People frequently ask me what I do to stay fit, what kind of workout regimen I follow. And I say I dance! And I take two 60-pound dogs with endless energy out for walks several times a day. And I walk up and down stairs to get to and from my second floor apartment and my second floor office. I carry all of my groceries up the stairs at once because I hate making two trips. Does that answer the question?
I don’t “work out.” Exercise for exercise’s sake gets boring. Years ago, before ballroom, I used to go to a gym after work and swim laps. Sometimes I would use the machines. I like swimming. But I got tired of it and tired of all the effort required to get to and from the gym. Then they started zumba classes and those were fun! But money got really tight and I had to cancel my gym membership. I found free videos online to do pilates or dance workouts at home. And they were fun for awhile. But it got hard to motivate myself to do them when it was just me bouncing around the living room alone.
I realized that I didn’t get that endorphin rush that others do from general exercise. After a workout, I was hot and tired and sweaty. That was it. No feeling of accomplishment or flow of feel-good brain chemicals. Not exactly motivating. I also recognize now that I didn’t have a concrete goal I was working toward. I would set goals like swim at least 1,000 yards at the gym or do videos at home at least twice a week. But if I reached those goals, then it was just the same thing the following week. I had no end goal I was striving toward. So what was the point?
Dancing was always the “exercise” that gave me the rush that others get from running or weight lifting or whatever. And ballroom just took me to another level because my brain is getting a workout too (steps, timing, technique, framework, connection, and oh yeah, smile and breathe – sure, I can remember all that). There is a purpose to the squatting in tango and the calf raises in waltz and the constant core work in every dance. It all results in a beautiful expression of art and emotion in physical movement set to music. Who needs anything else??
Alas, I think I do. My initiation into silver got me thinking about my flexibility and my stamina. Both are decent. But they could be better. And if it means improving my dancing, then I want them to be better. Unfortunately, I don’t have the money and Teacher wouldn’t have the time to add more private lessons to work on these things within my ballroom dancing. I’m going to have to supplement with something outside ballroom that won’t add additional cost. Like general exercise. *sigh*
A classic way to improve stamina is running and all the special interval training you can do with that rapid foot/leg movement. I don’t run. And I mean this even more than when I say I don’t work out. If a rabid bear or a zombie was chasing me, I might run. But only so I’m not the slowest one being pursued. If it’s clear I’m the slowest one, I would probably not bother to delay the inevitable. Who wants to be all sweaty right before you’re eaten? I don’t run.
No disrespect to the people who love to run. More power to you. You will be able to escape the zombies. And if you get that natural high from running, awesome! Keep running. Run your freakin’ heart out. It’s just not for me.
Another possibility to increase stamina is swimming. I could swim. My complex has a pool. I think it’s even heated. No additional cost, and I don’t have to drive anywhere. I could swim.
To increase flexibility, obviously I need to stretch my body more. I stretch before every lesson but not more than 10 minutes or so. I start to get bored. I can’t do yoga. Sooo bored! But I need to stretch. Teacher tells me he wants to put a lift in our best of the best routine for Ohio that requires me to hold my leg up so it’s at least parallel to the floor. I tried and I could do it but my tight hip was not too happy. And I have this far-off fantasy of being able to do a split. Just because I think it’s cool and I’m jealous of girls that can do one. But those reasons are nowhere near enough to generate any kind of real motivation or discipline to work toward that fantasy. The best of the best routine, however, is very much a reality. I want it to be awesome and I don’t want Teacher to have to modify the choreography because I can’t do something.
So I very begrudgingly announce that I’m going to try to start “working out.” Ugh. I’m taking steps to help keep me motivated though. I bought a stretching band that I can use to increase the quality of stretching I do before lessons. Plus I’ll try to remember to break it out when I’m watching TV or something. Don’t want to waste the money so I’ll make sure I get good use out of that thing. I’m getting workout buddies in my roommate and another friend, so we can encourage and motivate each other. The first likes the fitness center and the second wants to swim. And this time, I do have end goals to strive for. That leg lift for one and any other cool tricks Teacher comes up with, and also maintaining frame (a.k.a. not losing it because I tire) in those fast-moving silver routines.
My inner lazy child is already getting cranky, but you, my wonderful readers, can help keep me accountable too. For anyone else laying on the couch, thinking “yeah, I should do that too, but [insert excuse here]”, here is my advice, as someone who does not like working out:
Find something you like doing. Don’t just go to the gym because that’s what people do. Do something that keeps your mind engaged as well as your body. If it’s not totally engaging, set an end goal, know ultimately why you are doing this, and make it specific. “Get healthy” or “get fit” aren’t specific. Get fit enough to wear that favorite pair of jeans again is better. Or make it through two rounds of ballroom dances without getting out of breath. You get the idea. Find people to work out with you. Or do a group workout thing. Sharing the experience with others will help you feel supported and motivated, and hold you more accountable.
And if you like running for the sake of running or bench pressing just to see how much you can bench press, go for it! The ultimate victory is to enjoy the physical activity and not have it feel like a chore. That’s why dance is pretty much my only exercise. Because it doesn’t feel like work! The health benefits are a bonus to the main result – happiness! The other factors like setting goals come in when you need motivation beyond the activity itself. If I can do it, you can do it! Let’s get our exercise on!
Starting tomorrow. Or next week. Definitely next week…