The Second Half: Getting fit for what?

The Second Half

By Kathleen D. Tresemer

Now that the weather is beginning to cooperate, everyone’s talking about getting fit. In my Second Half, I have gone round and round on this subject. I’ve gained and lost weight, started diets, joined weight-loss classes, and dealt with the subsequent emotional roller coaster associated with these efforts. However, I came to a monumental conclusion on my recent trip to Arizona, where the weather is warm and the clothing is skimpy: “Good-looking people are fit.”

Now, don’t shoot off an angry e-mail to me declaring that fat people can be fit. I’ve made all the excuses myself, and there is no way around it that I haven’t already tried. I get it: getting fit is hard work! There aren’t any real secrets, and every shortcut has its downside.

Also, in our Second Half, the effort to lose weight and get healthier is not as easy, nor is the progress as rapid, as it was all those years ago when we were “20-somethings.” And everyone who has read my columns knows I’m not about the business of crushing the spirit of those folks trying to better themselves. So, let’s get down to brass tacks: how do we succeed at this health game? Here are some of my best tips for getting on the right track this spring, looking—and even feeling—better as soon as this summer!

Tip 1—Don’t hurt yourself. Hubby likes to repeat that old adage, “No pain, no gain!” when we hit the gym, but I’m not convinced. Besides, I’m less inclined to take the advice of a guy who experiences pain as much as he does: “I’m not the one recovering from a crushed knee, right?!”

OK, that isn’t really fair because he couldn’t control a tree falling on him. However, I will fight dirty if it means I don’t have to suffer. “Slow and steady wins the race,” I sing to him as I lift my little weights. I may not be an aggressive lifter, and I will never be a body-builder, but I just don’t buy that pain thing…too risky!

I consulted my expert on all things health, Dr. J (Chiropractor Jarrod Kerkhoff) at Loves Park Chiropractic. He suggested a couple of things to avoid hurting ourselves: “First, proceed at a pace that is reasonable—when an exercise starts to feel easy or weights feel too light to be a challenge, increase the difficulty.”

A while back, I suffered a pinched nerve in my neck that left me begging for unconsciousness. He suggested a muscle relaxer to help get me through physical therapy. I am wildly anti-drug, but he convinced me by saying something like: “It’s crazy to suffer needlessly, Kathleen, and it will allow you to perform the exercises and heal faster.”

Heal faster—that’s all I needed to hear when I was in unbearable pain. Those little pills probably saved my sanity; they certainly saved Hubby from weeks of emotionally unstable ramblings and outright personal attacks. Well, I gotta take it out on someone, right?

Tip 2—Find a good reason. Remember Mary Poppins singing, “Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down…”? Whatever you need to say to yourself to make it easier, say it!

One Second-Half friend suggested that getting fit would make her look younger: “Every day I look in the mirror and tell myself I’m getting better-looking from all this exercise.” She’s right, of course—being fit does make us look better: we have better circulation for a healthy glow; we are better hydrated from drinking the right amount of water that plumps our skin, detoxifies our body, and fights wrinkles; and a fit body always takes years off our looks.

I heard some gals discussing their fitness efforts after trying on dresses at a bridal salon. “My family has set up a competition for weight loss,” one of them declared. “We each put in $100, and the one who loses the highest percentage of body weight by wedding day gets the cash!”

I am not really motivated by cash, but I would like to live to be 120, and I mean a gorgeous, healthy, vigorous 120-year-old! That’s my reason for engaging in yoga, working out, and eating right TODAY. It feels almost indulgent, a special something I do just for myself.

Tip 3—Set some goals. I don’t necessarily mean weight-loss goals, although they can work. I like the idea of short-term goals, such as, “I will exercise at the gym three times this week,” or “I will stick to my diet for the next three days (or hours, or minutes).” I’ve been known to wander around the house chanting, “This, too, shall pass,” warding off a serious chocolate craving.

Goals need to be written down to be really effective, so get out the pad and scratch ’em out. I like sticky notes, so I can take down the old ones and stick up the new as I reach or revise my short-term goals.

Of course, I reward myself for each success—little things can make me just as happy as bigger ones—but I try to stay away from food as a treat. After my recent successes, I treated myself to a few sessions with a fitness trainer—you’ll hear about that in another column, but suffice to say this could turn out to be less a treat and more like punishment for a job well done.

From the April 20-26, 2011 issue

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