Play To Strength

New Year’s Planning

31 Dec

The tradition of making New Year’s Resolutions may have actually started out as a positive thing, however, it has an ominous tone for many. Typically these promises are about lifestyle changes which often involve deprivation (diets!) or discipline (hard-core exercise!) or both and, today, most people start it off with a “joke” that they will have failed by Valentine’s Day. It really has become a time for big proclamations with little intent to succeed, as most of these resolutions revolve around promising to do things you don’t want to do for a goal that society has told you you should strive for.

So instead, why not consider some plans, plans that might get you moving, might get you wanting to eat things that make you feel better but are not around arbitrary weight goals or to meet what society or your mother think you should be doing?  And, most importantly, things that are fun! 

As always, these plans need to be personal and need to be about what you want to do this year. Perhaps you really think the Zombie races or Mud Runs sound fun, start making a plan to be able to run one this year, find one near you and sign up! None of these races are about winning, they’re about having fun getting down and dirty! Perhaps a long walk is more your speed and you’ve always wanted to do one to help out a cause, start or step up your walking program and find such a walk in your area. Maybe you always wanted to learn to tango, maybe take your partner out for an anniversary dance, time to find lessons and sign up!

The important thing in finding joy in movement for the New Year is making plans to play. Leave the deprivation and discipline talk behind in 2012 and find your movement bliss!

If you’re having fun, who cares if you’re good?

10 Oct

A few days ago a quote went by on Facebook from Captain CB “Sully” Sullenberger, a bit of a paraphrase, from an interview on Runner’s World “I’m a Runner: “Sully” Sullenberger: The pilot and hero explains how running is like flying.”  I’ll include a bit more of the paragraph it was from, with some snippping:

“I was never a good runner or a great runner. I was just kind of an average, cruising-around runner. ….. But I really enjoyed it, even though I was not good at it. I got into a comfortable enough way of running with my stride and pace so that it felt kind of the way I describe flying. There’s a duality in the sense of mastery and of freedom. When you get out there–my hair was longer then–I could feel the wind blowing through my hair. I would often get up in the hills and just take my shirt off on a warm day. It’s a freeing exercise. Frees the mind, frees the spirit. You let your body take you places. The mastery part of it, I think, is that you know that not everyone can do this to that level. Even as someone who’s not particularly good at running, I’m still better than someone who doesn’t do it all. I think it’s also satisfying. I was never competitive in terms of wanting to run races. I never really pushed myself to the ultimate limits. I just enjoy getting out there and taking in the scene and being part of nature, basically.

The parts in bold are the ones I think are important. The bit about “I’m still better than someone who doesn’t do it all” which was the emphasis of what I saw posted, isn’t something I would even say. See, I’m not a good runner either and I couldn’t say in all honesty than I’m a better runner than everyone who doesn’t run, not in all ways anyway.  I’m totally sure that there are many young people who are healthy, fit in other ways and genetically gifted who could easily out run me in speed and distance. Mind you, any of them might be a hurting unit the next day while I might be free of any soreness because their muscles aren’t use to it and won’t recover without “complaint.”

My lung capacity is diminished, this is probably something I was born with although it wasn’t picked up until a few years ago. I have lived with the symptoms. Despite taking up running 35 or more years ago, I’m still easily short of breath and I have zero buoyancy (I’m also never going to be a good swimmer).  Dreams I had back when I started of doing long distance racing never came to fruition.  It’s not hard for someone to have greater endurance than I do just based on their health.

But I am a better runner than I would be if I didn’t run. And, yes, probably a better runner than any 50 year old woman with bad lungs who doesn’t run. And I’m a better breather, given this lung issue, than I would be. In fact, I’m really quite good at it for someone who does get short of breath. My lungs can sort through what they need and use it in ways that confuse nurses. I can get a blood oxygen level in room air that most people need to be on oxygen to get. I had a nurse actually look at the reading and tell me that wasn’t possible. I put that to running and my body’s need to do what it does because of it.

But the real reason I do it is in the other highlighted bits “Sully’s” account.  It’s fun for me. I enjoy it. It’s freeing. It fills me joy. I’m not running to compete with anyone, I, well, I run like a puppy, just for the joy of running. Often I run with puppies as well. Through the woods, jumping over things that are not impressive but who cares? Just out there playing.

I know not everyone feels this way about running. On the one hand, I will say that I have found a lot of people who don’t like to run have been doing it wrong. Sometimes it is that whole comparing to other people that makes how they are doing it wrong. For others it’s bad coaching, running heal-to-toe is a common issue for it is unnatural, high-impact and uncomfortable.* But some people just don’t find it fun and I’ll face that, as confusing as it might be for me. LOL

My point here isn’t to convince you to run or isn’t to convince you running is fun. It’s just to get back to reminding you that what you do for fitness should be fun. For you. So if running isn’t fun, do something that is. And don’t worry if if think you stink at it or if someone else is better or if you have a physical or medical issue that keeps you from being great at it (as long as it doesn’t make it unsafe for you). “Dance like no one is watching” whether it is dancing or running or cycling or tennis or a martial art…. Even if it is a sport, forget about the competition part and just play.  No matter how well someone else can do something, if you do it you will be better than you were. Every time you do it, a bit more. And possibly in ways you can’t even connect to it. Ways that might sneak up on you. Some of which will be nothing more than that you have had some fun, that alone can do wonders for a soul.

*Two great books on more natural running forms are Danny Abshire and Brian Metzler Natural Running: The Simple Path to Stronger, Healthier Running and Danny and Kathryn Dreyer, ChiRunning: A Revolutionary Approach to Effortless, Injury-Free Running

What Dogs Can Teach Us About Staying Fit

15 May

This isn’t going to be about advising you to get a dog so that you’ll get more exercise by walking her/him. While dogs can make great workout partners, it’s not a reason to get a dog in and of itself.  But I did figure I needed to explain why I have a photo of two of my dogs on the top of this page and my FaceBook page.

Figuring out how to decorate this page has been difficult. While photos of weights or people lifting them or people running might excite me it doesn’t excite everyone. One of my primary goals as a personal trainer is to find ways that makes exercise exciting for everyone, regardless of what they might find interesting. While I might like the “old standbys” of fitness, not everyone does and for those who don’t seeing them doesn’t really create an interest in doing anything. I don’t want to give the message that because I like running and lifting weights that it’s all I offer. I want to help each client find the things that they enjoy doing, that they’ll stick to or come back to as they run through the variety of things they might enjoy.

So I figured I’d use a photo of my dogs just enjoying themselves.

And this is precisely what we can learn from dogs about fitness. That it should be about fun. These two up top are Gleann and Sachairi and they are two of the fittest individuals I know. Sach, the littler one who has the toy, is also 12 now (11 in these photos, but still as active nearly a year later). They need their runs at least a couple of times a day, feeling anxious and getting obnoxious if they don’t get them. They run with abandon, whether it’s through the woods exploring or in the field chasing toys (actually Gleann more chases Sach chasing the toy).

Our other two dogs, Cù and Òrlaith, are Greyhounds, they are more relaxed. They are happier to just snooze the day away, but they do need at least one good long walk a day (right now we don’t have a fence up and, being Greyhounds, they have no real call back so they’re not let off leash). They find these walks highly entertaining, the world is quite exciting and full of bunnies even if they can’t chase them (actual real bunnies, which they smell far more than they see, our area is full of hares).

Dogs exercise because it’s fun, because they find great joy in running and playing. They don’t worry what they look like. They aren’t concentrating on their health. They do it because they’re instincts calls for it. They do it for the shear joy of being alive.

We all need to remember this. This is what exercise should be. Play. Fun. We need to find the ways we can make our bodies move that move us in spirit as well, that are fun for us, that are play. That give us shear joy in being alive.