It’s hard to believe that we are just a few weeks from the 2nd annual “10,000 Kettlebells for Parkinson’s” challenge! That means we have had nearly a year of experience after last February’s fitness challenge. So. . . has your wellness journey been a good one? I have heard many anecdotes from last year’s participants, and I hope to get some of their stories for you next month. Overall, though, I think this year has been great!

When I look back over the year, one of my most striking observations is that I really came to enjoy being active. I tried a number of different activities, and some variations of familiar ones, but activity became more of a lifestyle for me. That may sound cliché, but it is totally true. A side-effect which I had not expected was that I also cut down on a few food excesses, namely bread and potatoes (both of which I totally love). I didn’t do this simply to “diet”, but rather because I realized that I was eating more of them than I needed. So, I think I am learning to fuel up with the kind and amount of food I need. My food intake is more strategic and, I hope, more sensible.

One experience which caught me a bit off-guard happened a few weeks ago when I dragged out the kettlebells to get ready for the challenge. Last year, I developed a bit of a dislike for those things. The novelty had worn off. They had overstayed their welcome. Familiarity had bred contempt. . . I would put them out on the mat, and then go into all manner of avoidance manoeuvres: taking forever to get into a good stance, doing that again, taking a deep breath, staring at the kettlebell, looking up to see what was on the tv, adjusting the music, drinking some water. . . I could drag it out forever. Once I got started, things went fairly well, but getting started was brutal. I even carried some of this enthusiasm over by delaying even getting the kettlebells out until just last week. And then. . .

I set them up for the first time, walked over, and just started. No fuss, no muss, as they say. Just kettlebells. It wasn’t until I had finished that I realized the avoidance had disappeared. And it didn’t come back in my next few workouts, either. So what do I make of that?

Here’s what I make of it. Activities and exercise involve putting a bit (or a lot) of stress on your physical system, which basically adapts to that stress. I have tried whole lot of different activities and workouts in this past “year of experience”, and I think I must have adapted to getting down to business. I think I have somehow learned to be more efficient in my workout time. I know I’m far from perfect at it (especially if there’s something really interesting on TV) but I think I must have have adapted over this past year to being active.

Even though I’m from the prairies, and I can ride a horse, I don’t do it very often – about once every 20 years or so. If you’ve ever had that same experience of trying to get back in the saddle after a long time away from it, you will know that you’re in for some sore butt muscles. Even if you don’t fall off! But regular riders rarely have that experience because they get adapted to the saddle and basically stay adapted. So I think one of the big lessons I have learned throughout this interesting, year-long wellness journey is this: staying active prevents you from having to experience multiple activity-startup periods which are generally unpleasant. And unrewarding. And discouraging. Remember last year when many of us were starting out? By about Day 3, the fun was starting to get sucked right out of it. It was just turning into work. I think I’ve learned that staying in the saddle, so to speak, allows you to generally avoid all that startup angst and yields a more enjoyable, more rewarding experience on an ongoing basis.

My encouragement as we get ready to launch the 2nd annual “10,000 Kettlebells for Parkinson’s” fitness challenge in a few weeks is this: Stay In The Saddle! Use this February to establish yourself in a fitness routine, and then keep active. Try mixing new activities or workouts into your “arsenal” to bust the boredom. Get some coaching. Even build planned “breaks” and recovery periods into your routine. But stay active. I think you’ll find it easier to keep an active lifestyle going when you don’t keep grinding to a complete stop.