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Being active helps battle winter’s dreary days

One recent morning, I woke up after a restless night. I hadn’t slept well. I was cold. My left hip hurt. My right shoulder ached, and I just hadn’t been able to get comfortable.

When I crawled out from under the covers, the sun was already up, shining as if it expected a bright day. I failed to appreciate it. I just felt groggy and slow.

A cup of fully-caffeinated, hot coffee didn’t help. My brain urged me to head back to bed, or at least to consider a nap on the sofa. My calendar reminded me that an exercise class I normally attend at the Southside Y would begin in an hour. I groaned.

I considered not going. After all, who would miss me? Well, my instructor would miss me. Although she doesn’t take attendance, she does notice when regulars aren’t there. She has a tendency to worry if someone is absent. Also, some of my classmates would probably wonder if I was OK. So, I accepted that I might be missed, and I got dressed. At least my exercise clothes were as comfortable as my pajamas.

My plan was to drag myself into the exercise classroom, participate in a half-hearted way, and slither back home.

Here’s what happened. I arrived at the Y. The person behind the desk smiled and greeted me cheerfully, “Hi, it’s good to see you. How are you?”

I smiled back. That’s the polite thing to do. “I’m fine,” I lied. But I actually did feel a little better. “It’s good to be here.” I surprised myself when I realized that I meant it.

The minutes leading up to the start of class included socializing. I briefly caught up with important events in others’ lives, and I shared some pieces of my own. These conversations helped my brain start working a bit more efficiently (either that, or the caffeine was finally kicking in). I felt a bit less lethargic, but I was still far from motivated.

The class began with simple warm-up movements. I put forth a meager effort. But, then something odd transpired. My body drew upon some mysterious energy source I didn’t know I had. I pushed a bit harder. I sweated. I worked at my fullest capacity. I felt…. here’s the really, strange part, I felt vibrant, invigorated, and happy.

By the time I got back home, I was ready, even eager, to tackle the rest of my day.

I joined the Southside Y about 10 years ago. It was a big step for me. If you’ve seen slick ads for gyms, you’ve probably seen photos of svelte athletes in revealing, body-hugging spandex. I knew I’d never fit in with a crowd like that. My body is the opposite of svelte, more accurate terms include round and pudgy. And my taste in work-out clothes leans toward baggy fleece.

When I summoned up the courage to walk into the Southside Y, I discovered people of all ages and with a wide variety of body shapes. Some are older than me. Some are younger. Some are even children. There are strong, skinny people who don’t look down on me because I’m less muscular than they are. Frankly, I don’t think they even notice my body’s graceless state. They chat about families and pets. There are also a lot of people with challenges and objectives that are similar to my own. We pursue diverse personal goals, but sharing the journey makes it more fun.

The Southside Y isn’t the only local option for pursuing health and well-being. I take frequent advantage of High Bridge Trail State Park, and sometimes I can be found strolling through Longwood University’s campus. Other excellent facilities also serve local residents who pursue a wide variety of fitness goals. Some feature personal trainers, some focus on dance or gymnastics, and some specialize in martial arts. In addition, the town’s Parks and Recreation Department offers a host of programs.

I’ve found that being active, irrespective of the venue, helps me maintain an energized, sunny outlook even if winter’s days are sometimes dreary, uncomfortable, and cold.

Karen Bellenir has been writing for The Farmville Herald since 2009. Her book, Happy to Be Here: A Transplant Takes Root in Farmville, Virginia, features a compilation of her columns. It is available from PierPress.com. You can contact Karen at kbellenir@PierPress.com.