When I was younger—I exited my 50’s not too long ago—I didn’t spend much time thinking about moving my body to keep muscles toned and excess pounds off. Back then, I did a minimum amount of movement, and Nature took care of the rest of it.
But, as they say, the only thing constant in life is change. And it’s obvious that this observation about change now applies to my body–and it has for a while. Since around the time I turned 50, my metabolism has slowed, my caloric needs have gone done, and my exercise needs have gone up.
This last change—the amount of exercise I need—has been probably the most dramatic of the three. I’m a self-employed writer and editor, which means that I have to sit at a computer a lot. For the last several years, I’ve found it impossible to stay seated for long periods like I used to. At times I feel like the Energizer bunny, unable to sit still. I’ve even questioned whether I’m developing some sort of attention deficit disorder. But the truth is, I think my body is (wisely) telling me to move—and move often. And if I don’t then it’s going to rebel, and I’ll pay the price with a sore back and tight neck and shoulders, among other complaints.
Nowadays, if I don’t get enough exercise, in a ridiculously short amount of time my body starts to feel stiff, and a bit “thicker” around my middle. Also, my general attitude deteriorates a bit. (It’s as if exercise helps keep at bay those sudden mood swings that still show up, although less often than they did six or eight years ago.)
All year long, I walk in my neighborhood most days and ride a bike a few times a week. In the warm months, I swim several times a week. These activities tend to burn off excess calories, and I’m sure they’re a plus for my heart health. But they’re not all spectacular for toning every muscle group, or for strengthening my core. (More on core-strengthening later.)
Luckily, I discovered a place and activities that help me burn calories, tone all my muscle groups, and strengthen my core. At the same time, I’m keeping that “thickness” from accumulating around my middle and staying more limber in general. Also—and I swear it’s true—I can arrive there in a down mood and leave with a much better outlook. (Exercise-produced endorphins, maybe?)
The place is a fitness studio called DEFINE body & mind, located on South Lamar in Austin. The activities are the DEFINE Body (barre) classes and the Bounce (mini-trampoline) classes. (Rev classes [indoor cycling], Mind classes [yoga postures, massage balls, and inversion postures in hammocks], and straight-up yoga classes are also offered. But I haven’t taken those yet.) The beauty of my discovery is this: I can go to these classes all year round, no matter what the temperature or weather is.
The DEFINE Body class wasn’t easy the first three or four times (DEFINE Body classes are similar to a traditional barre class, but they concentrate more on keeping the heart rate up while working on core strength). And after those first classes some of my muscles, especially in my upper arms and legs, were incredibly sore. But soon enough I entered all-positive territory—the classes became fun to take and didn’t leave me too sore. One of the great things about the classes is that instructors give students options for performing many of the exercises. That is, they point out how to do a certain exercise in a less strenuous/challenging way, as well as a more strenuous/challenging way if you’re up to it. The class is fast-paced—but not so much that you feel constantly lost—and varied. In the 60-minute class, you’re at the barre and on a yoga mat, and you’re using hand weights, a blue ball, a resistance cord, and maybe a resistance band.
I’m on a mini-trampoline for much of the 45-minute DEFINE Bounce classes. I started taking the Bounce classes after I’d been in the Body classes for a while, so I never went through that getting-used-to-it period. It’s fun bouncing on a trampoline after not being on one for decades. It’s also a great cardio and calorie-burning workout. And since you use hand weights during parts of the class, you work all of your muscle groups.
In both types of classes (and also in the 60-minute combo classes called Body+Bounce I’ve taken), I feel like the greatest benefit for me has been to strengthen my core. I heard that phrase used plenty of times before I finally looked it up to see what all the buzz was about. It turns out that having a strong core gives you more stability and balance, which then helps prevent injuries when you’re doing sports and other activities. It also lowers the possibility of having back pain and helps you have good posture. So I’m sold.
People of a variety of ages are in the DEFINE South Lamar Austin classes, yet the majority is made up of a crowd younger than myself. I find it surprising that there aren’t more people my age—or in their 50’s—taking the classes. What DEFINE has done for me, both mentally and physically, has been tremendous. And it’s helped to make that inevitable constant in life, change, a more positive one.
Susan Luton, DEFINE body & mind South Lamar Austin member since December 2015