02 March 2011

Be Your Own Doctor: Fitness

“The things you can do better if you’re in shape far outweigh the things
you can do better without exercise.” – Justin Mayes

It’s no big secret that staying fit helps keep us out of the doc’s office. Besides good nutrition, a routine fitness program helps us age well, prevents unnecessary pain in our bodies, aids in good digestion, prevents disease and builds self-confidence.

Fitness is an area I’ve always struggled in. Any of you who know me may start laughing right about now. I’m 5’5” and, up until recently, 105 pounds. Most people automatically assume that I have no weight or body issues, and because I’m thin must be uber healthy. This is not so.

According to the BMI scale, I’m a good 10 to 15 pounds underweight and have struggled to get to a healthy weight most of my life. Though I was born petite in build I, too, am at fault for not giving my body what it needs. I never struggled with eating disorders; on the contrary I would eat and eat in efforts to gain. I realize now that a healthy diet and routine fitness program help build the muscle I need to be at my healthy weight. I’m getting there, slowly. Being underweight comes with its own baggage. Aside from struggling with feeling like a woman and other self-esteem issues (side note: “You’re so skinny you make me sick” never sounds like a compliment) there is also the issue of fragility. I injure easy, become exhausted and overheated easy, and am more susceptible to illness (ironically, same as those struggling with weight on the opposite end of the spectrum.)

All that to say, being above or below our ideal weight can be discouraging and detrimental to our health. That’s why it is so important to take the time to care for our bodies. We only get one go around with the body we have, so it’s best to take care of it. Here are a couple things that I have learned about keeping a regular fitness routine that help motivate and encourage me...

1) Focus on what matters.

Fitness is not about losing or gaining weight. Though this is a definite benefit, we have to focus on the fact that is it HEALTHY. If all we are focused on is our appearance, we’ll stop the second we see the improvement we wanted and go right back to the way we lived before. Fitness has to be about life change. It has to be a decision to throw out the old way of thinking about how we live our lives and adopting a new, healthier way. A lifestyle change can be hard to make but once you’ve done it it’s equally hard to reverse.

2) Make it a priority.

I think a lot of times, especially if we have others to care for, it is easy to feel like it is selfish to think about taking care of ourselves and giving in to what our body needs. This is not good thinking. There is nothing selfish about taking care of what we have. We should be proud to take care of our bodies and do well with what we were given. Making fitness a priority makes a difference. Since it matters, make sure your schedule says so. Maybe schedule in 30 minutes of exercise right when you wake up or right when you get home from work. If you’re really going to make a lifestyle change, you probably need to do so as a family. Exercising together and encouraging one another to stay healthy is a really great way to build one another up and bond as a family unit.

3) Set achievable goals.

If it’s a long way to the ultimate fitness goal set little goals in place. When I think about where I want to be, I become overwhelmed. Sometimes the more motivating thing for me to do is to work on being able to jump jacks for 30 seconds without panting than to run 2 miles without stopping. Again, setting goals as a family is also good motivation. When you reach a goal be sure to celebrate it and LOG it! Logging goals you’ve reached in a creative way is a visual reminder that you can achieve what you set your mind to.

4) Find an accountability buddy.

It’s hard to do it on our own. We humans were made for community, and doing things on our own just isn’t natural. Try and find a buddy to work out with; or, if that is unrealistic find one to hold you accountable and follow up on how you’re coming along on your goals.

5) Be thankful.

We should be thankful for being happy and healthy. And if we’re still working on the healthy part we can be thankful we are able to fix things before it is too late. We should be thankful that we have bodies of various sizes, each beautiful in their own ways, and no one the same as the other. And thankful that we each hold the key to a healthy future.

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