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Posts Tagged Life Time Fitness

Experience Life Magazine


On Monday, I started freaking out. I realized I was doing the Esprit de She 5K in just four days, and my training had gone by the wayside.

In June, my husband and I (and our pets) moved into a new home, and my regular routine of three to four days a week of HIIT-style training and weightlifting essentially stopped. My “activity” shifted to moving and unpacking boxes, organizing and shopping for the new home, and entertaining friends and family in our new space. Instead of my Boot Camp workouts, I walked (or rather, leisurely strolled) with my husband and dog in our new neighborhood.

Oh, and I swam at the lake over the Fourth of July weekend.

That’s about it.

Hence why I was freaking out.

Luckily, the Esprit de She was a no-pressure event. As we waited at the starting line, a woman made announcements about the message, along the lines of: embrace your power and strength, take care of yourself so you can be great for others, and do the best you can — starting where you are now. As a female-focused event, I really appreciated that sentiment: We feel like we’re supposed to do so much for others as caregivers, and often forget (or neglect) our own goals and needs.

How often have you skipped a workout because you feel like you “have no time” between obligations to fit it in? Or found yourself wiped out at the end of day because you didn’t have a moment of peace and quiet? Or passed on a massage because it felt too luxurious, or even simply a hot bath because you felt like you should be getting more done?

I do this all the time.

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed — I won’t harp on it because we know it all too well, and it’s really a bigger conversation about societal expectations, internal beliefs and how our nation functions at high speed. And it’s an issue we address in the magazine, in which many of our articles have helped me greatly.

I was definitely feeling overwhelmed in the past month or so with the moving process, so to have the Esprit de She announcer acknowledge this, along with the awesomeness (and challenges) of being a woman, really calmed my nerves. I felt like I wasn’t alone. They get it, we all get it, and we’re going to take the time tonight, together, to do something great for us. It reminded me of why I signed up for this race: To celebrate my strength and progress in becoming healthier with other like-minded women.

As I followed the course in Edina’s 50th and France neighborhood, I told myself to let go of this notion of being someone else’s idea of “superwoman” and remember that I’ve owned that title all along. In my own way. It’s not a perfect state, because that simply doesn’t exist, but my version of being a woman that’s super is one that’s strong and confident. She’s happy and healthy, smart and engaged, and genuine and honest.

When I made it to the residential area, several spectators watched from their driveways and cheered us on. One woman, perhaps in her 60s, wearing a long black apron, stood in her lawn and clapped as we walked and ran by. I passed her on the first leg and again on the way back, and I thanked her for supporting us. “Of course!” she shouted back. “You’re worth it!” It touched my heart.

A mom and her kids sat in their yard and rang a bell as we passed. “You all are fabulous!” the mom said. Her children beamed, and I hoped her young daughter was encouraged to see women of all shapes and sizes and ages and abilities do something healthy together. It seemed to resonate with a few women who were out on a walk, saying they’d join us next year.

I spent some time walking, and some time running, alternating when I needed it. There were a few young girls running, too (the youngest participant was 7 years old), and I’d usually pick up the pace when they passed me. Mostly from the belief that if a child could do it, I could too (then I’d stop running thinking, Yeah, but kids have soooo much more energy and endurance, much more than I). A mom and daughter I encountered approached the race with the same method as I did: find a landmark, run to it, then walk until you catch your breath. Repeat.

About three-quarters of a mile in, I felt an ache in my left hip — perhaps due to the break I took? — so I wasn’t able to do as much running as I’d hoped to do. Happily, that really was the only thing holding me back from running more: In the past, I could never control my breathing and would panic and stop; or I’d get bored; or I’d get self-conscious about my buns bouncing or lack of support from my sports bra (a HUGE barrier for me in running, but I found a great one from Title Nine that keeps the gals in place).

But it didn’t matter if you ran or walked. (Walking has been shown to confer some of the same health benefits as running, with less stress on your joints. Although running seems to have a bigger impact on appetite. See the breakdown of the latest studies here.) For awhile, I walked with a woman who told me about how she walked a marathon in San Diego for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. It took her about seven hours to finish. All I could think was, Man, you finished a marathon! What a feat! So don’t rule out walking.

EDS_websizeMy favorite part of the evening was when I crossed the finish line and the announcer called out my name: “Way to go, Courtney!” It was so simple, but made me feel somehow validated. (The organizers took video and photos of us crossing, so I’ll share those on my Coming Clean blog when they are ready.) Afterward, I headed over to the Experience Life booth to join my coworkers and talk about the magazine with passersby. I haven’t participated in many 5Ks (Commitment Day was my first this year; before that, I walked a 5K with my cousin in 2005), but I loved having the marketplace and happy hour afterward so we all could socialize, talk about the course, our experience, how we felt and what we were excited to do next.

This 5K was the jump-start I needed to get back into my routine. Or invent an entirely new one. It’s completely up to me. After all, I’m a woman, so I’m already pretty awesome. And I’m in charge of this awesome life of mine.

Experience Life Magazine

ESPRIT DE SHE: Improving Endurance With Sprinting

When it comes to long-distance running, I haven’t been one to stand at the starting line. In fact, I rarely run but have admired runners for years for their endurance and commitment. I’d see them cruising around the Minneapolis lakes and think, I wish I could be a runner.

If you’ve been following my weight-loss progress (along with my tales of success and woe as I adopt healthier habits) on my Coming Clean blog, you’ll know I’ve never claimed to be an athlete. Even though I was a bit of a social butterfly in grade school and high school, I was much more bookish than brawn.

My inactivity has come at a price over the years, but I’ve been learning new skills from the magazine, research, group fitness and with my personal trainer, Shane Kinney, NASM-CPT, CES.

Since I’ve been focused on weight loss, my trainer has me working in interval circuits, similar to HIIT-style (HIIT stands for high-intensity interval training) or Metabolic Resistance Training. (Learn more in “Lift to Lose.”) HIIT can help everyone from beginners to advanced athletes improve their fitness, but it’s particularly good for fat loss.

Why I love it: You work hard and fast, then rest and repeat. If you mix weight lifting with, say, cardio work like sprinting or rowing, and body-weight-based moves like pushups and burpees, you’ve got one terrific workout. And because of the variety, I don’t feel bored.

While I’ve been doing this type of workout, I told my trainer I was worried I wouldn’t fare as well with endurance when it comes to running the Esprit de She 5K in July. (Happily, it’s noncompetitive, which was another draw for me.) Yes, I’ll still need to get in some longer runs if I want to keep a pace I’m pleased with, but he assured me that sprinting would help with my endurance training.

Here’s why:

  1. Sprinting increases your aerobic capacity, or VO2 max (the maximum amount of oxygen your body can process to produce energy). You can still do this with long-distance running, but researchers are finding that shorter, more intense workouts are accomplishing similar results as those longer runs. (Those who’ve followed the research may remember professor Jens Bangsbo 10-20-30 study through the University of Copenhagen, in which one group ran in 30-, 20- and 10-second runs in three to four 5-minute intervals for seven weeks. They not only cut their overall time by 21 to 48 seconds, they also lowered their systolic blood pressure and cholesterol.)
  2. Sprinting burns fat during and after your workout for 48 hours. I find this be one of the greatest incentives of HIIT-style training!
  3. Sprinting improves your “running economy,” which measures how efficiently one’s body uses oxygen. According to Mike Young, PhD, CSCS, an elite USA Track & Field Level 3 coach and director of sports performance at Athletic Lab in Cary, N.C.: “When endurance athletes do a little sprinting, it increases their ability to run efficiently and they utilize less oxygen when training aerobically.” (Read more about the benefits of sprinting, plus workouts you can try now, in “Speed x3.”)

I’ll keep working on my long-distance running in prep for Esprit de She, but I’m glad to know my sprinting workouts are helping me reach my goals. I’ll be calling myself a runner soon enough.

Experience Life Magazine

ESPRIT DE SHE: A Trusty Training Buddy

Meet Lydia Anderson, Experience Life‘s long-time art director. She’s training for her first run in nearly two decades and is starting with an Esprit de She 5K in July! Check back regularly for updates on her training progress. 

My goal is to run the 50th and France 5K in Minneapolis on July 25, 2013. The last time I went running was 20 years ago. My daughter was a baby and I would take her in the jogging stroller. Although I live on a horse farm, and get lots of exercise every day, I am motivated to get stronger and have more endurance as I get older.

My running partner these days is one of our Australian Shepherd dogs, Maybelle. She keeps me going, always staying by my side or right in front of me, looking back to check on my progress. Training is painful right now — I can hardly make it to the top of our hill road. Here, Maybelle, waits patiently for me to catch my breath. 


Maybelle helps me keep going, even when it’s a bit painful.


“Esprit de She” is a series of posts here on Unedited inspired by the Athleta Esprit de She — The Spirit of Her Race Series presented by Life Time Fitness. Several members of the Experience Life team are planning to train for the various run, cycle, duathlon and triathlon events happening in the Twin Cities throughout the summer and fall, and will be tracking their progress, challenges and successes over the next several months.


Experience Life Magazine

ESPRIT DE SHE: Prepping for My First Post-Baby 5K

“Esprit de She” is a new series of posts here on Unedited inspired by the Athleta Esprit de She — The Spirit of Her Race Series presented by Life Time Fitness. Several members of the Experience Life team are planning to train for the various run, cycle, duathlon and triathlon events happening in the Twin Cities throughout the summer and fall, and will be tracking their progress, challenges and successes over the next several months. We hope you enjoy this series.


In my previous posts here on Unedited, I’ve mentioned that I’m blessed to be expecting my second baby girl in early June. I haven’t talked much, however, about how I am just ITCHING to get back to my regular workout routine: three to four days a week of strength training, two to three cardio sessions, and a yoga class or two, if I can squeeze it all in. I love, love, love being active.

I’ve been staying in relatively good shape this pregnancy by doing lots of prenatal yoga (both as a student and teacher), focusing on body-weight strength training (I can still do 20 real pushups!), and walking. Sometimes, though, I just want to run. The other day, for instance, I was out for a walk, and I longed to move a little quicker and breathe a little heavier as I pounded the pavement. Intense low-back and pelvic pain prevented that … and has been a limiting factor in how I’ve moved since about 20 weeks. “You’re walking like you’re pregnant,” came out of my dear husband’s mouth around 24 weeks!

So in preparation for the day my midwife clears me to resume “normal” activities, I just signed up for my comeback event: the Esprit de She 5K Run on September 19, 2013. I CANNOT wait to start training for this event, and to later come together with hundreds of other women who are making their health and fitness a priority amidst crazy professional and personal schedules.

With that in mind, I invite you to follow my training journey here come early to mid-July — depending on when baby girl arrives! I’m sure there will be lots of hiccups along the way as I figure out how to balance two kiddos and a self-care schedule, yet I’m really excited to rise to the challenge.

Screen shot 2013-04-25 at 11.54.32 AM

Proof that I’m actually registered … gotta stay accountable!

Finally, if you’re in the Twin Cities and want to join me and other members of the Experience Life team for this or other Esprit de She races, we’d love to have you — even if you just want to meet up for some shopping and a drink at the post-race night market. Let us know by emailing us at experiencelife@experiencelife.com with the subject line “Esprit de She Party.”

Experience Life Magazine

Why Every Day Is My Commitment Day

This week’s Life Time Fitness newsletter arrived in my inbox yesterday. Subject line: “One new year. 365 chances to commit to who you want to be.” It was the perfect statement to get me out of that “I’ll start Monday” mindset that I’ve long kept.

I’m a new blogger here at Unedited, so I’ll give you a quick background on me: I’ve been working with Experience Life since January 2010 as a fact checker, and also, since November 2011, as multimedia project manager. I graduated from the University of Minnesota’s journalism school, and began full-time employment with a city-regional magazine in the Twin Cities that spring.

The work was interesting and challenging and, being the workaholic that I am, often all-consuming. I’d sit in a desk all day writing and copyediting and proofreading and fact-checking, only getting up briefly to make my lunch that I’d eat at my desk. I’d often feel so tired from reading all day that I didn’t want to engage in any activities, so I’d go straight home to watch TV all night, sometimes working a bit longer before a late bedtime. I would joke that I went straight from my desk chair during the day to a reclining chair at night, but it was my reality.

I had gained 36 pounds going into freshmen year, and never took the time to focus on my health until senior year, when I finally lost the weight. However, I followed an extreme diet and felt horrible throughout it, but I was happy to have the weight off again. Since I never learned any healthy-living skills during that time, I regained the weight again slowly while I was dating my husband, Kyle, and then quickly after our wedding when I settled back into my obsessive work life described above.

At Experience Life, I’ve been submerged in healthy living: reading about nutrition and fitness daily, and surrounded by supportive coworkers who exercise with me or share recipes and cooking tricks. As you know from our content, I’ve learned how healthy people shop, stock their pantry, balance work and life, and live more mindfully. Even though I grew up in a medical family and had struggled through managing health conditions with prescription drugs, it never occurred to me to change my diet first. Or add in more activity. That a daily walk outside could make all the difference. And sadly, my doctors never suggested lifestyle changes. (For more, you can follow my story at my Coming Clean blog, where I share how I’m transforming my formerly unhealthy lifestyle.)

In January 2011, I weighed in at my heaviest: 221 pounds. For most of my teenage years, I weighed anywhere from 120 to 135, so when the scale went into the 200s, I think I went numb. Looking back, I know I disconnected well before that. All that matter throughout college and after graduation was that I was excellent in my work. Kyle was a hard worker, too, and our relationship felt so easy when we met that I figured he wouldn’t mind missing date nights or home-cooked meals or walks together with the dogs. We could both work hard through the remainder of our 20s and meet on the other side. Whenever that would come.

Of course, my life wasn’t going to slow down unless I made it happen. I wasn’t going to lose the 65 pounds I gained after we got married, and the additional 15 when I changed jobs, by some chance. And I wasn’t going to keep off the weight loss unless I chose to commit to a healthy way of life.

Over the past two years, I’ve lost 50 pounds. I workout and actually enjoy it. I lift heavy weights and love the confidence it gives me. I stopped eating processed foods, drinking diet soda and discovered food intolerances to gluten and dairy. With my doctor, I’ve been working to lower body-wide inflammation, proof I could see in blood-test results of high C-reactive protein levels. I also take care of myself through massage, chiropractic treatments and weekly acupuncture sessions that have been helping me re-balance my wonky hormones and inconsistent menstrual cycles. I spend more time with family and friends, and have learned how to have a leisure life outside of watching TV. And on January 1, I’ll be participating in a 5K.

Competing in Life Time’s Alpha Showdown, April 2012.

These were major changes I made, but it happened because of small, everyday actions. It wasn’t easy, and there are still challenging times for me: days when I feel sad or lazy or bored and I don’t want to cook or workout. Times when I put on my oversized sweat pants and feel like nothing’s changed and I’m still fat. Even at Christmas, Kyle’s 93-year-old grandmother was remarking on how good I look (“I didn’t even recognize you!”), and yet it was me that pulled out the picture from his sister’s wedding in 2011 to compare my photos so it could feel real to me. (If this sounds familiar, read “Your Body, Reframed” to get your brain on board with your progress.)

In February 2011, left, at the beginning of my weight-loss journey; after an outdoor Boot Camp workout, right, in March 2012.

I haven’t designated a set period of time to losing weight. I know I could’ve lost it faster, but I may have missed some important lessons along the way. During the Commitment Day 5K on New Year’s Day, I’m walking and running away from that old mindset, the one that says “just this once” or “let’s skip it” or “it doesn’t make that big a difference.” Every day, every choice is important. It’s 365 days of living the life I dream for myself. It’s not something I resolve to do until I reach my goal weight — it’s a lifestyle I commit to every day, and eventually it’ll feel effortless. Like this is the life I’ve always lived.

My motivation tools for Commitment Day and beyond.

Experience Life Magazine

What are YOU doing New Year’s morning?

In years past, my response to the above question has always been, “Sleeping in.” After all, like many around the world, I’ve spent many a December 31st out well past midnight, ringing in the New Year with a few cocktails.

I’m still planning to go out and celebrate this year, but I won’t be imbibing or staying out super late for two reasons: 1) I’m expecting my second little one in June and partying to the wee morning hours is just not part of my lifestyle these days; and 2) I’m participating in the Commitment Day fun run/walk in downtown Minneapolis on New Year’s morning.

While I’m obviously thrilled about the first reason, I’m also very excited about the second. I’ll be joining most of my fellow Experience Life team members, as well of thousands of other folks in the Twin Cities and across the country, in showing my commitment to living healthier in 2013 and beyond.

Jocelyn Stone, EL's associate editor, and I rock our new Commitment Day T-shirts

Jocelyn Stone, EL’s associate editor, and I rock our new Commitment Day T-shirts.

Presented by Life Time Fitness, the healthy way of life company AND Experience Life‘s parent organization/publisher, Commitment Day is a nationwide initiative created to inspire healthier choices and behaviors both in the short and long term. Run/walk events will be happening simultaneously in 30-plus cities across the country, with people of all ages and fitness levels participating. (As long as it’s not below zero here in Minnesota, I’ll be pushing my 2-year-old in the BOB!) It’s going to be one of the largest fitness movements to date, and I’m pretty darn excited to be part of it.

With that in mind, I invite you to join the Experience Life team and myself in partaking in the first annual Commitment Day — whether you’re here in the Twin Cities or not (we’ll also have team members representing in Chicago and New York)! Not near a race location? Lace up those sneakers anyway and join us in spirit: It’s all about taking a proactive stand for your health.

To learn more, to register, or to simply share your healthy-living commitments, visit www.commitmentday.com. I hope to see you there!

Experience Life Magazine

When All Else Fails … Do Push-Ups!

I have been struggling lately to get to the gym on a regular basis — despite having a club just three floors down in our office building. There are a few reasons for this: 1) My favorite personal trainer is no longer training there; 2) we haven’t had an Experience Life team kettlebell class in months; and 3) I’ve just been making lots of excuses, from “My personal trainer is no longer there,” to “I’m too tired,” to ”There’s not enough time in the day.”

The truth is, I’m not too tired and there IS time: I’m just putting the wrong things first. I  need to step away from my computer — both during office hours and when I’m home — and know it’s OK, good even, to make my health and wellness a priority.

All that being said, I do have one routine that I’ve been following diligently for the past two to three years — it’s my saving grace.  It all started with my desire to do real push-ups. Every morning, I would get up and pound out as many push-ups as I could, before dropping to my knees to do 20 total. I’m currently up to 30 consecutive push-ups. After a short break, I can usually pound out 10 to 15 more.

I round out my routine with two to three of the following, depending on how crunched I am for time (there’s that TIME thing again!):

  • Kettlebell swings (usually 2-3 sets of 20 with 35 pounds)
  • Single-leg lunges with dumbbells (one to two sets of 20/leg)
  • Tricep dips a la Shaun T (one to two sets of 20)
  • Shoulder presses with a kettlebell (2-3 sets of 10/per arm with 25 pounds)
  • Planks (usually a combination of regular, side and star)
  • Squats to press with kettlebell (2-3 sets of 10 with 25 pounds)

While my current routine is lacking any dedicated time to building endurance, I practice yoga twice a week  and go for walks with my family most days. It all helps keep me active, even if it’s not at the same level I enjoyed a few years ago.

What are the no-fail things you do to stay active when time is/seems short? Share them in the comments section below! 

Experience Life Magazine

Post-Baby: Photo Shoot Round-Up

Last week, I did the fitness photo shoot for the November issue of Experience Life, and let me tell you, I had a blast. It was hard work — holding elevated poses without going boggle-eyed so the photographer can capture the moves is challenging — but really fun. Lydia and Jen, if you’re reading this: ANYTIME! JUST SAY THE WORD.

I started getting excited the week before, when I received an email from Pam, the clothes/hair/makeup stylist, asking for my clothing and shoe sizes. Then I got the call sheet: arrival time for “talent” (that would be me!) was 9:30 am. No problem.

Until it was. My day got off to a crazy start when my 9-month old got sick on the way to the babysitter’s house. Twenty minutes from home, with 45 minutes to get to the shoot location on time, I did a quickie clean-up of MK before turning around, canceling the babysitters and then calling my mother-in-law (MIL) in a panic to see if she can fill-in. Yes, she’d meet me at the house.

We pulled into the driveway 15 minutes from call-time, and I proceeded to hand my fever-stricken, throw-up-covered little girl off to my MIL before dashing out the door. (FYI: MK was happy to see her grandma and in surprisingly good spirits despite not feeling so hot, so I didn’t feel quite as bad for leaving her during her first real illness.)

I arrived at the club 20 minutes late, and though I was stressed about putting everyone behind schedule, it turned out to be no big deal. Senior fitness editor Jen Sinkler was getting prepped for new headshots for her Expert Answers column; while she was having her pics taken, I got the full hair and makeup treatment (like I said, Jen and Lyd, ANYTIME). Within 45 minutes, we were on the workout floor:


EL senior fitness editor Jen Sinkler coached me on technique for the squat-assisted muscle up. I have no idea how many of these I did, but I was sore the next day.


Posing in my new favorite workout outfit between shots.


Practicing the golf-ball pick-up — Jen has much better balance than me! Technique tips: Keep your hips level, glutes tight, chest out and back arched. A slight bend in the supporting leg is also helpful for the balance-impaired like me.

Lifetime_04695_Web.jpgBear crawls should be easy, but there’s definitely coordination and brain power required (learn why in this overview on how crawling builds neural networks).

It took about an hour for Bob McNamara and his team to shoot all six exercise moves. We then grabbed some lunch, before filming the accompanying video (both will be available online at ExperienceLife.com by late October).

Before I knew it, it was a wrap and I was out the door, heading back home to reality. I made it there just in time to put my little one down for her afternoon nap. Not a bad day at all.

Experience Life Magazine

Giving Age the Boot

When I was in my early 20s, the fitness movement was just taking off. At the time, I was working as a newspaper reporter in San Francisco, which is my hometown. In those days, San Francisco didn’t have many health-club options outside the YMCA. As the baby boomers (we’re the generation that refused to grow up) signed up for the fitness revolution, membership at the Y began to swell.

So much so, that the weight room had to be moved from the Y’s dank basement to a sunny, warehouse-sized space on the fifth floor. I remember when the new fitness space was unveiled. It had something few gym-goers had seen before: Nautilus machines, rows of them, shiny and new, like Cadillacs in a showroom. During the Y’s busy hours, members queued up five-deep to use them.
In the early 1970s, the face of fitness was indeed changing.

I don’t know what happened to the gnarly old Russian power lifters and disgruntled Korean War vets who worked out in the Y’s cramped, free-weight basement. They never came upstairs to use the new fitness area. It was during this time that the Y became a co-ed facility, which put an end to nude swimming in its Olympic pool.

As the fitness craze continued to explode, more and more health clubs began opening in San Francisco. It wasn’t long before I said good-bye to the Y, and joined a snazzy club that had opened in the financial district. It offered aerobic classes, then a novelty.

Since the early 1970s, there’s never been a period of my life that I didn’t belong to a health club. Back in my San Francisco days, I never thought that would be the case. I used to think that working out and looking good wasn’t something older people were into. Unlike today, you didn’t see many older people at the health club. If you were older and wanted to look younger, you got a facelift.

I use to reason that when I got to be an old man of 50, I wouldn’t have to take out another health-club membership. Or carry a goofy gym bag. My youth would be gone. As Marianne Williamson says, after 50 the grace period is over. Might as well sit back and let gravity and dehydration do its thing. Yes, I reasoned, there’d be an upside to getting older. By not having to rush off to a gym after work, I could join my co-workers for happy hour at the local bar. Instead of lifting weights, I could be lifting martinis. Life in the 21st century would be easier.

But when I finally did turn 50, I encountered one of life’s many ironies: I needed to exercise more than ever.

I didn’t know that when I was in my 20s or 30s. Not many people outside of Jack LaLanne knew that then. We didn’t have all the anti-aging research we have now. We didn’t have Experience Life magazine to inform us about the lifelong advantages of staying fit.

As research continues to show, the body doesn’t have to wave a white flag to the march of time. Breaking into a sweat on a regular basis is the best anti-aging medicine there is. Since coming to work for Experience Life last February, I’ve learned a few things: To do nothing — to not work out or eat right — is to risk losing 10 percent of your bone mass per decade after the age of 40. Weightlifting and resistance training not only slow muscle loss, they can even reverse it. With each decade after age 30, inactive people lose 10 percent of their VO2 max — that being the maximum amount of oxygen a body can take in during exercise. Working out can slow that loss by as much as half.

Being able to retain oxygen gives you more stamina. This is especially important as we get older. We all know that life puts a lot of demands on our time. As we get older, though, those demands — job responsibilities, family, social engagements — tend to become less. That gives us more time to do fun things like ride bicycles, kayak and roller blade. To never grow up! Isn’t that why we baby boomers started the fitness revolution in the first place? Sorry, Tinkerbell. You don’t need fairy dust to stay young. You need stamina.

For me, stamina is best taken in the form of treadmills, group cycling, yoga, kettlebells, circuit training — just some of the cool things that health clubs offer today.

Now that I’ve passed the age of 60, I still carve out time for the gym.

Here’s why: Daily exercise prevents such age-related afflictions as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and arthritis. And even though I have arthritis, I find it better to go to the gym and deal with my discomfort rather than surrender to it; I know that inactivity would only make my condition worse. When I think of doing nothing, I see my grandmother, who also suffered from arthritis, sitting in an easy chair in front of a Philco TV set rubbing her swollen joints. In my mind, she was always old. The irony is, she was younger than I am today.

Here’s another one of life’s ironies: When I was a really young man, I got my induction notice to be drafted into the Army. Because I knew there was no way a wimpy kid like me could survive boot camp, I wrangled a medical deferment from my doctor.

Who could have predicted that 45 years later I’d willingly enlist in a boot class camp at the Life Time Fitness facility in St. Paul? But last week I did just that. It’s an incredibly tough workout, and not just physically but mentally, too: When I think I can’t do another pushup, I have to stop my brain from tweeting my body: “Give it up. Your grace period is over.” Instead, I have to think, “You can do this because you never stopped doing it.”

– John Stark, Experience Life Executive Editor

Experience Life Magazine

A Workout for My Body and Mind

I’ve never been a very physically active person. For years, to excuse my lack of activity, I’ve joked with people that I’m a thinker, not a doer. But now that I work for a fitness company, even remotely, the importance of being physical is hitting home more than ever. Unfortunately, most sports and exercise regimens fit in one of two categories for me: beyond my level of eye-hand coordination, or boring.

Over the years, I have tried different sports; the ones I enjoyed (skiing, tennis, dance, gymnastics and some team sports) fell into the first category, and those that didn’t could never hold my interest for any length of time or consistency. I had despaired of finding an activity that I was able to do and actually wanted to do. Well, this winter I found something that fills both of those requirements: rock climbing. Or, more specifically, rock wall climbing.

I first became intrigued with climbing after reading about via ferrata in our September 2010 issue, a cool way for beginning climbers to reach heights they wouldn’t have thought possible. This January, having just graduated from school, I was looking for something to fill up my newfound free time, and decided to head to one of the Life Time Fitness rock walls.

I was hooked from the first climb. A couple of weeks later, I convinced my best friend to take a belay class with me so that we could climb together. A few weeks after that, once I realized that my friend didn’t have the same level of interest I did, I found a regular climbing partner through a climbing discussion board on the club member Web site.

It’s been three months now, and Ryan and I have settled into a really comfortable schedule: two evenings a week at a gym close to home, and one weekend afternoon at a gym farther away but with twice the number of routes. As much as I’ve enjoyed the physical improvements that come with any form of regular exercise — my upper-body strength is the best it’s been in years — this weekend I realized that it’s the mental exertion that keeps me coming back for more.

I’ve always been a puzzle person. As a kid, word searches were my favorite, and as I got older, I progressed to crossword puzzles. For a while in high school I was completely obsessed with jigsaw puzzles — the more pieces the better (though I doubt that I have the patience for them these days). And even my reading and television/movie-viewing choices are mysteries, the ones where they subtly give you all the clues so you can figure out who the criminal is yourself. But really, climbing is just my latest puzzle.

The first time I climb a route is always the most exhausting because I’m navigating all the different options on how to get to the top. There are different ways I can get there, but there is usually going to be one way that is going to be quicker or easier that I’m trying to find. Should I put my left foot or my right on this foothold? Do I need to be leaning to the left, the right or flush to the wall to be able to grab that next handhold? I usually find that most new routes takes me at least three tries, and can take as many as 10, to get to the top. And the longer it takes, the cooler I think I am when I make it.

So, what I’ve discovered this year is that, given the right medium, I am actually a thinker and a doer. Who knew?

– Jocelyn Stone, Associate Editor

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