I’m almost 47. I’ve been active my whole life. As a kid, I climed trees, rode my bike, hiked, swam, etc. As an adult, I started taking classes after my first child was born. Aerobics was the thing I did for the longest time, starting in the 1990s (first floor, then step) then I added yoga, zumba, insanity…you get the idea. Over the years, I’ve developed a few long-term injuries, starting in my 20s. It became necessary for me to learn to accommodate my sleep and exercise habits around them, and it seemed as soon as they would get better, I would push myself (anxious to get back to my old patterns, afraid of losing ground) into pain again. As I’ve aged, nursing myself through injuries that seemed to never go away completely (mostly because I refused to slow down), I finally decided it is best to be cautious. I believe have finally learned to take it easy (I hope) and stop before I hurt myself.
Running was never my thing. In college, I had to run a mile in 12 minutes for an exercise class and I was crippled for three days. I literally could not walk. I vowed to never do it again. I have had hip and shoulder issues since I was a teenager. Yet, walking (especially in my neighborhood) bored me. Besides, I liked my exercise classes just fine. But as the exercise scene has changed, so have the trends, and the new modalities are not always kind to an aging body. I LOVE Zumba, but it didn’t treat my hips and knees very well. As I have aged, I have found that the pain from my injuries often trumped my desire to dance, jump, stretch, pull, and twist myself into a frenzy. But I also knew that moving helped my hips keep from aching.
Owning a dog, an aging one at that, and loving her enough to not let her get fat, and wanting to keep her hips from getting stiff, I started walking her on a fairly regular basis a couple of years ago. Somehow, walking my precious girl was not boring. She loved it, and looked forward to it so much, her ears wold perk up every time she saw me putting on my shoes and coat (unfortunately, I was usually going to work). I also got a lot of satisfaction knowing I was keeping her heart strong, and I watched her slim down, losing 24 pounds over a two-year time period. Often, we would walk a ways, and I would feel good enough to step it up, and I would run a bit ( a slow run, call it a jog). This is what I called my walk/run.
Jogging was nice, but I couldn’t keep it up. Nor did I want to. My body is unpredictable. Sometimes, my hips would ache as if I had a golf ball inside the joint. Sometimes it was from sitting too much. (Driving kills me!) Sometimes, from too much exercise. I knew from experience that I had to push myself enough to make progress, but not so much as to cause pain, because then I would be down for a few days to a week, depending on my pain and my work schedule, and the weather could also hold me back (I am kind of a wuss when it comes to rain and cold). It took a long time to know how much I could walk and run/jog without hurting myself.
One day, while jogging, I decided to experiment. I noticed I was running on my heels, but thought, what would happen if I hit the pavement with the balls of my feet first? I tried it and, to my surprise, I liked it. It was certainly easier on my joints, but I seemed to have more energy, especially going uphill, more spring in my step. I felt lighter and faster. Now, when I run, or jog, I almost always run on the balls of my feet. Today, I named this “new” mode of ambluation. I call it Prancing. (Sometimes I do go back to running on my heels, but only briefly, just to compare. Pracing always wins out.)
Prancing is fun, and it makes you feel sexy, youthful, and lighthearted. I notice my calves and butt working harder, and what lady doesn’t want nice, firm, high calves and glutes? I also notice that I can go faster and longer prancing than I can running on my heels. And I twist my body more prancing, working my abs more. All in all, I think it’s a better exercise for a sexy body. And almost everyone appreciates that.
Prancing, as the name would suggest, also suggests a certain playfulness, innocence, and “joie de vivre.” Who doesn’t appreciate feeling joyful while exercising? Quantum physics now suggests that our consciousness may actually cause things to happen, meaning the way we think can influence the direction of things, of our lives, in a more direct way than we knew before. Buddhism and yoga encourage us to be open, accepting, and aware of our thoughts and feelings, and that by harnessing and controlling the body, we can learn to reform the spirit. Jesus said to honor the children, because their innocence carries a unique type of wisdom that adults can not understand, but one that the world needs. Prancing combines all of these qualities: the innocence, the joy, the control, and pulls them together into one beautiful wave of peaceful action. So, next time you decide to go out for a run, remember to Prance. You may find a new joy in your exercise routine, in yourself, and in your life.