As a little girl, I was always on the go. I have fond memories of playing hopscotch on my driveway and playing kickball, softball and stickball on the street with my friends at dusk. I rode my bike all over my neighborhood and loved to swim and dive in our swimming pool. I also loved playing catch with my dad in the front yard (or at my brother’s little league games) or shooting baskets in our backyard. During elementary school, I especially looked forward to playing tag (favorite game: “girls catch the boys”) or handball at recess.
I also loved gymnastics. At age seven, I was able to do cartwheels, back handsprings and aerials. Unfortunately, after I fell off a balance beam and broke my arm at school, my gymnastics career was cut short (no doubt because my overprotective Jewish mother convinced me it was far too dangerous a sport to pursue). Thankfully, I still had ice-skating to look forward to. What little girl didn’t want to be just like Dorothy Hamill? I got a thrill each and every time I stepped on the ice. I even convinced my mother to let me get a Dorothy Hamill haircut that I proudly flaunted (yes, I was and still am a bit of a ham). Even though I knew in my heart I wasn’t good enough to be a competitive figure skater, I got a thrill every time I twirled, went backwards or did little jumps and tricks on ice. To this day, whenever I see an ice rink, I want to jump right on—it still moves me to move!
At age eight, I fell down the stairs in our home and broke two vertebrae in my back. Because I wouldn’t be able to walk for three months, my parents had no choice but to convert our small dining room into a hospital room. And at age 10, I sprained my neck (I’m still not sure how I did that, but think it was somehow connected to my back injury) and had to spend 10 days in the hospital in traction. I have no doubt that these injuries that sidelined me during my youth led me to take full advantage of every opportunity I have to move as an adult—to #moveitorlose it (as I say in many tweets and posts on Facebook). I know too well that sometimes life gives you lemons and forces you to sit out, oftentimes when it’s the last thing in the world you want to do.
As I got older, I added volleyball and tennis to my repertoire of activities. Although I never really excelled at either (though my claim to fame includes two MVP trophies for volleyball—one at sleep-away camp and one at a very small private school—and one mixed doubles tennis tournament win at camp), I still enjoyed playing and loved the way these and other activities (even bowling and ping pong) challenged me and how they made me feel. And while there were times—especially during my overweight teen years— I became more active because I knew it would burn calories and (hopefully) help my body look better (I admit I bought into the idea that you could use a thighmaster to squeeze your troublesome thighs into tip-top shape, even while sitting!), I mostly moved because of how much fun I had and for that post-exercise feeling of exhausted accomplishment.
Even though I’m an adult, I still can’t quite figure out how I developed a drive to get and stay fit. I certainly didn’t get it from my father, who to this day won’t walk on a treadmill at more than a 3-mph pace (despite the fact that he’s 5’11”) because he thinks “exercise kills.” And I’m still not sure how my mother’s activities affected my drive to move as an adult. (I do know that having her walk around town wearing pink wristband weights and doing water aerobics in hotel swimming pools while on vacation mortified and embarrassed me, especially when I was a teenager). Whatever its origin, I know that the motivation I have for being fit is a part of me that’s here to stay. Being active in some way each and every day is a priority to me. It invigorates me and forces me to live in the moment. And even though I’m human and sometimes want to skip it—especially when I have a lot of work or family responsibilities and commitments—I know that when I set a specific fitness goal and accomplish it, it helps me feel mentally and physically strong.