I had a conversation this morning with my friend Amanda. She and I, both of the same age and from the same hometown, are staring down the idea of being 40 years old in the not-too-distant future. We both have body issues, and have both been caught up in the pursuit of acceptance and belonging based solely on how our bodies are formed; the more beautiful we are, the more people will want to get to know us. Over the past year or so, though, we’ve both changed our minds. Thankfully.
As I’ve shared before, I’ve put on some weight over the last year due to the conflagration of having a sit-down job and giving up a workout regime that had me lifting and running whenever possible. Instead of spending my time chasing down what I think my body should look like, I’ve opted to spend more of my downtime getting to know Ray, and going on camping and hiking adventures with him that have brought me a true sense of peace and joy. I’ve let go of the anxiety that drove me to the gym and out on the pavement to run in the first place, and in its place I have allowed myself to simply enjoy the present-tense of my life. Of course, this has softened my body. I’ve had fits and starts about getting back to my original goals, and pushing myself to stick to a plan that has me at the gym three times a week, with running added in there too. I’ve had moments, especially when Ray was overseas, when I could feel myself falling back into that pattern as a means of dealing with my anxiety and worries, but each time I started, it was a mixed bag of emotions – good and bad. Something had changed, and something wasn’t right about every time I’d started working out again, which is why I simply dropped the plan again and again.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve been mulling over what I should do. It’s clear, I need to keep exercise in my life, but it has to have a different reason for being part of my day-to-day existence. I can’t exercise as a way to beat back anxiety demons, and then drop it once those demons are placated. I need to do something sustainable, something that fits into my life, and is simple, and seemingly effortless. One of the senior drivers I met the other week said something that hit home. She looked me square in the face and said, “Get up out of that seat as much as you can. Do not sit still for too long.” I’ve taken that to heart.
One of the most basic movements that I am able to do is take a walk. I’ve always been a walker, whether walking all the way to my grandmother’s house as a kid along a woody riverside path, to walking five miles to work simply because I was up before the buses were running. I have always prided myself on being able to set my mind to right simply by putting one foot in front of the other and just walking. It was in that spirit that this week, I set a project for myself. My work schedule is such that I don’t go to work until 1p all week long, and I’m not out so late that can’t get up at a decent, reasonable time in the morning. I took the opportunity to set a small goal for myself: go for a walk every morning this week, and just see how I feel come Saturday.
Today, Wednesday, is day three of this little project. Each morning, I’ve walked about two miles through my neighborhood, at a steady pace. There’s a little cafe along my route which provides a little motivation in a cup, and in my ears, I have the chance to catch up on podcasts and the news. All in all, by the time I’m done, there’s a little glow of perspiration on my body, and I feel like I’ve started my day off on the right foot. So far, this is a very doable, very manageable, very achievable goal of mine. So far, it feels good.
I told this to Amanda this morning, and she said something that struck a chord. She said her approach to exercise has changed too. She’s decided that exercise is more about health rather than seeking to achieve model status. This, for her, has added back the fun-factor when she goes to the gym, and when she can’t make it, she says she doesn’t go crazy with guilt and remorse. I heartily agree with her.
I’m done feeling bad for not hitting the gym. I’m done with beating myself up every time I take off my shirt. I’m done with comparing myself to the hundreds of beautiful men I see daily, both online and in real life. In the end, just taking a walk seems to be just what I need to do. Working out is not an act of desperation any longer. It’s me, being human, doing something at human-scale. It’s not CrossFit or trying to prove to the world around me that I’m worthy of it’s approval. It’s not military-grade intense. Laying this foundation – by shifting my approach, along with setting small, fully-attainable goals, I think I’ve hit a button that suits me. Finally.