The following column by Foundation president Shari Landry was printed in the Culpeper Times on November 15, 2018. This is the second installment in a new column Shari is contributing to the Times each month.

Recently six of my girlfriends visited for the weekend.  It was their first time in Culpeper and they loved it! We enjoyed eating and shopping on Davis Street as well as visiting the local wineries and breweries.  It was one of those weekends that just fills your soul.

As you might imagine – with seven women who’ve known each other for decades – there was nonstop chatter and we covered a lot of ground…the adventures of newly adult kids, grandkids, aging parents, relationships and, a frequent topic of conversation, our health.

That’s become a hot topic for us over the past several years.  From sharing stories of our aches and pains to comparing the results of blood tests and everything in between.   Gone are the days when we felt invincible, throwing caution to the wind and assuming we would just naturally live long and active lives.  Now we spend a lot of time talking about how to increase our odds of living longer with our minds intact and bodies capable of doing the things we like to do.

Like my friends, I take my health more seriously these days.  I only wish I had paid this much attention to caring for my mind and body when I was younger!  And I wish I could convince my kids to do the same but they are still wearing the invincibility cloak.

While I have the good fortune to work with positive, enthusiastic and knowledgeable health and fitness professionals, their expertise is available to anyone in the community.  With their help, I’m making small but meaningful lifestyle changes. Our nutritionist has convinced me to be more thoughtful about what I eat; like limiting the sugar in my diet, eating more whole foods and trying to get more greens on my plate.  I’m challenging myself to eat foods with only ingredients I completely recognize. It’s a start!

And then there is exercise.  I have never been a real fan of exercise.  I prefer to think about it rather than actually do it.  However, for the past several months I’ve been making exercise a priority.  I’ve been a relatively frequent visitor at both of our locations and have tried all kinds of classes to see what works best for me.  I’ve run laps in the pool, done yoga and played pickleball. I’ve exercised to country music and attempted a “hot hula” class (hilarious!).  I’ve pushed a weighted sled, jumped on tires and lifted dumbbells, barbells, slam balls and more. I’ve tripped over my own feet, tripped over other people’s feet, laughed, cursed and whined.

And guess what?  I’ve started having fun with exercise AND it’s making a difference.  My clothes fit better, my cholesterol is lower, my back aches less frequently and I am stronger.  On top of that, I’ve met wonderful people who are in the same boat. We aren’t training for a marathon or looking to show off a “six pack,” we’re just doing our best to live healthy, active lives.

I encourage you to make a small change or two that will improve your health.  Maybe just by taking a walk around the neighborhood, choosing water instead of soda or joining me for an exercise class.  I promise that there will be laughter involved, and that’s good for your health too!