Richard: This has been a terrible year for me. Three operations have left me physically and emotionally drained. Yet I am still joyous as the New Year unfolds because I know nothing is certain in life but change. For my part, I plan to make positive change in 2004.
Why am I so positive? I am regaining control. I had a few good workouts now that I am permitted to pump iron again, and I can already feel my body responding. So what has this to do with you, my dear reader? I am going to take this opportunity to infuse you with fresh enthusiasm, the enthusiasm of youth! Remember that? Wasn't it great to feel like you would live forever, always waking refreshed with no aches and pains, motivated to accomplish great things?
That may be gone forever, but you can approximate that same enthusiasm for life by beginning from where you are and making changes in your food intake, sleep habits, emotional well-being and exercise habits.
Diane: This has been a challenging year for me. Two operations, a move from Connecticut to Florida and the decision to obtain a second master's degree have left me physically and emotionally drained. And as the New Year unfolds, energy is gained with the newness of the year, calmness from settling comfortably into a new home, confidence in my ability to re-engage an almost fifty year old brain in graduate school and gaining unexpected post-operative strength, flexibility and range of motion.
A new year brings a fresh start.
Richard: I actually was in the shower the other day amazed at how great I felt. It's encouraging what some sleep, a good workout, and a few weeks of proper eating will do. If you aren't happy with were you are physically, I suggest you start immediately (right after you read this article) planning your new life.
The key, I think, is perception. Marcus Aurelius, the philosopher-emperor and last of the emperors of the Pax Romana, in his famous work Meditations said, "Our life is perception" (IV.3). "External things are not the problem. It's your assessment of them. Which you can erase right now" (VIII.47).
Confucius described himself as "the sort of man who forgets to eat when he tries to solve a problem that has been driving him to distraction, who is so full of joy that he forgets his worries and who does not notice the onset of old age" (VII.19).
The real secret to happiness and to living life to the fullest is shifting perspectives. The Dalai Lama suggests, "If you focus too closely, too intensely, on a problem when it occurs, it appears uncontrollable. But if you compare that event with some other greater event, look at the same problem from a distance, then it appears smaller and less overwhelming."
Diane: Actually Richard, things were out of control for us this year. What other fitness team had five surgeries in the same year? At any given time this year, one of us was wearing a splint or a cast while driving the other to the hospital!
But, while it was a lengthy, out of control year, the fresh start of the New Year brings with it health, strength, longevity and much optimism. Last year our goals included regaining full range of motion and strength and now we have the ability to refocus on physique goals.
s Our current healthy status results from modified goals through our recovery processes. Certainly, our training routines drastically changed during the many months of rehab, but our persistence of training the remaining healthy body parts, while maintaining a good level of nutrition and rest allowed for the quickest possible route to our renewed quest for high levels of physical fitness.
Richard: What this all means is that YOU can change your life for the better no matter what your circumstances! Dave Draper, Larry Scott, and Frank Zane are three bodybuilders of the golden era that still inspire me with the zest for life and training that I'm talking about. They are still enjoying workouts like kids! They have adjusted their goals to fit the time of life they are in.
If you have never visited Dave Draper's Web site or read his books (especially Brother Iron/Sister Steel), do so. It will make you feel like a kid again. Larry Scott's book Loaded Guns is inspiring and informative. Larry's enthusiasm for pumping iron is so great that every time I read one of his articles in Iron Man Magazine I can't wait to get to the gym.
I'm attempting to do the same thing. I am not 20-years old and I can't expect my body to react to training as it did forty years ago, but that doesn't mean that I can't enjoy training and can't keep in amazing shape. Have you had difficulty reaching your goals in the past? It may be because you have the wrong goals. Don't expect dramatic changes in your appearance. Exercise because you want to stay healthy and overcome health limitations.
People who train for health reasons rather than merely cosmetic reasons have more success sticking to their exercise programs. Train to have more energy, to reduce your risk of chronic illness, and to enable you to enjoy a greater variety of activities and you WILL see that body emerge that you want.
In order to ensure this lifestyle change, find an exercise regimen that includes some aerobic activity as well as some type of resistance training. Choose a time that is most convenient in pleasant surroundings. As you train the same time every day, you will begin to make friends in the fitness center, friends who will light up when they see you being consistent. You might even find someone with the same goals that can become a training partner.
Think in terms of months to see benefits rather than weeks. You'll be surprised at the gains in health and fitness that accrue over time with persistence and consistency. It only takes three days a week to achieve noticeable improvements in strength, energy and a general sense of well-being. With these will inevitably come the new you staring back at you in the mirror.
The key is to stop thinking negative thoughts. If you are overweight, don't keep telling yourself "I'm a disgusting fat person!" Instead, think of yourself as a fit person who rested or took a step backwards. Your true self is beautiful and fit!
Diane and I just came back from visiting my family in St. Louis for the holidays. I always attempt to visit a few museums, the zoo, etc. One of the places I was able to see was the Butterfly House. Walking through the tropical forest with butterflies flying all over the place was an exciting experience. Butterflies only live a few days, but they are little miracles as they transform from essentially ugly bugs to these delightful flying canvases of design and color. You must realize and believe that you are a butterfly in a cocoon about to emerge!
So come fly with me! Eat right, sleep at least 7-8 hours per night, and exercise at least three times a week so that you too can soar like a butterfly!
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Copyright 2003. Diane Fields, Member. Legendary Fitness, LLC. All rights reserved.
The advice given in this column should not be viewed as a substitute for professional medical services. Before undertaking any exercise or nutrition program, Legendary Fitness, LLC advises all to undergo a thorough medical examination and get permission from their personal physician.