If spring is a time when a young man’s fancy turns to love, it is also a time when a woman’s fancy turns to shorts, sundresses, and bathing suits. Who among us – especially those of us at mid-life – doesn’t dread, if even just a little, the advent of summer and our warm weather wardrobes?
Creating Lifelong Habits
Why does the idea of sitting on the couch with a pint of Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, binge watching your besties, Chip and Jojo, on HGTV seem so seductive, while the prospect of going out for a run seems so daunting?
Just for a minute, try turning these two scenarios around for a minute. How many times have you said to yourself: “I wish I hadn’t eaten the WHOLE pint of ice cream!” If you’re like me, that would be just about every time. On the other hand, I have never once finished any kind of exercise and said: “Shoot, I wish I hadn’t done that.” Even if you don’t really like to work out, having worked out is one of the best feelings there is. Reframing the narrative around your workout is a great way to create the habit of fitness.
Mid-life women are famous for their ability to juggle the myriad demands of a busy life – families, friends, work and a full social life. Adding one more component can seem like the last damn straw. You know, the one that even the poor camel couldn’t handle. Figuring out how to incorporate fitness into the mix is enough to give any stressed out, stretched out woman pause. But trust me on this. Once you’ve figured out how to make fitness an integral and non-negotiable part of your life, the dividends will astonish you.
Let Me Count the Ways
For the sake of argument, let’s say you’re starting from scratch. Maybe your idea of a workout is running into Nordstrom Rack from the parking lot because…clothes! Here’s the thing, getting fit will not only get you to the designer rack faster, when you get there, everything you try on is going to look better on you. You can buy that adorable fitted pencil skirt and crisp, tucked in blouse that hug your curves instead of the flowing tunics that skim over all the wobbly bits.
No matter what your current exercise status is or how you get there, making a life-long commitment to fitness will transform you, in ways both obvious and subtle. Here are just a few things to remember as you think about taking a dive into the fitness pool:
· Life can be richer, fuller, and infinitely easier if you remain fit as you age.
· Being fit saves you time and money. Think of all those doctor’s appointments and medical bills you’ll be avoiding. (Full disclosure: there may be costs associated with cute new outfits.)
· Fitness gives you confidence, whether on the golf course, in the boardroom, or in the bedroom. A fit woman is a self-assured woman.
· Regular exercise not only improves muscle tone, it increases blood circulation, giving your skin a healthy, youthful glow no cosmetics can replicate.
· Women who exercise sleep better than their unfit counterparts.
· Fitness helps keep you relevant. There’s no faster route to dinosaur status than to sit things out because you don’t have the energy or stamina to keep up.
· Sex is a lot more fun if you are fit. It’s hard to be enthusiastic about sex when you feel bad about your body. Getting fit and feeling good in your own skin can do more to jumpstart a flagging sex life than just about anything.
It’s Never Too Late
The perfect time to start an exercise regimen is now. That’s true whether your 17 or 70. If you start on the path to fitness today, by the end of the summer you’ll be ready to run a 5K or bike around your town or go hiking with your grandchildren. You might just decide to grab your husband or your honey and go on a wild, love-odyssey weekend.
Here are a few helpful suggestions to help you get started.
1. Use the first month to plan and experiment. Research the people, places and activities that will help you in your journey. Meet the fitness instructors who teach near you. Watch them teach or see if you can drop in on one of their classes. Ask your friends and colleagues what works for them and why.
2. Find friends who can support you and work out with you. Check out your community center, local running and walking clubs, ads in local papers, gyms and fitness centers with a full schedule of classes, from aerobics to Zumba. These places can often steer you to groups that meet regularly. Somewhere out there is you perfect fitness partner. Find that person!
3. Find the workout that works for you. Commit to working out four or five days a week and figure out what fitness activities really rock your world. Did you love to ride your bike as a kid? It might be time to rekindle your cycling romance – or check out a spinning class. Could your inner Yogini be lurking just below the surface, waiting to be released? You never know until you try.
4. Form habits for a lifetime. It’s important to get your mind and your body used to the routine of doing something -- anything physical and active – on a regular schedule. This is the month where you will start to create the habit of exercise. There was a time when we were told that it takes 21 days to develop any habitual activity, whether it’s flossing, making your bed, or exercising. We now know it probably takes more like 66 days – or a little more than two months for a habit to take hold. Get out a calendar and start crossing off those days, like a prisoner in a locked cell. Give your body time to begin to love the feeling of movement and freedom and health. Before you know it, you’ll get to the point where not exercising will make you a little twitchy and anxious.
5. Timing is everything. When you work out is another key factor in sticking to an exercise regimen. For some, working out first thing in the morning is the only way to get it done. Others find their power hour comes much later. Find out what time suits you best and stick to it.
6. Just do it. The journey of 10,000 miles begins with a single step. I think I can, I think I can, I think I can. One foot in front of the other. Never ever, ever, ever give up. OK, I shouldn’t be beating you over the head with every cheesy motivational cliché in my arsenal. But they’ve become clichés because of their essential truth. You just have to get started. And then keep on doing it. One day, you'll wake up and you'll discover that at some point, you became a strong, fit woman, brimming with vigor. You will be grateful for your health and your ability to move gracefully through the world. And your awesomeness will thrill you.