I think I may have finally hit the tipping point on enjoying exercise. I’m not quite ready to declare victory, but there’s been certain progress.
Since about 1980 I haven’t considered myself a “natural exerciser.” That is, it doesn’t come naturally to me, I haven’t really enjoyed it much, and I live mostly in my head and not my body. However, this isn’t really the Truth. Historically, it’s an untruth. For instance, growing up I was an expert downhill skier and could get down any black diamond slope in New England with dignity, if not grace. Moguls, steepness, narrow slopes, dodging ice and rocks, no problem. I have many memories of skiing down slopes under chair-lifts and having people cheer me on. (I also remember some spectacular wipeouts, all part of the fun.) Also, in the mid-1970’s I rode my bicycle from Lebanon to Hanover a lot – nearly every day in the summer, and sometimes after school in the spring and fall. It’s a six or seven mile one-way ride, depending on the route, and there is a pretty decent hill in between. I also enjoyed basic hiking, though I’ve never done any of the serious mountains around here.
Until I was 30 years old I had a 29 inch waist. At one point in elementary school my doctor thought I was too thin, and “prescribed” a diet of ice creme, milkshakes, grilled cheese sandwiches, and french fries – as much as I could eat. Imagine my glee coming home with a note from The Doctor encouraging this diet! College dormitory living did nothing to change my body shape, even with late-night munchie attacks added to the mix.
Then as my metabolism slowed the 29-inch waist started growing. I added about a half-inch a year and sometime after 32 inches I started to notice. By the time I started buying 33-inch slacks I knew I had to do something. When they started to get tight, I decided there was no way I was going to 34.
I was amazed at how much the Atkins Diet helped. It’s a tough one to keep up for life though, and eventually I gained it all back. Then I read Body For Life, and that made a lot of sense. I especially appreciated the idea that adding muscle mass would increase metabolism and I would burn more calories even while sitting in a chair!
Last autumn I decided that in addition to losing some of the spare tire I could stand to be stronger too. In November I decided to go in for personal training, primarily to build up the habit of exercise. I signed up for 24 sessions, and I’m a little over halfway through. This is not the cheapest way to get fit, but I’m working on the mental programming as much as the physical body; having an encouraging teaching and training partner is helpful. I’ve noticed a definite increase in my balance, overall strength, and flexibility. I’m starting to see muscle tone. My massage therapists have noticed the difference. Recently I’ve started to try adding in three one-hour cardio sessions a week to kick in the after-burners and ditch the excess body fat.
Of course, no one who knows me thinks I’m overweight. Most people say, “Lose weight? You’re thin enough already!” But that’s because the American norm is so super-sized in comparison. The biggest change I’ve noticed, especially this week, is that I’m looking forward to exercising, and trying to squeeze it in when I can. The Big Sigh that came with trudging off to work out is gone, and, like many people said would happen, the soreness of my muscles has a certain aliveness and attention that is, at least, not un-pleasurable.
So today, after two days in a row of one-hour cardio sessions and half an hour each day of upper- or lower-body weight lifting, with virtually every one of my muscles “alive” (i.e. sore) I’m taking the day off from exercising. I know that my body needs time to regenerate muscle mass, and I need some time off in general to sit around and read or even, heaven forbid, do nothing, but I think I wish I were going. That’s a big change. We’ll see if my major goal is met, and the desire keeps up. Who knows, maybe this summer I’ll be hiking and riding my bike again. I’m already keeping my eyes open for a day to play hooky and go skiing, and if it ever stays cold enough and snows again, it might just happen.