1965 Junior High Girl's All-Star Basketball Team (find me in top row left)
2009 Weight Machines at the JCC
I got to thinking. With the way I'm always writing about food and cooking, you might get the idea that eating is the extent of my health & fitness routine. So...in the spirit of the Wall Street Journal's series, "What's Your Workout", here's what I've been doing to stay in shape.
First off. I'm not a jock, a gym-rat, or a competitive athlete by any stretch of the imagination. What I do 5 days a week is something anyone can do. Believe me, this exercise plan is all about fun.
It's a cross between dancing up a storm at a wedding (my spinning class), chilling out at a spa retreat (my yoga class), learning from fascinating experts (listening to podcasts while lifting weights), and having a gab fest with friends (taking a long walk with a buddy).
I graduated from college before Title IX existed--which means women's sports teams didn't exist--except for the one Exhibition Game my Girl's All-Star Basketball team played in 1965. But back in those days we had daily gym class and we walked to school--and that meant walking home for lunch in elementary school. No school buses, no parent's driving us to school, and hardly a kid with a car in high school.
When Did I Start Exercising?
I start running in 1976 when I worked as a paralegal for a huge law firm. It was boring & stressful----and it left me with insomnia for the first time in my life, as well as a twitch in my left eye.
One day, I felt so exhausted & frustrated from lack of a good night's sleep that I decided to start running to burn off some nervous energy. Bingo! I found the magic sleep elixir. That night I had my best night's sleep in months. And the left eye twitch magically disappeared.
I also came to my senses--deciding that the best part of the paralegal job was doing library research--and took the plunge in 1977 & started a program to get a Master's degree in Library Science, with a medical library specialty.
I kept running regularly, competing in a couple of races, but frankly, running wasn't for me. It was solitary, and I hated running when it was freezing cold outside.
I moved on to Jackie Sorensen's Aerobic Dancing, anyone remember that? Loved the music, the dancing & the camaraderie. Over the years I've kept up the exercising--right on through to the end of 2 pregnancies. I've done it all over the years-- high and low aerobic classes, step aerobics (a former favorite), power walking, power weight classes, power yoga, boot camp, bosu, and plain old free weights.
The Present Workout
My routine covers all the important fitness basics: aerobic conditioning--strength--flexibility--and balance. And my particular mix exercises my body, mind, and spirit.
I'm a card-carrying JCC member since 1976. And I'm a huge advocate for group exercise classes--no treadmills or ellipticals for me. Group classes are motivating and provide variety--and at the J there are over 60 classes a week to choose from. They keep me moving for 60 minutes--long after I'd quit if I were on my own. They are a lot more fun than going it alone--and at my community center gym I get to meet twenty-somethings to ninety-somethings. Where else does that happen?
For at least 10 years now I've been sticking to these four activities--but I'm always ready to try something new! Pilates & Zumba may be next on the agenda.
Spinning - A Dance Party, Boot Camp or Travelogue rolled into one. This is stationary biking in a group--my class usually numbers around 30--men, women, twenty-somethings to an occasional 60-something. This is my all-time favorite exercise. 60 minutes of heart-pumping sweat-producing interval training. You're climbing hills and doing wind sprints.
A guaranteed high calorie burn that's always a challenge, because you can kick up the bike's tension as you get stronger. Beginner & super athlete alike can exercise together at their own fitness levels.
When I'm spinning to high-energy motivating music--that changes to each instructor's taste--I get a huge endorphin smile on my face and I feel like I'm dancing while I'm madly pedaling to Beyonce's "Single Ladies".
Every instructor brings a different style to the table. With Laurie it's definitely a dance party. With Kate, I'm at a serious athlete's boot camp. With Rich, it's a training run on the Boston Marathon course, or a history lesson/travelogue through the Antarctic or on the Tour de France.
Yoga -The Spa Retreat. I'm so "over" power (Ashtanga) yoga, but my slower-moving yoga classes are still challenging. Yoga is what I do for flexibility, strength, balance, and relaxation. Chaturanga (a yogic push-up) and up-dog are definitely arm strength builders.
Moving through sun salutations, down-dogs, the bridge, boat pose,the wheel, pigeon pose, half moon pose, and more, I strengthen my back, open up my too-tight hips, stay flexible, learn to breathe slowly and to concentrate. The relaxing shavasana (corpse pose) meditation that comes at the end of class is my sweet reward. I finish up relaxed, mellow, and chilled out--just like a trip to the spa.
Weight Training - My Visiting Scholar Lecture. OK, I'm in a rut with weight training--basically doing what I shouldn't--sticking to the same weight machines at the same number of reps & weights for about 3 years now. I've been in maintenance mode way too long. It's time to mix it up, change the routine, and up the ante.
But this is my automatic pilot time. My IPOD Nano is loaded with NPR's Health Podcasts, Science Friday, Diane Rehm, Joe Graedon's People's Pharmacy, & various Internal Medicine and Ob-Gyn Audio-Digests. When I run through my pecs, chest, biceps, triceps, back, pull-overs, lats & more I'm listening to an hour of knowledge. Nothing boring about this 2-for-one brain & body exercise routine.
The Long Walk - The Gab Fest or the Silent Meditation. What could be better? A 3-5 mile walk with my husband or a friend, walking and talking--it's a chance to catch up, exercise, and enjoy nature. If I go it alone, it's a chance to just let my mind wander & enjoy the changing seasons--and get ideas for what to plant in my garden. It could be a walk on country roads, a hike in the nearby park or a hike through our world-class arboretum.
The Gear - Nothing fancy here. What you see me wearing in the photo above works for spinning, yoga, and walking outside. I've worn the same work-out clothes for years now. They just don't wear out. 2 pair of black yoga pants, 2 pair of black bike shorts, assorted sports bras, assorted Target t-shirts, and about 8 multi-colored sleeve-less tops that I got years ago for $5.00 each at BJ's. I like the sleeveless because it motivates me to do arm exercises. I've got one pair of running shoes that I use for cycling, walking, or weight training.
My Must-Have All-Time Favorite Equipment - I wouldn't want to exercise without my F6 Polar Heart Rate Monitor. It's set up for my fitness level, my minimum & maximum aerobic heart rates, my age, and weight. It records how long I'm working out in the aerobic range, my highest, lowest, & average heart rates, and how many calories I'm burning. I know when I need to kick it up a notch, and when I'm working too hard. And all my exercise sessions are saved so I can see what I've done for the past week. It's motivating & keeps my honest. For a great guide to exercising with a heart rate monitor, click here.
Cost: I got mine for about $100 online.
IPOD Nano. Love my Nano. No music on mine. Just podcasts. It's a learning machine. 6 months ago I added a nifty FM receiver that plugs into the Nano & allows me to listen to the radio--in my case that's NPR. I hear the new 2009 model comes already equipped with an FM receiver.
Cost: about $140.00 at Costco
Monday: 1 hour yoga class before work or 1 hour weight work-out after work
Tuesday: 1 hour spinning class (+ weight workout if I don't lift on Monday)
Wednesday: rest day or one hour walk outside
Thursday: 1 hour spinning class (+ occasional yoga class)
Friday: 1 hour weight workout before work
Saturday: rest day, or leisurely walk or hike outside
Sunday: 1 hour spinning class & 1 hour yoga class
Mostly plant-based--I "try hard" to avoid sugar and baked goods--but I have my lapses. I load up on whole grains, vegetables, fruit, a daily salad, soups, and one-dish meals.
Breakfast is a Green Smoothie and a mid-morning Larabar or a bowl of fruited oatmeal with a mid-morning Green Smoothie.
Lunch is leftovers from the night before, or a salad topped with teriyaki seitan, or an Amy's frozen vegan meal, or a vegan lentil dal burger on a bun. Fruit and a few nuts mid-afternoon. Finishing up any leftover Green Smoothie.
Dinner is usually a one dish meal with a green salad. One-dish meals could be Veganomicon's Black Bean Mango Quinoa Salad, Spicy Sweet Roasted Butternut Squash with Black Beans, or Obama's African Peanut Vegetable Soup. For lots of recipes click here.
I love to cook and experiment with new recipes, and I try to prepare enough so I don't have to cook dinner every night.
It Wasn't Me, Strength of a Woman, Come On Get Higher, Here Comes the Sun, Single Ladies, Super Man (2) to name a few, NPR Podcasts Galore
Exercise with other people. You combine socializing with fitness. Mix it up. Do something aerobic for your heart, something to improve your flexibility & balance, and some kind of weight training for strength & to kick up your metabolism. Once you start exercising, whatever you do--DO NOT STOP!!!
Most Memorable Fitness Vacation
Hiking with my husband for two weeks across northern England on the Coast-to-Coast trail--which runs from the Irish Sea to the North Sea. Click here to learn more.