Sheryl Kraft, a freelance writer and breast cancer survivor, was born in Long Beach, New York. She currently lives in Connecticut with her husband Alan and dog Chloe, where her nest is empty of her two sons Jonathan. Sheryl writes articles and essays on breast cancer and contributes to a variety of publications and websites where she writes on general health and wellness issues. She earned her MFA in writing from Sarah Lawrence College in 2005.Full Bio
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Did you read that right?
If you know me, or read my stuff, you know that I am—and have been for quite a long while —a big fan of exercise. From a very young age, I've been a person who liked movement— whether it be pacing, walking, running, dancing, biking or fitness classes of any sort.
Sitting still? Not my thing (unless I'm on a beach or engrossed in a good book or movie—that's a whole other story).
And then, when I entered this so-called midlife, that "like" of exercise took on a new dimension and became a pressing "need." Movement and exercise were more than just a fun pastime. They were my personal prescription for health and things like blood pressure, stamina, bones and my brain. They fed me with endorphins, helped me sweat out my stress, nourished my well-being and helped keep my weight in check. And, finally, I was beginning to see some tone in my triceps.
It's tough to ignore the facts, especially when you're a health writer and are constantly researching for articles and trying to keep current on the latest news and recommendations, like these:
From the National Institute on Aging: Regular exercise and physical activity are important to the physical and mental health of almost everyone, includingolder adults. That's why health experts say that older adults should be active every day to maintain their health.
Regular exercise and physical activity can reduce the risk of developing some diseases and disabilities that develop as peoplegrow older.
From Harvard Health Publications: Most Americans begin to gain weight in midlife, putting on 3 to 4 pounds a year … the loss of muscle continues, which contributes to weakness and disability. At the same time, muscles and ligaments get stiff and tight.
From National Institutes of Health Senior Health: Scientists have found that staying physically active and exercising regularly can help prevent or delay many diseases and disabilities. In some cases, exercise is an effective treatment for chronic conditions.
But there are times—and they seem to run in cycles—that exercise gets to be a chore. Over the years, there were various injuries and surgeries that forced me to step away from the gym. Except for those times, I usually plow through, feeling guilty on the days I skip my workouts, afraid to take a day (or two) off, convinced that all my hard work would turn to mush, right before my eyes.
But, recently, life got in the way. Not just by a day here and a day there, but for weeks at a time.
July was a tough, exhausting, hectic, chaotic and crazy month. One of the many reasons was that we moved. It became impossible to get to the gym. I feared I had become fat and lazy and that I'd be breathless if I tried to do anything more than lift a fork to my lips. (And I was afraid to lift that fork. Would I gain weight? Get fat?)
But I had to give in. I just couldn't get it all done, and my workout routine had to be put aside—at least for the short-term.
So, here's what happened:
- I dropped five pounds. (One possible reason: Many of us—me included—overestimate the calories burned through exercise, and we eat more than we actually burn. Because I was not exercising, I was much more careful to watch what I was putting in my mouth.)
- I didn't become breathless, but rather, found my breath. I was calmer and less rushed, because I was able to devote the time I needed to getting things accomplished. And I found other ways to move, making sure to wear my Fitbit and take some extra trips up and down the stairs and wherever else I could find the opportunity.
- I (re)discovered the outdoors and found the fresh air, which suddenly took on a whole different meaning, because I wasn't rushing in and out of it but staying in it long enough to actually feel it and inhale it.
- I dusted off my bicycle, pumped up the tires and rode around my new neighborhood, feeling like I reconnected with my childhood. (Well, I missed letting my hair blow in the breeze and then wondered, how did we ever survive without these bike helmets?)
I'm happy to say that things have calmed down. Somewhat. (Do they ever really calm down?)
I've joined a new gym.
And I'm now not afraid of missing a day—or two or even three.
Because sometimes life does get in the way of working out.
What's important to realize is that at other times, working out gets in the way of life.