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Working up to work up a sweat

As a child I remember summers riding my red, white and blue 1976 bicentennial bicycle with the banana seat and walking through the fields and pastures. In the winter my brothers and I would go sledding down the hill below the barn. One winter I went ice skating quite a bit wearing borrowed skates.

As a teenager I got a black and red 10-speed bike and rode 3 miles to town to visit my friend. Together we spent our days walking or biking except for the summer when we spent our time roller skating around town on rented skates. When mom would call, I would ride bike back home before dark. A couple of winters my oldest brother and I rented cross-country skis.

In high school I was in volleyball. I wasn't very good at it but mom had a rule we had to go out for at least one sport a year.

Those were the days when exercise was fun. Actually, I didn't really think of it as exercise. Being active was hanging out with friends and family or being part of a team.

As an adult in the average week, I walked from my car to office; at work, from my desk to the printer and bathroom; at home from the couch to the refrigerator, bathroom and bed. In the summer I would walk the dogs to the park and in the winter just around the block every once and a while.

It is recommended for adults to get at least 30 minutes of physical activity every day which may be broken down into segments of 10 minutes three times a day. I have seriously fallen short.

Our society has worked so hard at making life easier that we cheated ourselves out of healthy exercise. Heck, we don't even have to get off the couch to change the channel or answer the phone. I am surprised that someone hasn't invented a toilet couch yet. Oh, that idea stinks.

To be more specific, the Mayo Clinic recommends that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity such as brisk walking, swimming or mowing the lawn per week; or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity such as running or aerobic dancing per week; or a combination of the moderate and vigorous aerobic activity. Additional strength training exercises are recommended such as using weight machines or activities such as rock climbing or heavy gardening. But if weight loss is desired, one may need to exercise more.

Weight loss is desired. My husband and I are on a healthy lifestyle life-changing journey. On Jan. 9, 2012, we signed up for Dan's employer sponsored Biggest Loser weight loss competition. The goal is not just to lose weight but to do so by eating sensibly, exercising daily and reshaping eating behavior.

Access to a weight room, cardio equipment, basketball court, racquetball court, swimming pool, sauna and steam room is provided. We have group lunch-n-learn educational meetings and individual weigh-ins are held weekly with a registered and licensed dietitian.

No fad diets or gimmicks for us. The bottom line is food is energy and we need to consume small portions of highly nutritious foods to keep our body optimally fueled. We need to burn off the excess stored energy called fat by exercising.

I am getting the intake portion of the equation and I think Dan and I can keep each other on track for the rest of our lives. But this exercise goal of 30 minutes a day for life is another thing. I need the buddy system for motivation and friendly competition.

Finding time to exercise with my husband is a challenge. We are on opposite schedules. He is up and ready to start work around 5 a.m., where I, on the other hand am just winding down after midnight. I am most productive in the evening. Believe me, I have tried to conform. But if the early bird gets the worm, I would rather stay up for it.

So far we have a goal of working out four days a week, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday and either Friday or Saturday. I work too late Wednesday and Thursday evenings for my husband to go. I typically start on the treadmill for 15 minutes walking briskly yet comfortably. But for one minute I really push myself to get my heart rate up, where I feel I can't possibly do any more or any harder. Then I move over to the reclining bike for 15 and then to the elliptical machine for another 15. If Dan is in the middle of a half hour routine, I will finish on the standard exercise bike for a final 15. Once a week we will suit up for the pool but neither of us can swim very well. If we have time we will relax in either the steam room or sauna.

I know I can continue this routine for the competition but not sure if I can make it a life-long habit. It is work, hard work and it hurts. Our bodies adapt and need to be pushed even harder to burn the fat. I get a sense of satisfaction when I do it but not enough that I desire to go work out. Finding the time and energy is a struggle. Hopefully, I get in shape enough that biking, cross country skiing or dancing becomes enjoyable and doing these activities won't feel like dreaded exercise. It will be quality time with family and friends, being active just for fun like when I was a kid.