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What we can learn from gymnasts when it comes to exercising

As this writer watched the national gymnastics championships this weekend, she thought that these young women could offer some tips to the rest of us when it comes to exercising. No, not doing gymnastics, but all the preparation and the way they handled themselves while competing in their various routines. So, whether you golf, jog, do aerobics, walk or use a treadmill, or even do yoga, why not incorporate into your routine the things that these gymnasts do to stay in shape and on top of their game.

1. STAND UP STRAIGHT. While you don’t always and would not do this when golfing (it would be bad form, actually), the rest of the time when you are not taking a swing, you need to stand up straight. How often are we hunched over, even when walking? Just stand up straight. If what you are looking at as you exercise is straight out in front of you, and your eyes are aimed downward, your upper body is probably aimed downward, too. So, just stand up straight.

2. STRETCH YOUR ARMS. Unless you have to reach for something on a high shelf, most of us do little stretching of our arms. In the course of a day, just reach for something imaginary, stretching your arms as high as you can get them. Reach for things even below your waist. Reach out to the sides as you sit on the couch watching TV. Instead of walking directly up to something, see if you can reach for it. In short, stretch your arms whenever you can.

3. STRETCH YOUR LEGS. Instead of sitting down to take phone calls, stand up. You might find that standing also shortens the amount of time you spend on the phone. As you sit on the sofa, stretch out your legs. Can you hold them parallel to the floor for at last three minutes? If not, work your way up to that amount of time, and then hold them longer. Whenever you have a spare moment, bend from your waist to touch your toes without bending your knees. Stretch to feel it in the hamstrings (those muscles in the back of your thighs). Ballerinas constantly stretch their legs, even when not on the stage performing. So you do the same. One other way to stretch your legs--walk instead of taking an elevator. Park as far from the front door of a building that you can and walk tall up to the entrance.

4. FOCUS ON THE MOMENT. These young girls were totally focused on what they were doing. They gave themselves pep talks, and then smiled and proceeded. When we are thinking of something else, we are not focused on what is happening in the moment. When you are focused, you can feel how good it does feel to stretch. If you are exercising, put your all into it and focus on the movement.

5. ACKNOWLEDGE YOURSELF FOR EXERCISING. When you are finished exercising, do what the gymnasts do—finish, smile, and then smile at everyone else. The best thing you can wear each day is a smile! Whether you have exercised only 5 minutes or 30 minutes, thank yourself for doing it. Your body thanks you, too!

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