Sunday, June 12, 2005

National Emergency: Your Fitness

There's been so much written about the national emergency that Americans are facing -- we're dangerously overweight. But it's hard to bridge the distance between the entire population and your mouth.

As hurricane season starts in Florida with Hurricane Arlene this week, we can all get a handle on the notion of a "national emergency" and how to prepare for one. There are agencies to help us. There is a community effort to support families, kids, all of us. Floridians are, unfortunately, old hands now at coping with their particular local weather disasters.

But how do we take a National Fitness Emergency and make it personal -- just about you and how you eat and how you move your body? It's paradoxical.

I guess I can tell my story. How about that? A few things contribute to why I'm so crazy about working out. A few ordinary things, a few painful things. Also, btw, I'm no Skinny Minnie. I actually don't own a scale so, I kindof don't know what I weigh, but I can guess.

I'm 5'8" so I'm blessed to be tallish, because I think it's a nightmare for short women to keep trim. My hats off to any of you who've mastered it. I can get away with murder in that respect -- eating junk I shouldn't because it doesn't show on a tall body. If I were shorter, I'd have to be super careful with everything I ate and how much I move.

So what do I weigh? Let me think about it. I have a range that runs from a woman's dress size of 8-10-12. I'm REALLY skin and bones (according to me) when I'm 130 or so (size 8). When I'm in a reasonable weight I'm around 140-145 (a size 10). When I'm pudgy and round I'm around 150 (size 12). The highest I've ever weighed (not related to pregnancy, during, pre- or post-) is around 160.

I probably weigh ... 145-150 now. I really don't like women obsessing about their weight. I'm fine however with them obsessing about being STRONG AND FIT AND HEALTHY.

The number one reason I'm keen on being fit is that I'm 49 and I have a 9 year-old. Do the math -- I have to stay in shape to take care of my boy as he grows up and simply to be there when he's older. No choice. I'll be 61 when I see him graduate from college. I plan on being a very fit, foxy 61, believe me.

I didn't realize it when I had my baby at 39, but kids want you to play with them all the time and do SPORTS with them all the time. So you miss a lot as a parent if you can't do sports with them. My kid has gotten me into downhill skiing, more xcross country (I always did that), rollerblading, sledding, skateboarding, diving, more swimming (always swam) just to name a few things. So I've been more fit than ever thanks to my son. I wasn't this strong or fit in college -- nowhere near. In fact, I wasn't in very good shape in college and probably the fattest I ever was -- too much late night cookies and milk.

Another reason I'm fit. I watched my mom and dad die of lung cancer and heart disease respectively (in their 80's) and I was up close watching the nursing home experience and it was really NO FUN. But get this -- their generation had Social Security, a good ratio of caregivers to geriatric patients and in my family, five kids to care for their two parents in their old age. And it still was fairly MISERABLE. I don't think I'm divulging any secrets here -- but our generation will probably have NONE of this. Wellness and fitness in your life now will make your old age 100X more bearable. I hope to drop dead quickly while working out, dancing or just before someone tries to give me a speeding ticket when I'm a little bit over 100 years old, not waste away in a nursing home.

If none of these reasons appeal to you ... let me think of some more reasons to be fit. Did I forget IT FEELS GOOD?!? There's one. And how about YOU LOOK BETTER -- especially without your clothes on. It feels so good and makes you want to do things -- run around, take trips, make love, cook dinner, live a full life.

And how about the fact that your body is a great input/output device for your emotional life -- the more fit you are (the more in touch with your body), the more you can quickly read feelings of stress, danger, love, sadness, excitement and react appropriately. And this reminds me of the other BIG THING about exercise -- mental fitness.

Everyone who works out knows that it's often as not a 50% physical and a 50% MENTAL fitness work-out as you're lifting weights, trudging up that last mile of Heartbreak Hill, swimming your 100'th lap, landing an awesome double axel on your local rink's ice. Physical fitness makes you mentally fit and strong. It's so important. It makes all the stress in your life loom NOT so large.

But what about YOU ... let's just bring our big national emergency back to you, your table, your waistline and the street outside your house or office. You don't have to be a marathoner. You don't have to be an award-winning figure skater. I'm not asking you to be a superstar athlete. Here's all I'm asking today, all you need to improve your fitness.

Go outside and walk. If the weather stinks, go to a local mall and walk. If you can't walk, swim. Just do some sort of activity today. It's a place to start. And you'll have done your work as a citizen to end our national disaster.

Oh yeah, and one more thing, do it tomorrow too. And the next day, and the next day ... etc.