Stacey Margaret Jones: Joy in the Workout – Happy New Year!


‘Tis the season to get in the work-out mindset and find your mode, your fitness mojo. If you are dissatisfied with your overall health or fitness level, it makes sense to start a new year with new purpose.

With the busy holidays, some family commitments, lots of travel and winter carb-cravings, I’ve got some work to do myself, but as I get older, I’m starting to realize that what I want is not work-outs that waste me and make me curse the day I was born, but activities I actually like doing.

Because for me, that has always been the key to long-term, stick-with-it fitness. When I started running at 33, after an adulthood of inactivity (“You may not be overweight,” said my doctor, “but that doesn’t mean you’re healthy.”), I didn’t like doing it right away, but I liked immediately what it did for me: fewer migraines, better sleep, more energy all day, and, of course, I lost a few pounds and slimmed down a little. 

We do know, of course, the adage, “You can’t outrun your fork,” and it’s true. When I’m marathon training, for instance, I always gain weight, because those 15- to 20-mile long runs make me a lot hungrier than the calories I’ve burned off really do allow. And while I’ve learned to time my indulgent eating to before the run, not after, to make the most weight-loss good of an exertion, generally exercise makes me fitter. Not eating too much makes me slimmer.

But I think sometimes that is the motivation for the punishing workouts. (I’ve tried some of them, and others I refuse to try, and I won’t name names). We want to expiate our nutritional sins, and even if we don’t say it aloud, we see exercise as punishment to whip our bodies into shape for what we did to them with our lack of healthy choices when it comes to food.

The problem is those workouts aren’t going to keep your interest, for who wants to go get punished every day, or even just once a week? And if all you have time for is one or two classes a week, of course you want to make it count by making it something that kicks your ass and may even make you nauseated as you stress and strain to do the most “good” in the least amount of time.

I’m not knocking any high-intensity class if the participants are there because they like the movement, the feeling of it, the camaraderie, the teacher, the benefits, etc. Only you know what gets you on your yoga mat at 6 a.m. or in your spin class shoes at 5:30 p.m. But if there’s no enjoyment in the moment, how will you keep making yourself return? And in an era in which there are about 18 bazillion kinds of workouts to choose from, from running out your front door to adult ballet classes—why go to a class unless you love it?

I recently read an article about a long-distance runner who switched her workouts to train for a fast one-mile and added a lot of weight training, and she lost 25 pounds! Great! But reading that, I thought, “But I don’t like speed workouts. I like to run 12 miles, alone, with my music and my dog, along the Arkansas River.” And I realized that I am susceptible to the infinite messages of inadequacy we all get from the fitness-o-sphere. “You can do better. There’s a better body inside you. You’re making the wrong choices.”

For me, the choice is joy. Joy in movement. And I’ve found a great mix:

  • Running, which I’ve loved since realizing I don’t like team sports, but I like to move (also, I can do it with my dog!). Sometimes I switch to biking in the summer, but there is nothing like marathon or half-marathon race day! Currently, I try for one long run a week with my borzoi, but I need to step it up to prepare for the Little Rock half marathon in March.
  • Yoga, which has improved my flexibility, balance and strength, reducing running injuries, and also helped me find a lot of calm beauty in the world around me. There’s so much to learn, too—physically, linguistically, philosophically and historically—which keeps me engaged, especially now that I’m in registered yoga teacher training.
  • Jazzercise because it is freaking FUN, and a great, full-body workout each time. Where else would I hear contemporary music and gab with my back-row friends?! Sometimes, you just need to dance.
  • Personal training, where Ashley at Burn Studio in Conway works with me each week on strength and flexibility, while taking care not to aggravate any of my trouble spots, like tender knees and a cranky old lower back.

This is just what works for me and my schedule, which is very flexible, since I work for myself from home. And, it will change, as I give myself permission to let go of things that aren’t serving me in exchange for new or different things that will.

If you are trying to get fit or ramp up your fitness in 2016, I salute you. But I encourage you to be kind to your body and your mind, choose activities you enjoy, with goals that aren’t punitive. Separate your fitness from your fork, and go for the joy.

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year Pic

Tags: , ,