The Beginning of My Own Exercise Journey
I will admit to not being much of a fan of exercise in my early years. When I was growing up, we didn’t have access to a gym and my parents couldn’t afford YMCA team sports for me and my brothers. Once I started high school, I was too intimidated to try out for team sports because my classmates had years of experience that I was lacking. My husband and I started dating in college and I did some weight lifting with him but really didn’t enjoy it. To me, exercise meant lifting dumbbells and doing cardio on a machine. I discovered that I really don’t like the stereotypical gym environment and those specific activities. So I stopped. Then, I started practicing medicine and found myself “prescribing” exercise to my patients. Exercise has so many benefits.
In simple terms, exercise improves cardiovascular function and helps muscles withstand fatigue. It can dull pain and improve your mood. Exercise makes your muscles grow and strengthens bones. During exercise, blood flow increases in the skin which can help wounds heal faster. Some studies show that exercise helps memory and speeds up learning. Exercise is a key component of diabetes prevention too. Moderate exercise of 150 minutes per week plus weight loss of 5-10% will decrease diabetes risk up to 60%. With all these benefits it’s no wonder that doctors regularly advise patients to exercise.
Aaaaaaand, I wasn’t exercising regularly and felt like a fraud every time that I recommended it to a patient. I’d had three children in 5 years and was quite tired. I didn’t have time to go to the gym. Then I read a medical school friend’s blog (Yemi Odugbesan – she’s a health coach in Denver in her spare time) and a statement that she made really resonated with me. She said “Be stronger than your excuses.” Wow, that hit home.
So, I started small. I got on the elliptical in my basement for 15 minutes at a time. It’s conveniently located in front of a TV so I get some entertainment at the same time. I have three kids six years old and under so this is the only time that I get to watch TV (without annoying cartoon characters and songs that get stuck in your head). I started at night after my kids were in bed. I worked up to 35-40 minutes at a time for four days a week to get the recommended 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week. And I started to feel much better. Energy levels went up and stress levels went down. Hey it works!
Finally Finding My Exercise Passion
I found my other exercise passion in a yoga studio that I attend for gentle Vinyasa classes. The studio experience is so much better for me than home practice. When I try to do yoga at home, inevitably my husband wanders through the background and disrupts my focus. In class it’s just me and the other participants all doing the same thing. Yoga is great for strengthening and flexibility. I feel so much lighter inside after leaving a class. I don’t have enough time to do it more than once or twice a week but that might (hopefully) change as my kids get older.
Yoga’s not for everyone though. You have to find something that interests you and you’ll be much more likely to stick with exercise if you enjoy it. We’re lucky to be in Boulder county with so many options available. New types of exercise are being added everyday it seems. Have you heard of goat yoga? It’s yoga with baby goats running free to play “king of the mountain” on your back. Sounds pretty adorable (but also potentially messy). I’ve got patients who love Zumba, Tai Chi, rock climbing, biking, martial arts, Cross Fit, Nia, triathlons. The point is to find something that YOU want to do. It takes about 2 months before that new thing becomes a habit so make a promise to yourself to stick with it that long. And remember, be stronger than your excuses.