Having covered the importance of diet in part 1 of “To Your Health”, it’s time to follow up with a foray into the land of exercise. If you have heeded my advice, you have likely lost a little bit of weight simply by hydrating first thing in the morning, and eating a good breakfast. If you haven’t read part 1 of the series, the take away is that skipping breakfast is the biggest dietary mistake people make. In the interest of not being redundant, I suggest you check it out if you haven’t already.
I had a five year period in my life where I wasn’t getting any exercise. I was in my late teens and early twenties, and honestly, I didn’t really need to work out. I was slim, young, and my metabolism still burned with the fury of a foundry’s furnace. As my twenties progressed, I began putting on a little weight, due to my lack of physical activity and my poor diet. By my junior year of college, I was at my heaviest and most sedentary. I was 23 and I decided to take advantage of the study abroad program offered by my university. This is where it all changed for me. After my program was over, I figured since I was already in Europe, I would burn through my meager savings account as a stereotypical American backpacker. I won’t bore you with the details, although there are some decent stories, but I will say that walking everywhere changed my life.
While in Europe, if I had to get somewhere, it was on the metro, bus, train, or foot. Taxi rides were a luxury I could not afford. While trapped in Amsterdam for a fortnight (it’s a long story), I had rented a bicycle to get around town on. The rental was cheap enough for a smelly bum like me to afford, and the freedom of two-wheeled transport coupled with the infrastructure of the town, helped reignite my passion for cycling. I have admittedly been a fan of the sport since Greg LeMond won the Tour de France in 1989. Fast forward to today, and I am one of those lycra clad weirdoes you see at the coffee shop on the weekends saying things to the barista like “Oh you know, I’ve only been riding for four hours today. Besides, it’s an easy hour home.” Home usually being about 20 miles away, depending on the route I choose to take.
I was fortunate. I rediscovered a long buried passion that ignited into a full-blown obsession for sport and fitness. I understand that most people are not in the same boat. If you are having a hard time mobilizing, but are serious about making a change, there are many ways to get active. Physical activity is not something that should be dreaded. The classic walk around the block is a fine way to get started. Do not concern yourself with distance or speed, the goal is to break a sweat. Pushing too hard too soon is a common mistake people make when they begin to exercise. This happens in part due to the misconception that to lose weight quickly, one must put forth a high level of physical excretion. If you are more concerned with quality of life instead of a quick turnaround, success will follow. Remember that this is a long-term investment in your health. There are no short cuts. The key is to start slow, and ramp up the intensity as your fitness improves. Before you know it, you might just be running five miles a day.
Another option is sport. If you have an affinity for a specific discipline, quit watching and start playing. A few examples include tennis, soccer, football, baseball (or softball), swimming, or in my case, cycling. The fastest and easiest is jogging or running, as all you need is a pair of shoes and shorts, and you are ready to go. Another good way to get moving is to find a local recreation center and join an adult league. It’s a great place to meet new friends, and hey, if you are single, co-ed leagues are a sure fire way to meet potential partners. One of my friends met his lady playing flag football. If you are still in school, intramural sports are a fine way to start getting active.
If the idea of playing a sport sounds dreadful, they need not enter the equation. Should the thought of joining a gym not cause dismay, hitting the weights, the elliptical, or treadmill are all valid alternatives. Another benefit of joining a gym is any modern gymnasium worth its salt will have a multitude of classes on offer for members. That means a myriad of different classes in varied styles of Yoga, Zumba, Pilates, spin classes, boot camps, etc. Honestly, it doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you break a sweat. Any type of excercise is beneficial to your health in the long run.
You may find that once you get over that initial hump of not wanting to exercise, skipping a day actually becomes a bother. For those healthy enough for arduous activity, exercise is good for nearly all that ails. As you begin to lose weight, your confidence grows. For those prone to melancholy, such as myself, I can attest that strenuous physical activity keeps the blue bird of sadness at bay. I find that if I don’t get my workout in, I get grouchy and a bit unpleasant to be around. Well, even more so, but I digress. The greatest benefit of all is an increased level of attractiveness as you lose weight. I mean, let’s be honest, we live in a society that places a hefty amount of importance on outward appearance. I’m not looking to throw rocks at the hornets’ nest, but that’s the simple truth.
So get out there. Break a sweat once a day. It’s good for your heart, it’s good for your head, and it’s good for your love life. Coupled with your new morning breakfast plan, you will certainly find yourself with more energy throughout the day. With your new found energy and ever slimming physique, don’t be surprised if you hold your chin a bit higher. With all of this, and surly a sparkle in your eye, you will be ready for the next installment of “To Your Health”, where I will outline how to really start slimming down. It’s not a diet, it’s your diet. Until then, have a great tomorrow!
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