Getting older, feeling younger
Getting old stinks.
It sneaks up on you. And before you know what’s happening, things you used to do with relative ease are either more difficult or even impossible.
I never had to take breaks when I cleaned the house, or stop at the top of the stairs to catch my breath, but there I was, doing both. I noticed I was really tired by late afternoon, which made me less productive at work.
For a long time, I just accepted this as an inevitable part of aging. Exercise? Sure, I took walks with my husband around the neighborhood, but I didn’t do anything too strenuous or physically challenging.
Then American Family Insurance offered a yoga class during the lunch hour.
My friend said, "Come on, it will be fun." So I took the plunge, paid my fees and signed up. The instructor was a young, perky woman with a pleasant smile who made me believe I could actually do it.
One thing she said that opened my eyes was, as we age, our balance is one of the first things to go. We did a lot of balancing poses, and she was right. I could barely stand on one foot for more than a few seconds. I learned about the plank. Apparently, if you could do that position, your core muscles would get stronger. The plank is the position you are in before you do a push-up, and a push-up was something I couldn’t do.
All this was new to me, but very exciting.
I started standing on one foot while stirring spaghetti, washing dishes and brushing my teeth. Every time a commercial came on TV, I would hold a plank for as long as I could. I felt myself getting stronger and having more confidence.
Then, for the first time in my life, I did a push-up! A real push-up, from my toes, not my knees! I showed my husband. I showed my daughter. Soon I could do five in a row. Every single night, I did five push-ups before I went to bed.
Yoga turned into Pilates, which challenged me even more. Lunges helped my legs get stronger. Stretching, bending and twisting all improved my posture. After a few years of yoga and Pilates, I felt like a new person.
Then, the best thing happened. American Family dedicated a whole room to fitness.
More classes were added, including boot camp. I have to admit, boot camp was a scary thought. That is one giant leap from standing on a yoga mat. But that same friend said, "We can do this." And we did.
We ran around the pond. We learned to have a love/hate relationship with burpees (from a standing position you lower to a crouch, throw your legs out together behind you, then pull them back up to a crouch, then stand again). We got muddy. We made friends, we laughed and we got healthier.
My new love is Zumba, modeled after Latin dance. The night we have Zumba class is my favorite night of the week. The music is fun, the moves are exhilarating and the sweat is for real.
Today I can do 20 push-ups, run for two miles, clean my house in half the time, run up four flights of stairs without being out of breath, and by late afternoon, I'm excited about my fitness class coming up.
I'm healthier, happier and more confident than I've been in a long time, all thanks to the fitness classes offered at American Family as part of our benefits. I'm a 57-year-old grandma who can beat my 27-year-old daughter in a foot race.
The chance to take part in these classes, and the wonderful instructors who teach them, literally gave me back my life. I encourage anyone – young, old or in-between – to take advantage of these great opportunities to get more fit and healthy. You will never regret it!