“a violinist had a violin, a painter his palette. all I had was myself. I was the instrument that I must care for.” ~josephine baker
exercise, fitness, these are boring words to me that can cause feelings of resistance to emerge. motility at it’s apex could be a better term for we are motile creatures with appendages that can dance, draw lines, craft, emit energies, embrace, electrify in limitless combinations. i used to think and vocalize the idea that diet is significantly more important than so-called exercise but i view things differently these days. i would argue that it truly is 50-50*. ensuring that our bodies are strong, elevating the heart rate, detoxing through sweating, purification through oxygenation, recharging our metabolism, exercise high (the only drug anyone should really “take” in my view) and emotional uplift are all things that support our nutritional and our life goals.
i haven’t always been into exercise and perhaps that’s why i try to think of it in other terms. as a child i wasn’t involved in organized sports due to my mother’s concern with a heart murmur that was detected in infancy. nevertheless i’ve been active in other ways as competitive sports are not the only option. i was involved in dance as a child and again in high school which made me practice and value flexibility, balance and creative movement and also contributed to greater poise and spatial awareness. though my wallflower tendencies at parties might make me seem otherwise, i am a rhythmic being and have a love for modern dance of a motley assortment. dancing is a beautiful practice and engaging in it via a school setting helped me not see it as something not confined to a particular style, form or body type. as a sideline to dance i cheerlead in high school which was another dancerly activity and a sport indeed. my deep love again intersects with dance and is skating/blading. This is what 1980s roller rinking does to a girl! outdoor blading – well that’s the pure california in me. i could skate for hours, maybe days as long as they are all sunny.
living in new york and not being a street skater it’s not possible for me to skate year round so i seek out alternative forms of movement these days. i try to keep it outdoors as much as possible when the weather isn’t below the 30s. this year I’m really focusing on strength training and endurance, building muscle, some of which i lost in my early 20s. a strong body doesn’t have as many fluctuations and makes cardio breezy simple. you probably won’t see me running any marathons or anything like that as i’m really just into doing what i can maintain on the day to day. currently i’m building up to 5 days a week including 3 full body strength training workouts and about 3 hours of cardio weekly in different forms, sometimes strength training classes, running around my neighborhood, doing different cardio machines, circuit training/interval workouts, yogic/stretchy kinds of things.
my recent juice cleanse and currently low glycemic project have really propelled me in the right direction and energized me, making exercise a lot easier and more consistent for me. i’m far from one to really give advice on being fit as i’ve had lots of ups and downs but these are some things i have learned:
- strength train: women especially! men seem to already understand this but many of us think this means we’ll bulk up which is untrue! i once read once that 60% of all exercise should be focused on strength training. i’d say 50-50 strength/cardio is also effective. feeling my body strengthen is part of what makes me able to enjoy exercise.
- weight loss?: also related to strength training, for anyone whose goal it is to lose weight, sure strength training may slow weight loss initially but quick unsustainable cardio meltdown doesn’t produce the net results desired. developing a more efficient system should be the goal. i also am not an advocate of working out for the pure goal of weight loss. i get mildly irritated by fitness instructors who try to use weight loss as a motivator for exercise (shouting things like – work those abs – bikini season is coming!). certainly weight loss is a healthy goal for some people but focusing on overall health and the multifaceted benefits of exercise is for me a better way to integrate movement into my life wholly.
- take it outdoors: the gym has its purpose and great things can happen in there but the elements have a different effect and a different outcome for the body. compare running on a treadmill to running outdoors – what a difference! plus outdoors we have to negotiate with the land, engage with the terrain around us. get outside whenever possible, regardless of season.
- schedule in exercise: there is no one in the world who doesn’t have time to do something active at some point in the day. working at a desk? take a breather and stretch or go for a walk. locked into a study session for upcoming exams? Do 5 minute workouts each hour – it adds up and can help us study better and work more efficiently! i remember doing this with my jump rope, just jumping every predetermined time interval.
- make it a lifestyle: diminish the concept of exercise altogether old school style. for those who drive, ditch the car keys and walk, bike or skate to do your errands. take stairs, play with children, walk absurd distances. cardio house cleaning can also be a serious workout and then everything and then everything ends up looking sparkly and clean!
- be cute but not vain: i have friends who will say things like “my hair is going to get messed up” or “i hate getting sweaty.” sorry chicas but the fittest sweatiest hair not done person looks and feels way better than someone out of shape with perfect hair and makeup. get some nice fitness gear, get a hat and all will be fine.
- listen to the body: i was stuck for a long time in this 30 mins of cardio trap. Now i push myself towards what feels right, even if it’s 51 or 62 minutes, an extra set of hamstring curls, taking a different bend in the road on my power walk or whatever the breeze tells me that particular day.
- drink water: i keep water by my side and drink throughout my workouts. it’s extra beneficial as i drink more water on days that I work out and makes me feel like i can be stronger in my workouts. by water i am referring to the clear colorless and neutral tasting beverage with a pH of 7, not gatorade, powerade, propel water, brand x-ade, juice, smoothies, protein shake, etc.
- load up tracks that inspire you or listen to the wind: find some motivational tunes or listen to nature. some staple workout music for me includes ultramagnetic mc’s, goldie and of course prince.
- don’t overthink it: asking the self whether or not it wants to work out on a particular day sets the stage for a yes-no response. exercise operates on so many levels besides the mental, we should never let our particular thoughts or mood affect our right to movement for health. once we start moving thoughts of not wanting to typically dissipate, and moreso with consistent exercise over time.
i am no wise woman when it comes to staying active. i’m just riding the wind and following what feels right to my system. i would love to hear any words of wisdom that those with more experience can share.
[the pic is an old drawing i did in charcoal and pastel from a live nude, exploring the human form. i know the proportions are way off especially on her butt. hey - i make no claims to be a professional artist and i love my mistakes!]