Bicycle in gymAt 6am today I was in a small, dark, cold room sweating to pulsing dance music.

I wasn’t catching the tail-end of a 90’s rave.  I was at my first-ever spin class (a stationary bike exercise class) and I got my butt kicked.

NOTE to readers with chronic illnesses that don’t allow you to exercise much right now.  This post is for you too.  First, because even if, like me at my sickest, the only exercise you can do is 15 minutes of restorative yoga supported by pillows, it is important to do that.  You know that.  Keeping the blood and lymph flowing in your body is a huge part of healing and keeping mobile is a huge part of staying sane.  Second, all the lessons I list below apply to exercise whether it is a 10K run or a 10-minute shuffle around the block.  Both have been part of my daily practice in the last ten years and I know:  The 10-minute shuffle around the block is way harder.  But, you can do it.

Why was I at that spin class?  I recently read Younger Next Year, which touts the importance of intense aerobic exercise to stave off most of the worst effects of aging.  It explains how, when we don’t run around at all, but do eat a lot, our bodies think we are hibernating and begin to shut down.  Without a “springtime” burst of energy, they just keep hibernating until . . . well, until we decline slowly and die.

So, since I also know that exercise:

** boosts the immune system;

** prevents all kinds of nasty illnesses like type 2 diabetes, certain types of cancer, cardiac disease, and arthritis;

** boosts mood and decreases anxiety;

** improves sleep; and

** improves brain function and memory,

I thought that I should give some serious exercise a try again. If you’re on the fence, here are two articles on the physical and mental benefits of exercising. Check them out.  They’re persuasive.

Now, I consider myself athletic, but the truth is I am deluding myself and living in the past when I was 20 lbs lighter, had big hair and wore green eyeliner and leg-warmers.  It turns out that having been a competitive swimmer in the 80s doesn’t qualify me as “athletic” or even vaguely in shape three decades later.  Who knew? So, this morning I went to my first exercise class in many, many years.  I’ve been walk/running and doing physical therapy exercises for my knee at a local gym for a while, but hadn’t ventured yet into the classes they offer.   I’m glad I did.  It was fabulous.  Here are three thing I learned from that 55-minute spin class this morning.

 

Do what gets you going.

Mornings have been hard for me ever since I can remember.  By nature, I am a night owl and have the unique skill of being able to sleep past noon anytime I choose.  First thing in the morning, I usually wake up feeling stressed and nervous, as if every day is a big test or job interview.  Why I feel that way is a longer story and, unless you’ve got a shrink’s couch and a 50-minute hour, we’re going to skip that for now.  Also, unless I have been really great about eating well and exercising, I almost always wake up feeling exhausted and ache-y.  Without a major intervention, I continue to drag around the house for the first couple hours of my day until I begin to feel semi-human.   This morning I was excited about going to the spin class and popped out of bed at 5:30am for the first time in weeks.  I was still exhausted, but once I got there and had loud pop music (which I happen to love) and cold air blasting at me, guess what?  I woke up.  And, I have felt wide awake ever since. Awesome.  A 6am spin class may not be your thing, but something else is.  What exercise could you do first thing in the morning that would help you get your whole day going in the right direction?  A walk around the block?  A yoga class?  Yoga with a DVD?  A Zumba class?  A swim?  What appeals to you?

 

Don’t Believe Your Stories.

We tell ourselves stories. I have been telling myself the story that “I can’t exercise regularly unless I have a buddy to work out with at the the gym.”  But, that’s just a story.  It’s an excuse, really, and a lame one at that.  Yes.  Meeting a friend at the gym makes it more fun and reliable.  But, not having one is not a deal-breaker.  Signing up for the class today got me there at 6am and I am looking forward to doing it again on Thursday.  What story are you telling yourself that is getting in your way?

 

Do whatever it takes to get yourself going – really going.

The difference between my individual “workout” at the gym yesterday and my workout today in the spin class borders on the absurd.  I walked/ran about 1.75 miles yesterday and then did some stretching and push-ups before I went home.  I didn’t sweat.  I perspired up a nice, lady-like sheen.  Today, I was dripping sweat 20 minutes into the workout.  Now, six hours later I still wince every time I lift my computer bag or climb stairs because I used a bunch of muscles that thought they had been retired for good.  As a former swimmer, I respond well to competitive environments with a coach yelling at me to push harder.  It feels like home.  At my first son’s birth, my husband David stood next to me during the pushing phase and yelled, “You can do it! You got this!  Go Sweetie!” I loved it.  A good friend said that if her husband had done the same thing, she would have slapped him. We’re all different.  I respond well to a coached, competitive exercise class.  What do you respond to?  What would get you to do whatever exercise you think is right for you today and then keep coming back for more?

 

I loved being wide awake and exercising hard first thing this morning.  So, unless I happen upon a 90s rave in the wee hours in my quiet suburban neighborhood, I think I’ll be back at the spin class on Thursday for another helping of, endorphins, blasting pop music, and sweat.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

 

What about you?  What’s your plan to get your body moving this week?  I’d love to hear it.

To your healthy future,

Janette