Back to School for Grown-ups
Photography by: Dominick Guillemot
If you loved: RECESS
Now try: UPDATING YOUR FITNESS ROUTINE
From four square to a simple game of tag, recess was always full of variety. As an adult, changing up your workout can feel like a hassle or risk, but it pays to make the effort to do it. “New routines exercise different muscle groups and help prevent repetitive strain injuries from doing the same exercise over and over,” says Jeffrey Rossman, Ph.D., director of Life Management at Canyon Ranch in Lenox, Mass. He says even small changes yield big results: For instance, adding just 10 minutes to your cardio routine lets you burn an extra 135 calories. “Do that every day for a year and you’ll lose 13 pounds.”
According to Jill Harris, owner of Informed Body, a Pilates studio in San Francisco, when you’re physically challenged with a new routine, you also think about moving your body in a new way—from staying intently focused on each movement to holding your posture differently. The mental perks are pretty great, too. For one, you get a rush of accomplish ment after pushing through a new challenge. Fresh activities also keep your brain sharp, says Rossman, stimulating the brain to create new neural networks, especially when you’re forced to be fast on your feet (think tennis, martial arts or dancing).
If you start exercising with other people, the rewards are even greater. In groups, we share and receive encouragement, feel part of a community and experience accountability. “Working out with others also helps us transform exercise into play, which reminds us of the joy we had running, jumping or playing with our friends before we were told it was ‘exercise,’ ” says Rossman. Fitness disguised as play is effective, too: An hour of swimming and playing pool games is no different than splitting time between light weights and moderate cardio. Prefer to boogie? Thirty minutes of dancing burns up to 400 calories.
If you loved: BUYING NEW BINDERS, FOLDERS, CRAYONS, PENCIL CASES …
Now try: ORGANIZING YOUR DESK
Remember how great it felt to get a new Trapper Keeper and start the school year with a tidy cubby? Sorting through a messy desk is a great fall ritual. Ask yourself three questions: Do I love it? Do I need it? Do I use it? “An organized and efficient space helps you have a clear head,” says Deanna Radaj, owner and integrative lifestyle design consultant with Bante Design LLC in Franklin, Wis. “It’s essential to being efficient and feeling inspired.”
Sarah Welch, a Tarrytown, N.Y.-based organization expert and co-author of Pretty Neat (Seal Press), says to start organizing with an inbox tray and/or letter or file holder with three compartments for urgent, toss and file-away mandates: “If you’re prone to pileup, the fewer choices you have to make about where paper should go, the more likely you are to file it away.” Next, she suggests a mediumsized station for desk accessories with multiple compartments to hold scissors, paper clips, pens, USB flash drives and the like. If you use folders, Radaj suggests matching colors to feng shui principles. For instance, purple folders can hold bills, because the color means wealth and abundance; yellow, which represents well-being, can store health insurance info. Strive to be eco-friendly—print as little as possible, and choose recycled and natural materials like felt, reclaimed wood and steel for accessories.
Best rule of thumb? Every item on your desk should have a job. “The more noise, the harder it is to concentrate on your work,” says Welch. So if you collect mugs, don’t display them; choose one to hold pens. Also opt for functional esthetics: a pretty paperweight, or a plant to improve air quality, especially near a server, fax machine, inkjet printer or copier. An English Ivy or spider plant near your computer will reduce the air’s positively charged ions, Radaj says.
If you loved: NEW TEACHERS, SUBJECTS AND OPPORTUNITIES TO EARN A GOLD STAR
Now try: SETTING GOALS AND LEARNING SOMETHING NEW
One of the reasons you adored scoring a smiley face on a math test as a kid isn’t so different than why you’re inclined to take a cooking or music class now: Both reinforce how good it feels to set and achieve goals. Amy Osmond Cook, Ph.D., contributing author and editor of Full Bloom: Cultivating Success (Sourced Media Books), says the most compelling reasons to try your hand at something new are increasing stimulation, growing self-esteem and finding activities that improve our quality of life.
So which course is right for you? Lynn Robinson, life coach and author of Listen: Trusting Your Inner Voice in Times of Crisis (GPP Life), recommends listening to your gut when deciding whether to sign up for accounting or art history. “One way intuition communicates is through enthusiasm,” she says—so if a course description gives you butterflies, take a cue from your younger self. “Kids have clearer ideas about what makes them happy—they’re willing to try new things and take risks without too much thought,” says Robinson. While she suggests taking classes that expose you to new ideas and people, if you’re out to retain info, don’t simply audit the class: A 2011 Purdue University study found that taking a test is vital to learning.
If you’re into setting goals outside the classroom, begin by taking small steps. “Starting with the basics allows us to make a big, new goal more manageable and keeps us from feeling overwhelmed,” says Robinson. Next, write down your goals, post them in a high-traffic area where you’ll see them, and discuss them with people who will hold you accountable. Finally, don’t be afraid to put a little blood, sweat and tears into getting to your end-goal. Says Robinson, “Tell yourself daily that sacrifice means giving up something you want for something you want more.”