by Heather Corey – Guest Contributor

I recently had a total “fan-girl” moment and it led to an unexpected connection between my passion and my fitness. 

I had the opportunity to meet dance legend, George Chakiris.  George Chakiris performed in both the stage and screen versions of West Side Story, White Christmas and danced with Marilyn Monroe in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (the famous Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend number). Mr. Chakiris (now 84 years old and still in fantastic shape) was generously greeting guests and signing autographs at a 1950’s themed Holiday event.

As we spoke, I mentioned to him that I am a dancer.  His eyes lit up, “Are you still dancing?” he asked. I told him that I was, and his response moved me to the core.  He said, “I believe that we are only our TRUE selves when we are dancing. Keep it up, we have to keep moving.” No truer words were ever spoken – at least to me.  It made me realize that we all have something that inspires us, or CAN inspire us to move. Something that when we do that activity we feel we are our truest selves.

For me, finding dance was easy, it may not be as easy for everyone.  I grew up on old musicals, like those that George Chakiris was in. My dream was to become a Radio City Rockette.  My life took other directions, but I became a dancer and performer in the deepest part of my soul, my true self. This movement connection has become a part of my daily life

My advice to anyone seeking to lead a healthier, more active lifestyle is to find what moves you – both emotionally AND physically.  Any fitness routine done mechanically day after day for reasons such as “I have to” or “I should (but don’t want to)”, can dull your muscle response and your motivation, making your workouts less effective. When you put your heart and passion into something, something that makes you feel like your true self, you always get back more energy and joy AND you continue that activity. For me it is dance. 

The key to launching a lifetime health commitment is to find what makes you come alive, when you feel like your truest self. It may be going for nature walks, running, playing sports, or bike rides. For some, running is that thing, and they will hit the streets no matter the weather.  Others have found joy in taking nature walks. My advice is to say farewell to that “I have to” workout and discover the thing that inspires you to move. When you identify what moves you it leads to the “I want to” mentality which increases your long term fitness.

Ways to discover what moves you:

  1. DANCE!  If you have always loved to dance, or have always wanted to learn, there is an endless variety of classes to choose from: tap, ballet, hip hop, Broadway jazz, ballroom, etc. Want to explore dance from around the globe?  Try Samba from Brazil’s Carnival, Bhangra, a kind of Indian dance found in Bollywood movies, Or African dancing, that gets you down in your hips. All fun and great workouts for your body AND brain. Studies show that learning dance steps has benefits such as improving balance and strength, and boosting cognitive performance.
  1. Anything with a dog. Your pet needs to walk, run, and kick up dirt. Find joy in finding new neighborhoods to stroll through or hiking together in nearby parks. Don’t have a doggy friend of your own? Volunteer with a local shelter or with an organization like Guide Dogs for the Blind.  You can also call a friend who has dog/s and walk together.
  1. Be a mermaid and make waves.  Everything done in water feels less stressful and more fun. Water supports the body, helping you build strength while putting less stress on your joints and muscles.Besides swimming laps, you can now take Zumba, tai chi, and even Aikido in the pool. As an added benefit, it’s impossible to be in a bad mood while you’re holding on to a pool noodle.
  1. Do it for a cause.  This is fun because you’ll feel good about helping others (you usually raise money) and you’ll do something extraordinary, like training to bike or hike 100 miles. Doing a charity event is good for your heart physically and emotionally.
  1. Be a kid again: play and learn something new.  As we get older, we somehow feel that we can’t learn new things or stepping out of our comfort zone is intimidating. Remember when you were a kid and every experience was a new one?  We were all beginners at something and we all have to start somewhere.  

When trying to find something that moves you, think of all the things you wanted to do, but maybe never got the chance. You might be surprised at what you find. I always loved watching tennis, but never had the chance to learn how to play until a couple of years ago.  I love playing now (albeit poorly) and I am so glad I stepped out of my comfort zone to learn something new.

The most important thing about movement and exercise is that you make it a habit and keep doing it! It should move you bothy physically and emotionally.  Hearing the words of George Chakiris has inspired me to be my true self, to keep dancing and always keep moving.

​Heather is based in Longmont, Colorado and is a Level 4 Essentrics® trainer, certified Pilates Mat Instructor,  licensed Progressing Ballet Technique instructor, Barre instructor and Irish dancer.

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