Exercise boosts the immune system, prevents or treats many diseases, improves focus, elevates mood and stabilizes it for at least twelve hours. After a sluggish summer, fall is almost here with its fresh, new energy providing you with an opportunity to discover individualized movements that you enjoy while you harness your power.
Many people don’t exercise because they are
* Ashamed of their appearance – others will sneer at the gym or dance class
* Afraid of failure – if you don’t try, you can’t fail.
* Fatigued by stress and unhappiness
However, when you perceive exercise as grounding, self-healing and generating positive energy, you will stay motivated and become habituated. Consider that your workout has a spiritual component: a series of holy moments to strengthen your body to house your spirit. To get physically fit address the basic needs of your body and mind: strength training, aerobics and stretching.
Strength training teaches you to operate at full strength by tightening a loose mind. I always say, “Lift weights to lift your spirits” and you can quantify your personal improvement with the weight of the dumbbells or kettle bells that you use. You can use machines at the gym which keep you in proper posture for execution, or you can use free weights for core stabilization or even use your own body as resistance. Aim for at least 2 strength training sessions a week for 30 minutes – and you are never too old. Here’s what you can do at home with your own body:
* Push-off with a push up using your body’s own resistance and for a wonderful total upper body workout strengthening your chest, triceps and abdominals. You can do them on the floor, full body or modified, off the wall, or off the kitchen counter.
* Get grounded with squats. They are a total lower body workout which you can do even by getting up from your chair. Just don’t use your arms when you rise and push off your heels.
* Add some lunges. Begin by doing them in place, alternating legs, and then do walking lunges. You will strengthen your legs to walk to your next happiness.
* Visit a gym or community center and learn the basics of using dumb bells, stability balls and other equipment. You can take it from there. You can sign up for group classes and find some workout buddies.
* Watch exercise videos and follow along.
Aerobics workouts are so much fun that we get addicted to the high: Our bodies are moving, good energy is generated and our minds break out of a worry loop to become carefree. Follow your heart and do it for at least twenty minutes 3 times a week. Use upbeat music (periodically change it) and try:
* Speed walking or jogging – alone or with friends for accountability
* Dancing – salsa, belly dancing, zumba, or make up your own
* Boxing/ martial arts – process-oriented
* Join a sports league
* Gym equipment like ellipticals, stationary bikes, treadmills, rowers
* Housework counts if you do it with alacrity!
When your workout gets easier, you can change: speed, sequence of the exercises and intensity. Change promotes muscle stimulation. You can incorporate aerobics with strength training by doing short intervals in between your weight lifting moves, like marching or jogging in place.
Stretching will elongate your contracted muscles and keep you flexible. Stiffness leads to chronic pain as you age. Stretching encourages your mind to be more flexible about its preconceived notions and self-justification. You will learn to breathe and be still with yourself. Yoga is excellent for returning to your breath, centering yourself and stretching yourself into new realms of possibility. Aim to stretch after workouts (when your muscles are warm) for a few minutes or in longer sessions a couple of times a week.
Don’t overdo it! Muscles need to recover between workouts by resting. Don’t pound your body into submission. Use exercise as a spring board for overall quality self-care which includes eating healthy foods. Always check with your doctor when exercising for the first time or if you have a special condition.
Exercise can be a moving meditation. Give your workouts a specific intention or affirmation, so you think it and do it. Ultimately, you will become it. Conceive, believe, achieve.