More than two years ago, we were looking for a place for Jake to take swimming lessons. Somebody recommended Lifetime. So we went to the one in Romeoville with the intention to sign him up, but soon found out that all classes were open to members only. Needless to say, we became members. Since it wouldn’t make sense to pay a hefty monthly membership fee just for Jake’s weekly half-an-hour lesson, we started a routine of heading to Lifetime after dinner for a workout session. It turned out to be one of the best things that had ever happened to me.

Throughout my school years, I sucked at two subjects: physics and physical education (funny they sound so much alike). I could barely pass P.E. because I didn’t run fast enough, couldn’t jump high or far and had no arm strength. I was just awkward and clumsy. So I never liked any type of physical activities because I wasn’t built for that.

The first time I got up to the second floor of Lifetime, I looked suspiciously at all the equipment and the people sweating at them. Can I really do that, seriously? I could run on a treadmill, we had one at home. And then I tried a few things that looked easy and embarrassment-proof. Not too bad. My legs wobbled when I climbed down the stairs after my first official workout.

Joe and I were committed and went five or six times a week for a couple of months. Then he began to have back pain due to a herniated disc. So Joe dropped out but I kept at it. The running, lifting and sweating have been doing amazing things for me. I find myself in a happy mood after a good workout. The book “The Science of Happiness” by Stefan Klein provides scientific reasons for this phenomenon. Happiness is linked to one’s body. When you feel good, your blood circulation improves, skin temperature rises ever so slightly and your shoulder and neck muscles relax. The body sends the messages to the brain which in turn releases serotonin that puts you in an uplifting and positive mood. On the other hand, a lower level of serotonin may influence mood in a way that leads to depression. So it’s important that you take care of your body.

With the backing of scientific evidence and personal experience, I’ve continued with the workout routine religiously, only allowing myself to take one day off every week.

I no longer wake up with a stiff neck or any back pain. After almost a year of persistent workout, my sleeping pattern has changed for the better. I had suffered from sleeping disorder since college. It typically took me a very long time to fall asleep. At least once a week, I just couldn’t sleep at all. For someone who doesn’t need much sleep (four to five hours a night usually suffices), I still hated those long nights when I tossed, turned and switched from room to room trying to go to asleep. Now I am able to enter the dreamland much more easily (but still not as easily as Joe since he can fall asleep in the middle of a sentence), which allows me to sleep more and better. It’s a wonderful feeling when I wake up in the morning fully charged and ready to tackle anything that comes my way.

The transformation of the physical body is equally encouraging. Looking in the mirror, I’ve noticed the tightened muscles and toned arms and legs, which offers a general sense of wellbeing and attractiveness. Every once in a while, I’d get a text message from my dear Joe that says “You are beautiful!” I take it as a huge compliment and expression of love after 25 years of marriage and 6 years of courtship.

People ask me “Are there days that you just don’t want to exercise?” To be honest, I got a little bored a year and half into the routine. But then I switched to different equipment and joined a couple of group fitness lessons. The variety did the trick and got me motivated all over again. Many of my friends believe that they can do just as well by exercising alone at home. I tried that too but it didn’t work. I got on the treadmill maybe a dozen times a year. There are always dishes to wash, laundries to fold and things to do and you say to yourself “Oh, I’m too tired today. I’ll get back on track tomorrow.” The atmosphere at Lifetime is stimulating and sustaining. You see the same faces week after week in the group lessons and you say ‘hi’ to each other on the floor. There is a sense of belonging and that we are in this together. So you keep going.

As my body is hard at work, my brain also becomes more creative and productive. I’ve got some of my best writing topics and clarity on what I really want to say while pounding the treadmill. I don’t put anything in my ears in the gym. Instead I just let my mind take me to wherever it wants to go. So these days I look forward to my daily workout when my brain and body work together in their optimal mode. Who can resist a magical encounter like that?

As far as dieting, I eat whatever I want in small portions, mainly rice, vegetable, tofu, meat, fish and a few pieces of chocolate daily. Like my grandma, I don’t eat between meals and drink nothing but water. It seems to help me stay in good shape as well.

So if you haven’t adopted a healthy living style, this is the time for planning and more importantly putting it into action. Make this year’s New Year resolution stick and you’ll find yourself happier and healthier in 2013.