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Fitness Demystified: A Sanibel Primer - Getting Started

December 27, 2010 - Dalia Jakubauskas
By: Dalia Jakubauskas

Years ago, when I was still in my 30’s, relatively sedentary and looking to kick-start a fitness routine, I decided to take up an activity that I believed should only be done when forced to flee from huge toothy animals with a taste for human flesh. If it didn’t kill me, running, I thought, would make me stronger, fitter and somehow stave off middle age. The last part didn’t work out so well, but I had some success with the first two –after it almost killed me, of course. The first steps were the hardest, and it took me months before I could run a mile or two without thinking my lungs were going to spew out of my nose. I measured my success by the city block. First I ran one and walked a whole bunch. Then I ran two, then three, until I could run a mile without slowing to a walk. Mind you, my pace was somewhere between the running abilities of a gopher tortoise and my 85-year-old grandmother, but I was pleased and felt better than I had in years. Today, while I can’t say I love to run, I have grown to really like it, especially now that I live on Sanibel where the beaches serve as my track and inspiration. As it turned out, my first bumbling efforts at getting healthy also led to a pursuit of physical fitness that turned into a career as a personal trainer and fitness instructor. I am also happy to report that now, at 48, I am fitter than at 28. For the past ten years I have found myself in the fortunate position of teaching others how to take their first steps toward living healthy lifestyles. I am even luckier that I get to do it on Sanibel, a fitness lover’s paradise. This column is the first of many I hope to share containing fitness tips with an eye toward taking advantage of what is uniquely Sanibel. This is nature’s tropical playground and, unless you are six feet under or trapped on your couch beneath the weight of your TV remote, there is an activity on this island to help you get started on the road to healthy living. With that in mind, you don’t have to attempt slow suicide like I did with running. Just move. Walk, bike, kayak, canoe, paddleboard, windsurf, rollerblade, surf, swim, take up yoga, dance, try boogie boarding, play tag with your grandkids. The opportunities here to get fit and have fun are too numerous to name. More than anything else, I believe having fun is the key to sticking to a fitness regimen. After all, if you don’t find it enjoyable, chances are you won’t do it. But getting started can be the hardest part. First, it’s important to realize that you have more control over your health than you think. Living healthy and active is a choice most of us are fortunate to have but fewer than half of us make. According to a 2010 Gallup survey, only 49.6% of American adults engage in regular exercise, which means at least three sessions per week at 30 minutes each. Yet 68% of us are classified as overweight with a body mass index of 25 or higher, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That means a 5-foot-8 person who weighs 164 pounds would be considered overweight. I won’t lie, losing the weight and getting fit is not easy. But if you don’t even try, it’s impossible. The consequences for doing nothing are grave and even catastrophic. Chronic joint and back pain, coronary heart disease, and type 2 diabetes are just a few of the maladies on that list. The good news is that the rewards for taking care of yourself far outnumber the costs of “going to pot.” Wouldn’t it be lovely to get down on the floor without pain to play with the grandkids, or have enough energy to dance the night away with your spouse? Aside from feeling better and preventing disease, looking smashing in that 2-sizes-smaller outfit comes as a pleasant byproduct of exercise. So, what’s holding you back? A new year is upon us. It’s gorgeous outside and you came to Sanibel for a reason and it wasn’t to spend your days indoors imitating a lump of clay. Follow these simple steps to break the malaise: Step 1: open the door; Step 2: get out the door; Step 3: deeply inhale the sea air; Step 3: move your body to the nearest place of natural beauty that inspires you; Step 4: have fun! Congratulations and welcome to the first day of the rest of your life. Now, lets see what we can really do with that body, shall we? Dalia Jakubauskas is a Sanibel resident and certified personal trainer and fitness instructor who can be reached by email at


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