I was fortunate to be born with athletic talents; you could say fitness is in my bones. As soon as I could walk I was doing flips off the jungle gym in the backyard and practicing “flying” from the top of a small play house. Every spare minute you could find me playing with jump ropes, pogo sticks, stilts and hula hoops.
The boys in elementary school hated me because I could run faster and jump farther than any of them. After school I would hop on my bike and ride back to the playground to run around some more! Coaches and camp counselors singled me out to help hone my skills. I played every team sport in high school – baseball, basketball, volleyball, swimming and, my favorite, field hockey. This aptitude for sports continued through my college years.
Nonetheless there was a period in my life, from ages 22 to 40, when I was sedentary. I moved to NYC directly after graduation and all exercise came to a halt. By my mid-thirties, though young enough not to show the physical effect of this lapse, I began to feel mental symptoms of weariness and loss of spirit.
Working in the high-stress restaurant business in Manhattan, living a toxic lifestyle of long hours, constant pressure, poor diet and lack of exercise, I became worn out and frazzled. The low point came one night when I sat down on the rocking chair in my bedroom on the verge of tears. I asked myself what was bothering me and how could I fix it. I thought about my lifestyle, my job and my marriage, but it never occurred to me that exercise could be a remedy.
A dear friend was sensitive to my distress and encouraged me to do something physical. She suggested different types of exercise classes and outdoor activities like jogging and biking. But like so many other people, I had every excuse why none of them would work for me. She finally threw up her hands in disgust and said, "If you never try, you'll never know."
Her challenge motivated me. One of the classes she'd suggested was her yoga class and it seemed like a safe choice. The class was held in the living room of the instructor's apartment on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. It was a small, friendly setting and the instructor was kind.
Nonetheless, I felt nervous and intimidated about walking into a class where the participants knew each other and had been practicing for some time. It had been years since I had tried any physical activity and had never done yoga before. I was surprised to discover that because of my natural athletic tendencies, I picked up the postures easily and began to regain confidence in my body.
With regular practice, my muscles responded quickly by becoming more toned. In a couple of months, my figure popped out: I developed a waist and shapely arms and legs. My posture and balance improved, and I started to feel a renewed sense of myself. Along with the physical development came better lifestyle choices – it's the natural progression of things!
I became interested in strength training, figuring that if yoga could tone my arms, then lifting weights would sculpt them. I liked the idea of becoming stronger, because it made me feel more independent and self-sufficient, like I could really take care of myself. Realizing that I wanted to share the message of empowerment with others was the beginning of a path that quickly led to my career in personal training.
Many years later, I'm here with you today, the oldest Baby Boomer, preparing for a healthy future. I made lifestyle choices that allowed me to evolve from a stressed-out, sedentary, toxic lifestyle to one of health and fitness, which now as I'm aging is more important than ever. Remember: It’s never too late to start exercising and the earlier you do, the longer you benefit.
For more about Joan Pagano, her books and services, please visit www.joanpaganofitness.com