Since I started writing for this blog, I’ve been way more aware of how much I’m moving my body. And I’m more aware of the distance between my self-identity as an active, fit person and the fact that there are days when, if I had a fitbit, it would probably show less than 2000 steps. (Yesterday I sat at my desk in my home office for 11 hours, and only left my condo to go to the recycling room).
In some ways, I’m very fit for a 51 year old — I did a 6 day bike trip in Vietnam over the holidays, and I hit the first day’s 100+ km without a problem. I can run 10K without thinking about it. I’ve registered for two fitness-focused fundraising events this summer — the one day ride for the Friends for Life Bike Rally with the other writers for this blog, and the three day Triadventure, which is the sole source of fundraising for a volunteer project in Uganda I’m co-director of. (Come join us! It’s a lovely small non-competitive community!) And I’m fantasizing about a cycling/running duathlon in June.
So you’d think I would be training for these events. But if you look at my actual calendar since I got back from Asia at the beginning of January, I’ve logged maybe 4 runs and 3 visits to the gym. One spinning class. Two yoga classes. That’s it.
Theoretically, I’ve been a “committed athlete” for 21 years. People assume I work out “all the time.” And it’s just not true. Occasionally, this makes me a little panicked — if I don’t have discipline about training now, I never will — how am I going to do these events, how am I going to maintain my lithe ability to move into my 70s and 80s?
And then I realize that this happens every winter. My relationship to fitness shifts from training to movement. I can’t plan what I’m going to do — I go to the gym or for a run when I feel itchy and restless. And then my head clears and I feel better and I remember that it is NEVER a bad idea for me to work out. Even a hard 5K run on a treadmill when I only have 45 minutes for the gym transforms my mood immediately.
In the winter, I have to reframe what I’m doing as movement, not fitness. And treat it like play. And trust that this play, these impulsive bursts of activity, will keep me fit enough to resume real, focused training in the spring.
My birthday was the first weekend in February, and my sister and I hatched a plan to go to her off grid cottage in Quebec for a night. In the summer, we boat in; in the winter, it’s usually skiing access across the lake, but the weather is so weird that we couldn’t trust the lake was frozen. So we snow-shoed through the woods until the path ended, then clambered down a steep cliff near the last cottage on the road, carrying food, sleeping bags etc., and navigated the edge of the lake the rest of the way. My brother in law drilled through the ice about every 50 metres to test it.
My two nieces were with us. The 11 year old drooped and periodically threw herself into the snow and just laid there. But I watched the 9 year as she reveled in movement, tromped up the hills.
She sighed occasionally, but I watched her energy, how she went from pokey to conquering, quiet to chatty. Pink cheeks and swinging arms. Not complaining about the annoyance of her little backpack sagging down her back. Trusting the ice despite the fact that she fell through it two years ago at Easter.
I could see in her what I want to keep alive in myself through the winter — pushing myself out the door, moving in whatever way presents itself, letting it take over me and re-set my body, my mind, to get through this winter feeling open, alive, ready to really train.
Cate works as a consultant and teacher in the space of strategic system change in academic healthcare in Toronto, focusing on creating sustainable, socially accountable healthcare communities. She also co-leads a learning and development project for orphaned and vulnerable youth in Uganda, and takes every chance she can to explore the world. she also blogs at field poppy.wordpress.com.