September is my favorite month. I love the transition between summer and fall: from bright hot sunny days , lazy schedules, family vacations, experimenting with all foods on the grill(I even mastered pizza on the grill this summer!) to cool, crisp sunny days, perfect sleeping weather, earlier sunsets, “back to school” routines and a feeling of new beginnings.
I can’t help but think of September as the start of a new year of sorts. After all, the start of the new school year has formed the rhythm of my life since 1958(I know, I am definitely dating myself!), for myself and then my children. And I am not alone in thinking of September as the beginning of the new year. Rosh Hashana, which is the Jewish New Year, falls during this month. Just 2 years ago I met my husband in Israel for several days before heading off to Greece for 2 weeks of vacationing. The air in Tel Aviv was electric with anticipation of Rosh Hashana and everywhere we went, we were greeted with ‘L’Shana tova’, which means ‘happy new year to you’. I was elated to be a part of this tradition , as it resonated with me and my feelings about this special month.
It makes sense that all that we have ‘planted’ in the spring’ reaches harvest in the fall and allows us to think about the next things we will ‘sow’. I remember that in January, the ‘other new year’, I wrote a post on my aspirations for 2012, which included doing more yoga. Hmmm: how did I do with that one? Well, to be honest, like all aspirations/resolutions, I didn’t do as well as I had hoped. I did start out with a bang, attending yoga at least once a week and I loved the way I felt after each class. But the class schedule didn’t work well with my own so I soon found that weeks turned into months and I just couldn’t seem to fit it in: sound familiar????
All too often, we start out with the best on intentions, soon to discover that life sometimes gets in the way. But I was determined to do something different in terms of physical fitness in 2012 so I shifted gears. I turned to tennis and race walking. I started taking tennis classes at my local community tennis center and met a wonderful group of women who also wanted to finally learn how to play, so that’s been an unexpected fun activity for me both socially and as a great form of exercise. Believe me, I have a long way to go before I can call myself a “tennis player” but the physical and mental challenges are definitely paying off. Studies on exercise have shown the multiple benefits gained from being physical active: not only improved muscle strength, improved balance and agility, which are important in preventing falls as we age, but better cognitive functioning as well and a deterrent to the development of dementia.
I also took several clinics on racewalking as part of our walking team’s preparation for the Hood/Portland to Coast Relay. I set some personal goals for myself(walk a 12 minute pace or less for 5 plus miles) and used a terrific mobile phone app called ENDOMONDO(available as a free download) which helped me to track my progress. Like so many of us baby boomers, at first I resisted some of the newer technology, feeling a bit overwhelmed while trying to keep up. Luckily I have some tech-savvy friends who prodded me along(thanks Deb and Anne for mentoring me and for being so patient with me) and now I am comfortable using some of these apps and devices to help me reach some of my goals.
So as September ushers in this new year of sorts, think of how you can challenge yourself to be more active physically. One of our instructors at the gym, Willee(who is an accomplished swimmer/runner and Ironman triathelete herself) always reminds us each fall to set a goal that we can reach by late spring/early summer: perhaps a 10K, 1/2 marathon, join a tennis league, learn a new sport/dance/exercise routine…so that as the days get darker and shorter, we have something to work towards and look forward to in order to stave off the doldrums that often settle in as winter arrives.
As always, we invite you to share your thoughts/personal goals/suggestions for your life. And oh, I almost forgot! Our walking team finished the relay almost 2 hours ahead of our estimated time, as well as finishing in the top 40% of all of the walking teams. Our team included some women who had never really walked long distances before so this is a real example of how we can set a goal, join a group and motivate one another towards achieving a higher level of fitness. Keep us posted…lots more to come about maintaining wellness in the weeks to come. Happy new year, L’Shana tova.