Thank you so much for the comments on part one of this post. I knew I wasn't alone in my thinking. (You can read part one here).
So, after all the complaining in that first post, you may wonder, as Mariko does, if I indeed was out running all last week and couldn't sit down and write this post until today. Right after I took my thumbs out of the thumbholes of my running jacket.
Well, I can tell you with absolute certainty that not only did not happen, probably never will.
So. Exercise. At my age, I just didn't think I could avoid it anymore. I had to do something. For real this time. No more excuses.
But what was a wanting to accomplish? (Sorry, I'm a list maker.) My immediate thoughts were:
- improve bone density and ward off osteoperosis
- increase my metabolism (I LIKE DESSERT!)
- strengthen my heart.
- improve my balance and posture, work on my core strength (an area that I feel is very weak).
Also, knowing myself as I do, I needed to consider these points:
- exercise that requires a minimum time investment was going to be key, I am not going to invest a lot mentally (and financially) into this whole fitness thing. I know it has to be done, but I know what to expect of myself.
- the activity I choose can do any time of the year (Blair won't exercise outside in the rain).
So. I actually have Betz to thank and I don't think I've told her till now. She mentioned one day on twitter that she was doing the Jillian Michael's "30 Day Shred" DVD at home, and I decided to order a copy for myself to try out (fits in perfectly with the minimum investment part). The workouts are designed as 20 minute (actually the full workout is more like 25-ish minutes with warm up and cool down) interval training- short burst of cardio movement combined with strength training intervals.
I started doing it the same day I got it. Right in our family room, with my 2 kids watching me. And occasionally commenting (I seriously wanted to knock them both out).
I nearly died. But Jillian told me I wouldn't and I actually didn't!
I came back and did it the next day, even though I had to take Advil for muscle aches first. (25 minutes Blair... 25 minutes....). And the next day. And the next day.
I have been doing this 6 days every week since June.
I have rationalized, both in my head and out loud, that I can do most anything for 25 minutes (I mean, childbirth was HOURS!). I can work hard as hell and push myself as hard as I possibly can, and pour sweat from every pore, because I know it will be done in 25 minutes. I don't feel that I really did the work if I'm not sweating profusely. I still don't like to sweat, but it's a little gauge I use in my head.
For the first time, things are happening to my body.
People! I HAVE ABS! I CAN DO A PUSHUP WITHOUT BEING ON MY KNEES! I CAN DO A BURPEE!
I am not writing this post as a spokesperson for Jillian Michaels. In fact, since that first DVD purchase, I have researched and bought several other interval training workout videos to keep it all from getting too routine. It's more like I'm a spokesperson for interval training. (If you are wondering if interval training is for you, do a search on YouTube for "interval training" to try some workouts before committing to purchasing DVD's.) Through short, intense spurts of interval training, I have managed to strengthen my core (which must have been the weakest on Earth) and strengthen my heart. I now stand straighter and don't feel short of breath when I run upstairs. I sleep better. Without losing a pound, several weeks ago I went to Anthropologie and realized I'd lost an ENTIRE CLOTHING SIZE. I must have texted everybody I knew from that dressing room!
Coming from a non-athletic exerciser who does it simply because she has to:
Compartmentalize exercise. I will never be the sort of person who's physical activity defines them. I do not live for it. Now I know that I can get up, put on workout clothes, put in my half hour of full on exercise, then be done with it and put it aside for the day. "Putting it in its proper place" in my brain works for me. I thrive on rituals, so that's another reason why it works for me. It seems like some of you think this way too.
Don't be afraid of physical activity. As I've already said, I do not feel the least bit "sporty". (I don't even really love being outdoors.) Sometimes, it's simply enough to feel like I'm moving beyond my normal everyday activity.
Work to find that one activity that you can stick with. Everybody says this, but its really kinda true. I have attempted yoga several times in my life, thinking that it's perfect for a non-mover like myself. But I never stuck with it. The time investment for an hour-long class versus the benefits I was feeling just didn't add up for me. (Interestingly, I might actually get something more out of yoga today, at the fitness level I'm at now). After many false starts I realized that a minimum amount of time with big results were what I could do.
Fitness can benefit us non-athletes in unexpected ways. Today, I was mopping our tile bathroom floor. I walked out for a few minutes and, without remembering the floor was wet, went quickly back into the bathroom. My feet went flying out from under me and I fell on the wet tile. HARD. Now, a fall like that six months ago would have probably left me stunned, possibly hurt, and sitting down to recoup (because this exact fall has happened before- I never learn). But today, I got right back up, in fact I practically bounced up. I realized that it was a combination of my muscles supporting stronger bones that helped me avoid a potential injury. Although I may have a nasty bruise, I didn't skip a beat. That is progress, people.
It may not noticeably relieve your stress. Silly me, but I expected some zen-like peace while I was putting my body through the rigors of exercise. Like my shoulders would magically unkink, my head would be clear to tackle the day, all that. But in reality, I am still thinking about the day ahead the entire time I'm exercising, at times I've even anxious to finish because I've got to do this.. and this... and this... Another reason getting all this done in 25 minutes is so wonderful. ANYTHING can wait 25 minutes. If I am having a stressful day, I don't run for my handweights (don't even think about it, really). I'm not there yet, but I'm sticking with it. I have a feeling the stress relief part will not really show itself to me until I have to go without exercising for a period of time. Until then...
So, in conclusion.
I will still not go for a run with you. I still don't want physical exercise to cut into my time in the studio, and would probably choose making art all day over a hike in the woods (maybe...). But I'm giving myself and my body a fighting chance to be fit and strong. Having always been independent, self-sufficient, and mentally strong, I am now starting to feel that way physically as well.
I am writing all this not to boast in any way (and if you've read this far, thank you!) but to share a struggle that I think many of us go through. I don't know that I have kicked my own personal struggle completely, but I have reset something in my brain, and have a new appreciation for what my own body can do.
Thank you all so much for sharing your thoughts on this whole subject!