This article first appeared on the Galax Gazette Blog.

I am a firm believer that fun and fitness should go together. If you ever attend any of my classes you will find people working hard and having fun at the same time.

An advantage to personal training is being able to give people ways to enjoy their work out according to their own personal bent.

I personally have to have the outdoors, so you will find me trail running anywhere I can find a local trail several times a week. I love kayaking on the New River here in Virginia. In the winter I go snow skiing. Summertime finds me on Topsail Island body surfing and running the beach bare-foot.

Sometimes we need to simplify life and stop making exercise “work.” I think if we would work on changing our mindset and transform “work out” to “playtime” we wouldn’t have a society full of obese, sedentary people, including children.

Children have forgotten how to go outside and play! We parents and adults need to lead by example.

Before we can achieve any changes in life, we have to begin with our mind. I am a runner. Running is viewed by most of my friends and family as a grueling, boring feat.

You may agree and be asking the usual question, “What do you get from it?”

Glad you asked. When I head to the woods with my lab, Sam, I have over an hour with no interruptions and I think. I observe the beauty around me, the changing of seasons, the wildlife, sunrises and sunsets. I pray. I have learned to love and embrace one of the most effective workouts there is — running.

The benefits outweigh the sacrifices. It is a great stress reliever, I stay fit, have muscular legs, have tremendous cardio and physical endurance, less toxins because of the heavy perspiring, which cleanses our pores, and the production of endorphins which is a natural high. You also have a much stronger immune and respiratory system from running outside. The fresh air and sunshine produces serotonin which is a natural anti-depressant.

Keep your mind dwelling on what you are receiving as opposed to what it is costing you.

I am a strong advocate of cross-training to enhance your “playtime” for several reasons.

It prevents boredom. Truly variety does spice up “playtime” and more importantly you work the total body.

Running has many benefits as stated, but does nothing for strengthening the upper body. I keep hand weights on my dresser and use them before getting dressed. Teaching water aerobics gives me upper body strength. I play tennis.

Are you getting the picture?

Have fun!

Do different things. Try new things!

Cross-training can keep you ready for a number of recreational activities so that you won’t be in agony when you choose one you only perform occasionally. Muscles respond better when challenged differently. Doing the same routine day after day allows the body to become very efficient at that particular exercise. Your body learns how to expend the minimal amount of energy and effort needed to complete the task. Cross-training forces the body outside its accustomed comfort zone.

A way to incorporate a form of cross-training while running is alternate endurance runs, LSD (long, slow, distance), with intervals of speed work at the track.

Getting and staying fit is a lifestyle change for most of us. Instead of relaxing in front of the TV at the end of an exhausting day, go for a relaxing walk on the New River Trail. We are so blessed to have this trail that is so easily accessed and from so many different locations.

Our New River Trail folks work hard to maintain it for our enjoyment. If you see them out, say “thank you.”

Think of what you would enjoy doing that would keep you active. Rather than living a life of regimented exercise routines, have a life style of playing.

Have fun, play hard and stay fit!