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I realize you may be sick of me preaching about how great Bar Method is and forcing you to look at a zillion pictures of Riggins and me.  Today I decided to mix things up and have you listen to my good friend Michelle talk about her exercise of choice and show you pictures of her and her dog, Buddy!  Recently I went with Michelle (and her friend Olga — more about her in the post below) to a dance (salsa-y) aerobic class and it was a blast.  Generally during my exercise time I tend to put my head down, concentrate, breathe and focus for the hour or so.  Michelle may be onto something with the whole “have fun while you are doing it” idea!  I’ll pass it to Michelle to tell you more about her work-out philosophy —-

The dreaded word:  Exercise

First, let me clarify.  I don’t dread exercise itself.  I actually enjoy physical activity.  But I want it to be FUN.  I want it to be something I look forward to doing.  I don’t want to ever feel like it’s something I have to do.  Simply put, I don’t want it to feel like “exercise”.

My entire life, I’ve always done some sort of physical activity (note that I’m not using the word “exercise”).  Growing up, we lived outside of town so if I wanted to see my friends outside of school, I typically rode my bike.  In high school, I dabbled in track and basketball until I found my favorite sport – soccer.  In college, my physical activity consisted of walking to and from class, and up and down State Street to the various bars and fraternity parties (it was a pretty big campus so there was a LOT of walking).

Michelle & Buddy - Photo taken by Lori Fusaro

Michelle & Buddy – Photo taken by Lori Fusaro

But later in life, in my 30s, I had to come up with something new.  I always enjoyed being outside.  And I grew up with animals.  So I decided it was time to get a dog – THAT would ensure physical activity – I would take the dog on daily walks!  For the next 13 years, my beloved dog Buddy and I went on regular walks – about a mile and a half up to 5 times a week.  But as Buddy grew older he started to slow down a bit, and at the same time I entered my 40s.  Daily walks weren’t going to cut it.  I needed to change up my exercise routine or my waistline was going to start – and continue – to expand.

One day, one of my employees suggested I try Zumba.  “What’s Zumba?” I asked.  She explained that it’s like aerobics but with variations of Latin dance, usually with Latin music.  Well, that sounded pretty good to me!  I love to dance!  Another appealing aspect was that Zumba is offered in a class setting.  I live alone, and at work I sit in a private office with limited interaction with others.  It can be very isolating, almost depressing at times.

I wasted no time getting online to find the nearest Zumba class (www.Zumba.com).  Lucky for me, classes were offered at a gym only a few blocks from my house.  I could request a free 7-day pass and take at least 3 classes for FREE!  Sounded good to me!  Three classes later, I was hooked and joined the gym.

To me, Zumba is like a dance party with your girlfriends sans the tequila.  (Yes, the classes are mostly women – men should get a clue!  Hot, fit women in tight workout gear swinging their hips!)

Michelle and Olga

Michelle and Olga

But the most unexpected benefit of this “exercise” was the friendships I formed in the classes.  At my age, most of us already have an established circle of friends; our closer inner circle and our more casual extended circle.  We’re not necessarily looking to add to those circles.  I never would’ve expected that within a year I’d meet someone who I now consider one of my closest friends.  Olga and I are around the same age, both single, love travel, dance, good food and wine, and live just two blocks from each other.  How great is that?  We’re even planning a trip to Europe in the fall.

Having friends in class REALLY helps motivate me to go on those few days when I’m just not in the mood.  I look forward to dancing with them, sweating with them, and often going for coffee or a cold drink after class.

I guess the moral of my story is:  “Exercise” doesn’t have to be a dreaded activity.  It’s all a matter of finding something you genuinely enjoy – walking your dog, dancing with friends – that achieves the same results yet doesn’t feel like “exercise”.  And who knows what unexpected benefits you’ll find along the way!