Fall is here, dazzling us with the splendor and mystery of seasonal change. Overnight, green leaves turn red and gold. Birds perk up, pack up and fly south. Autumn days grow shorter and darker.
And the point is? When the season’s change, so can we. Nature is us, and if you’ve been yearning to embrace a more active lifestyle that dances you down the path to better health, greater energy and looser jeans, fall is the perfect time to press “restart” and see how far your sap can rise.
But know this: Change is rarely easy. It takes courage, patience and a rock-solid conviction that you have the ability to do things differently. You do! You can! You must! If a tiny hummingbird can fly 5,000 miles with wings the size of gum wrappers, you can walk 30 minutes a day and give up pecan pie for desert. Here are a few fall fitness tips to inform, inspire, even irritate:
DO A KITCHEN MAKEOVER. Let’s start with an irritating one, just to test your resolve. How pure is your pantry? Go there right now, and scan the shelves. If you see a lot of processed foods, packaged foods and manufactured faux foods pretending to be good for you, throw them out. Or recycle them to the nearest nonprofit that feeds hungry people, knowing that some food is better than no food.
I’m sorry for the waste. I’m a clean-plate girl from top to bottom, but the bottom line for change this fall is to start eating real food in modest portions, and that can’t happen if your pantry is filled with pork rinds and Hamburger Helper. Replace the enemy with fitness-friendly foods that nourish your body instead of clogging your heart: fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and beans. And one more thing, also annoying if you’re addicted to fast food: This fall, learn to cook.
START SLOW AND BUILD. If only 10-10-10 was getting the attention we’re giving Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 plan. 10-10-10 is the surgeon general’s suggestion for the minimum amount of exercise you should get every day. Ten minutes in the morning, 10 in the afternoon and 10 more at night.
Call it fitness lite. It’s not enough exercise to get you into peak condition, but it’s a terrific way to get your body used to moving. Start where you are. That’s the secret to success this fall and every season. Is more exercise better? Yes. The American College of Sports Medicine wants to see you doing some form of aerobic exercise (running, walking, biking) three to five times a week and two days of weightlifting. I’d like that, too. I’d also like to push into a handstand from a forward bend, but that won’t be happening this lifetime. Start where you are.
DEAL WITH THE DARKNESS AND COLD. Do not, dear reader, allow yourself to backslide into hibernation mode this fall. The temptation to sleep in when it’s dark and stay in when it’s cold is ever present. Resist. Refuse. Repeat after me: Exercising in the cold will not kill me. In fact, it’s remarkably invigorating.
The trick is layering: a light wicking layer closest to your skin (to keep you dry), a second layer for warmth, and a top technical layer to protect you against the rain or wind. If you run, walk or bike when it’s dark, wear a light or a reflective vest.
SCHEDULE YOURSELF FOR SOMETHING NEW. In fall, all sorts of classes begin. Sign up for something fun, even if you don’t think you have the time. Make the time. I’ve promised myself some kettlebell training this fall. What excites you? Ballroom dancing? Tennis? Bridge lessons (for mental fitness)? If you can’t think of anything, do yoga. It’s the best.
PREPARE FOR STRESS. Expect stress this fall, and forever after. It’s part of life, but harmful to your health and wellness. Develop a plan for dealing with it. Hot baths? Warm friendships? Meditation? If you can’t write down your strategy for calming mind and body, you don’t have one.
What’s your healthy lifestyle goal this fall? Want to run a 5k? Ride your bike to work? Set a goal, make a plan, and let me know how it goes.
ENERGY EXPRESSO! OH REALLY?
“Reality is the leading cause of stress among those in touch with it.” — Lily Tomlin