The MisFits column has been bringing us local fitness news, tips and tricks for seven years now. Most recently Vicky Hallett and Lenny Bernstein made up our writing team, but with Lenny’s move to The Post’s To Your Health blog, we’ve decided to flex our fitness muscle.
Starting this week, our MisFits crew will consist of five writers with a variety of backgrounds: a mom trying to juggle work and kids and life, a beginner just starting to figure out a fitness routine, a running addict looking for a sub-four-hour marathon, a high-energy fitness instructor and a veteran fitness writer with her finger on the local scene.
Whenever I mention that I cover fitness for The Washington Post, I get asked, “So what do you do to work out?” Most people probably expect me to respond with something kooky, like, “I’m so into underwater Krav Maga right now.” The truth is that I just do my job.
I’ve been writing this column since it launched in 2007, and I’ve edited the Fit section of Express even longer, so I’ve had the opportunity to sample just about every physical activity imaginable (except underwater Krav Maga, which apparently is a thing). What I’ve learned is that there isn’t one perfect kind of exercise. There’s a perfect way to exercise — and that’s never getting into a rut. In an ideal week, I’d bounce between a group fun run, a restorative yoga class, a killer boot camp and, okay, something kind of kooky, like trampoline dodgeball or spear throwing.
Relying on this fitness philosophy means I’ll never be an expert in anything other than how to make a fool of myself. But I’m spectacular at that.
I also recognize how lucky I am to have this gig and time to devote to fitness. Most folks don’t. That’s why I aim to report on stuff that’s totally worth it, and I’m obsessed with ways that workplaces and the environment around us can encourage exercise.
Washington’s remarkable transformation into a bike-friendly city is a prime example. But I have a confession to make: I’m a bike-riding wimp. If I can’t plan a route that’s not entirely on trails or protected bike lanes, I leave my wheels at home. My goal this year is to build up cycling confidence, so I can zip around town faster and discover even more options — kooky and not — to tell you about.
By day, I’m a banking reporter. By later in the day, I’m a group fitness instructor. And by much later in the day, I’m just tired.
In my teens and early 20s, I never fit anyone’s definition of athletic — no high school sports, no marathon running, no muscles to flex. But in my mid-20s, as a Heineken-induced muffin top began to form, I joined an all-ladies gym. There, I discovered the wonders of weightlifting and interval running. It was beyond belief that someone as weak as I was at the time could ever do chest presses, skull crushers and tricep dips. It wasn’t so much the act of working out that I fell in love with as it was the way exercising made me feel: empowered.
I wanted others to share in that euphoria, so I decided to become a certified fitness instructor. Within weeks of passing an exam from the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America, I began substitute-teaching at The Washington Post’s in-house gym. And when one of our talented teachers moved on from the company, I was offered her two classes teaching strength training and TurboKick. I spend most of my weekends dreaming up new ways to challenge (read: torture) my students and taking other instructors’ classes.
My professional goal for my rookie year as an instructor is to learn techniques to keep people of all fitness levels motivated. My personal goal as a 30-something who just learned to ride a bike is to bike to work and arrive alive.
Five years ago, I joined the over-50 club — while I was still in my 30s. Oh, settle down, I’ll explain.
What I did was lose more than 50 pounds, in six months, no less. My motivation? To win a weight-loss contest with a close friend. However, once the contest was over (I won, duh), I was worried about maintaining the motivation to keep most of the bulk at bay.
Guess I should have entered another contest. Five years later, the weight is back, but so is my determination to do something about it.
With the MisFits on my side, I plan on getting back to running regularly, hitting the gym and trying out all sorts of fitness activities as part of this team. I’m no stranger to cycling — going back to my days as a bike messenger in the early ’90s — so I’ll certainly keep that up as well.
Down the road, I’d like to run a marathon (I had gotten as far as completing a half-marathon in 2009 before a back injury, then good, old-fashioned indolence, sidetracked my ambitions). I’d also like to build up the strength to perform a non-embarrassing number of pull-ups. You know, like four. Heck, I’d settle for being able to touch my toes in the not-too-distant future.
Professionally, I’m a sports blogger, and like many sports journalists, I’ve grown far too used to merely observing people engaged in physical exertion. It’s time to remind myself how the other, much less lard-laden half lives.
I’m delighted for the opportunity to be a MisFit and share my journey back to something resembling fitness with our readers. I hope I can inspire some of them, and at least entertain the rest.
When it comes to health and fitness, I’m convinced that word is the most exciting and terrifying.
Distance establishes the points of a journey: 5K, 1,000 meters, 20 pounds. However, “going the distance” isn’t just those endpoints but all the measurements along the way. It is more than the half-marathon; it’s all the miles run during the weeks and months of training. It’s the yoga class every week, the time spent cycling with the bike club on the weekend, maybe even the money spent on the proper equipment.
I think that’s why fitness resolutions — and especially the ultimate resolution, a truly healthful lifestyle — often don’t stick: It’s hard to know how much it will cost in time, effort and sweat. Living a healthful life is finding the constant rhythm to stay the course, every day.
But how does one do that?
For me, the past two years have been spent laying the foundation of a healthier life. Along the way, I became a runner. I love to race, and when I’m not working as a page designer at The Post, I travel to far-flung places just to run. My long-term goal is to become a member of the Seven Continents Club, running a marathon on every continent. I’ve conquered the Americas and I hope to run Antarctica when I turn 40, Lord and knees willing.
I’ve changed how I eat (and I’m always looking for good Paleo recipes), and ultimately, I’m starting to discover what it means to be fit. Now it’s time to take it to the next level. This year, I want to run a sub-4:00 marathon, add more exercises to my fitness program and (big gulp) try yoga.
In short, the goal is to go the distance. And have a good time doing it.
I spent much of seventh grade on an exercise bike in my basement, blasting the Police as I pushed myself up imaginary hills. (This was one of those old flywheel bikes, so I had to play my LPs — yes, I am dating myself — really loud.) I was recovering from a knee injury that had left my sports and fitness prognosis uncertain, but I was determined that six miles a night would get me out of that basement and onto the road.
The next summer I biked about 30 miles a day on a weeks-long bike-athon of Cape Cod; after that I ratcheted up my tennis practices. Today, as a 43-year-old mother of two and Book World editor at The Post, I do my best to stay fit by running, swimming, doing yoga and sneaking in an occasional trip to the gym. I don’t count the untold hours spent playing backyard soccer with my 61 / 2-year-old son or spotting my 41 / 2-year-old daughter on the monkey bars.
My fitness goal for the next year is a simple one: to keep fit, have fun and remember that exercise should be a way to manage stress, not create it. How do you do that while juggling young children, a job and a husband with his own intense fitness regimen?
It’s not easy. There are many days I don’t want to work out — because I am too tired, too busy or, all too often, both. In those moments I sometimes think back to the basement bike years to remind me how lucky I am to have the choice. Or I think of my daughter watching me swim laps and yelling, “I want to do that!”
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