don’t push yourself too hard, too fast and then get burnt out, overwhelmed – or worse – injured. As Eddie has taught me, it’s far better to gradually increase your existing fitness level; then you can appreciate the progress. Long before I started this fitness journey, I knew I needed to exercise more since my desk job tends to keep me sedentary. But I certainly wasn’t ready to commit to working out for an hour every day. I was, however, willing to walk. So each day, I sought out little ways to put more movement in my life. I started by sending documents to a printer farther away from my desk so I’d have to take extra steps to retrieve the papers. Then I’d park in the farthest parking spot at the mall or market. Eventually I got the courage to go the Dwares JCC and walk on the treadmill. Now look at me…I’m unstoppable!
Enjoy yourself. If it’s not fun, don’t do it! A fitness program has to be enjoyable if it’s going to become a regular part of your life. I have but one prerequisite when it comes to exercise: it cannot (and should not) feel like a chore. Do what you like to do. If the thought of walking bores you, don’t do it. That’s setting yourself up to fail. Try something new, and challenge yourself. Do not put limits on yourself just because you’re over a certain age. I know a woman in her 70s who roller skates competitively. (No kidding!) You may choose to put on some music in your house and start dancing as if no one is watching, go bowling, play catch with a child or join a gym – whatever feels gratifying to you. The point is not so much what you do as the fact that you do it!