I would be lying if I said each time I go to the gym or teach a class I am overwhelmed with excitement and anticipation to go exercise, and while I truly enjoy exercising, I can also relate to those who do not want to exercise in a gym environment. Before the developed world, the idea of exercising was probably not on anyone’s mind since their day to day activities kept them active and fit by nature, and for some, this is more therapeutic than any sit-down therapy session.
Outdoor activities are easily accessible, family friendly, and often inexpensive. Stand-up Paddleboarding is quite popular in the Austin area and although it looks effortless, it does take some strength and skill, which is probably why at the docks they recommend to paddle upstream first because by the time you want to return, your body is tired and even downstream felt like work to me.
Drifting along the river, I felt a sense of peace and tranquility, able to take in nature and enjoy disconnecting from the fast-paced life many of us live, despite how we tell ourselves we are going to slow down and enjoy life. Listening to the water break against the rocky brooke, spotting a few swans and catching a glimpse of a family of turtles, I am reminded how much I enjoy being active outside of my regular routine at the gym. While the sport of paddleboarding appears to be elementary, after placing one foot on the board while getting on, it became apparent that paddleboarding takes more effort than anticipated.
Clearly, it takes some upper body strength, but mostly balance, and I like to think of our core muscles as the control center of our body. The majority of people think of their abdominal muscles when they hear the word “core”; however, fitness experts might agree that the core entails back, shoulders, glutes, hamstrings and quads. Yes, all of those are part of your core, and while paddleboarding, they were all engaged to keep me stable and in control in order to stay on top and not under the water. Upon returning to the dock, I could tell that I got a total body workout without having to step into a fitness facility, pay a trainer, or lift any weights.
Staying fit does not mean that you have to be part of a fitness class or have a gym membership. My grandma is 96 and still quite independent, and it is due to her good genes but more so, healthy lifestyle. Whenever someone sees her walking around the neighborhood or going to her fitness class, they ask her what her secret to staying healthy is, and her answer shocks them every time: keep walking. Often we over complicate the already simplified solution.
Take care of your body by utilizing the resources we have had since the beginning of time, nature! Some people thrive on the kind of environment where others are there to encourage and push them, I am one of them, but we miss so much of nature’s gifts and simple pleasures in life if we are cooped up in a gym every time we choose to be active. Understandably, water sports are not for everyone, but find something that works for you, something that you will enjoy and not even think about as exercise, but simply enjoying life and all the beauty it has to offer. If you allow yourself to stash the laptop, phone, tablet and whatever else we reach for without even thinking about it, you will not be disappointed when you get to experience nature at its finest.
By Leslie Sosa