These days I work out at least 5 days a week. When I was a kid, however, I was lucky to be able to walk. You see, when I was born my Achilles tendons were too short, forcing me to walk on my toes. The uncomfortable metal braces and painful shoes weren't enough to correct the problem, so I had surgery to lengthen my tendons the summer I turned 7. It was a pretty miserable summer spent in casts that went from my toes up to my hips, but without that surgery I would probably be crippled today. My activities were pretty limited the next few years while I recovered and slowly stretched my tendons. As a result I ended up a chubby pre-teen. The summer I turned 13 I moved to the country and everything changed. I loved the outdoors and spent every second I could playing outside. We lived right on Lake Berlin and I taught myself to swim, and spent every single day in the lake. Then there were woods to explore, fields to play ball in, and limitless opportunities for activity. Plus I was a total tomboy (with 3 brothers, that's not surprising). I had far more male friends than female, and I did a very good job of keeping up with them (even the absolutely crazy daredevil ones). I walked or rode my bike everywhere. The excess weight came off without me even realizing it. I discovered that I loved being active, and my body thanked me. I was finally able to run and play just like everyone else.
After I turned 18 I started using exercise videos. (I finally had a place and a TV with which to do the videos). At that point I was mostly concerned about being thin, but I started out with a Firm video, which incorporates strength training with cardio. I quickly accumulated more videos, most incorporating weights. Those videos became the norm for me, and I never feared "bulking up". I simply enjoyed the added strength gains. As I've gotten older my focus has gone from being thin to being strong. I like having muscles and being able to DO things. I don't have to ask for help when it comes to lifting heavy things. I can do it myself, thank you very much! I've also incorporated balance and core training into my workouts. A strong core is vital to every move. Now I think about keeping my bones strong, and being able to maintain my balance, things that can decline as we age.
I work out 5 or 6 days a week, combining cardio and strength training. My workouts usually run about 2 hours and include a warm up, then 2 or 3 minutes on the elliptical alternated with 16 reps of a strength move (total of 3 sets). I try to hit every muscle, and prefer to do multi- muscle moves (squats with bicep curls, plies with lateral raises...). Then I cool down and stretch every muscle I've used, especially my Achilles tendons. I still have to be careful not to pull those! I alternate strength days with pure cardio days, often doing one of my many work out DVDs. I also enjoy talking walks and riding my bike. Sometimes it's just nice to get out of the house and feel the sun on my face. Then of course there's yard work and gardening, anything from light weeding to pruning large limbs (with a hand saw!).
Being strong and healthy has become very important to me. I don't have insurance and I can't afford to go to the doctor, so my health is completely in my own hands. It's up to me to keep my body in the best condition I can. I eat healthy- lots of fruits and veggies, whole grains, lean protein, healthy fats, and the occasional treat. And I try to manage stress in a healthy manner. Working out is a great way to deal with stress, as is calling a friend for a "bitch and moan" session. Of course losing myself in my artwork is another wonderful way to leave stress behind. As I get older I find it easier to listen to my body and figure out what it needs. When I was in my early 20's I flirted with anorexia and over exercising, just to reach that "magic number" on the scale. So I reached it, and even got below it, but I certainly wasn't happy (starving people rarely are). Eventually I managed to find a balance. I'm very happy with my body now. I'm at a healthy weight, I'm strong, fit and able to do the things I want to do- whether it's running up the stairs, or doing a kick butt workout, or lifting that heavy log.
I've also subscribed to Self, Fitness, and Shape magazines for many years. They're a great source of healthy information and workout ideas. Click on the links to visit their sites. Some of my favorite exercise DVDS include The Firm, Reebok Step, Jillian Michaels (KILLER workout!), Kathy Smith, Karen Voight, and PlayStation2 Yourself Fitness (a customizable workout system). Collage video is a great place to find all these workouts and many more. I've been working out for 16 years now, and I'm still able to find new and challenging workouts. I've never belonged to a gym (just can't afford it), but I've still managed to stay in great shape on my own. I have an Elliptical Trainer, mini trampoline, free weights ranging from 1lb. each up to 15 lbs. each, an assortment of exercise bands, a BOSU, and an exercise ball. Of course there's always new equipment I'd like to try out, but for now this is more than enough to keep me in excellent shape. Every fitness test I've taken ranks me as a competitive athlete, which I think is pretty darn awesome! I hope to be active for the rest of my life. And I hope maybe I've inspired some of you to continue or start leading healthy lives.