Read an Excerpt
The Official Book of Me
A BODY IN MOTION TENDS to stay in motion. Have you learned that yet in science class? This law of physics goes for people, too! If you’re physically active—dancing, jumping rope, playing sports, even just walking to a friend’s house—your body will respond by being a lot more energetic. And the more energy you have, the more ready you’ll be to tackle all the things that come up throughout the course of your day.
Before we begin, it’s important to know that exercise is already a part of your day, probably much more than you think. You go to school, right? You go up and down the steps, right? BINGO—you’re exercising. Do you ride a bike to a friend’s house, run an errand, or walk the dog? That’s exercise. Dance in your room or with your friends? That’s exercise too. Let’s explore ways to make exercise a fun part of your everyday routine.
THE LOWDOWN ON EXERCISE
EXERCISE CAN BE DIVIDED INTO two basic categories: cardiovascular and strength training. Cardiovascular is all about getting your heart rate up. It involves breaking a sweat for thirty minutes or longer, by going for a long jog or swimming laps, for example.
Strength training is designed to build muscle and tone your body. Lifting weights is the most popular form of strength training, but it’s not the only one. Yoga is also a form of strength training.
The goal is to come up with a routine that balances both kinds of exercise—one that you really enjoy. That way you’ll have a healthy heart and good muscle tone, and you’ll be a very happy person. Exercise is an important part of feeling good in both mind and body. Once you make exercise a part of your routine, you’ll notice how your mood improves every time you do it. “Sound body, sound mind” is how fitness experts describe the benefits of exercise.
NO GYM EQUIPMENT? NO EXCUSE!
A JUMP ROPE CAN ACT as a great piece of equipment for a variety of exercises.
• Hold one end of the rope in each hand and raise your hands over your head. Bend at the waist from side to side, stretching your waist and your arms.
• Hold one end of the rope in each hand and stretch your legs in the loop, one at a time.
• Jump rope and get your aerobic exercise. Skip rope down the street and see how quickly you get out of breath. Double Dutch with friends so your arms get a workout when it’s not your turn to jump. Then you jump twice as much when it’s your turn.
RIDING A BIKE IS TERRIFIC exercise—and it’s a great mode of transportation. Please remember that a helmet is always a must! If you find long rides uncomfortable, special padded bike shorts are available in most sporting goods stores.
Quiz: Activity Meter
Some people are natural-born athletes. Others are natural-born couch potatoes. Then there are those who are in between. Which are you? Take this quiz to see which group you fall into.
1. Your idea of the perfect way to spend a sunny weekend afternoon is:
A. going to the movies with friends (1 point)
B. playing in an all-day tournament with your favorite sports team (3 points)
C. spending the day in the park (2 points)
2. If you were a car, you would be:
A. a sport utility vehicle (3 points)
B. a hybrid (2 points)
C. a convertible (1 point)
3. Your favorite thing to watch on TV is:
A. nature shows (2 points)
B. music videos (1 point)
C. professional sports (3 points)
4. During lunchtime, you:
A. head straight to chat with friends (1 point)
B. go for a long walk around the school to collect your thoughts (2 points)
C. run straight to the school yard for Double Dutch (3 points)
5. A good workout for you is:
A. riding your bike (3 points)
B. gym class (2 points)
C. jogging to the refrigerator during a commercial break (1 point)
6. When you are assigned a school project, you work best:
A. alone (1 point)
B. with one other person (2 points)
C. with the entire class (3 points)
7. Your favorite shoes are:
A. ballet flats (2 points)
B. flip-flops (1 point)
C. running sneakers (3 points)
8. While playing a board game with your family:
A. you’ll do whatever it takes to win (3 points)
B. you would be the one in charge of the snacks (1 point)
C. it doesn’t matter who wins or loses, you just want to have fun (2 points)
9. If you could drink only one thing, it would be:
A. tea (2 points)
B. soda (1 point)
C. water (3 points)
10. Nothing says vacation like:
A. a week on the beach, catching up on your favorite mags (1 point)
B. a white-water rafting adventure on the hardest rapids around (3 points)
C. a camping trip with hiking and s’mores (2 points)
If you scored . . .
YOU ARE THE MOST LAID-BACK person around. You’re serious about relaxation. Sports and sweating are not high priorities on your to-do list. Your easygoing attitude makes you fun to be around, but you need to work on your workout. Look for activities such as softball that combine sports with socializing. You may soon find yourself running around a track! Try other group and social sports like bowling and soccer.
YOU LOVE TO GET YOUR blood pumping with a fast-paced walk or a friendly game with your neighbors. Super-competitive sports just aren’t your thing. That’s okay. You get lots of exercise while still maintaining your Zen approach. Don’t be afraid to push yourself now and then by trying team sports. You’d make a great team member!
NOTHING AND NO ONE CAN slow you down. Your high energy fuels everything you do. If there’s a ball around, you want to hit it. If there’s a game going on, you want to join in. That means you are super-fit, which is great. Please don’t forget to take it easy so you don’t get hurt. Remember to stretch, cool down, and drink lots of water. And when your mom tells you to come inside from your game, listen to her!
GET IN THE GAME
THE HEALTH BENEFITS YOU GET from sports and exercise stay with you for your whole life. Would you believe muscles have memory, too? If you learn tennis at age twelve, you’ll be able to pick up that racquet again very easily at age eighteen, even if you haven’t played much in the six years in between!
There are lots of sports and activities you can try, not all of them with a team. Running and biking are solo sports. Don’t forget that dancing gets the heart pumping too. Sports you can play with a pal include tennis and Ping-Pong.
BASIC SKILLS: HOW DO YOU MEASURE UP?
DIFFERENT SPORTS CALL FOR DIFFERENT skills, but there are some basics that any physical activity requires: flexibility, balance, stamina, coordination, strength, speed, and agility.
Take this quick test to see how you rate in each of these categories. After each activity, give yourself a score of 1 to 10 (1 is the lowest and 10 the highest). The higher you score, the better you are at that activity.
Stamina: Do twenty jumping jacks. As soon as you finish, recite the Pledge of Allegiance.
Coordination: Pat your head, rub your tummy, and recite the alphabet all at the same time.
Strength: Lift your backpack filled with your school-books over your head ten times.
Flexibility: While standing, bend and touch your toes ten times.
Balance: Walk along a straight line, putting one foot in front of the other.
THE WIDE WORLD OF SPORTS
NOW THAT YOU KNOW WHAT your strengths are, explore the following options. Trying different sports not only keeps exercise interesting, but it also challenges you to use your body in different ways. So whether you love all kinds of workouts, or you’ve never found a sport you’re passionate about, check out the chart on the following pages to find an activity that is perfect for you.
Quiz: Sports Trivia
Test your sports savvy!
Which phrase best describes each sport below?
Can play one-on-one
Should wear knee pads
May end up with helmet hair
Ancient form of exercise
Prone to hip injuries
Prepares you for sailing
Five thousand years old
Cross-country is one kind
ON YOUR MARK, GET SET—WAIT A MINUTE
WHAT A LOT OF US forget to do before we start an activity or sport is warm up properly—or warm up at all! It’s important to get blood flowing to those muscles of yours before you start to exercise. Do the activity you’re warming up for, but really slowly to get your muscles ready. For example, if you’re going to dance, begin by stretching your legs and arms and dancing in slow motion. Or walk for five minutes before you start jogging.
A light warm-up loosens your joints and makes you more agile for whatever you’re going to do. It also gives you time to get mentally prepared for the physical challenge—getting “pumped up,” as some athletes call it.
Don’t forget to stretch after you exercise too. This “cool-down” will help you to enjoy the rest of the day injury free.
HOW EFFICIENTLY ARE YOU EXERCISING? Pro athletes use something called “target heart rate” to measure their fitness level during exercise. You can spend a lot of money on a monitor to track your heart rate, but there’s an easier way to figure out how hard you’re working, and it doesn’t cost a thing. It’s called finding your zone. Do your favorite activity at increasing levels of intensity to get a sense of what each feels like. Normally, you’ll want to stay within the moderate to aerobic zones.
Warm-up Zone: This means you are able to sing a song while you exercise.
Moderate Zone: You can talk easily while you exercise.
Aerobic Zone: It gets harder to talk while you exercise.
Anaerobic Zone: You are no longer able to talk while you exercise.
Redline Zone: Time to stop when you’re gasping for air.
It’s Cool to Sweat!
SWEATING SOMETIMES GETS A BAD reputation, but it’s the most natural thing in the world. In fact, sweat is the body’s natural cooling system. When your body gets hotter than the normal 98.6 degrees, the part of the brain that controls temperature responds by telling your body’s sweat glands to release some moisture through tiny openings in the skin, called pores. Once the sweat hits the air it evaporates, and that cools down your body. This is why it’s so important to drink a lot of water when you exercise. You need to replace the fluids that are lost when your body sweats.
NO PAIN, NO GAIN?
DON’T LIKE SPORTS, BUT WANT to exercise? Here are some activities that’ll help whip you into shape. Look at this list and list them in order on a piece of paper, favorites first.
Dancing around your room
Watering the garden
Swinging on a swing
Walking with the dog or playing with pets
Washing the car (a good way to earn some extra money, too!)
To help you get going, first pick a start date. Then write down the dates you plan to start your top three activities and stick to making daily exercise a fun part of your routine.
WALK THIS WAY, PLEASE
WALKING IS ONE OF THE oldest and best forms of exercise. There are tons of benefits:
1. You can do it anywhere and with anyone—including in the mall with friends!
2. Walking doesn’t require a lot of expensive equipment beyond a good pair of sneakers.
3. Walking is a low-impact activity, so it doesn’t usually cause injury.
4. Walking may not seem as intense as other activities, but it’s a great way to get your heart pumping.
Here are a few tips for making the most of this popular activity:
• Chin up: Just like models on the catwalk, it’s important to maintain proper posture when you’re walking for exercise. Try to hold your head erect (but don’t forget to look down to see what’s in front of you on the ground), and keep your back and stomach as flat as possible. Swing your arms, too. This helps create a faster heartbeat, doubling the cardiovascular benefit. “Cardio” refers to your heart and “vascular” to your blood vessels.
• Multitask: While you’re walking is a great time to get things done. You can return a call to a gal pal or listen to a podcast. If you walk with a friend, you can quiz each other for an upcoming test.
• Make a playlist: Listening to music makes the time fly. Mix it up, using fast dance tunes and slower music for taking a breather. Walk around a track or through a very well-traveled or well-lit park if you can. It’s safer than the street, where there’s traffic.
GOOD POSTURE ALL DAY
GOOD POSTURE IS IMPORTANT throughout the day, especially when you’re sitting in school and at home. You use computers at school to work on projects. When you get back home, you surf the Internet and do your homework on your laptop. Then you spend hours IMing the latest news with friends. In the car, you keep up with countless texts. That’s a lot of time typing and being hunched over! Technology can cause a strain on your body, but it doesn’t have to if you maintain the correct position. Try these suggestions:
• Peak Position: Ideally, you should sit in a good chair with back support when at the computer. Avoid slumping forward and crossing your legs for long periods of time. Sit with the screen at eye level to keep from craning your neck.
• Hold It: Switch the hand using the mouse once in a while. Type or move the mouse with straight, loose wrists.
• Time Limit: Look away from the screen every ten minutes or so and take a full break by standing up every thirty minutes or so. Stretch, run in place, or take a quick drink of water. When you come back, you’ll be amazed how much faster you can read or write.
DON’T LET GERMS MAKE YOU SICK
GYM CLASS WILL HELP KEEP you healthy, but not if you pick up a cold while you’re working out. Germs can be transmitted through sweat, so it’s important to take a few extra precautions before you pick up those dumbbells.
• Wash your hands before and after you work out. While in gym class, don’t put your fingers near your eyes, nose, or mouth, the most vulnerable parts of your body in terms of germs.
• Have someone with clean hands help you if you get a cut. Clean the cut with an antibiotic ointment and use a Band-Aid.
• Don’t share gym clothes, towels, or any other personal items with friends, since bacteria can live on fabric for almost three months!
• Use soap from dispensers, not bars, when showering after a workout. If your school gym doesn’t offer them, bring your own soap in a pump bottle.
THERE’S NO DOUBT ABOUT IT: Exercise can make you sweaty and dirty, especially if you play an outdoor team sport like soccer or field hockey. It’s not possible to shower every time you break a sweat, but you at least want to wash your hands after gym or practice is over or when you come in from outside. Dirty hands transmit colds, the flu, and other bugs. Here’s how to go about a serious hand wash:
1. Wet your hands under warm water and lather them up with soap.
2. Scrub your hands and wrists for twenty seconds (that’s about as long as it takes to sing the “Happy Birthday” song).
3. Rinse well.
4. Dry off with a paper towel and use the same towel to turn off the faucet and open the door. Then toss the towel in the trash.
LIFE’S A GYM
YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE in a gym or a health club to exercise. There are plenty of everyday items around your house that can be used with exercises. Here are just a few examples.
• Water bottles: Use plastic water bottles instead of weights. Start out with half-liter bottles in each hand and curl them toward your shoulders to work on your biceps. Move up to one-liter bottles as you get stronger.
• Bathrobe belt: A cloth belt makes the perfect stretching band. Sit on the floor with one leg out and the other bent against the ground. Put the belt around the foot that’s outstretched and hold on to the ends with your hands to stretch your hamstrings. The farther down you hold the belt, the more stretch you’ll get.
• Staircase: This is the original Stairmaster! There’s no better way to get a cardiovascular workout and strengthen your butt and thigh muscles than to run up and down the stairs.
SPORTS AND EXERCISE ARE GREAT for you, and it’s important to make them a regular part of your life. Whether you’re a natural athlete or not, getting the blood pumping and working those muscles will make your body stronger and your soul soar.