Many people look to summer as the time to make changes in their lives around their health as the warmer weather coaxes them out of the house and outside. But any day is a wonderful day to make a new commitment to your health.
The fall is also a great time to make new changes in your eating habits, exercise plans and overall health. But is something holding you back?
Sometimes it’s not a matter of our body, but often our mind that’s holding us back from beginning something new or getting back into a routine of taking care of ourselves. In my work as a yoga teacher, I sometimes hear people share stories of the way they used to be, physically, before other things happened that got them off the track of living healthy.
Former college athletes, marathon runners, basketball players, triathletes all speak of how they used to feel great, but life just began to get in the way of their health. They’re surprised, saddened and concerned by the condition of their body when they try to do some of the things that they used to do so effortlessly.
One of my clients talks about how she feels like her last road race was so challenging that she literally burned herself out. She hasn’t raced since and has been trying to find a new routine that’s a combination of eating well, jogging and other outdoor activities like hiking and biking. But she isn’t seeing the results she wants. As she gets more frustrated, her stress levels rise and she finds herself not only concerned with her body’s condition but also that of her mind.
This can be a somewhat tricky situation. For one thing, as we age, our bodies change. We may gain weight more easily, we may develop allergies or food sensitivities or preferences we never had before. Our life may be very different now, with work and family responsibilities that take up much of our time. We may have lingering injuries that have affected our flexibility and strength. Our sleeping patterns may have changed. All these things combined, or even just one of them, present new obstacles to getting and staying in shape.
We may also be struggling with trying to make peace with our changing body and may be trying to avoid placing so much emphasis on how we look. But we may be struck more by how we feel: shortness of breath, pain in our lower back or knees when we climb stairs, racing heart when we wake in the morning as we look ahead to our day; these are all signs that we need to make a change. But how?
- Start with where you are and create a work out that makes sense, given your current level of conditioning: One of the reasons I love yoga is that it can be modified to fit where you’re at right now. You can create customized workouts that give you what you’re looking for: more stretch, more strength, greater focus or relaxation. Whatever you’re doing, recognize that the way you feel today is not the way you’ll feel tomorrow. It makes little sense and can create an injury if you push yourself through exercise hoping that your body can draw on it’s stored memory.
- Select an exercise plan that, with consistent commitment, will support you in the goals you have. If you’re looking to lose weight, cardiovascular conditioning is your focus. Running, treadmills, brisk walking are all great examples. If you’re looking to decrease stress, restorative yoga or meditation are effective tools. Sometimes we don’t get the results we desire and we realize we’re sticking to old rules that no longer apply to our bodies.
- Find out who can support you and ask them for help. Friends, neighbors, family members can all help you in your goal of getting your health back on track. Sharing what you’re working on can inspire others you see regularly to make positive changes in their lives too.
- Look close to home for healthy activities to help you reach your goals. There are a few exercise facilities close to my home that I’ve never tried. I know because some of my friends have gone and rave about them. I host a Women’s Wellness Group in my home weekly and most of the women who attend live nearby and many were referred by a friend. Look close to home to see what your neighborhood has that can help you reach your goals.
- Remember that any step you take is worth it. When we have a history of living in a healthy way, we may get paralyzed when it comes to starting a new exercise plan because we don’t think a small effort will make a difference. But know that any effort is better than no effort. And, the miracle shift is that once you take that first step, you’ll start to feel so great, you’ll take the second and pretty soon you’ll be on your way.
Start small. Have faith. Ask for help. Be compassionate with yourself. Every change starts with a single step.