If you saw how fit I am today, at 77 years old, you might think I’m one of those athletic types who enjoys sweating and physical exertion. But you would be completely wrong. I don’t like working out (let alone sweating!) so much that I have to trick myself into doing it.
The barrier is very high. My natural tendencies were working against me. I would rather sit than stand. I would rather lie down and read a book than sit. Even as a kid, I never saw the appeal of physical games, especially those involving balls, which I never cared if I caught. The same goes for races. I don’t push myself because I don’t care if I lose or not.
My mother often says that if she had to do it all again, she would have exercised. Why, she didn’t say, but since this was the only life advice she ever gave me, I tried to follow it. I tried all kinds of exercises but couldn’t focus on any of them. One time I was forced to visit a gym, which was full of people wearing spandex working out on various exercise machines, a nightmare scenario. The office manager sold me the huge savings on the package, so I paid for a year in advance, thinking that would get me out. I’m never coming back. As the weeks passed, the guilt grew, as did my barriers to moving on, like when you don’t call back and don’t answer and don’t answer, until you can’t.
The insight got me going
So here’s what I learned: if I’m going to exercise regularly, that’s it necessary in exercise it must involve real pleasure. Ambitious goals, whether it’s to wear those jeans or just to get in shape, don’t work for me. It should be fun.
The first program I succeeded in was running with a friend, which I stick to because you can talk while doing it. Since we started when our kids were young and early in our careers, we had a lot to talk about: worries about parenting, worries about marriage, worries about work, worries about kid! The conversation is so useful, so life-saving, it truly stops being incidental to running and becomes the purpose of it.
But there’s a big downside: I’m completely dependent on my friends’ availability. If her schedule changes and she can’t make it, I won’t go jogging. With no intimate conversations to distract me, no one to keep up, I slowed down until I was walking. I needed a different kind of distraction from exercise, which I realized I could enjoy alone.
This is when the solution came to me. When we first moved into our apartment, my husband converted a large closet into a darkroom with equipment he received for free but never used. One night, he came home and found a treadmill in the right place. The smallest one barely fits, which can be dangerous if you slip and are going fast. But I have no intention of going fast. My plan was to watch the movie on the small TV hanging on the wall in front of me and walk at my fastest pace so as not to interrupt my absorption of the film.
It works like a dream. Treadmills help you move; you don’t move it. In the dark, with headphones on, immersed in a movie or TV series, I was completely oblivious to exercise. If I get hooked on a series, I can’t wait to hit the treadmill every day. With streaming, I almost want to binge watch. Sometimes my husband does that and I have to pull him out.
Over the years, I increased my pace as my body adjusted. By increasing my speed or angle so gradually that I barely noticed it, I naturally became a fast walker without even trying. I pass people on the street. I run to the subway or up the stairs when I hear the train coming. I went up the escalator. I usually take the stairs because I can’t wait for the elevator. I!
It turns out that regular walking brings huge health benefits to the average person. According to a 2023 study, 3,045 minutes of walking five times a week, added to what you normally do during the day, will significantly reduce the risk of premature death from all diseases, not to mention improve the immune system. immunity and mental health.
It’s great for strengthening your lower body and heart, if that’s not enough already. Years ago, my husband broke his hip and had to undergo physical rehabilitation, followed by strength training, which he was told was the only way to fully recover. He forced me to join him. I didn’t like it but we were going together so not going wasn’t an option. I was pleasantly surprised to see that twice-weekly sessions resulted in significant improvements. Exercises that were initially painful became possible after a few weeks. But my progress isn’t the joy that keeps me going. It wasn’t even my internist’s approval.
Now, what keeps me going is the joy of clothes shopping. My body shape has changed. After several years of watching movies on the treadmill almost every day, I was surprised to find that I had lost weight. At that time, I developed a similar, fairly easy way to stabilize my lifelong rollercoaster of weight. (You can read about it in two articles on this site.) To my surprise, my weight kept dropping. Since puberty, I have dressed to hide my physical flaws. Now I can wear whatever I like. I remember the thrill of buying my first narrow dress, until then it was an unthinkable choice. I’m in my 60s. It would be wonderful if I reached this position earlier in life, but my mantra is better late than never. And for me, it really is: late or late never.
Don’t be discouraged if you start late. The health benefits of regular exercise are immediate, even if they are not seen quickly. Treadmills aren’t cheap, but you can buy a used one or join a gym and bring a mobile device to watch your programs. Or find another activity that’s a lot of fun: square dancing, Zumba classes, brisk walks to work out with headphones, and mysteries on tape or the music of your youth. Ask a friend to join you.
My approach is the opposite of what most people do who strive to get slim. I’m not looking for benefits, just consistency, but the benefits will come anyway. I’m a tortoise, not a hare. The road I walk is very slow but takes me very far. It can get you there too.
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