Dear eighteen-year-old me,
Congratulations. You’re an adult! And adulting is so. much. F.U.N! You can vote. Make your own decisions! (And your own mistakes…so, careful.) You’re about to go to college, travel, meet a billion new people, and get a little homesick at times. It’s all a blast; so, do the thing. Be young. And take it all in.
We’ll talk more about the fun stuff later, but for now, I’m going to bring it down a notch. I know your brain is still developing and your capabilities to plan and process long term goals is limited, but I need to tell you something super important (and a little depressing #sorrynotsorry).
Your body won’t be its best self forever. SO not fair, I know! You are predisposed to bad joints and heart disease. (Didn’t you hear me say it was depressing.) You will develop osteoarthritis before you’re even 40. You will start to lose muscle in your early thirties. (Not just you, though…it’s a fun perk of aging for everyone.) You will throw your back out one Christmas Eve, just trying to take off your pants; see previous sentence about muscle loss for explanation.
Your body though. It’s the only one you’ve got. Love it. Treat it kindly. Celebrate it. Use it. Move it daily. And know this: The BEST exercise - is the one you will do.
You will try (and despise) the following things: Billy Blanks Tae Bo on VHS, Zumba, tennis, regular yoga, Ariel yoga, and running. All these things hurt your knees (see bad joints above). Oh, and climbing/repelling. That one doesn’t end well, since apparently you are afraid of heights.
You will meet people who introduce you to hiking and canoeing, and you will fall in love with those things (and those people). The outdoors is your happy place. Go outside a lot. Walk in the sunshine (but wear sunscreen). Smell the flowers, see the sights, and know that some of your best memories will be places your feet will take you that a car never could.
You will one day figure out that if exercise is not fun, you’re not doing it right. It should not feel like punishment. And if you don’t like it, you don’t have to do it. It’s ok to find something different, try something new, and to keep trying until you find the thing you love. Because it is out there.
It should make you feel strong, healthy, and you should look forward to it - daily.
A more mature version of yourself
What would you tell your 18-year-old self?
Self-care is just the tip of the iceberg of things I would talk about to a younger me. In a semi-related rant, I might tell her that comparison is the thief of all joy. The things that your body is capable of is different than your neighbors. I would share some wise words that I learned from my friend (ok, she’s a famous author, not a friend) Jen Hatmaker: “Run your race.”
This could be literal. As I actually tried running races. And it was not a good fit for my body. But mostly it would be figurative. And I would preach to a younger me that what’s most important is what’s most enjoyable for you.
It took me a long time to find ways to stay active that I love. Some days that looks like walking around the block with my daughter, husband and our golden retriever or walking by myself with a podcast plugged into my ears. When the weather is nice, it looks like a planned hike or bike ride. But most days it is scheduled time at a local Barre studio. I love how every class is different. I love how every instructor is different. But most of all, I love how I feel after each class (endorphins!). I am truly enjoying being kind to my body, taking care of my body, and I love how strong I am.
One of my goals as a Mom is to teach my daughter that exercise is about taking care of your body because it’s the only one you’ve got. It’s not punishment for food intake. It’s not to penalize yourself for the way your clothes fit.
It’s really to celebrate what your body is capable of.
Research says that exercise can protect your heart and improve your health. But what research doesn’t say is what the best exercise is? I don’t think we need research to tell us that the BEST exercise, it’s the one that we will do.
This week, I challenge you to do something kind to your body. Enjoy your workouts. Celebrate what your body is capable of. And if you haven’t found something that you enjoy, keep looking. It’s there. Find what motivates you. Not your neighbor. Any movement is better than none.
As always, thanks for stopping by.