BEUSCHEL: Watching Olympics encourages healthy changes

Aug 16, 2012

Knowing that I would be actively following the Olympics, and looking at all those svelte bodies in Spandex, pushed all of my motivation buttons. It got me to do something about my sorry state of affairs, or rather, sorry state of body.

I’ve read all the articles about boomers becoming marathon runners or tri-athletes. I’ve seen the commercials on TV with people holding up their giant clothes that they used to fit in. I know there are places to exercise at 5 a.m. These are just not the right things for me.

They don’t match the goals I came up with during my inner dialogue. One of my goals was to be able to climb a flight of stairs and not feel winded. I also wanted to be able to unscrew the cap on the orange juice carton. I figured that an added bonus would be being able to get down on the floor and get back up again without having to crawl on my hands and knees to find something that I can pull myself up on.

How to begin this quest to fitness was something about which I was uncertain. I’ve tried to get started before only to find the starting point I chose beyond my ability. I tried a “Simple Yoga” tape and after the initial stretches, I was defeated by the “down dog” position and the DVD lays gathering dust in my defeat. I also have an exercise bike gathering dust that was gifted me years ago by my husband. I tried to like using it, but it made my bottom sore. Every now and then I would try to start walking around the block, but shin splints usually cut that short.

So rather than face defeat again in trying to start a fitness program by myself, I decided to consult a trainer. I’ve never been an athlete, so working with a trainer was a bit foreign to me. I kept thinking that I should be able to do this myself and since that so clearly never worked out before, I figured I had better try a different approach. I convinced myself to buy one hour with a trainer. That was the best idea I’ve had in a long time.

Having spent many days this summer with my granddaughter at the Spring Lake aquatic center, I selected a trainer I knew from watching her give swim lessons. I knew that if she could handle teaching a group of kids to swim, she probably had enough courage to take on a senior seeking fitness.

The great part of working with a trainer is the initial wellness assessment that opens up the dialogue with the present level of fitness, including one’s BMI – Body Mass Index. Ouch! I’m used to high numbers being a good thing – like being in the A range. My high BMI, however, puts me at the bottom of the grading scale, but does offer lots of room for improvement.

After assessing my level of fitness and what fitness goals I had, I knew my trainer had my number when she said, “There’s no sense in setting up a program that you are not comfortable with doing, because you won’t continue doing it.” No excuses – oh my, this was serious. As she led me through a program I could do that would work all the areas of my body, I began to feel that this indeed was something I could do. I left the training session with a plan. The rest was up to me.

It’s said that it takes a few weeks to create a new pattern or break out of an old one. Well, I’ve got 17 days into my daily exercise plan. Hooray! I’m a very visual person, so I made myself a chart to record my daily exercises and I delight in checking off each day that I’ve exercised. Kind of like my own personal smiley face chart. I tote that chart around with me at the aquatic center along with my big MSU water tumbler.

I’m a person who likes to follow a routine and so far this one is working for me.
I find going to a place like the aquatic center makes exercising that much easier. I’m surrounded by people of all different fitness levels, doing all different kinds of exercises. I’ve tried some of the group classes and find that I get a better work out that way, since the pace is consistent and I’m not watching the clock timing myself.

It’s going to be more difficult to keep up this goal of regular exercise once I return to school in a few weeks. Those excuses of not having enough time are just lingering in the back of my psyche waiting for a chance to pop out and take away the joy of putting those check marks on my exercise chart.

As the Olympics wind down and the arduous task of being an Olympic-caliber athlete fades from the media coverage, I’m going to hang on and go for the gold – better health through exercise. Join me. Just do it!

— By Janice R. Beuschel, Tribune community columnist

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