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Finding the Fun in Fitness

Exercise doesn’t have to mean endless hours of pain and boredom. In fact, it can be fun! It’s your workout, so your job is to personalize it just as you would your home décor or your wedding. Following are some forms of exercise that I feel best promote beauty and satisfy the desire to have fun.

Dancing up a Storm

There are so many kinds of dancing that one of them is sure to suit you. Belly dancing? Irish dancing? Modern dance? Ballet? Jazz? Ballroom dancing has become increasingly popular with my favorite TV show “Dancing with the Stars”! Wherever there’s music, there’s dancing. Take your dancing up a notch and you’ll burn calories, tone your muscles, improve your circulation, and boost your mood and energy level. Dancing can increase your strength, endurance, and flexibility, plus it relieves stress and lets you be creative. Dancing can be as convenient and affordable as you want it to be. You can sign up for private ballroom dance lessons (I take lessons with my husband, David) or just put on your favorite CD and boogie.

You’ll get cardiovascular benefits from dancing three times a week for 20 minutes. If you goal is to lose weight, you’ll need to stay on your toes a little longer. There are many different ways to dance your way to fitness, so to make it fun, pick more than one.

Mindful Exercise: Yoga and Tai Chi

Over the past 10 years, yoga and tai chi have established their own growing sector of the fitness world called mindful exercise. These forms of exercise are so wildly popular that they’re often on the daily schedules at fitness centers. The reason so many women can be seen sporting their own yoga mats and shoulder bags on any given Saturday is that these are exercises that work your body while relaxing your mind.

Yoga is no passing trend. In fact, it’s more than 5,000 years old. Because of its gentle nature, yoga is suitable for most adults of any age or fitness level. When it’s practiced regularly, practitioners notice physical, emotional, and perhaps even spiritual effects of yoga.

If you’re exploring the world of yoga, you should know that there is not just one type. There are actually many different practices of yoga, each focusing on a different set of benefits. Hatha yoga, the most popular form practiced in Western countries, focuses on breathing and posture. Other forms of yoga may focus on goals such as relaxation, intuition, or healing. But whatever the form, three integral tenets of yoga—exercise, breathing, and meditation—help students achieve their goals. To find out which form is right for you, head straight to your nearest yoga studio and try it out.

If you’re a beginner, it’s a good idea to take an introductory workshop. You may prefer to learn what downward dog looks like first, before hearing about it in class! I took an introductory workshop at my neighborhood favorite, New York Yoga, and it offered me an opportunity to learn various poses while receiving constructive feedback.

Tai chi is suitable for anyone who wants to move with greater strength, grace, and ease, from adolescents to the aged. This ancient Chinese method of movement is nonimpact.
It incorporates flowing movements while shifting the body’s balance.

Tai chi movements are performed slowly, evenly, and mindfully. The Chinese compare the movement to pulling the silk from a cocoon: pull steadily and the strand will unravel; pull too fast or too slow, and it breaks. In tai chi, the body is always moving, but under complete control as it remains soft and relaxed. Practiced for just 20 minutes a day, tai chi can relieve stress, increase flexibility, build stamina, and strengthen the body, all without any huffing and puffing on your part.


People often ask me how I stay in such good shape, and I am happy to tell them, “Pilates!” Pilates exercises have been sculpting dancers’ bodies for years. The method was developed in the early 1900s by German-born boxer and fitness enthusiast Joseph Pilates. He devised a series of physical movements that—coupled with focused breathing patterns— stretch, strengthen, and balance the body. He also invented unique equipment that challenges and supports the body during special exercises. The Pilates system is made up of a sequence of exercises meant to be followed in a certain order. The routines done on the floor are known as matwork, and they are complemented by the exercises that use equipment. In Pilates, exercises are done with careful precision and with only a few repetitions, maximizing the effects of the work by how the exercises are executed, not by the number of repetitions.

The first thing a Pilates instructor will tell you is that Pilates is not just a series of exercises but an approach to developing body awareness. The Pilates method has been described as an intelligent form of exercise—a holistic approach to the mind, body, and spirit that offers multiple benefits.

My Pilates instructor, Tara Bridger, told me during my first session that Pilates focuses on the body’s core or “powerhouse”— the deep abdominals, lower back muscles, hips, and buttocks—and then extends outward to the rest of the body, providing balance, strength, posture, and efficient movement. It builds strength upward along the spine while supporting the other joints and muscles. Specific attention is also paid to strengthening the upper back muscles that draw the shoulders down and open the chest. When the exercises are done with precision and mental focus, you learn to feel your imbalances and to see how your body has compensated for them over the years. Tara explained to me that Pilates corrects these weaknesses, optimizes how the body functions, and teaches the body to remember its natural alignment and to move in the safest and most energy-efficient way. The overall benefits include a strong, flexible spine, deep core strength, increased muscle tone, greater flexibility, better alignment, stronger mental focus, increased circulation, decreased stress, greater energy, and, the benefit I have noticed the most during my sessions, improved posture. When correct posture is relearned (we all started with it, according to Tara), our presence becomes stronger and more attractive and we appear and eventually feel more confident.

Pilates creates a flat, strong tummy and builds long, lean muscles without bulk. How? Because the system was designed to lengthen and stretch the muscles as it strengthens them. Pilates has narrowed my waistline and toned my buttocks and thighs. It has defined the muscles in and around my spine and along my arms. Overall, it makes the whole body look and feel strong, supple, vibrant, and naturally beautiful.

Tara tells me there are over 500 exercises in the Pilates system (I haven’t learned them all yet!). Though every regimen strengthens the core and tones the whole body, the system allows for specific focus on whatever area of the body needs the most attention, because every body is different.


Weight Training Gives Women Big, Bulky Muscles: Some women are afraid of weight training because they don’t want to get big, bulky muscles. I, for one, can attest that I used to avoid weights out of fear of getting too bulky. But after doing some research, I discovered this is a myth: strength training does not make you look like a bodybuilder unless you want to look like a bodybuilder. Women ordinarily do not have enough testosterone to create giant muscles. Working out with weights, stretch bands, or resistance tubing is extremely beneficial to women because we naturally have less muscle and bone than men, and we begin to lose both with age. So, it is one of the best things we can do to counteract these inevitable changes. Overall, strength training is a terrific way to look beautiful and toned while relieving stress. After overcoming my fear of weights, I can tell you my arms looked great in my wedding dress!

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