Sometimes life takes over and health habits change without conscious awareness. January is Family Fitness Month, and I have realized that I had given up on fitness for the last 18 months, with only spurts of focused physical activity: one hour a week with a trainer, walking the stairs daily, and not much more. Of course I could include the struggle of pulling the large orange rolling bag back and forth on the weekend—my chamber of charts and reports and work. The rolling cart leaves the office with me on Friday night and then I pull it back to the office on Monday with work completed.
Bad habits develop insidiously, and there are usually reasons. I sold my office space of 30 years in New York City in 2012 mostly because the request to sell the space was unexpected. My life has been guided by offers that were unexpected, and I recognized that this was an opportunity to reimagine my life at 64. I was able to leave my real home—my office, a warm and comfortable space that had become a bit shabby and overfull with its 30 years of charts and memories—because it felt right. I really like the couple who wanted to enlarge their home with the space from my office. They knew about the memories that came with the space, and I felt that those memories would not be forgotten by them.
I learned through this process that I had an opportunity to transform my medical practice into one that would allow me to oversee my patient’s complete medical care. I renovated a much smaller new midtown Madison Avenue space to make it perfect for patients and for me. This arduous process left no time for anything but work, writing, and family. The backbreaking part of my reinvention is over now, and I have used the start of the New Year in 2014 to take stock of my health. I am shocked at my loss of flexibility, loss of balance, loss of muscle tone, and even muscle loss from so little focused fitness activity. I am a doctor, after all, who exhorts her patients and readers (see RELATED, below) to build fitness routines into their lives. Some of my family members have fallen off the fitness wagon as well.
My family comprises four adult sons, The Husband, and me. The oldest son, 35, was never interested in athletics, unless you consider dancing and romancing as fitness goals. He is now married, and the dancing and romancing are confined to home. He is the father of an active 2-year-old son, so his fitness routine seems to revolve around biceps curls that place Baby on his shoulders; pushing a stroller; long walks with his wife and Baby to parks in all weather; and running for the train to and from his commute from a nearby suburb into New York where he is the President of a small company. He is a New York City boy who was born with a great palate and learned to cook with his grandmother’s guidance. He much prefers dinner over gym time—if indeed there was any time for gym.
The second son is 30 and a medical resident at a New York City hospital. He walks four blocks, to work long hours, and then walks home again. He does research projects on his own time and loves to sleep when nothing else is on fire. This second son loves all things athletic, as long as it is a team sport . . . and he has dozens of like-minded friends who meet on the occasional weekend to play the team sports of their high school years. He too likes to cook and hang out. So much for the doctor’s fitness regimen.
Son No. 3 has a job in finance that suits him perfectly. He likes the long hours and the time for analysis in his division of the company. The unlimited on-site food available for those at this firm did take its toll, however. He gained 20 pounds in the first two years due to food-for-energy and just plain mindless eating. This year he lost that weight with discipline and some modest physical activity. Now he has learned that he needs a plan to keep the weight off and to increase his physical activity.
The Husband runs six miles a day, five days, a week, and works out with a trainer two days a week. But his fitness problem is the inability to walk away from the snacks and fast food that are always available at his small media company for the crew of young and hungry guys who stay long hours working on deadlines. His younger team decided that ordering from Fresh Direct would decrease the bad food choices, but The Husband still eats sugared cereals, cans of cashews, “manly sandwiches,” and only God knows what else at work. The refrigerator in our apartment, has freshly prepared salads, whole grains with grilled vegetables, grilled and baked protein, the ubiquitous V-8, and no other choices. All of these are packaged for him to take to the office as well…but they never seem to leave the refrigerator.
The hope for this family’s fitness in 2014 must come from the talented baby of the family. He has returned to New York City after a year in California and now lives with his brother, the economics guy, in hip downtown New York City. In the last year the youngest son, at 23, has become a national champion in the sport of obstacle racing as an elite Spartan team member and a sought-after celebrity trainer for people who want to learn how to survive the grueling competitions in obstacle racing or kill themselves in one of his sold-out spinning classes. He works out for hours every day, his diet is balanced and created for someone who burns 6,000 calories a day. In other words, he is always working out, teaching, eating, or getting on planes to fly around the country competing.
Our family needs a New Year resolution to set fitness goals that are attainable and necessary. I am counting on the youngest to create a fitness program that will address each of our exercise needs and to use his impressive motivational skills to make us do the work. I know that I have to begin slowly, but must exercise daily. The Husband can learn that exercise is not enough without the will to push away from the table and make better food choices. The youngest can engage his older brothers in finding fitness routines that don’t take lots of time but do take commitment.
Family Fitness Month is just right for January. Each of you can look at your family’s habits and make daily small changes. Start again, and start now.