I like that old saying, “At twenty you have the body you were born with; at forty (+) you have the body you deserve.” The truth is, though, staying committed to fitness goals can be hard, especially when you have a busy family life. My solution? No excuses, and mix it up.
For cardio, I’m not ‘gonna lie – I share the nationwide obsession with SoulCycle (see related post here) and I spend an inordinate amount of time and money doing it. It’s my favorite way to get my heart rate up and my dance on, especially since at my age, nightclubs are no longer a respectable option. I love the instructors, and most classes really do feel like that “cardio party” people are always raving about.
Running is the most obvious cardio alternative, but try as I might, I have never enjoyed it. I attribute this to weak ankles, but it’s probably due to some form of exercise ADD that renders identical repeated motions (like pounding pavement or treadmill) for long periods of time intolerable. Also, there’s no choreography, and that’s a problem.
Swimming is an option, and it took me some time – and basically, one gadget – to bring me around to it. My waterproof iPod shuffle allows me to listen to music while I swim, and let me tell you, Justin Bieber sounds pretty darn good underwater. I now swim one mile – that’s 70 laps in a typical gym pool – once or twice a week. The best part is that my increased lung capacity means that I am rarely out of breath during those crazy out-of-the-saddle sprints you-know-where.
Strength training is just as important as cardio workouts, especially for women, because it helps maintain our bone density. I try to hit the gym to do some moderate lifting (and those dreaded squats and lunges) a couple of times a week. This is by far my least favorite workout, but my amazing trainer (aka the strongest man in the gym) makes it fun(ish). And let’s face it, I don’t hate the resulting muscle tone.
To slow down and stretch things out I love yoga, but I have to admit that I have a love-hate relationship with hot yoga. The benefits are supposedly irrefutable, but it’s just so messy! (In addition to exercise ADD, I probably have a mild form of exercise OCD). I’ve found at least one studio that offers a “Power Hour” – which pretty much defines the limits of my tolerance and enthusiasm for the heat. Open air yoga is more my cup of tea, but local options are few and far between.
All that being said, my happy place was and always will be the ballet studio. I danced when I was a kid, and there is a little part of me that always wanted to be a ballerina. I was thrilled when I found out about the adult classes at the studio opened by the Washington School of Ballet near me, and I love the hours that I spend plié-ing and relevé-ing my heart out with other ballet aficionados. Ballet requires talent, discipline, precision, and grace – values that I believe apply in everyday life. It can be intimidating, but I was fortunate to find a ballet instructor with an equally important gift – a sense of humor (which is necessary when teaching grown-up, non-professional dancers). He gives commands that I can relate (and smile) to, e.g. “We’re working, not twerking!” or “Smile – don’t hate ballet! It didn’t do anything to you!” Thanks to him I can forgive myself, just a little, for being over the hill (for the record, peak age for a ballet dancer is like..25) – in ballet class at least.