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On exercise, love, anxiety and identity

On Monday, Sam posted to say she’s sorry for saying that we have to love exercise. She related some of her recent experiences here (edited for excerpts):

Things feel a lot more complicated since osteoarthritis and advanced cartilage degradation made me a candidate for knee replacement…

…Maybe after the book promotion I have to stop saying “if you don’t love it, don’t do it.” There are a lot of things in life that I do but I don’t love. These days a lot of exercise feels to me to fall into that category. Knee physio can be tedious and sometimes painful. And I do it most days. There’s no way to love it. You watch Netflix to distract. You give yourself rewards for finishing. I need to do it but there’s little joy in it.

Instead, I take pride in my grit and determination, in my resolve.

These words really struck me. You see, I’ve taken pride and comfort in and felt gratitude about my identity as an athlete. I first sat on a horse at age 2.5 (I had some help getting up), played tennis at age 7, started team squash at 22, rode bikes intermittently my whole life, and took up cycling as a major pursuit at 43. Along the way I’ve canoed, kayaked, swum, walked, done yoga, tried to run (which just doesn’t work for me), downhill skied, skated, cross country skied, tried scuba (which does work for me but is too expensive), and ridden horses whenever I got the chance.

I’m an athlete, I tell people.

Fast-forward to now, at age 56. I don’t love exercise. I mean, I love the feelings of movement–these days I focus on yoga and cycling– but it’s so much harder for me. Why?  A combo of things: with menopause has come a huge wave of ever-present anxiety. About everything. I’ve always had anxiety, and lately been taking medication for it.  However, the meds no longer are doing the trick of lowering the anxiety to a manageable level.

Also, menopause has brought on other symptoms, like insomnia, feelings of increased heat (not hot flashes exactly, but I just run hotter), more fatigue, and also did I mention increased anxiety?

Then there’s the increased weight, brought on by– what? Menopause? Anxiety-provoked eating? Less exercise because of fatigue/anxiety/etc.? Less self-care in feeding myself? At any rate, it’s here.

I am doing all the things in response to this state:

But it pretty much sucks.

In January, I made a big list of physical activity goals, including some charity rides and long organized rides with friends. I honestly don’t know if I can do all of them. My very nice friends see this and are being sensitive and helpful (thanks, friends!).  But it still sucks. Just saying.

My first charity ride is June 10, for Bikes Not Bombs. I love this organization, and I love this ride. I’ve done it several times and it is really fun and collegial.

So I’m doing it.  My plan is to do the 30-mile ride. I have ridden about 30 miles at a time this spring, and I know I can do it. It’s a matter of how long I take and how non-fun it will feel. But I’m an athlete– I do physical things even when they are not fun. Why? Because movement makes me feel so very good at some point in the process. These days, that point tends not to be during, but after. Okay.  I’ll take it.  And I’ll post to let you know how it goes.  And as always, thanks for reading– you are the best!

 

 

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