For me, there cannot be weight loss or maintenance or rest without exercise. Lots of it. I need to keep my muscles toned to keep my metabolism firing, and I need aerobics to keep my blood moving, which keeps just about every part of my body healthy and helps me sleep at night. My life is immeasurably better in every way since I started exercising regularly two years ago. I feel better, I look better, I handle stress better, I sleep better. I’m sure I will live a longer more satisfying life.
One little problem: I hate to exercise.
I would far rather sit on a couch with a dog on my feet and a cat in my lap, and read. Or watch TV, or nap. I’d rather do housework than exercise. I’d rather clean the toilet. I’d rather listen to telemarketers. I really would.
I have to work with my inner two-year-old to get the exercise I need. Like getting your kid to eat spinach, I have to hide exercise in something more appetizing, make it a requirement before I can have other things I want more, schedule it into my day, and focus on the cool equipment and special clothes that various exercise forms bring. Above all, I need to guard very carefully against exercise boredom.
Which is why I started belly dancing last night. Egyptian belly dancing, to be specific. I did not know there were different types, but of course there would be a whole world of belly dancing, wouldn’t there? Rich traditions and lore, and so much to know. But more importantly, there are costumes… !!!
I live in the middle part of the middle west, where the cultural mores that guide our behavior rule against large displays of.. anything. If a woman is in close touch with her own sensuality, her femininity, her grrrl power, she’s not likely to show it. In fact, she’ll likely throw on another sweater to keep that little light from leaking out.
And yet. The belly dancing classes in my little town are overcrowded, overrun with women of every age and background. A little shy, a little tight, terribly self-conscious, but we were there in droves to learn shoulder bumps and hip shimmies. (Week five we learn `Hip ummies.’ I have no idea what that is, but doesn’t it sound ummie?)
And I’m hooked. I won’t rest until I own at least one hip scarf with noisy coins and beads on it. For now. I will take belly dancing classes until I lose interest, and then I will look for the next thing. And the next. Or I’ll round back to the top of my list and start swimming, water aerobics, spinning, ballet, kick-boxing, yoga, tai chi, ballroom dancing, anything to keep moving.
Here are other ways to keep going:
* Spoil yourself with trinkets. Get the equipment first. You have to justify the expense by using it, at least for a while. So buy the ballet shoes, the swim fins, the yoga mat, the karate uniform, the bike, the membership. The clothes! Do it before class begins, so you’re more likely to stick with it.
* Make going to a fitness club part of your regular day, and make it hard not to go: My makeup is at the gym. I don’t look good without my makeup. Enough said.
* When you’re starting out, don’t worry about how much you’re doing or how you look doing it. With regular practice, you’ll make vast improvements in no time at all. Just make an effort to do something every day. Think in terms of the amount of time you’re exercising. Try to get in 5 minutes a day at first if that’s where you are, then 10 the next week, and keep working your way up.
* My bias for weight loss is to do more strength and toning work (Yoga, Pilates, weight training, martial arts, dance) than aerobics, at a ratio of 2:1. That is, I spend twice as much time strengthening as I do on aerobics.
* Sneak in exercise. This is particularly good for busy dads and moms who are running from sunup to sundown. Sneak a few lunges and pushups in the restrooms or stairwells at work. Take the stairs, twice or three times on your way to the copy center. Do crunches or Pilates in front of the TV. Squats and leg raises while talking on the phone. Make your quality time with the kids active. Take them biking, hiking, or to the nearest climbing wall.
* Get a set of thera-bands (the big rubber bands that physical therapists use) and keep them next to your comfy chair, in your suitcase, in your briefcase, in your glove compartment. Learn to use them, then build muscles during the waiting times and commercial breaks while traveling, carpooling, watching TV, at your desk at work.
* Classes, classes, classes. Take lots of different ones to keep your body moving and your mind engaged.
* Gadgets. Just want to be distracted until it’s over? Make it a good distraction. Treat yourself to a good gym radio or remote stereo headphones, pedometers, odometers, lap counters, heart rate monitors. If you’re a gear nut, go for it. It’ll keep you thinking as you’re working.
* Rewards. I set little fitness goals for myself constantly, and when I reach them, I get a present.
Good luck fooling your inner child into working harder,