Today’s Life-Cise Daily Tip is “Enjoy yourself!” It’s a phrase I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. And it’s an idea I’ve been experimenting with in my own workouts.
You know me – I’m a pretty driven, intense exerciser most of the time. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy it, that’s partly why I do it.
But over the last year, I’ve fallen more and more into an exercise funk. Between family obligations, work, weather, little injuries, I fell off my training again and again. I gave up on various big races I had planned. And then started giving up on small races. It made sense at the time. Training for an ultramarathon (or any big race) takes a big committment – of time, of energy, of focus. And I just didn’t have that focus.
It was a good move. I think my body needed a break after several years of pretty constant training. And my mind definitely did.
But once out of the habit, it is so hard to get back into it. A lot of people have expressed surprise that I know anything about that…Of course I do. Everyone does. Or anyone who’s honest does – athletes, trainers, the most Type A person you’ve ever met.
As I’ve struggled to get back into the habit, I get easily derailed. Two weeks of regular exercise, and then I have a busy week or I fly out to see my parents or I’m just tired, and then it’s just easier to not go out for a run – “I’ll run tomorrow.”
But I’m trying something new. I’m putting all the training plans, the gadgets – the heart rate monitors, the GPS, the clock, the calculations – away. I’m concentrating instead on why I’ve always loved being fit – being outdoors, enjoying the way my body moves, seeing interesting things.
It started while I was down in Brazil at the beginning of the year (I was there for a writing retreat with my writing teacher). Fantastic trip! But I didn’t get as much exercise as I had planned. It was way too hot and humid, I was unsure of where to run that would be safe, and didn’t want to get lost since my Portuguese is VERY limited. But I walked. A lot. And when I got to the fishing village where I stayed for several days, I swam in the ocean every day, I ran barefoot on the beach. I don’t know how far I ran or swam. I don’t know how fast. I just ran and swam.
It was fun.
(my gym for a few days)
And since I’ve been back, I’ve tried to keep that same feeling. I’m not thinking about miles I need to cover if I want to race again. I’m not thinking about how much fitness I’ve lost, how fast or far I used to be able to run. I’m not thinking about my heart rate, my pace, my anything. Just fun. I’ve been hiking with friends. I’ve cross country skied in the blizzard. I’ve been running in the woods. My only thought is how my body feels and what I’m seeing around me. I’ve gone old school, back to what got me out and exercising in the first place – it’s a beautiful (or windy, or snowy, or sunny) day, let’s go out and play.
And it’s working. I’m getting out more regularly. I’m looking forward to it again. My body is starting to feel better. It’s making me happy. Enjoy!
(Oh, and the writing went really well in Brazil – got tons of good work done! And if you’re in Iowa, or have access, one of my essays has just been published in The Examined Life, the literary journal of the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine.)