Fall into Finess

When the Seasons Shift, So Can We!

What a day! The sun is sparkling, the air is tingling, and I'm up to my ankles in perfect red, gold and orange autumn leaves, thinking about fall and fitness and one of my favorite books, Staying Healthy with the Seasons.

"This is the season of the harvest," Elson Haas writes, "the fruition of all the growth of spring and summer. .These days of seasonal change, around the equinox, are a perfect time to cleanse your body and lighten yourself for fall's work. ... Through a daily discipline of inner attention and physical exercise, you can create a more open, resilient and supple body; a mentally and physically relaxed state; and a stronger resistance to disease." 

Fitness is a year-round activity, but as the seasons shift, so can your own personal commitment to living a happier, healthier lifestyle. Sadly, in November, many people's fitness programs fall off a cliff. It's colder outside, it gets darker sooner, and our summertime push to look trim and hit the gym gives way to an overwhelming urge to retreat indoors and overdose on peanut clusters. Resist! Make a plan!

Harvest your best intentions, & consider the following:

START A JOURNAL. You've heard this a thousand times before, but let this be the day it sinks in: Keeping a personal journal is one of the best ways to modify your behavior. Your doctor can't make you ride your bike. Health care reform can't keep you from eating junk. Personal change is a personal choice, and it can begin this fall with a three dollar notebook you label Fall Fitness. Inside, list a few fitness goals for next spring. Do you want to run a 5K? Wean yourself off of high blood pressure medication? Touch your toes without bending your knees?

Be realistic. That's the key to success-small, realizable goals. Decide on a detailed plan to realize your goal, write it down, and keep track of your progress-daily-in your journal. Change is not linear. Expect backsliding. Don't judge, just write. Go back and reread the opening quote from Elson Haas. Journal keeping is what "a daily discipline of inner attention" looks like.

EAT CLEANER, BE LEANER. Winter weight gain is becoming a national sport in America, but you can avoid it if you decide now to let some of your bad eating habits fall away-ahem-while adding some new healthier habits.

Like what? Eat real food! If it comes in a can or a box and has more than five ingredients, it is not a real food; it is processed. Processed foods are loaded with chemicals and additives that gunk up your system and, over time, pile on the pounds.

Try a little experiment this November. Give yourself one week of clean eating, consuming reasonable portions of unprocessed foods-fruits, vegetables, whole grains, organic chickens and fish. For this one week, avoid colas and all sugary desserts. At the end of the week, check in with yourself and see how you feel. Lighter? More energetic? Less bloated?

Another way to wean yourself from toxic ingredients is to spend some time learning to cook simple, healthy meals for yourself and your family. You'll eat less, enjoy more and save money, too. Try this Fall Fitness Game-changer: Every time you eat a meal at home this fall and winter instead of eating out, put $10 into a box. On March 21, count it up and spend it on a fitness-related treat for spring. A new bike? Tennis lessons? Private time with your favorite yoga teacher?

TRY SOMETHING NEW. Fall is all about change and transition, the perfect time to experiment with a new activity or sport. What'll it be? Zumba classes? Pilates? Ballroom dancing? Boredom can kill your best intentions to exercise. That's why it's important to mix it up, cross train, find new and fun ways to work your body...and don't forget your brain. Before the autumn leaves disappear, sign up for something that will stimulate your synapses in the coming months. Bridge? French? The Zen of Motorcycle Maintenance?

Marilynn Preston-fitness expert, personal trainer and speaker on healthy lifestyle issues-is the creator of Energy Express, the longest-running syndicated fitness column in the country. She has a website, http://marilynnpreston.com and welcomes reader questions, which can be sent to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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