Fall is here, and our bodies know it. We feel dazzled by the splendor and mystery of seasonal change. Overnight, green leaves turn red and gold. Birds pack up and fly south. Autumn days grow shorter and darker, and we feel the presence of what H. W. Longfellow called "a dreamy and magical light."
And the point is? When the season's change, so can we. Molecularly speaking, nature is us. What is outside us is inside us, and if you've been yearning to embrace a more active lifestyle that dances you down the path to better health, greater energy and looser jeans, fall is the perfect time to press restart and see how far your sap can rise.
Change isn't easy. It takes courage, patience and a rock-solid conviction that you have the wisdom and willpower to break old habits and do things differently. You do! You can! Nothing can stop you!
If a tiny hummingbird can fly 5,000 miles with wings the size of gum wrappers, you can walk 30 minutes a day, turn your cellphone off when you're having dinner with your kids, and give up diet colas and doughnuts for breakfast.
Here are a few of my favorite fall fitness tips to inform, inspire, even irritate:
DO A KITCHEN MAKEOVER. Let's begin with an irritating one, just to test your resolve. How pure is your pantry? Go there right now and scan the shelves. If you see a lot of processed, packaged foods pretending to be good for you — All-natural! Gluten-free! — do the hard thing and throw them out. If you prefer to donate to a shelter or food pantry, go for it.
One hugely beneficial shift you want to make this fall is to focus on eating real food in reasonable portions, and that can't happen if your pantry is filled with pork rinds and Hamburger Helper.
HARVEST YOUR STRENGTHS. In fall, we are hardwired to harvest the fruits and veggies of our labors. Think about some things you've accomplished since the year began. Maybe you started a 5-minute daily mediation practice.
Or cut way back on sugar. Write down these personal accomplishments and keep them visible. Change is easier when you're coming from a place of strength and positivity.
DEAL WITH THE DARKNESS AND COLD. Do not, Dear Reader, allow yourself to go into hibernation this fall. The temptation to sleep in when it's dark and stay in when the temperature drops is ever present. Resist. Refuse. Repeat after me: Exercising in the cold will not kill me. In fact, it's remarkably invigorating.
The trick is layering: a light wicking layer closest to your skin (to keep you dry), a second layer for warmth and a top technical layer to protect you against the rain, snow or wind. If you run, walk or bike when it's dark, be sure to wear a reflective vest.
EVERYTHING CHANGES. In autumn, signs of impermanence are everywhere. The flowers were blooming; now they're dead. The leaves were alive with color; now they crisp and drop. But there's an upside, too.
"This time of year suggests both birth and death — the birth of new projects, a new school year, new classes, dreams and goals," writes Tias Little, a yoga master for all seasons. "That birth and death happen together is a good reminder of the ongoing flow and change." It's another way of saying that when you make life changes in the fall, you're going with the flow.
LET GO. Mental fitness is part of your well-being. Fall is a good time to let go of things in your life that no longer serve you. Just as trees lose their leaves, you might drop your anger, your jealousy, your fear of failure. These negative emotions get in the way of your joy. Let them go, and no matter how dark and dreary a fall day may look, you'll feel the blue sky above the clouds.
ALL ABOUT BALANCE. On the first day of the equinox, the sun enters the sign of Libra, the constellation of scales. It's a great time to contemplate balance in your life. Are you working too hard? Wishing you had more time for family and friends? Take action. You have nothing to lose but your leaves.
ENERGY EXPRESS-O! APPRECIATE WHAT IS
"It was a beautiful bright autumn day, with air like cider and a sky so blue you could drown in it." — Diana Gabaldon
Marilynn Preston — healthy lifestyle expert, well-being coach and Emmy-winning producer — is the creator of Energy Express, the longest-running syndicated fitness column in the country. She has a website, marilynnpreston.com, and welcomes reader questions, which can be sent to [email protected] She also produces EnExTV, a digital reincarnation of her award-winning TV series about sports, fitness and adventure, for kids of all ages, at youtube.com/EnExTV and facebook.com/EnExTV. To find out more about Preston and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.