My three boys either ran, sauntered or dragged themselves onto the bus yesterday morning for their first day of school. I’m not sure if I should open a bottle of wine, crank up the radio or just sit and think about what a great summer we’ve had. Yes, I think I’ll do the latter. Reflection is so important. Not trying to relive the past or dwell in the coulda, woulda, shoulda. I’m talking about looking back at a couple or a few months and reviewing accomplishments and experiences.
How often have we heard someone (perhaps ourself) say “Where did my summer go?” or “Wow, summer blew by so fast.” In my opinion, that’s the type of person who didn’t make plans or write things down or track their progress. Granted, stuff happens that’s beyond our control. But I’m talking about setting goals and moving toward them. Yes, there are detours and obstacles along the way, but that’s all part of it.
Why did I title this blog Back to School? Because we need to get back to the basics when it comes to living a healthy and active lifestyle. I’m not talking about hitting the reset button now that your children are back in school and there’s structure again. There should always be structure. But that’s another blog all together.
For me the basics of health and fitness as well as living life are:
1. Having fun
2. Trying stuff
3. Being safe.
A coule days ago I attended a client’s retirement party. At my table a gentleman asked me what I thought was the “number one thing” when it comes to personal training. I answered clearly “Having fun.” He looked surprised and pleased. I went on to explain that, in my opinion, working out and preparing meals should be enjoyed. Because honestly, when we look at life, what is it but a lot of experiences and feelings? Shouldn’t we then have good experiences and good feelings that make us smile? I know that not everything is smile-worthy, but you get my point. At the end of a workout, when you leave the gym, field, studio, court or wherever, if you are not smiling and feeling good about what you did, then you’re doing it wrong. For most of us, the workouts aren’t a sacrifice leading up to the trophy. The workouts are the trophy. And even if you are training for a special event or competition, then what happens when that day is over? When you have crossed the finish line? You’re still you and hopefully you can look back at the work leading up to it and know that the reward was in the trying.
I continued by saying that eating healthy and working out should be about “trying stuff”. Then I smiled and I took a sip from my champagne glass. Not conforming to a workout that will be obsolete in three weeks or following a diet plan that will leave you craving a bowl of ice cream. Tennis, dancing, walking, gardening, lifting weights, swimming, playing soccer are all great activities. But Eric, how am I to excel at one if I am doing a little of all of them. My response? I didn’t know that you were a professional athlete. If so, cross-training is a great way to improve performance in your chosen sport and reduce injuries. How about that? This might tick some people off but going to the gym 3-4 times a week is a waste of time if that’s all you do. How about goofing off in the pool with your kids? Or going for a hike with your spouse? Playing ping pong with your dad? It’s about doing stuff and having fun doing it.
I finished by saying that “being safe” was crucial to adherence and long term success. When it comes to “trying stuff” I’m talking about trying stuff within reason and within your current abilities. If you use to play tennis thirty years ago, and today you decide to hit with a friend on the court, you’re not too bright. You may remember how it felt all those years ago, but if you haven’t been training for it, moving side to side, making quick stops, reaching over your head, then you’re putting yourself at risk. Eric, I’m talking about just hitting. No, I get it. That’s when injuries happen. Several years ago, a client of mine asked if I would play tennis with him. I asked him when he played last and he answered that it had been a few years. I politely declined and suggested he get some tennis shoes and begin by gently hitting balls against the backboard. He was not happy with that answer. Another season went by, he asked and I declined. And another. Finally one day, against my better judgement, I agreed. We started with some groundstrokes. My goal was just to rally and feed the ball back to him in the middle of the court. He got excited and hit the ball firmly to my forehand. I returned it a couple feet to his left. Abruptly he made a quick side step, yelped and then fell onto the ground. Oh shit! He said he felt something pop is his lower leg. He had pulled a calf muscle.
To sum up, going Back to School is not about buying the most expensive piece of exercise equipment or joining the fanciest fitness club or even learning the latest stretching technique. It’s about getting back to the basics: having fun, trying stuff and being safe. Find the activities you like to do and do them.