An Unexpected Exercise Regime

A ballroom dancing couple. Illustration by Dav...
A ballroom dancing couple. Illustration by David Göthberg & Co, Sweden.  Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My exercise of choice used to be Ballroom Dancing. I loved moving my body to the sound of music and thrilled in my ability to move gracefully across the dance floor. I spent hours with my dance partner perfecting the movements of the dance; and spent many hours with a high impact aerobics instructor in order to be “dance fit”. My aim was to compete in five dances, one after the other, and make it seem effortless. I could not imagine exercising without moving to the rhythm of music.

Fifteen years later I have had two children and dancing has become a part of my “before-children” phase. A firm believer in the benefits of exercise for growing children, I have walked my children to swimming lessons, skating lessons, and (on request) Tae Kwon Do (TKD) lessons. Each week I have taken them to our local community centre so that they can get their weekly quota of exercise in order to grow physically strong.

In January of this year, my husband and I decided our girls needed more marshal arts training than they were getting at the community centre. They needed to take the sport seriously and learn to perfect their form. We enrolled them in a TKD dojang (school) and have seen them blossom under the tutelage of their new Master and instructors.

But what about me? I fell into the trap that many mothers fall into: the trap of looking after the health of the family and not my own. My exercise regime suffered. My own physical activity consisted of walking my daughters to their lessons; and trying, sometimes successfully, to follow a DVD at home early in the morning before the household awoke. No longer was I exercising for up to 2 hours a day. Instead, I have watched my children partake in their lessons, praised them and encouraged them, watched physical activity from the sidelines. I have felt proud of my children’s achievements and progress, and celebrated with them each small success.

“What about mum?” the TKD Master asked me one day after a lesson. “You are here, try it.” She encouraged me to join in, noticing that I often watched with interest the participants in her class. “Maybe you will like it. It will help you with your weight, and give you energy to be with the kids.” (She knew I am a teacher of young children). I knew on some level that I was neglecting my own physical fitness but, secretly, I hoped to one day dance again. Realistically I knew that it would not happen for a long time, not while I had children dependant on me to take them to their physical activities. And in the meantime? I gained weight, and lost the fitness that I once used to enjoy. I decided to take the Master up on her challenge and join the other adults I had watched exercise with their children.

Four months ago I donned the white uniform of the TKD student. As I tightened my white belt around my waist, young voices of encouragement echoed in my mind: “You can do it mommy! I know you can!” The voices of the instructors joined those of my children as they encouraged me to do sit-ups, push-ups, and even cartwheels.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2013
The Tae Kwon Do uniform. © Colline Kook-Chun, 2013

I will not tell a lie and say that the classes were easy. I am not supple and struggled to even touch my toes. My heart beat races after the first few minutes of cardio. Often during the class I am left breathless as I strive to keep up with those fitter and younger than me. And yet … I revel in the aching muscles and physical fatigue that helps me sleep at night. I welcome learning movement again albeit without the sound of rhythmic beats. I am learning slowly to master the movements, the exercises and patterns, the Korean terms.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2013
Attaining the TKD yellow belt. © Colline Kook-Chun, 2013

I felt pleased when I attained my next belt and wore the colour proudly. My children helped me learn the new patterns, and I practised a little each day when I woke up. I have slowly begun to feel stronger – certainly the muscles in my legs are getting firmer. I am surprised at how many push-ups I am now able to do (I can now do more than one!). I have reached my toes in the stretches and am now working on touching my head to my knees. I enjoy the camaraderie of the classes and still watch in admiration those who have attained a higher belt.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2013
Testing for orange belt. © Colline Kook-Chun, 2013

I have just completed the test for my orange belt and feel I am now on a TKD journey. Each time I tie my belt around my waist, not only am I showing that I have attained the next level and am committed to this marshal art, but also that I have made a commitment to my own physical exercise and well-being. And the next best thing? I am exercising with my children – both in the classroom, and when we practise together at home.

Have you ever fallen into an unexpected exercise regime?

(This post was inspired by the WordPress Weekly Writing Challenge: Fit to Write)

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2013

The Best Time To Exercise

English: KUNSAN AIR BASE, South Korea— Airmen ...
Image via Wikipedia

When is the best time to exercise? This is a question that besets us all when we start out on a new exercise plan. Experts often bombard us with advice: which leads to even more confusion and indecision!

I have learned over the years that my workouts should become a part of my routine. If it is, chances are I will stick to it. Doing exercise “when I have a chance” will not lead to regular workouts and my ultimate goals of health and fitness. If I have set time aside for exercise in my daily routine, I am able to follow through with the promise I have made to myself.

I believe that on our journey towards a fitter and healthier body, we need to once again listen to the signals that our bodies give us. We should become like children once again: stop eating when our stomach tells us we are full; exercise when we are most energetic; and rest when our bodies tell us we are tired.

Figure out at what time of the day you are most productive and energetic. Doing so will allow you to reap the benefits of your exercise routine. If you are a night owl, it is pointless getting up at 6am to do a morning workout because you will not have the energy for it – all you will want to do is sleep! If you are at your brightest and most energetic early in the morning, then that is the time for you to go for it!

It is important to remember to fit your workouts around your daily routine. Your exercise schedule need not be like anyone else’s. Create your own: make it yours and you will feel more empowered to follow it. The time you decide to exercise is unimportant: what is essential is the fact that you have made an effort to schedule exercise into your daily routine. Feel proud of your decision to work towards your personal goals.

Have you chosen the best time for you to exercise? How have you incorporated a workout routine into your schedule?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2012

Walking is Free!

“I do not have the money to exercise.”

“Joining a gym is so expensive!”

Have you heard these excuses? Or even used them yourself? Starting your journey towards fitness does not require you to join a gym, or even a sports club. Walking is free and costs you nothing except your time: you can walk in your neighbourhood, or on a track at the nearest community centre. In addition, this exercise can be spread throughout your day; and you can go at the speed that is best suited for your fitness levels!

Walking is low impact which makes it the perfect exercise: it does not require you to push yourself to the limits and injure your body. And if you suffer from knee pain, no exercise could be better.

Walking for exercise does not mean a slow stroll in the park, or browsing in the shopping mall. What it means is walking briskly so that your heart rate increases. Swing your arms energetically when you walk – and move with your head up high. Breathe in deeply and enjoy the movement you are making.

When you begin your exercise routine, start with short-term goals. Begin walking for 10 minutes each day, and slowly increase the time each week. Once you have incorporated walking into your daily routine and it has become a habit, increase the length of time up to 30 minutes.

You can use a pedometer to track the number of steps you walk each day. Adding more steps to your daily goal will also increase the time you spend each day on this physical activity. Aim to walk 10 000 steps per day. You can build up to this goal slowly and within a time frame suitable to you.

Sometimes you may need help to stay motivated to exercise. A walking buddy may help: a friend, someone you live with, your neighbour, or even a colleague. Walking a dog will also give you a good opportunity to exercise. If you do not have a dog, offer to walk someone else’s – they may take on your help eagerly! Walking in new surroundings may also encourage you to continue walking. I find looking at houses, or walking on trails, detracts my attention from the physical effort I am making. And the time seems to go by faster.

Walking on the tradmill is perfect for those extra early morning walks during the winter cold months. When walking on the simulated hills, I use an mp3 player. The music I listen to is upbeat, high energy music that motivates me to walk faster.

I walk daily. I use the treadmill in the morning, and walk everywhere I go to during the day: I take the children to school, shop for food at the nearby store, go to work, and run any errand that comes up without getting into a car.

Do you walk? What keeps you motivated to walk? 

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2012