by Heather Dugan

Not entirely, at least. I admit a tendency toward sleeveless that adds extra value to those triceps extensions, but for me, regular gym workouts and trail running are simply the most effective way to maintain forward momentum before normal aging can create drag.

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Yep, I’m over fifty—and have the college-aged kids and shredded AARP mailings to prove it. But, I’m in prime shape, physically and mentally, thanks to my daily fitness appointment with myself.

The proven benefits—protection against myriad diseases and depression—would be plenty of motivation to get me moving, but I’ve found other immediately tangible ones that enhance my resolve with almost instant positive rewards. Besides and beyond the ability to fit into last year’s jeans, here’s what I value about my fitness lifestyle:

Improved focus. Mental block? There’s nothing like a little cardio to get the blood flowing and creative thoughts gelling again. Shifting gears on a bike or at the gym allows the brain to reset and blaze in new directions. Some of my best stuff gets written in my head when I’m a couple of miles into a trail run—and having to remember what I’ve “written” until I get back to my laptop is compelling incentive to focus well and completely.

Social network. As a solo entrepreneurial type whose daily interactions may or may not include a greeting to the UPS guy, it’s essential I build in daily social connection. Many of my gym buddies have become outside-the-gym friends. “Networking”—or as I prefer to term it “relationship building”—is a lifestyle choice, not a 9 to 5 business card exchange. It happens at the grocery, in parking lots and over weight sets. And it works. My previously unemployed best friend landed his current “right fit” job via a fortuitous gym encounter. Your results may vary…but the results will be real and valuable.

Affirmation. Want to generate some good self-talk? Watch yourself improve your stamina on the elliptical machine or increase your bench press over a couple of weeks. And, you will be amongst other like-minded folks who might throw a “nice job” at you when you drop down from the pull up bar. Not ready for all of that quite yet? Simply joining a fitness class will provide instant commiserating comrades—a sweat drenched, endorphin-rich connection that is as genuine as you’re willing to be and on a regular schedule.

Daily discipline. Discipline begets discipline. It’s a muscle just like that newly budding bicep, and exercising it in one area of your life will help you to use it in others as well. Want to be more decisive and action-oriented at work? Join into the disciplined mentality of prioritizing daily fitness. It’s a transferable membership.

Guaranteed “good.” There will be days when you lose clients, patience, car keys and perspective—days when you swim against the current and grimly note that the view isn’t changing all that much. Without a channel, free flowing adrenaline—our natural “fight or flight” response—will drain productivity. So when negatives are on virtual assault, fight back by planting guaranteed “good” into the day. A workout qualifies. At the very least, it’s time away from stewing, losing it or succumbing to food cravings that have nothing to do with hunger.

Turns back time. Getting serious about a fitness commitment will change your life. Faithfully setting—and keeping—regular workout appointments with yourself carries a guaranteed ROI. Actively creating muscle and maintaining body health will mark you as younger than your counterparts who don’t—and physical vitality and strength brings youthful vigor to mental health as well. Here’s my own firsthand report: For the past ten years even as my children grow older, I am most definitely growing younger. Through multiple deaths and a divorce—traumas that often show up as additional pounds on a body and lines on a face—regular exercise has been a stabilizing, rejuvenating force. Simply stated, it works—from the inside out.

Inspiration for others. Life lives larger when we look beyond ourselves. Some of my best workouts have been the ones that help launch others onto a path toward physical fitness—older women with lapsed or newly awakened motivation, younger ones recognizing that “thin” is not the same as “healthy.” When ankle reconstruction forced me into eight plus weeks on crutches, I remained a gym regular. Many confided that the sight of me doing pull-ups with a leg cast obliterated their own mental excuses and sparked motivation. Those revelations imbued my temporary setback with meaning beyond my own body’s healing.

Heather Dugan is a nationally published author, columnist and speaker as well as a voice/video talent.  Her focus is on creative communication and human connection.  Projects range from books, articles and advice column to travel, eLearning, promotional and product videos.  The Indiana University graduate is a regular on radio and television commercials but may be best known as an annoying phone voice telling listeners they’ve misdialed.  

Lifestyle and Weight Management Specialist
Certified Nutrition Coach and Nutrition for Metabolic Health Specialist. Since 2006, I have helped thousands of clients and readers make lifestyle habit changes that helps you to achieve better long-term health, which includes body transformation and ideal body weight.
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