Revisiting Exercises from Days Long Past

Everyone always tells you that exercise should be fun – because, let’s face it, if it’s not fun you’re less likely to want to do it. And despite the fact that recent research has now pretty much shown that exercise is not going to make you thin, there are a lot of positive benefits of getting your heart rate up – the least of which include helping your body absorb calcium from the blood, detoxifying your skin, and strengthening your heart.

So what does it mean to find an exercise that you love?

As adults, particularly women, we tend to think about exercise as going to a gym or taking a class. Admittedly, men are more likely to have stayed active with sporting activities or games throughout their lives, for example, playing pick up basketball at community gyms or going rock climbing, skiing, or cycling on the weekends with their friends.

But if you watch young kids play, they are constantly in a state of motion. They don’t need any excuse to exercise. They don’t need any additional motivation. You don’t need to convince them to move. In fact, if anything, you usually have to convince them to stop running, to sit down, to take a nap, and to settle down. Unfortunately these messages are usually pretty well internalized by the time they’re teens – which is the time when they need to start running, to get up, to stop sleeping, and pick it up. This is especially true for young women whose bodies (especially if they’ve grown up drinking dairy products enriched with fat storing growth hormones) are naturally designed to start storing fat upon adolescence.

Kids move their bodies.

Adults look for excuses not to.

Well, yesterday, I was doing a round of High Intensity Interval Training and one of the sets was to skip in place.

Remember skipping?

It took me a minute as I really had to think about what I was requiring my body to do. You throw one arm up as the opposite knee also goes up? What?!

After a couple of false starts, I figured it out. And once I did, my body memory kicked in and I remembered: I love skipping! Or, more accurately, when I was a kid, I loved skipping! I didn’t just like it. I seriously loved it! In fact, I remember my mother telling me repeatedly to slow down, to stop skipping, to not skip in the house, etc. Now, granted, I was a bit of a klutz, so I’m sure that I spent more time on the ground face first than I did moving gracefully above ground and we also lived in a pretty small house, so she was probably just looking out for my best interest – so I don’t mean to be bashing my mom. But the bottom line is that eventually I stopped skipping. I stopped skipping so resolutely that I had completely forgotten about it. I had completely forgotten about how much I loved it.

So, during my H.I.I.T. I was supposed to skip in place 75 times.

Without going into too much detail, let me just say that that’s harder than it sounds! I was gasping by the end of it. I was particularly out of breath given that you did this 12 times, plus a lot of other stuff (the entire routine was based off the of the song The Twelve Days of Christmas with the skipping on day one! Just in case math isn’t your strong suit: 75 times 12 is a 900 skips. That’s a lot of skips. If you don’t believe me, just give it a shot!

Well, after that I started thinking. What would my life had been like if I had never stopped skipping? How many calories a day would I have burned just doing something that I loved instead of doing something that I felt like I had to do? How much better shape would I be in if I skipped from my car to the office and back again? Or if I skipped from one end of the house to the other ten times a day as I went about my daily routine? More importantly, how much more fun would I have?

So, after my 20 minute exercise routine, I drank some water and decided to skip to the end of the driveway and back. Michael J and I live in a house that’s pretty set back from the road; I would guess that it’s less than a quarter mile, but I couldn’t tell you for certain. It is pretty steep though, at least in places. Regardless, I took a deep breath and without so much as even taking a glance around to see if anyone was watching, I took off.

Skipping in the real world is fun. Skipping in motion (that is, not in place in your living room) is fun and exhilarating. There’s enough movement that it creates a nice breeze. I felt ten years younger. I laughed. I had fun!

Heading down hill (away from the house) my heart rate pretty quickly went from 85 (post workout) to 115 and by the time I had made it to the street it was 145. After taking a few seconds rest, I turned around and headed back up the hill, which, granted, was much harder. By the time I crested the last hill, I was totally winded and my heart rate was 162!

But it was fun! In less than 6 minutes, I burned about 70 calories and had a complete physiological and emotional state change. Not only because I was moving my body, but because I was moving it in a way that brought back memories of being happy, easy, free, and comfortable in my body. I was literally transported back to a time where I accepted myself whole heartedly and could enjoy being in my body without any feelings of inadequacy, embarrassment or shame. And trust me, that’s worth something.

If you need to mix up your routine or you just need a quick way to shift your state, try skipping. Or, better yet, reach into your old childhood toy box and find find the thing that you used to love the most. Even if you don’t think you remember how to do it, I bet your body can remind you. And even if you think you’re body can’t do it because you’re too old or you’re too out of shape or that you couldn’t possibly still like X, Y, or Z, I bet you’ll be pleasantly surprised!

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