Call me crazy, but I always loved the beginning of a new school year. Fresh school supplies, the promise of new friendships and subjects to explore — a chance to discover parts of myself previously under wraps. I’ve always relished new challenges, and that’s what each fall season promised me.
Just because I’m older doesn’t mean I love the first day of class any less. These days, though, my classes are fitness classes.
But with so many classes to choose from, how do you know what works for you? Aside from trial and error, there are a few questions to ask yourself. Get your pencils ready and take good notes.
1. What’s my goal? Most people embark on a new fitness routine to lose weight, but the reasons people stick with it are varied. Are you looking to build strength, increase confidence or come back from illness or injury? Are you trying to prevent the heart attacks that plague your family tree? Do you need to reduce stress? Want more fun in your life? Do you want to relive some of your dance hall days? Every workout has a purpose. If your life is overwhelming and you’re looking for some zen, yoga will work better than Zumba.
2. Is it safe? Not every workout is for every body. And even the exercises within the workout may need to be modified depending on each body. It’s always wise to consult your doctor when you begin a workout routine, especially if it’s been awhile since you’ve exercised. If you’re coming back from an injury or illness, take extra precautions not to come back too fast and re-injure yourself. Remember, we aren’t here to recapture yesterday, but to improve tomorrow.
3. Is it sustainable? One workout won’t change your body for the better any more than one doughnut will change it for the worse. Good health is the result of a series of consistent choices over time. The goal isn’t to get a beach body for that January cruise. Rather, our goal should be to take care of the body we have for as long as we have it. If you find indoor cycling mind-numbing, you aren’t going to stick with it. Find an activity you can see yourself doing consistently. That doesn’t mean you have to make a lifetime commitment to any specific class, but you do want to be committed long enough to see results. This is a lifestyle.
4. Is it fun? Life is too short to be miserable. Working hard and being uncomfortable can be exhilarating when we are involved in activities we love. If you love dancing, dance! If you feel invincible after some serious weight lifting, lift! Of course we want our workouts to be varied. We want to work all of our muscles in different ways on different days to be our strongest self. And burnout is a real thing. But if you hate swimming, find a different cardio activity to work your heart and lungs. Don’t worry about the latest craze. Do what you love and it will love you back.
No matter what class you choose, make sure your choice challenges you. Classes are a great way to find motivation. My job is to make it easier for you to work harder. My youngest daughter started sixth grade last month. For the first time in a long time, the subject matter is challenging. She’s having to study and work hard to understand and retain the information. There are moments of frustration, for sure. But already, she is smarter than she was a few months ago. Her brain is challenged. She is far from comfortable. But she is better for it, mentally and emotionally.
Stretch yourself. Try new things. Get uncomfortable and discover new parts of yourself. It’s a new year. Let’s celebrate together.