Sunday, March 7, 2010

Thoughts on Exercise

I enjoy feeling my body move. I love being flexible, and strong, and having endurance. To this end, I enjoy bicycling, hiking, dancing, crunches, and horseback riding. I don't enjoy running, yoga, or exercise videos. In fact, I have discovered that when I exercise for the sake of exercising, I can maintain a schedule for about 3 weeks, if I'm feeling particularly disciplined.

There have been three times in my life when I've considered myself somewhat "in shape." The first was my Junior year of High School, when I was on the tennis team and our coach decided that what we didn't have in talent, we could make up for in sweat. We ran, and ran, and ran, and ran. (This is one of the reasons I know I don't like running for exercise!) We did drills running forward, backward, and sideways. We crouched, we danced on our toes, we did suicides. I was very in shape, very tan, and not very appreciative. The second was the summer my family and I went on a cruise. I spent months before hiking in the mountains around my apartment, trying to get "swimsuit ready." It was the first time I had successfully regulated myself into being in shape. The third time was just after getting married. I spent that summer riding my bike all over my neighborhood. That was great; not only was I able to get in some of the best shape of my life, I also had fun! I still want to go out and ride my bike, and nowhere in my mind do I think that it is an arduous task to be endured. Of course, the second and third times I was also working outside with horses 30 hours a week, walking around, riding horses, and mucking out stalls, all of which contributed mightily. Still, I was able to fit comfortably in size 10 pants for the first time in my life!

I recently watched a Lifetime movie about a girl whose whole life revolved around softball and getting a sports scholarship to college. She got injured and had to change tactics. Instead, she decided to enter a documentary contest. Her documentary was about fat people. Her theory was that if fat people were more people-oriented, if they smiled more, they wouldn't be made fun of as much and their lives would be easier. She put on a fat suit and went to summer school sporting hidden cameras in her glasses, backpack, etc. She, of course, learned that there were far more issues for fat people in society than she'd thought. She also learned that there was more to fat people than just eating too much. The take-away message I got was this: be nice to fat people, control your eating, and, really, only the jocks have good bodies and can focus on other things than their weight.

I didn't like it.

I'm not a jock. I've tried to get up at 6 in the morning to go walk, or run, or... something athletic. You know what I found? When I did that, I felt great for the first few days. Then, because I'm getting up so early and losing out on sleep, everything starts to deteriorate. I'm prone to depression, and never more so than when I'm sleep deprived. I need an average of 9 hours of sleep a night to be a normal person. I can technically function on less, but I'm not the only one who suffers when I try. Plus, I don't like running anyway. Even with the best of circumstances pulling for me, I just can't see myself putting in miles and miles on my tennis shoes or the treadmill.

Yet, exercise is important to me. I can see myself putting in miles and miles and miles on my bike... if it weren't so freezing cold outside. Admittedly, that tends to dampen my enthusiasm. I also could see myself going to a dance class or club. And, of course, I love to go outside and play with animals- particularly horses. To me, these things are fun and enrich my life in more ways than taking care of my body. When I do these things, I feel like I am reaching my best self, and that I want to share and play with others. To me, these things are a part of life well-lived. I would give much-and probably will, eventually-to build these things into my life in a way that they cannot be escaped, even when determination is low.


  1. How about a dog? They need a good long walk every day, rain or shine. I get irritated when people take their dogs out to 'walk' to poop on other people's lawns, so we taught Gent that he couldn't do that. However, they still need a good walk or they get grumpy.

  2. Yeah, that's one thing I've decided... I need animals in my life for all sorts of health reasons. We actually have two dogs that Ryan's parents are taking care of right now that we may take over once we get a house. Animals are a great help for exercise, for emotional stability, for kids' responsibility... I want to have animals in my life throughout my life.

  3. Good for you! And I was half-kidding, because dogs aren't my thing. I do have pets--a betta fish and his pal the polka-dotted algae eater to keep the tank clean. That's my pet ability. Now house is full of them!

    Check out today's blog entry, small decisions...I don't want to explain it all twice but I found something that really helps.
    Love, Aunt Lynn