This week, I visited my doctor’s office — not for an actual physical, but to get a spider bite on my leg checked out (it had been growing more, rather than less, inflamed over the course of a week).
While there, a nurse weighed me and took my vitals.
My weight was down four pounds since my my last “official” weigh-in (which was in … June?); my blood pressure was 110/60, and my pulse — not a resting pulse, mind you, but a well-caffeinated, middle-of-the-day, just-hopped-onto-a-table pulse — was 52.
Makes me awfully curious what my proper resting pulse rate is. I tend not to stay still long enough during the day to take a proper resting pulse rate. I haven’t remembered to check it in ages. Every night, I remind myself, “Check your resting pulse rate tomorrow before you get up;” every morning, inevitably, I forget.
Now, my blood pressure has always been fine, and my weight has been descending continuously* for the past several years (at varying rates of speed — usually quickly from January through the end of summer, then more slowly through the end of the year).
I’m writing all of this not to toot my horn, but to toot ballet’s horn. Even several years of riding my bike everywhere hadn’t coaxed my mid-day pulse rate down below 60. Six and a half months of ballet have done the trick. Simply put, I’ve always been a fairly athletic person, but ballet has transformed me into one seriously fit mofo.
And I cite ballet specifically because it’s been the biggest change in my life in the past year. My diet continues as usual — mostly “real food,” with room for various indulgences (including, apparently, all those pretzels). I actually ride my bike less now than I have in the past four years.
What this all indicates to me, in the end, is the importance of finding a kind of physical activity that works for you, that you love — and maybe one that challenges you to push your own physical boundaries. I love ballet even more than I love riding bikes (there, I said it!).
Ballet forces me to push my body’s boundaries — I can’t just jump around on my legs; I have to use my arms, too. I can’t just do endless amounts of endurance exercise; ballet requires bouts of high-intensity jumping around (and also getting up, getting up, and getting down).
If I really want to improve, I have to be willing to gain some upper-body strength. And if I want to perform some day, which I totally do, I can’t neglect endurance exercise — read any good treatise on physical conditioning for ballet, and in the first chapter (or thereabouts) you’ll discover that class alone doesn’t condition dancers effectively for the aerobic rigors of performing on stage. Dancers who add in some kind of aerobic endurance training fare better than those who don’t.
All of this amounts to the equivalent of (at present) three 60 to 75-minute long high-intensity interval training sessions (with some flexibility stuff thrown in) coupled with the usual assortment of aerobic endurance workouts that I get through commuting by bike.
Overall, it seems to be working brilliantly as a health-maintenance and -improvement plan.
So there you go. Ballet really is good for you.
So go take two classes and call me in the morning :D
*I should note that continuously descending weight is not, in and of itself, a marker of improving health. You can be healthy and be much heavier than I am. For me, it’s simply an indicator that my body is returning to its own norm, which suggests that it’s “functioning as designed.”
By the way, the spider bite is fine. The doctor who examined it said I should worry if it doesn’t start to diminish in the next few days. That made Denis feel better, which made me feel better.