Summer is coming!

And with it brings swimsuit weather. Growing up in Michigan, I felt the seasonal shift. California’s temperature changes are more subtle when compared to winter’s icy Great Lakes. But still. Summer is approaching, and some see this as a reason to get in shape for shorts.

What it Means to be Fit

The truth is, other than when I graduated from Coast Guard boot camp at age eighteen, I’ve never really been visually “in shape” with toned muscles or a flat stomach. A love of food keeps me humble (and size medium). However, I’ve always exercised (to some degree), and I think that’s what counts (I’m not referring to calorie count, although healthy nutrition is a key consideration).

My parents both have heart issues, and this June marks the seven-year anniversary of my mom’s heart transplant. So, I know cardio matters. More than looks.

Fatherly Fitness Influencers

I’m thankful my adventurous dad encouraged my little brother and I to get outside as kids: we rode bikes, kayaked and canoed, cross-country and downhill skied, rollerbladed and explored. Furthermore, for as long as I can remember, my dad belonged to a fitness center or worked out in a home gym setup. Even now, at 67, he maintains excellent physical health by bodybuilding. Plus, he still scuba dives!

Similarly, my husband enjoys exercise: hiking, baseball, kettlebells, surfing, swimming laps, doing yoga, martial arts, and more. As a father, he’s also setting an important example for our two children by inspiring and supporting their athleticism.

Healthy Habits

Personally, I practice dance and sometimes perform pieces. Here’s a recent example of a flashmob with friends.

Actually, I’ve engaged in a variety of activities throughout the years (in high school, during and after my enlistment, as a mom, and over the Zoom-y pandemic). Fun fact: My youngest “baby” is ten, and I still own a set of “Mama Wants her Body Back” VHS tapes! Nowadays, I prefer using an elliptical machine, lifting hand weights, walking my dog, stretching, doing floor exercises, taking Pound (and other aerobic) classes, roller skating, boogie boarding (without a wetsuit once it’s warm enough), and pedaling my beach cruiser.

Although I haven’t taken a ton of spin classes, I appreciate the possibility of cycling inside on occasion, partly because I enjoy the fictional aspect. As a writer, I like imagining the make-believe scene. Spin instructors urge students to climb pretend hills and race down imaginary streets….

The Power of Visualization

I remember being a teenager and riding bikes with my dad and his best friend. A group of us rode together, and my kid brother was there, too. We were all pedaling down our wooded, riverside road in northern Michigan. As I recall, my dad’s friend’s sister had just been diagnosed with cancer. She was younger then than I am now. She sported a wavy ponytail, and at one point that afternoon, she sped past me, turned her head, and said, “Sometimes, you’ve just gotta go fast.” So, when I spin at the gym, I follow her: beyond the boat launch parking lot, around the paved bend, and into the distances of my mind.

Active Possibilities

In Ojai, CA, where I live, there are year-round opportunities to exercise indoors and outside. Local (Ventura County) ideas include: traversing trails, shooting hoops, hula hooping, playing tennis, practicing gymnastics, taking aerial, signing up for sports, paddle boarding, rowing, golfing, and geo-caching. The Ojai Rec Department offers further options for families.

How will you and yours stay active this summer?

P.S. Here’s my favorite essay about heartbeats: “Joyas Voladoras,” written in 2012 by the late Brian Doyle. A quick quote = “No living being is without interior liquid motion. We all churn inside.”

women sitting together on the beach






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