Monday, March 8, 2010

Exercise - Who is it for?

I've got some issues when it comes to exercise and was wondering how other people feel and/or think about exercise. I can't possibly be the only person who mentally tallies the number of times in a week that they exercise, right? Don't you all keep track of how many workouts you manage to get in each week? On the small chance that you don't, let me give you a peek into my head and share my sickness, I mean, method.

An exercise week begins, like a work week, on a Monday. The goal of every fresh, new week is 5 days with exercise. I attempt to achieve a balance between cardio work, weights and yoga, mixing it up with indoor and outdoor exercise. I enjoy a mix of group and solitary exercise although I think I gravitate toward a more moderate pace when I work out alone. I pretty much have the group exercise schedules at 2 YMCA locations committed to memory and bounce between locations depending upon my other responsibilities. Last week was pretty ideal with a day of jogging, 2 1/2 hours of x-country skiing, a spinning class and 2 yoga classes. Despite that amount of time devoted to working out, I still felt as if I could have used another day for weights, but, I console myself with the fact that I do the best I can.

Out of all the activities I participate in, the one I most love is x-country skiing, with cycling a close second. I've been x-country skiing as much as possible these past few weeks -it has been a disappointing year for x-country skiing with a definite lack of snow. Usually Cassidy (our black lab) and I jump in the car and are on the golf course in 10 minutes, however, this winter we've only skied locally once. Other than that, I have driven to Pine Ridge in Poestenkill to get my fix. Last week while I was there, skiing solo through an amazing wonderland of blue skies, swaying evergreen trees and crisp snow, I considered what I was really exercising - was it my body or my mind?

When you exercise is it with thoughtful or thoughtless exertion? During a yoga class, which is harder - focusing on a physical pose or letting go of your thoughts? I know that when I ski, as my arms and legs glide, my mind and thoughts flit and roam unrestrained. My imagination is released and allowed to wander at its own pace and I feel my creative spirit is flexing.

If you speak to anyone who exercises regularly, I guarantee you, they will say that physical activity is as important for emotional and mental health as it is for physical well being. Do you exercise regularly? If so, is it about fitting into your favorite jeans or releasing endorphins? Exercise - who or what is it for?


  1. I've been resistant to exercise my whole life. I do it from time to time, there's a huge elliptical in my living room so it's a reminder but many times I just ignore it. I don't like being 20 pounds overweight but I have this mental block against exercise. I hate it. I'd much rather go for a hike but then I don't like to go alone. I constantly defeat myself in this area.

  2. Jennifer - I'm not here to convert, only to empathize. :) Where did the mental block come from? I'm not really a hiker, more a meandering in the woods on a path type of a lady. Maybe a Blogger Hike with a bread tasting on top of a mountain - or, better yet, a hill?

  3. This was very interesting to read -- we share a lot of the same manias and ways of working out. I often find myself alternating between thoughtful and thoughtless exertion. Sometimes I am thinking about my posture and form and breathing and the next I find myself running (gliding, cycling, moving) and thinking of nothing with a clear mind -- like high velocity meditation. It is as much mental/emotional work and enjoyment as it is physical. Almost every time I am out running/biking/swimming/skiing/etc, I really feel so grateful that 1) I am privileged enough to have the time and environment in which to experience the beauty of nature and 2) that I am physically able-bodied enough to do these things, right now. So many people can not do these things and will never know the pleasures they bring. In this crazy life, there's no guarantee that tomorrow I will not be disabled, injured, or too dead to experience the speed, exertion, and endorphin rushes again. My friend Bobby often says things like, "You better outlive me by many years to make all this time you spend exercising worthwhile." My current comeback (and the only one that seems to have given him pause) is: I am not running for the future, I am running for the Now -- for the exhilaration and gratitude it makes me feel while I am doing it. Having said that, I must also add that I think there is something about intense exercise that makes you almost forget how much effort and pain may be involved while you are engaged in it. Mostly I look back and only remember the "good times". In that sense, each new sessionof intense exercise is something like child birth (I imagine) or at least the decision to have another child. When planning for and getting ready to work out, I remember the pleasures of past workouts but once I get out there and have to complete a 20 mile run (or take care of that screaming baby) I remember that the whole idea of doing so is actually a little crazy! But what the heck, I'll complete it anyway -- I remind myself that I almost always have and so I will reach my goal again this time. So much more to say about this topic -- thanks for sharing and thanks for asking.

  4. James - Thank you for your well-expressed, thoughtful comments. I, too, have memories of great workouts - the 50 mile bike ride that left me triumphant or the run from Mary Lynn's house into town in the softest rain ever to fall on my skin. And the childbirth analogy - I can't tell you how many times during an intense spinning class, or while climbing a giant hill on my bike, I consider the fact that I birthed children sans pain medication and that those experiences have prepared me for surviving this present physical challenge. Of course, I also "trained" for childbirth, so who knows where it starts and where it ends? Exercise is just part of the path that I've chosen to take as I attempt to live my life with a balance of physical, mental and emotional stimulation.