I’ve been thinking about you guys all day long. It’s just after 2:00 p.m., and after a long morning of meditation, planning, and mindful movement, I’m itching to connect with you!
So here’s what I’ve been thinking: The best part of having my own blog is that I can say and do what I want with it. This might not seem like a revelation to you, but to me it’s liberating. For what feels like a lifetime, people have commented on what I say and what I do. I’ve heard opinions and advice galore (including some unsolicited feedback earlier this week from someone I’d just met)…and historically I’ve cared. Something magical happens in your 40s…well, it has for me. I don’t give a sh*t what other people have to say about my blog. Like it? Great, read it. Don’t like it? Great, don’t read it. And with that I’m going to talk about what I feel like talking about today.
I’ve been studying health and wellness since I was a child. What started with fitness magazines in the 80s and health textbooks in the 90s has morphed into a near obsession with health and wellbeing. I say a “near obsession” because my interest doesn’t have the fervor that an obsession does; it’s tempered with a grounding in reality and a balanced perspective that’s been cultivated over the years through the practice of yoga and mindfulness. So I’m passionate rather than obsessed. Good, I found the “appropriate” word that fits for me. Anyway.
HEY HEY HEY! WHO LOVES EXERCISE?
I’m expecting zero hands to go up, few heads to nod, and about one person out of a million to stand up, flail around with arms up high and scream, “ME! ME! ME!”
In truth, I’m the one who’s flailing and screaming ME! I LOVE EXERCISE!
But I didn’t always … I was SUPER awkward in my body as a kid. I was uncoordinated, lacked proprioception, and couldn’t quite figure out team sports. Kick ball isn’t about getting a ball to the face? Dodgeball isn’t about getting hit in the back with a ball? Could’ve fooled me. I had more balls in my face than … well, a porn star. So my early exposure to athletics was not favorable. And then I tried playing soccer. No one told me all we’d do for 45 minutes is run. WHO THE F WANTS TO DO THAT?!
I was an athlete stuck in a fat kid’s body and didn’t know it. I kept studying fitness, health, workouts, and the like, and I did the typical cycle of get fit / get fat / get fit / get fat / get fit / get fat for years. Until 2006, when I was introduced to the magic of yoga asana.
Back then I had a bestie who was my personal trainer, and he dropped wisdom on me like, “If you want to look like it then eat it.” So if you want to look doughy, eat some bread. You wanna be soft and creamy, get thee to the ice cream cooler. Wanna be lean and [OMG THE WIND IS INSANE RIGHT NOW] long? Eat some celery. Simple shit that helped me think about what I was putting into my body. I trusted him, and Mr. Trainer said, “Your core is weak. Try yoga.”
I’d tried yoga years before. It was hard; I spent 45 of the 90 minutes in child’s pose. So I never went back. (Kinda my thoughts on running and soccer, as alluded to above.) BUT THEN THE DUDE I TRUSTED TOLD ME TO TRY YOGA. And so I did. And I fell in love. Went back to the original site of the forever child’s pose and couldn’t be stopped.
I traveled for work at the time, so I’d take my trusty yoga DVD with me (thank you Beryl Bender Birch) and play it on my laptop as I did the practice in my hotel room. Sometimes I’d find a yoga studio nearby, like the Arkansas Yoga Center or Charlotte Yoga but mostly I’d practice with Beryl and her students on my screen. When I returned home, I went back to the studio and asked, “Can I do this every day and skip the gym?” The teacher chuckled and informed me that YES, the practice was meant to be done daily. I FOUND A SOLUTION TO MY GYM PROBLEM! (I hated the gym at the time, so I was relieved to find something I could do every day that would help me stay fit.)
I can’t say I haven’t fluctuated in weight at all in the last 15 years, but I can tell you the fluctuations have been minimal. There was the time I had running-induced anemia and lost 15 pounds… I was eating meatballs and cheesecake galore and dropping weight like I was on a serious diet. Trust. I was disturbed on the one hand and happily eating whatever I wanted on the other. But once the anemia was resolved, my weight went back to normal. There was the time I briefly took hormones because I wasn’t listening to myself (I knew it was something else but listened to my doctor instead of demanding that she listen to me). I gained weight - all of it fat - despite eating healthily and working out … Those hormones will never enter my body again. And by the way, that weight was a BITCH to get rid of. We’re talking 10-15 pounds. It’s not a LOT, but I’m slender so I know it’s there.
Where am I going with this? Oh right. I love exercise.
If I yammered on about the last 15 years or so, we’d be here forever…you’d lose interest…and my laptop battery would give out before year one. Let’s just tell the short story, shall we?
So I fell in love with movement; first because of yoga, later because of running, and after that because of health. I did only yoga asana and walking for nearly 10 years. I met my (now) husband in 2013, and we started running together in 2014. I went from 11-minute miles and 5ks to finishing the Disney Marathon in 2016. When I got injured (not from marathon training…this came in late 2017) I learned to love biking, the elliptical, rowing, and weight training. I learned about biomechanics and physical therapy. I got to experience a variety of massage techniques. And I got to experience the injury / surgery / recovery cycle a couple of times.
Despite some moderate setbacks, I remained in love with exercise. It made me sane. It made me happy. It made me feel like me. When my foot was in a boot for six weeks, I was able to ride the bike and modify my yoga practice so I could keep feeling the freedom of movement. When my other foot was in a boot for 10 weeks, I rode the bike, swam, and modified my yoga practice again.
Through all of that, I fell in love more and more with movement. The times I feel most like me are the times I’m actively moving around - whether that’s walking through the woods or trying some HIIT + Pilates class. By the way, try this if you’re interested in an awesome HIIT + Pilates workout. So this woman who started as an awkward, uncomfortable girl has turned into an advocate for fitness and health.
I still don’t love the gym or the treadmill. I’d rather be outside moving around any day… But I’ve found that doing my cross-training only helps my running, my true love. Yoga asana supports me in building strength and balancing that with flexibility. Lifting weights helps me build strength and keep my metabolism humming along. (Read: lifting weights is anti-aging, or at least it helps slow the appearance of that shit down.)
A word about yoga: To be clear, yoga is an 8-limbed path to realization of your Spiritual nature. Others might say that it’s a path to union with God. Others would tell you that yoga means the mind chatter has ceased and your real Self emerges. Whatever the case, we in the west tend to think of “yoga” as “yoga asana,” which is ONE of the 8 limbs. The real practice of yoga is what happens when step off the mat. Are we mindful? Are we compassionate? Are we breathing deeply? Are we responding intelligently to whatever arises? That’s yoga. So when I say “yoga” it’s distinct from “yoga asana” or “yoga on the mat.” OK then.
What brings it all together for me is joy. I ENJOY being active. I love that I can set out on a hike and ascend and descend with relative ease. That wasn’t the case for me 25 years ago (WHEN I WAS A TEENAGER). I love that I can climb 4 flights of stairs and breathe freely. I love that when I open my closet and pick up a pair of pants I know they’re going to fit. I love that when I want to run to see a new city I can do that. I love that running a half marathon (once I'm distance training again) is just something I do in the morning … and then spend the rest of the day with my loved ones. I love the feeling of empowerment and joy when the sun shines on my skin. I love the progress I see when I grow in my ability to pick things up and put things down. That helps a lot when you live in an apartment and have 10 bags of groceries to bring in. I’m also “lazy,” so one trip is my goal.
Special thanks to yoga asana for giving me my body back. Thanks to my body for giving my spirit a home to live in. Thanks be to God for creating this magnificent body I have. It’s not the shape of my body that makes it so magnificent; it’s the wonder of how she moves, breathes, restores, and loves that is so magical.
That’s about all from me today. If you don’t love exercise, I get it. I’ve been there. But if you want to love it because something inside of you tells you too…know that now is a good time to start.