It’s nearing the end of February, and judging by the crowd I encounter on the evenings I hit the gym, people are still keeping up with their 2014 new year’s resolution to get into shape. I’m not one to make resolutions, as I believe goals should be made when a person finds the desire and is ready to do so. I don’t believe in waiting until January 1st to stop smoking, start eating healthier, start exercising, etc. If you know you should stop drinking two liters of Coke a day, and you’re ready to take that plunge on December 8th, then do it on December 8th.

Ever since I turned thirty and grew a muffin-top, I knew that I would soon have to undergo some lifestyle changes. No longer were the days when I could eat fried chicken, pizza, eggrolls, and pan-fried noodles to my heart’s content without worrying about my waistline, cholesterol, blood sugar, etc. But I wasn’t ready to take that next step to getting fit. I wasn’t ready to drink kale juice and enroll in bootcamp classes.

Until the summer after I turned 34 last year.

In last week’s post, I discussed my admiration for blind athletes. This week, I’ll tell you what I’ve been doing in my own exercise regimen to live a healthier lifestyle and, maybe if I’m lucky one day, lose my spare tire.

I must preface this, however, with the notion that I am not one of extremities. That is, I vacillate a lot before applying full-out change. Knowing myself, I know I do not function well under cold turkey pressure. That being said, I am not going to suddenly give up all fatty foods or carbohydrates and attend spin class three times a week just on a whim. After all, I’m a Taurus, and we bulls are stubborn and deliberate.

Over the years, I picked up a little cycling, mainly because the hubster rode the MS150 for three years. I used to practice yoga, but getting to a studio is difficult when: (a) you don’t drive, and (b) you don’t have nearby friends who consistently go. (But I’m eagerly awaiting for YogaOne to open up their new location in my neighborhood, and then I’ll be a regular again.) As of six months ago, I began personal training bootcamp once a week. The sessions are hard (oh, how I hate burpees!), and for the whole hour I’m working out, I want to punch my trainer in the neck, but I do feel good afterwards. (And just when I thought my endorphins were dead.) I wish I could do these training sessions twice a week, but they can get quite hefty on the wallet. I’ve even recently picked up rock climbing (that’s me in the photo), thanks to a friend who’s into minimalist sports.

As my trainer said at the beginning—and as I now wholeheartedly believe—the first step is always the hardest. I’ve read that generally it takes 21 days of doing something for it to become a habit, and Malcolm Gladwell says it takes 10,000 hours of doing something before you can call yourself a master. I admit I could barely do four push-ups from my knees when I began training with him back in September, and now I can do at least ten proper push-ups. (Still, the sad thing is I used to crank out push-ups like nothing back when I played tennis in high school—man, how age really affects your body.)

It seems much of the sports I pick up (aside from yoga) are because the hubster or friends are doing them. This also goes for my picking up snowboarding a couple of years ago. One thing that I cannot get myself to enjoy or get into, though, is running. The hubster and a girlfriend have run a 5K together, several other friends have done the half- and full-marathons, many run on a daily basis. But no matter how many times I get out there on the jogging trail, I never have a good time. I am constantly miserable. Where the hell is this runner’s high they all speak of?

I think part of the problem is it’s boring. Because I can’t see, there is no scenery to enjoy. And also because I can’t see, I am stressed out the entire time running, even with a sighted running guide. Sometimes I hold on to their sleeve or arm. Other times, I just rub their elbow or follow their verbal commands. But I haven’t done it enough times to get used to it, because I’m constantly worried about tripping over roots or running into people. Sure, there are tips on how to guide a blind runner, but I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to call myself a runner.

A partially sighted 50-year-old marathoner once told me she didn’t enjoy running until she could run three miles straight. I really wish I had the drive to run, but I just don’t…which brings me back to my original notion that you will only do something if and when you’re ready for it.

What do you do to get in shape or stay fit? Do you have any tips for the visually impaired individual if he/she wants to try your sport?

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11 Discussion to this post

  1. @JeffD503 says:

    Well, from one Taurus to another, I hope that stubbornness ends up a benefit. Been a while since I had something to say on your blog posts, but I've been on a bit of a month-long roller coaster ride, won't bore you with the details.

    Anyway, I have to admire you for wanting to get in shape. Although, I don't see why people say they're out of shape. Don't they realize that round is a shape? As for what I do to get/stay in shape, believe it or not, I don't do much, at least not gym-wise. I hold fairly steady a 140, and I'd say I just got the high card in that because I really don't do a lot. Then again, I usually make a few trips up and down the stairs, sometimes with something heavy in my arms. So, I really don't have much of a sport.

    I do have something that I'd consider a compromise in running. Sometimes, I will actually jog in place. It might be something for you to consider, since you can do it right from your own living room, so you don't have to worry about the scenery. Breakables on the other hand might be a problem, especially if you hit the floor hard. I know I've heard some things shudder when I would do it. And while it's not a substitute for exercise, I've heard that drinking oolong tea will actually help increase your metabolism. It's not a substitute, but it might actually help burn a little off too.

    Just don't go cold turkey on everything, even the fatty foods. As I've come to learn, everything in moderation. I've been known to indulge in some sweet stuff from time to time, but I try to limit how much I eat. So, I'd say, less not none. I'm no trainer or dietitian though, so I wouldn't call this any more than a little friendly advice.

    Good luck. 🙂

  2. guidepooch says:

    My activities of choice are: swimming, yoga, walking.

    I was able to get into swimming due to an awesome recreational para-swim program. They let me go up and down the lane rope, and the other swimmers with disabilities knew to watch out for me. I have enough vision to see the line on the bottom of the pool, so I never smashed into the other end, which is my biggest fear. Now that I've moved cities I no longer have that program so I'm trying to figure something else out. But I do love swimming.

    Yoga – I do yogaglo.com online. No need to commute, worry about falling over in front of others, etc. Way cheaper than going to a regular class, and some of the instructors have really clear voices. I had already done quite a few yoga classes when I had more sight prior to this, so I knew a lot of the terminology. I have found most in person yoga classes to be completely inaccessible for people like me with hearing and vision loss. At home, I can crank the volume, pause it to get a better look, etc.

    Walking – once I got a guide dog, walking became fun for me, because we are pretty much speed walking, and it's a good workout. I can now step outside and go for a half hour leisure walk by myself without worrying too much about getting hit by a car or running into a pole. A guide dog forces you to get outside every single day. I find that I want to walk more because I want to make sure my pooch has had exercise too. And then I always feel better when I do.

    The other sport I recommend is dragon boating. I tried it with a team of half visually impaired paddlers. These type of programs are fantastic when you can't see, because you are contained to a boat. It's a great workout, great team interaction, etc. I also think a martial art or cross-fit would be good because they are supposed to be adaptable sports – with these, you would need more one on one guidance though.

    Physical activity is really challenging with vision loss. Once I switched to doing activities I love (swimming) rather than doing activities for health or because I thought I had to (running on the treadmill, the gym), I was more motivated to get out there. I also think it's easier if you can get into an adapted sport program, or talk to the athletes and coaches in para-sports to see what they do and if you can join in somehow.

    Keep us posted on what you are doing for fitness!

    • Christine Ha says:

      Such wise words and good tips here! Thanks so much. I'll have to check out that yoga website you suggested. I have another friend that also does yoga online, but I can't remember the URL she uses.I wish I was a swimmer. That seems to be a very good sport for the body.And good point about the guide dog. I suppose I'd walk more and be less timid about leaving the house alone if I'd had one. I've been thinking about that for a long time, but I figured I don't leave the house enough to utilize a guide dog. But maybe I need to think of it the other way around: getting one would get me out of the house more.And, yes, it's true that if you find something to do that you love, it will seem less like a chore. I guess I need to continue my exploration.

  3. Paul says:

    I was a middle-distance runner for some of my high school years, running 6 or 7 miles every day, half of it uphill, to prepare for track meets. I didn't stick with the sport since my feet couldn't handle it over time. But running is a sport of incremental personal achievements, almost all of which have to do with distance or time. If that doesn't motivate you, there's no shame in it, and I think you're smart to recognize that you find it a boring endeavor. You were courageous to try it, but if it's making you miserable, I'd suggest you move on and not look back. Life's too short!

    The previous poster mentioned swimming, and I'd second that, especially if there's a pool that's conveniently located for you. Lap swimming may also be too boring for you since it's not dissimilar to running. But the lane lines would help keep you oriented without having to rely on another person, and after awhile you would learn to count your strokes, and you'd come to know when you're near the end of the pool. There are also aquacise classes. Swimming is great exercise and it's a lot easier on your body as you get older.

  4. cassiecontemplates says:

    I am visually impaired and have started biking on a stationary bike about four times a week. Typically, I will bike for about 10 miles or up to 45 minutes depending on my motivation. I agree with you that running is just not my thing– probably because we can't see the scenery. But I am a musician who needs to memorize music quite often, so biking for several minutes gives me the opportunity to memorize music and exercise at the same time.

    • Christine Ha says:

      I love multi-tasking. Good ideas. Have you ever biked on a tandem with anyone? Also, have you ever tried spin class? I am thinking of trying, but I heard it kicks your butt.

      • cassiecontemplates says:

        No, I have never tried tandem biking, but one of my friends keeps telling me we should try it. I've never heard of spin class actually; I may have to do some research. Thanks for replying back to me. I watched your season of "Master Chef" and have kept up with your career ever since. Keep up the good work!

        • Christine Ha says:

          Thanks for following my journey. 🙂 Spin class is stationary cycling in a class. Here in Texas, we have a bike ride from Houston to Austin called the MS150, which raises funds for the national MS Society. A friend once told me if you can make it through spin class, you can bike the MS150.

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