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Fitness for the rest of us

Reaping the rewards of everyday fitness

Living in Central Oregon, where spandex-clad athletes are more prevalent than breweries, it can be easy to feel athletically inadequate. However, you can reap the benefits of exercise and achieve happiness in being fit regardless of your physical ability, and without being an ultimate fitness champion. Whatever your fitness level, there are ways to make exercise less intimidating and unpleasant, and much more rewarding and enjoyable. Ultimately, fitness should be about how you feel rather than how you look or perform.

The first and most important step is to find an activity that you enjoy doing and that suits your ability level. Whether you are new to working out, or simply rededicating yourself to physical activity, finding a good activity fit means you won’t get discouraged and quit. “The more you enjoy what you do the more successful you’re going to be,” says Denise Naylor, personal fitness instructor and operations director for L.I.F.T. (Legendary Indoor Fitness Training) in Bend. “Find that one thing that really works for you, that’s really intriguing to you, because if you love it and it makes you feel good, you’ll want to do it all the time.”

Monica McClain-Smith, fitness coordinator at Juniper Swim & Fitness Center, agrees. “The best type of exercise is the type that you’re going to enjoy doing. Incorporate wellness activities that benefit your mind, body and soul. When you find something you feel good about in all of those dimensions you’ll keep coming back to it,” she explains, adding that schedule and routine matter, too. “The best time of day for you to exercise is the time you’re going to do it.”

Your favorite workout might be indoors, but try to think outside the gym. Here in Central Oregon there are innumerable alternatives to cardio equipment and weight rooms. “So many people here in Bend have dogs, so fitness can be just taking your dog out for a long walk,” says Naylor. “The dog will love you for it and be so happy, and you’ll feel much better in the end.” The important thing is trying to find something to do every day. If you only have 30 minutes, then be active for 30 minutes. Naylor suggests going to a studio or gym three times a week and getting out in nature and walking, skiing or running three days a week as well.

The social element matters, too. Consider doing workouts with other people, even if it’s just a few a week. “Find a friend,” says Naylor. “Your support system makes a tremendous difference. Sign up with a friend so you know someone is expecting you to be there. When you’re held accountable, it causes you to commit a little more.”

Participating in group-based physical activities is also empowering because the other participants provide support, motivation and encouragement. “The socialization is really important,” says Carolyn Creedican, fitness assistant and water exercise instructor at JSFC. “I want to promote that feeling of wellness and community and working together as a group, breaking the chains of isolation and fostering a feeling of community.”

Now that you’ve incorporated fitness into your life, it’s time to reap the benefits. Adding modest amounts of physical activity to your weekly routine can have a profound impact on your physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. “The biggest benefit and reward of being active is you feel better in every way. You meet new people, build new relationships and feel the accomplishment of overcoming obstacles and challenges,” says McClain-Smith. Aside from the benefits to your physical health, improving your fitness is also a self-esteem and self-confidence booster, it helps you manage and reduce stress, it brings about new friendships and camaraderie and it can also help to socially establish people who are new to town. “It rolls over into so many different aspects of your life,” says Naylor. “It helps give you a more well-rounded and robust life, along with stronger and healthier relationships.”

This year, don’t be afraid to add a little fitness to your life. Find things that challenge and excite you, mix it up, keep yourself intrigued, and no matter what, don’t let the spandex-clad super athletes intimidate you. “Open your mind, open your heart to just trying it,” says Creedican. “You don’t have to be perfect. Change your life towards wellness. All it takes is that one time to get you started.”

L.I.F.T.  –  bodybyschliebe.com

Juniper Swim & Fitness  –  bendparksandrec.org

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