Monday, September 8, 2008

Hotliness is next to godliness.

We are constantly being told that we need to eat right and work out so we can be healthy and live a really long time. But, what if you don't like eating right and working out? What if you do it because you're supposed to do it but never enjoy it or feel good about it? Isn't that going to make you feel bitter and stressed out instead of healthy and happy? Who wants to live a long, stressed out life? I don't even know if it's possible to be healthy AND stressed out.

I am a big believer in the whole mind/body connection thing. My grandpa never made a healthy choice in his life yet still lived a very happy 86 years. He smoke and drank and ate lots of red meat and never exercised. And do you know what his only regret was on his deathbed? "I should have had more ice cream." That's literally what he said! I bet he got a real kick out of saying it to that poor nurse, too. She was probably shaking in her clogs when he looked deep into her eyes, one foot in the grave and said, "I have regrets..." I bet he couldn't even keep a straight face when he laid that ice cream bit on her.

I wanted to live like that: low stress, high enjoyment, no regrets. But I also wanted to look good in skinny jeans. I was on a search for the middle ground.

Imagine my surprise when I found it at the YMCA.

It's a Latin hip hop class called Zumba and it has completely changed my life. Not only is it really fun (I mentioned it's Latin hip hop, right?), it has also reminded me that I love working out. Not like working out working out with treadmills and weights and heart rate monitors, but group fitness class working out with step benches and stretchy bands and loud music. Here I've been dragging myself to the Y for years to sulk on a treadmill and complain about not getting results, and for what? I don't think I got any healthier or hotter and I didn't have any fun. Doing something just so I can cross it off my list and move on with my life is seriously missing the point.

As a recent Zumba convert, I felt it was my duty to spread the good word. I started asking people I barely knew, "Do you know where you'll be spending your Saturday morning? Perhaps it's time you accepted Zumba into your life." I had been called to save people from boring workouts and took my mission very seriously.

And that was before the epiphany.

Because Zumba is at the YMCA and it is a Christian organization, the instructor prays for us after class. As someone who wasn't raised going to church, I always get a kick out of people praying for me. It seems like such a personal thing to do for 40 sweaty people you barely know. But our instructor is sweet as can be and it seems very natural and genuine coming from her. (Picture a cuter Shawn Johnson with a killer bod and a Southern accent.)

God, I just want to thank you for everyone who came to class today. Thank you for giving us this time to work out and have fun together. I pray that everyone here will reach their fitness goals quickly so they will feel good about themselves and find it easier to choose joy each and every day. In Jesus' name, Amen!

I don't know if it was the exercise endorphins rushing through my body or the loud Reggaeton music or all of the books about spiritual growth I've been reading lately but all of a sudden I was standing in the back of the gymnasium sweating and panting and crying.

If I had been in an actual church, this would have been my come to Jesus moment.

It was like she said, "get fit, feel good, choose joy," and everything suddenly made sense. OK, not everything made sense. Some things made sense. Like The Girls Next Door. Hot Shawn Johnson said, "get in shape so you can feel good and find it easier to choose joy," and suddenly The Girls Next Door made absolute, perfect sense.

Kendra, Holly and Bridget...more than meets the eye.

I've been intrigued by The Girls Next Door for some time now. If you don't know, the girls are Hugh Hefner's girlfriends (yes, all three of them) and they have a reality show on E! called The Girls Next Door. It is like any reality TV show: somewhat pointless but absolutely impossible to stop watching.

I got sucked in when our computer was out of commission and Tivo no longer had anything interesting to offer me. Flipping through the channels one night I came across The Girls and COULD NOT change the channel. Three hot blonds are hard for anyone to resist but I was intrigued by more than their looks.

I wanted to figure them out. I wanted to know how they shared an 80 year old boyfriend. How they all lived together without getting jealous. How they ate Arby's and still looked smokin' hot. How they posed nude and had healthy relationships with their families. I didn't get it. Something did not add up.

So, I kept watching. But I couldn't figure them out. Were they dumb? Was that why they were happy all the time? They were too dumb to realize there were things to be unhappy about? I thought about that as I watched but the more I watched the more I realized, no, they were definitely not dumb. In fact, they seemed kind of smart.

So, beauty and brains. What's not to be happy about? Well, you tell me. There are plenty of smart, attractive people who are no where near as happy as the girls. There had to be more to it than that.

Maybe it was because their lifestyle afforded them the freedom to have fun all the time? But to think that the girls were this happy just because of money was ridiculous. How many rich people do you know? Very few seem very happy.

The more I watched, the more intrigued I became. Not only were the girls hot and happy, they were completely inspiring. They all have good relationships with Hef, their families, their friends and each other. They aren't judgmental or jealous or snide or resentful. They're full of compliments and support for those around them. They're grateful and appreciative and don't take anything for granted. They love sharing meals and experiences with friends and family and are constantly celebrating something. They're unimaginably
kind to their animals. They never seem irritated or pissed off and are seriously nice to everyone. They work hard and always try their best. And, above all else, they are undeniably, unapologetically themselves. Totally, 100% genuine. (At least that's how it looks on TV...)

Forget Playboy Bunnies, these girls are freaking Zen masters!

What hit me in Zumba class was this: Kendra, Holly and Bridget are like my role models for joy. No matter what the circumstances, they choose joy each and every day. If there is music on, they dance. If there is a swimming pool, they get naked and dive in. Is it because they are in great shape? Maybe. But if they looked like they look and didn't feel good, it wouldn't matter what size bras they wore.

Looking good is really about feeling good. It's like when Bridget said (and I'm totally paraphrasing), "I had a great time because I loved my outfit. I always have fun when I like what I'm wearing!" Is that not exactly what looking good is all about? I'm telling you, brains and beauty.

Looking good can also help you get out of your own way. The more physically fit you are, the more joy this world has to offer. If you get winded riding a bike or playing with your kids, your body is standing between you and joy. If you see a swimming pool and cannot possibly imagine skinny dipping in it, you're probably missing out on joy (I wouldn't know - I have never skinny dipped in my life. Well, not yet...)

This is probably why we should eat right and avoid toxins, too. If you eat a burger and fries for lunch and it zaps your energy for the rest of the day, it will be more difficult to choose joy. If you drink too much and have to spend the entire next day sick with a hang over, the chances are pretty slim that you will find joy (trust me...).

But if you can eat poorly and drink too much and not work out and still feel great, go on with your bad self! Have more ice cream! The point is not what we do or what we don't do, but how we feel. Each of us will take different steps in life but as long as we're stepping toward joy (or Latin hip hop dancing with joy), we are on the right path.

Who knew you could learn so much from the E! channel?


Sandra Winfrey said...

I do Zumba as well, and LOVE it. What a fun workout. If you want to zumba other than saturdays, our Y (MJ Y) offers it on Thursday at 8:15am and 6pm.

LClaire said...

Oh yeah! I love the girls too and Zumba, gotta get my fit on @ the Y! PS- a friend said the other day that there are 4 keys things to a healthy life; good sex, meditation, and good food balanced with fun excerise, so . . . booty, Buddha, and balance . . . I can get behind that, it seems to be working for 'the girls' :)