January 23

Slow Fitness

In September 2007 our daughter started 1st grade. Prior to that her preschool and kindergarten ended at 11-11:30am so it was my mornings were devoted to work alone to make the most of this precious time without the demands of a child. As I walked home from dropping her off at full-time school that September morning I thought about what it would be like to have a warm and comfortable place to exercise in the coming winter and I thought about the concept of “date night.” When I got home I told Bill, “Ya know. I don’t really need the candles and fancy clothes sorts of dates. I’d really like to have our dates be daily fitness dates. What do you say?” We were already long distance cyclists but our fitness definitely declined in the winter and was relegated to walking, jogging, and occasionally cross country skiing. It was time to find a gym.

We looked at the class offerings at our new gym and began with yoga. Then we added strength training classes and kickboxing. I would through the occasional Pilates and spin classes in there, heeding the suggestion of one instructor to focus on “muscle confusion,” which means varying your workouts to keep agile and challenge your body.

Periodically I’d get a cold or respiratory infection that would force me to stop for a couple of weeks and I’d start up gently and slowly. The Aqua Fitness class was just fine. People would ask me if I was training for some event. I’d reply, “I’m training to be 70.” Favorite instructors would come and go. At one point I had an accident and had a brain injury two years ago that required me to change the exercises I can and can’t do — all turning is over and certain positions with my head down are a no-go. I hired a trainer for a few sessions to help me figure out how to exercise with this new limitation. My fitness level waxes and wanes with life and its demands but what’s really helped me is to lay out my workout wear before I go to bed and pull it on the first thing in the morning. Then I’m committed. I’m writing this post in my workout wear on my way to a weights class in fact.

I think fitness is not what’s portrayed on the Biggest Loser or in those impressive Before and After photos on infomercials. It’s what my gynecologist refers to as “the most powerful drug I can prescribe.” Also a long-distance cyclist, she explained to me that high levels of cardiovascular activity are the most powerful way to stabilize hormones and moods, more powerful than any pharmaceutical available. It’s not a New Year’s Resolution. Fitness is love. It’s the love you give to your body and those who love you that you’ll be as strong as you can be for as long as possible. For me fitness is a spectrum of less fit and more fit. As long as I’m moving for 30-60 minutes a day and breaking a sweat, I’m happy. And if today I need to rest, then there’s always tomorrow. But that pile of workout wear will be waiting to remind me to take care of myself.