Enough is enough

I’m pretty susceptible to advertising. Like those fast food commercials, where the Coke is so fizzy and you can almost feel how cold it is? Ahhh. Or just about any Hallmark commercial will have me reaching for the tissue box before it’s over.

I also really have a thing for clever tag lines — especially ones that employ a play on words. For example: Kudos to whoever came up with the slogan for a mattress company: “Sleepy’s, for the rest of your life.”

Anyway … I’m sure you’re wondering, how does this relate to exercise and a healthy lifestyle?

I’m not a paid (or unpaid) spokesperson, nor do I have any special affinity for the company, but I think one of the most brilliant slogans ever is Nike’s “Just do it.”

traffic-lights-208253Just do it.

Simple. Actionable. Inspiring. Even motivating. All in three words.

And right now, lately, I could use a lot of the latter. I feel a little embarrassed to say this as a fitness instructor, but I have been severely lacking in the motivation (and, for that matter, willpower) department. Summer is usually the time when I’m shot out of a cannon, getting in lots of long walks, working in my yard for half the weekend, doing lots of biking, eating piles of fresh fruit and vegetables.

But I’ve been in a slump the past month or two. I’ve had countless arguments with myself about getting out of bed and going to the gym, or resisting too many sweet treats. Bed and treats have been winning. It’s so easy to get into a vicious cycle. Not exercising leaves me more fatigued, which makes me not feel like getting out of bed in the morning, which makes me feel like a slug, which makes me want to wallow … repeat.

Enough is enough.

Alarm goes off for gym time? Just do it.

Be more active? Just do it.

Choose veggies and hummus instead of potato chips? Just do it.

Take a lap around my office instead of checking Facebook? Just do it.

Mind over matter … here I go.

Just 20 minutes!

We’ve heard time and again that being obese or overweight is, of course, not good for your long-term health. The same goes for being inactive and rarely exercising, no matter what you weigh.

Now, new research finds that being sedentary is the more deadly of the two.


The research also notes that a brisk walk — as short as 20 minutes — can help counteract the dangers.

clock-36965The study was conducted by researchers at the University of Cambridge and was just published by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Researchers analyzed about 12 years worth of information on 334,000 men and women, including height, weight, waist circumference and self-reported levels of physical activity.

The researchers state that a moderate amount of physical activity (compared with none) was the key to lowering the chances of premature death. They estimated that it could reduce that risk by 16 to 30 percent. By “moderate,” they mean that which burns about 100 calories a day.

Twenty minutes goes by in a flash — it’s about the time it would take to iron an outfit for work, zip across town to go to the post office, watch most of an episode of your favorite sitcom (FF’ing through commercials).

Or … squeeze in a life-saving walk!

Keep moving

Spending so much time bicycling this summer had me wondering how on earth I’d keep up that level of activity when summer was over.

Thanks to an uptick in the temperature today, I spent about 4 hours outdoors being active.

I started my morning with an hour-long brisk walk. After that great warm-up, I spent another hour or so raking leaves. (Thanks to the hubby for bagging them up!) Then I dug up some dead annuals in my flowerbeds and garden and spent another hour or so pruning my going-crazy forsythia bushes and bundling up the results.

Feeling stiff!

Feeling stiff!

Midway through all this activity, I marveled at how good I felt. I have a full-time desk job and as much as I try and remind myself to get up and move around throughout the day, it doesn’t happen nearly as often as it should. Couple that with a 2-hour total commute each day, and I sometimes feel like I’m permanently in a seated position. I envision someone coming to my aid with an oilcan, much like the Tin Man in “The Wizard of Oz.”

So to be standing or squatting, and moving in different bodily planes — twisting while raking, reaching while pruning, moving my arms side to side instead of out in front — felt so welcome and rejuvenating.

It’s common to read stories in magazines and online suggesting that exercise doesn’t have to come in certain forms (i.e. biking, running, weight lifting). I was active today for 4 hours and the only thing that resembled traditional exercise was my walk.

The key is that I was moving and using my body for activity. And no matter how you go about it, it feels good afterward. Think outside the box when it comes to exercise. Movement is the point, no matter what form it comes in.

Why I race

OK, so it’s one thing to go for a walk. To set out around the nearby streets of your neighborhood for a 30-minute stroll.

But how and why does one progress from that to deliberately walking 13.1 (because just 13 would be crazy, as racers like to joke!) or 26.2 miles?

For me, it’s about my grandmothers.

No matter where you stand on the nature vs. nurture continuum, we all have both in our makeup to some degree. When the opportunity first presented itself to walk a marathon (more on that in a future post), my thought process turned to my grandmothers.

At that time (2005), one of my grandmothers was not in the best of health. She was 81. During her life, she wasn’t really an exerciser, and her primary form of physical activity over the years was gardening and yard work. Sometimes she did a little stationary cycling.

My other grandmother tended to amaze everyone who met her. In 2005, she was 84, and she went hiking weekly with a hiking club she helped start when she was in her 60s. Even before that, in her 50s, she took up downhill and cross-country skiing, and in her 60s she bicycled across New Jersey (from the northwestern corner to the southeastern tip) with a cycling group on a week-long trip a few years in a row. She was active and fit — and quite healthy.

So, as I thought about whether I could/should/wanted to walk a full, 26.2-mile marathon, I thought of two possible outcomes for my old age, at least in terms of the “nature” angle. And it was clear to me that I wanted to age like my amazing, inspiring active Gram — and to accomplish that, I might want to step it up (no pun intended!) while I was still relatively young.

I registered for the race. And I’ll tell you in a future post how my active Gram joined me on the race course a few years later.