A fitness-minded woman gives thanks and advice to her inner fit girl — a conversation that works for women of all ages. What would you say to your younger self?
Dear Younger Nichele,
Hey girl! Hey! I see you. As I turn 50 and look to the years, adventures and workouts ahead, I look back at 25-year-old you. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss the days when I didn’t give my back, knees, heart, waist circumference and weight much thought. But instead of longing for blissful ignorance, I look back with gratitude.
Grown Chele sees the things Young Chele was wise or lucky enough to do to get us here, and some of the things I wish we’d learned and done sooner.
First, thanks for keeping it moving.
From high-impact aerobics in shiny blue, thong leotards (don’t judge) and Congolese dance to Spinning and Crossfit, you’ve stayed active. Our health, resilience, mood, social life and sanity send you thanks from the future.
Crush it. Carefully.
You go hard in the gym, but grown-ass Chele says: Listen to your body, and work out like you plan to use those knees for a while. Keep your back flat during your lifts, and step gently. And @$%# what they say about pain and gain. When something hurts, stop.
Do those silly leg lifts now, or do them later.
You were wise to ignore promises that those leg lifts and fire hydrants (Remember? On all fours, lifting one knee. So undignified. So bogus.) would spot reduce hips and thighs. But those moves do have a purpose. Power, balance and core stability depend on your deep hip and butt muscles that will weaken and eventually cause lower back pain after 20-plus years of sitting at computers, in council meetings, on bikes and in cars for long drives. You’ll have a fantastic physical therapist who will tell you to do the lame exercises to keep your hips strong. So do them.
JERF: Just eat real food.
Heeding good nutrition advice will seem wise, but the food tides will shift. You’re a good eater and will discover the benefits of butter and olive oil versus margarine, fresh over frozen and frozen over canned, wild-caught and free-range over factory-farmed. You’ll taste the difference. JERF will be your best medicine.
A smooth heel-to-toe roll is good walking form, but when you run, pitch forward a little at your ankles and land on the mid foot. Heel striking slows you down, and your knees become your brake pads. This video by Chi Running creator Danny Dreyer will help.
Work out more for function, less for fine.
It’s hard to stay motivated and easy to get injured when you exercise with weight loss as the goal. Instead, stay engaged with data. Fitness trackers won’t be widely used until the 1990s, but get one as soon as you can and use it. Heart-rate monitors, fitness trackers, apps and even pen-and-paper record keeping that reward you for meeting weekly goals and that help keep tabs on your heart rate will help keep you encouraged.
Nix those worn kicks.
You used to replace your shoes when your right knee twinges. Instead, move shoes from workouts to weekends every few months or, for running shoes, after about 300 miles.
It’s in the hips.
In pursuit of upper-body strength, you’ll injure your shoulder and back with overzealous use of weight training. Do push-ups and assisted pull-ups for a stronger back and core.
Walk it out.
Young Chele thinks walking as exercise is boring. Do it anyway for active recovery, for errands, to catch up with friends or to get to know neighborhoods. A small study found that a 10-minute walk after a meal helps to keep blood sugar down, and might avoid your midlife pre-diabetes scare.
Bare your belly.
You’re modest, but later baring even the smallest sliver of tummy may feel … suboptimal. Don’t wait. Show some skin. Thank me later.
Don’t focus on fat
At times, you’ll be skinny. You’ll be overweight. And you’ll be obese. But calling your body “fat” today could doom you to a fatter self later. So here’s a quote on an unrelated Malcolm Gladwell podcast that will move you many years from now: “You must respect the body you are trying to heal.”