As a child, I exercised in fits and spurts. A chubby girl, I was clumsy when I played sports. Pursuits of the mind took precedence over those of the body; often my nose was buried in a book.
As time passed, I exercised to be “healthy” – which meant trying to counteract my sluggish metabolism. Eventually, to spend time with my partner and friends, I learned new skills, such as cross-country skiing, backpacking, competing in sprint triathlons and running 5K and 10 K races. I even ran two half marathons. Despite all of this, I did not consider myself to be “athletic.” I felt that my activity was nothing special. Anyone could do it if they had enough determination.
As I got older, I began to enjoy moving my body for the sake of sport itself. I needed to sweat and feel my muscles stretch, heart pump, and adrenaline course through my veins. I began “acquiring” sports: swimming, kayaking, paddle boarding, cross country skiing, hiking, biking and yoga. I collected gear for each of these activities. Activity in nature became a core value for me and my family, as my husband and I deliberately took our kids hiking and camping to indoctrinate them into the outdoors.
Finally, I reached the point where I considered myself “athletic.” I savored the moment when my husband called me “intrepid” after we skied through a forest. I felt flattered and proud when a cyclist friend called me “badass.” That was who I had hoped to be. Anything but the awkward girl picked last for teams.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, my anxiety skyrocketed and I felt a strong need to be in motion. Stillness means sitting with my fears and worries. My yoga mat became as an oasis where I breathe and flow. Trail-running in the woods allows my thoughts to pass through me rather than grip my skin. When I swim across the lake I am gloriously alone with the puffy clouds and deep blue sky above and the murkiness below. Gliding through the water in my kayak, I leave my responsibilities back on land. Cycling on winding roads and rolling hills lets me outpace those tracking me down because they need me or want a piece of me which I do not have to give.
In the gym or in the great outdoors, I can feed my soul. For me, not exercising is not an option.
Newton Center, Massachusetts
3 thoughts on “Moving Because My Life Depends on It”
For me and my kids movement, and outdoors, are a need we have in our bones. But many Americans have not grown up with that need. They are addicted to the car. It is a national tragedy in many levels.
Wonderful article, Pam, I can easily relate.
The need for exercise serves many functions – health of body as you mention and, of course, health of mind or the ability to free your mind at times when exercising. It’s great that you are carving out your time to separate work from other parts of your life.
One thing you do not mention, however, is the joy of watching sports of TV. With numerous sports on different stations at the same time, one gets the excellent opportunity to improve one’s motor skills. Perhaps you can work on that! 🙂