Making the Committment
In my retirement, I have been exploring new ways to be physically active. I have always walked for exercise with my guide dog. We mapped out several routes in my neighborhood and enjoy this special time together. But walking just didn’t seem like enough and I was experiencing changes in my balance, muscle strength, range of motion, and stamina. As a visually impaired person I had become less physically active and I didn’t like the way I was feeling. I have put on weight and have been suffering with low back pain. I needed to move all my muscles and joints and strengthen my whole body. As I age, I want to be able to rely on my body to allow me to do the things I want to do. If we give our amazing bodies what they need, they will perform what we ask of them. So now that I have time on my hands, I am investing in my health and well-being.
I discovered the “sports and fitness” channel on TV and began to do Pilates, dance, and yoga programs in my living room. This proved to be a great place to start and helped me loosen up and get back into regular exercise. These programs are “on demand” selections and there are hundreds to choose from with a wide variety of workouts. Though I was sore at first, it felt so good to be moving again. After a few months of these home workouts, I wanted more. I considered joining a gym, though in the past that didn’t always work out since I do not drive and have to find rides. There happened to be a new gym opening up in our area and we checked it out.
Joining a Gym
It turns out that this new gym offered a great deal; affordable pricing, no contract, and no sign up fees. In addition, the membership allows for a free guest with each visit. This was perfect — I could invite friends to drive me and stay to work out for free. And so for the last few months, I have been able to visit the gym consistently and explore all that it has to offer. The management and trainers were very helpful in orienting me to equipment and welcoming to my guide dog Sophie. I learned the weight machine circuit and how to set the different cardio machines, carefully navigating the maze of equipment with Sophie or my white cane. When I first joined, I mostly took advantage of the water aerobics classes which were easy on my lower back problems. My back improved as I strengthened my core muscles. Then it was time for a bit more challenge. I stepped up my game by adding 30-45 minute workouts on the elliptical, treadmill and stationary bicycle, alternating. And I began doing the weights twice a week as well. The gym recently added Pilates and yoga classes, which I have thoroughly enjoyed.
Trying New Activities
Yoga has been such a surprisingly delightful way to move and work my body. It involves posing in ways that stretch and engage your muscles, heating them up and fatiguing them. Breathing technique is also important when practicing yoga, I am learning. My instructor AJ has a wonderful way of leading us “baby yogis” through the poses, giving verbal cues and tips on how to get the most out of the movements. As she talks about “creating space” within our bodies, I am aware of new sensations and movements of which my body is capable. When my muscles shake in the “hovering cat” position or burn as I hold a balancing pose, I know I am doing something healthy for my body. As AJ says, “It feels so yummy!” It is a delicious experience being anchored to the earth and unifying your mind and body as you go through the routine, interspersed with moments of relaxation in “child’s pose.” My favorite part of class is doing our “oms,” which AJ calls a massage of our central nervous system and a chance to project our voice. This is followed by the “corpse pose” when we are challenged to rest, empty our minds, and breathe deeply for two minutes…heavenly! What a wonderful feeling I have when I leave the class, ready to take on the day!
Enjoying the Benefits of Exercise
I have already seen many changes and benefits to my body as a result of these new activities. My balance has improved, I am losing weight, my clothes fit better, my moods are stable, and I am sleeping soundly. My lower back and joint pains are improving too. Another benefit of going to the gym has been making new friends and being inspired by the environment. Our bodies are incredible machines and require motion and maintenance. Give your body what it needs and it will give you what you want – quality of life.
If you are doing nothing in the way of exercise, do something! If you are doing something, do more! Enjoy your body in motion!