Monday, December 28, 2009
Why I get off the couch
This morning, as I enjoyed the first cross-country skiing of the season, I pondered why I exercise, especially in weather I would have at one time in my life thought inclement (as opposed to my current belief, which was so aptly stated by a Waldorf teacher, that there's no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing).
I'm the first to admit that I'm not the most athletic person in the world. I'm a very slow and uncoordinated skier. I've recently taken up trail running, and I am even slower at that. I'm a decent cyclist, but still not that fast compared to serious cyclists. I'm actually pretty good at yoga, but I don't think yoga is supposed to be a competitive thing! Recently I've been taking spinning and BodyPump classes, and much to my surprise, I particularly love BodyPump.
My experience with it exemplifies my experience with exercise overall. I started doing it for health-related reasons, specifically to strengthen my upper body after my whiplash injury in March. I hated it for a good month. I can remember getting in the car with T. after one class and just swearing a blue streak. I was feeling incompetent and frustrated; I could only do the exercise with an unloaded bar. After I got the hang of it and finally started to see improvement, I began to love it. Today, 5 months later, I'm one of the stronger women in the class. (You'll allow me to gloat just a bit, won't you, given the fact that I really will never win an athletic contest of any kind?)
Anyway, that’s what usually happens. I take up some form of exercise because I know it’s good for me, I hate it for quite a while because it never comes naturally to me, and then I start to notice the changes in my mind, body, and mood, and I begin to love it.
I love feeling strong, being able to open the jars that are stuck, carrying a heavy bag of potting soil, or being the only woman at work able to change the big water cooler tank. And exercise always improves my mood and clears my mind. A couple of days ago I was in an unusually foul mood brought on by a series of nights of interrupted sleep by things like barking dogs, playful cats, late-night teenagers, and a coughing sleep companion. After a couple of hours exercising, I was a new person and actually fit for human company. Exercise gives me the space to re-gain perspective about what is really important in life.
As for going out in inclement weather, truly, if you are dressed for it, there is beauty in all types of weather. (However, the gym membership is still good for those days when there isn’t enough time or hours of daylight to get outside.) It still doesn’t come easily though; I can feel how easy it would be to remain sedentary. Many days I would be just as happy to curl up on the couch with a good book or knitting project and a cat in my lap. But, usually after some encouragement from T. (who is athletic), I get off the couch and out into the weather.
And I’m always glad that I did. In fact, I recently ordered studded snow tires for my bike. Not because I really love the idea of biking in the snow--although once I get out there, I know I will love it. But more because I like the idea of getting somewhere on the strength of my own body and will, and I really miss that in the winter.
And besides, would you look at that picture at the top of this post? Even though it’s a cell phone picture, surely you can see the beauty of being the first on the trail, with the snow still hanging on the tree limbs, the quiet of the woods, the whistling of the blue jays.
I wouldn’t have been able to see that from the couch.