When I was a teen, my father used to challenge me to do 50 pushups. I worked up to it and eventually did that many. I recall a new boyfriend meeting my parents for the first time and my dad bragging about my ability to do pushups. He even had me demonstrate. I don’t recall the boyfriend’s reaction, only the face of my dad, all lit up.
I tried to do pushups recently and failed miserably. My father would not have been proud. Needing motivation, I joined a gym and even participated in a couple of personal training sessions. With an instructor watching my form and cheering me on, bringing back memories of my youth, I persevered. I’ve increased my strength. It could happen for you, too.
I say 2023 is the year to give ourselves priority, beginning with caring for our health. Exercise is not only beneficial for our physical health, but our mental health too, giving us an endorphin rush needed on these short, cold days. It’s also a great way to work out frustrations or stress.
During some of my most stressful years of teaching, I joined a karate studio. I worried the commitment was just going to compound my stress level, but building strength, learning the moves and how to maintain focus, saved my sanity. I’m not alone.
I spoke to a woman who is a caregiver. Her time at the gym is a healthy release, something she does for herself.
“My gym is wonderful. I’m able to strengthen my muscles and my outlook,” she said. “I can feel myself relaxing, laughing, and having fun. I need that as much as the physical fitness.”
I also met a young mother who says her short time away from her child makes her a better mom. This reminds me of a quote: “Take care of yourself; you can’t pour from an empty cup.” It is an excellent motto we should all keep in mind.
A New Year’s Challenge
Let’s consider a New Year’s challenge in which we give ourselves priority with a regular exercise program. If going to a gym isn’t an option, you can still prioritize your health with some alternatives.
• Form a neighborhood group, and work out in someone’s home. Being accountable to another person will keep motivation high.
• Join one of the growing pickleball groups that meet indoors, and have such a great time you don’t realize you’re exercising. If pickleball isn’t your thing, check out area classes such as yoga, Zumba, or strength building.
• Explore the many online options (YouTube has a ton), and choose from stretching, strengthening, or aerobics, to name just a few. Or simply download an app like “7 Minute Fitness Challenge,” and set a weekly schedule. In just seven minutes you can get in a great workout — even one that includes doing 10 pushups.
• Make it fun. Walk or jog on the treadmill while watching an enjoyable TV show, or prep for healthy meals while listening to your favorite music podcast.
According to healthline.com, it takes an average of 66 days to form a habit. If we begin an exercise routine by January 1, it will become an ingrained habit before the start of spring. By then, I just might be back to pumping out those pushups.
Consider giving yourself a gift in the new year. Prioritize your health.
Amy Laundrie is a retired teacher and the author of 12 books. Her memoir, “Laugh, Cry, Reflect: Stories
From a Joyful Heart” features columns about pets, nature, teaching, and family.