I’ve always been fairly active. I loved recess in elementary school, because I loved to play and be active. I was not one of those girls that hangs out at the edge of the playground gossiping about the boys. I played team ball, baseball, tether ball with them. In junior high I was in the Girls Athletic Club and in high school I went for yoga, dance and distance running.
I have natural coordination, but I’m not an athlete. I’ve never broken intermediate level at any sport. In my thirties, I took up windsurfing, skiing, and tennis. I was an avid walker and now I hike regularly. I swim and, having lived near the ocean most of my life, anything I can do in the water makes me happy. I enjoyed Jazzercise when it was in vogue. I mountain biked when I lived in Marin. You gotta be crazy to live in Marin and not mountain bike right?
The first gym I joined was actually a tennis club that had a nice weight room. I watched my weight go up and down with the level of my activity and the awareness I had or did not have about my eating. I have chased after the Twiggy model body, the toned body, the beach babe body of the surf culture, nearly all my life and I’ve never “caught” any of them. I’ve come close, but then there’s this maintenance thing and I get really, really bored with the gym and diets.
I’m old enough now to be able to look in the mirror and know that my youth is never coming back. I’m getting closer and closer to being ok with that. I joined a gym when I moved to Santa Cruz and for the first time in my life, I quit going after a few months even though I’d paid for an entire year. You might say it was the distance and time it took to get there, but the truth is I did not want to go. I didn’t like the environment: the stale air, the loud music, the distracted indifference of the other people who were not too thrilled to be there either. If I am going to spend time being active, I want it to be outdoors. So, these days, I stick with hiking in the fresh air year round, adding swimming in the summers.
What I’ve discovered is that the key to staying with it is to stop exercising and simply play.
I think we have this tendency to compartmentalize our activities, chopping up the hours of our days into blocks on the calendar that have to do with work, recreation, exercise, community, family, etc. This kind of thinking leads us to imagine that balance is a matter of rationing out those blocks to the various activities. It creates illusory borderlines between each category, especially work and play.
Balance is a dynamic. If we want to find time to do all we intend to do, I suspect we need to drop this compartmentalization process and look at weaving and synthesis. (I’ll write more on this in another entry.)
I vote we give up exercise! If we are counting laps, tracking “calories burned’ on some machine, dragging ourselves to the gym kicking and screaming, there’s something wrong here. Resistance is showing up for sure, but who’s to say the resistance is aimed at doing something that’s good for us? Maybe it’s about finding a better way; one that makes us come alive!
Hiking, biking, walking, swimming does not have to be an Olympics qualifying event. We are not “in training.” We are just letting our bodies do what they love to do: move. Take a swing dancing class, bike to work, play with your children and dogs at the beach or park, go for walks, play frisbee. Do these things alone, with someone or in a group, whatever pleases YOU.
It’s about being active and integrating activity and play into our lives. That integration will likely guarantee us much more activity than the prescribed 30 minutes at least 3 times a week. Find what it is that you love to do and become a disciple to it…that’s true discipline. Go kayaking, horseback riding, kite sailing, or grow a vegetable garden. If you think about it, this beautiful earth of ours offers ample opportunity for activity. What are we doing cooped up in gyms if (and that’s a big if) we don’t really want to be there. And if you love it…GREAT!…keep going, because you are probably at play there.
This integrative activity requires deep listening; tuning in to what it is our heart, mind, body and spirit find most nourishing and feeding them what they want. My passion for hiking is born of my heart’s desire to connect with nature, my spirit’s desire for adventure, my mind’s love of inspired musing and my body’s urge to move at whatever pace I choose in the moment. (It’s a natural way of doing intervals, the latest trend in cardio-workouts.) When all aspects: mind, body, spirit, and heart are happy, then resistance disappears and all that’s left is joy, fun and play.
This is dawdling for sure! Feeling good and in flow while getting healthy? Go figure!
(Oh and one final tip: Play makes us happy and when we are happy we eat less and what we do eat is much better for us. That’s a little preview of an upcoming installment in my dawdling series.)
Copyright (c) July 2009, Kathy J Loh, All Rights Reserved