I pretty much exercise every day or, at the very least, every week. It´s not really because I have cartloads of willpower. I actually enjoy it. It´s a part of who I am and it comes as easily to me as brushing my teeth. I don´t have to convince myself, I just do it. When you´ve been engaging in sports regularly for your entire life, it´s hard to give it up. And, unless taken to extremes, it´s a pretty positive addiction. At 56, I´m pretty grateful for it.
I didn´t get started on sports when I was a kid so I could look a certain way and that´s still not my main motivation. The reason I got started on sports and even yoga as a preteen, and the reason I continue, is a matter of survival. You see, I´ve suffered from depression and anxiety from a young age and eventually had a full-blown eating disorder that lasted 20 years.
Movement: running, swimming, dancing, asana yoga … has always quieted the monkey chatter in my brain. It also helped me feel more and more at home in my body; a body I despised as a kid and a teen and even a young woman with an eating disorder and depression; a body I have grown to love because it gave me my two beautiful, strong, fearless daughters; a body I have grown to embrace because it is the vehicle through which I experience so much of life and through which I can relate to other beautiful human beings.
I know that by tending to my body, I´m also tending to my mind and to my spirit, and I´m doing my part in living a healthy existence for my sake and the sake of my loved ones. I´m old enough to know that exercise alone doesn´t guarantee that at some point I won´t contract some debilitating illness. I had a close brush with colon cancer a year ago. I have fit friends who´ve succumbed to deadly diseases. But at least I feel at peace knowing that if something does befall me, it won´t be because I didn´t do my best to stay in good health.
Most people are not exercise buffs. Most people do not enjoy running, going to the gym, or engaging in sports. So, for those who would like to improve their health and fitness level but can´t find the motivation to do so, here are some reasons that could get you started. I´ve learned we can withstand practically anything in life if we have a strong why.
1.- For the sake of family and loved ones.- The last thing I want is to be a burden to my kids. By eating a healthy diet and staying active, I´ve managed to keep my blood pressure within normal limits and I just got a clean bill of health from my doctor. I feel I owe it to my father, my siblings, my husband and my children to take care of myself, so they don´t have to take care of me.
2.- To save money on medical bills.- If you live in the U.S. you know exactly what I mean. The first thing my husband or I think when we need to see a doctor or go to the E.R. is “how much is this going to cost?” It´s a sad state of affairs that health insurance is so expensive here, but by staying active, I know I will most likely spend less money on doctor´s visits and medicine than if I were a couch potato.
3.- To enjoy quality of life.- Although I enjoy a challenging yoga practice, my main concern is to be able to recoup if I trip, and thus avoid a fall (it´s happened at least twice in the past few years), and to enjoy a life of mobility. I´m aware that I could literally break a leg tomorrow, but thanks to exercise and perhaps good genes, my bone density is great for my age. I can stand up from the floor without help and without using my arms, and that feels liberating.
4.- To prevent injury.- I´ve endured many injuries in my lifetime. Some were sports-related but many more were the result of a poorly executed move as I went around my day. For example, at 41 I had a herniated disc from pushing a heavy couch, and the same year I suffered from sciatica from turning while putting down the toilet seat! I´ve thrown my back out getting out of the back seat of a car at 35, and so on and so forth. Now I am more mindful of how I move and I also aim to condition my body to prevent further injuries.
5.- For mental and emotional health.- I´ve already mentioned that this was what got me into sports in the first place. Although due to imbalances in my brain chemistry I still take meds for mental health, nothing compares to the high felt after physical exertion. I rely on those endorphins daily to feel good about myself and to reduce stress.
6.- To model a healthy lifestyle to kids and grandkids.- I started running with my dad when I was young, and my children have grown up watching me work out at the gym, run, attend dance classes and now, practice yoga. For them, this is normal. My eldest was a basketball player in high school and now, at 18, she hikes and goes to the gym. My youngest, 15, trains in an Olympic boxing team a couple of times a week and joins me practicing yoga. I know this will serve them well as adults.
7.- To feel like a freaking goddess.- When I encounter a roadblock in life, when I have a bad day, when I get a rejection from an editor or a literary agent, I know I can take it out on my punching bag, or sweat it out on my yoga mat and end up feeling like a goddess. No matter what goes on around me, bodywork is always there to catch me. I danced my way through a tough time in my life ten years ago, when I was an unemployed single mom on welfare!
8.- To honor those gone too soon.- I´ve lost a few friends younger than me to cancer and heart attacks in the past few years. Every single day I think of my friend Belinda, gone too soon, less than a year ago. As she battled cancer, she would write to me saying, “all I want to do is grow old and see my kids grow up.” I feel I would be slighting her memory if I didn´t enjoy the body I´m in while I have it.
I have friends with invisible illnesses, friends in wheelchairs, friends with limited mobility, and some of them are also exercising in whichever way is available to them for all the reasons above and more. If they can, I certainly have no excuse!
All these reasons are also why I launched TheFlawedYogini, to share my wellness and fitness journey with like-minded folks or those struggling to get going.
What is your reason to get moving?