For the Fun of It (Manhattan Times)
December 2, 2009One Sunday this fall, I found the secret to being fit. I had just taken a Tai Chi class in Fort Tryon Park. The sky was so blue and the leaves had just taken on such glorious hues that I couldn’t bear to go home and start the work I’d planned. So, I didn’t. I kept moving.
I ambled through the Heather Garden, across the cobblestones of the Cloisters, and up and down the tiny beckoning stone steps of the Alpine Garden. Just past the Alpine grotto, I was startled to see a toddler and her father in this beautiful but off the beaten path part of the park. I said “Oh, hi. I never see other people in this area.” The dad smiled back and said, “Oh, she loves it here.” Hmmm… it seemed he loved it, too.
And why wouldn’t they? It’s a great place for climbing, exploring, and making up who knows how many games and stories.
I think that toddler and father know something that many adults have forgotten--fitness is what happens when you move your body in a way and in a place that you love. If you do it with people you love, so much the better. It’s the by-product, not the primary goal.
Unless something goes horribly wrong, as kids we are naturally eager to move our bodies. From birth (and even before) we gleefully kick, punch the air, bounce, gyrate, dance, crawl run, climb, scramble, tumble and more. Kids don’t think about moving their bodies, or being fit—they just do it. And, keeping up with a young child makes us fitter, too—even a game of catch or Frisbee or pushing a young child on a swing works your muscles between giggles.
As a little girl growing up on the streets and in the parks and playgrounds of Brooklyn, I had the time and opportunity to run, swim, bike, roller skate, jump rope, and make comic attempts at handball and tennis. My parents owned an ice cream parlor, with a jukebox that inspired me to tap dance my heart out, in a passionate imitation of Shirley Temple. I guess that helps explain why I never got fat, despite all those ice cream sundaes.
As adults and older children, fortunately many of us manage to hold on to the pure pleasure of moving our bodies. I’ve noticed that both the adults and children I know who are physically active on a regular basis are doing things they love—dancing, walking in the park, competing in a race, biking along the Greenway, playing tag, skate boarding, rollerblading, hiking in the woods, swimming in a lake—or even lifting weights. The ones for whom working out is just another burdensome item on a checklist, who say something like, “Ugh, I’ve got to do the treadmill for 45 minutes today” often wind up “forgetting” or finding that something “more important” has come up. If this sounds all too familiar, keep looking for ways to move your body that you really love, and then, believe me, the problem will be stopping – not starting.