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Exercise does indeed enhance quality of your life
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I didn’t know it at the time but it was one of the smartest decisions of my life.

It came after I dropped down from 320 pounds to 195 pounds over the course of nine months. It wasn‘t the first time I’d lost weight but this time I was closing in on 30 years of age.

I vowed to keep it off. I switched to a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet not so much to eat healthier at the time but so I could cut calories. Just 55 days earlier on New Year’s Day I hopped on my Christmas gift to myself - a Raleigh racing bicycle - and went for a 20-mile ride. I had been riding religiously every day increasing my mileage just a bit each ride when I did a story on Donna Shaw.

She was staging a Jazzercise marathon. Somewhere in the interview she asked what I did for exercise. I told her I had been bicycling for the past 55 days and why I started. She then said that I’d really like Jazzercise and added I’d get a better story if I showed up at one of her classes.

I took her up on the offer.

That first class was about as awkward as they come. I’m basically a klutz. I eased myself way into a back corner where it was next to impossible for me to see without glasses. And out of 40 plus people in the class I was the only male. It was an interesting 90 minutes to say the least.

At the end of the class I was dragging, my heart had gone from calm to racing back to calm, and you could mop the floor with my workout clothes. Yet every female in the class acted like they had just spent the most relaxing 90 minutes of their day.

That was 25 years ago this week.

Today I’m closing in on 55 years and weigh 170 pounds. I can honestly say I’m in better health, mentally shaper - although more than a few people would disagree with that - and a lot more energetic than when I weighed 190 pounds as teen.

I’m still going to organized group exercise classes three to four times a week while jogging back and forth to the health club. On days when I don’t do that I jog and do a light weight workout at home. My rest days are either just a jog or an 18-mile ride on the bicycle.

It is a far cry than where I was on my 29th birthday when I made up my mind I was going to lose at least 120 pounds by my 30th.

While bicycling has made me appreciate nature as well as the vastness of California, Nevada, and New Mexico plus helped me understand how to push my limits, it is group exercise that I’ve gained the most from thanks to the instructors.

There are bad instructors out there but they are far and few between.

The great thing is you pick up new things and learn new ways to work your muscles and strengthen your body and do so at your own pace.

I got over that macho thing long time ago. Women - physiologically - are naturally stronger than men in a lot of ways. (Can you say child birth?) And while many men can do things such as bench press their own weight it really is about being healthy, flexible, and in shape for everyday life. Group exercise classes have an almost perfect mix of aerobic, anaerobic, and flexibility components using mostly one’s own body weight to accomplish the goals.

I’m no longer in the back of the class.

I also do things my way either modifying moves to make them more intense or to compensate for a wide variety of issues ranging from a nasty shoulder problem that doesn’t bother me much anymore to coordination issues. If I don’t like the move at all, which happens once in awhile, I’ll just do something else until the instructor moves on.

Without a doubt the best advice I can offer someone is to start exercising.

Even doing just a little of it every day can do amazing things.