“Come on, pretty boy, show me what you got!” So chides the brawny trainer in Hudson River Park. His client sheepishly smiles as he passes me, while I am focused on my own exercises. He probably knows he is sweating a little too hard for the routine his ‘boss’ has set to music. “Come on”, the trainer yells, “use your muscle memory; get with the rhythm.”
I was tempted to blow off my work-out on that particular day last week because there was only a 45-minute window to jog down to Hudson River Park and do my take on five Chinese exercise routines. Learned years ago, these routines help me to both relax and energize. Fortunately, reason prevailed, because I so needed the stamina to treat the seven patients who came to see me the next day at the Rusk Institute of Rehabilitative Medicine, where I am currently doing an externship. I was so grateful for that workout not just because of the immediate benefits, but also because of the feeling of the fresh breeze off the Hudson and the sheer entertainment value of watching others.
A pro taught soccer to a group of toddlers. A man did martial arts as if he was the star of the current movie The Grandmaster. All over, men and women did their own thing: stomach curls, running, jumping rope, exercise band work, etc. It was motivating to see everyone working out to reduce stress and get in shape for their days at the computer, on the stage, or in the classroom. Everyone there had made a commitment that required planning around their beyond-busy schedules.
In just 15 weeks, we will be at the winter solstice. Now is the time to gather the qi with an appropriate exercise routine, good diets and healthy lifestyle habits. These will help us to get through the winter while keeping our immune systems up. Then we can greet spring without allergies and exhaustion. This is a perfect time, after absorbing the energy from the long and bright days of summer, to determine what exercise is best for you, get into a rhythm and stick with it. If you are encumbered with pain and limited range of movement, start small.
I explained to a doctor colleague that I ‘prescribe’ certain Chinese qigong exercises to my patients with leg, ankle and foot pain, to support the treatment I have given them. He told me about a similar Western exercise. He suggests that patients draw the alphabet with their feet. They can note at which letter they get tired, and then slowly build up their strength and flexibility from there. This can be done while sitting in a chair. Six energy pathways begin or end in the feet and move into the kidneys, stomach, spleen, liver and gallbladder. Of course, there are also exercises to for the hands and every part of the body. The right kind of movement is often essential in healing disease.
There is really no excuse not to exercise—not money, or time, or even how fit we are. This is the perfect season to JUST DO IT.