As many of the readers of this blog know, Sam, Catherine and I are part of a facebook group called “218 in 2018,” which is a simple way for people to support each other in working out 218 times this year. Sam and I did this last year and hit our 217 number, with a little hyper-activity at the end. We’ve both written a lot about why having a number goal motivates us, what counts as a “workout,” and the joy of accountability.
The one place we disagree, though, is on what total number goal is actually “the right one.” Sam is a big advocate of not setting a days-worked-out goal too high, and making sure you build in rest days. She has a lot of science to back her up that recovery time is really important.
I have a bit of a different approach. I agree with her completely about the need for recovery when you’re training for something — when you’re working out to improve stamina, distance, build strength, etc., it’s definitely important to have restoration and rest time. That’s how your muscles repair and you rebuild your energy stores, hydration, etc. That I completely agree with, and when I’m training to run a race or do a bunch of long bike rides, I need rest days.
But for the first summer in a long time, I’m not training for anything. I did a big bike trip in Bhutan in May, and I’m not doing the Bike Rally or the Triadventure, and I’m not planning to run any races. I’m just trying to … be. To be more motivated, to feel strong and resilient. I’m feeling a lot of stress — the World (I just can’t even), immediate politics (the shift in the provincial government has Not Good implications for my business, plus, COME ON!), and my aunt died last week. These are all things that can lead to me spending way too much time lying on my bed listening to podcasts, procrastinating work, and not moving my body. Reading the news and feeling anger, despair, fear.
So after missing a chunk of my 218 workouts in June because I was sick and unmotivated, I decided I wanted to try to “work out” every day in July. I wanted to see if I could build my mental and emotional resilience through deliberately moving my body every day.
I’m using my 218-workouts definition of “workout” as a deliberate episode of moving my body outside my day-to-day life. This is day 13, and I’m observing that it’s simultaneously daunting, motivating and energizing.
So far, my workouts have included: a bunch of short runs (4 – 6km), some of them more joyful than others, most of them super hot; two yoga classes (flow and fundamentals), and one set of online yoga videos; a 60 km (super-hot) bike ride; two days of walking more than 20,000 steps while lifting boxes for a fundraising yardsale; and a one-hour (6+km) brisk post-dinner walk after eating a ton of pizza at my mom’s.
That list documents what I did, but it doesn’t carry any of its actual meaning. That 6km walk was the first moment totally to myself where I wasn’t working or fundraising in days. It was breathing space I sorely needed between traveling to my hometown and the day of my aunt’s funeral. I walked past where my dad lived for 20 years after my parents’ divorce, reacquainted myself with my yearning 14 year old self.
One of those runs was after 8 pm, when the sun finally waned and — again — I was catching my breath after taking the train home from Montreal to Toronto with my friend and her toddler twins, and after spending a weekend with my 12 year old niece. I love all these children with a passion — but I needed to breathe. I had to force myself off my bed but I came back a different person.
Making more deliberate choices to move also led me to a hot, important walk with my little sister and my toddler nephew along the river after the funeral, and the clear choice to call on not one but two yoga videos for regrounding after my cat opened the screen door herself and I had to climb fences to rescue her from my neighbour’s terrace.
I’m noticing that I have a little bit of approach anxiety — eek, I don’t want to run, do I have to?, I only have an hour — but the moment I feel my body slip into its jogging rhythm, I breathe differently. I arrive a few minutes early for yoga and lie with my legs up the wall, breathing. I have no time or speed goals, and no pattern — I just want to move and feel myself present in my body, to feel flexibility slowly ease back into my muscles. If I notice “this is a slow run,” so be it. It just is. This is a time when it’s important to fully feel my feet on the ground, to remember to breathe.
At my aunt’s funeral, I sat with my cousin who had lost her 18 year old son two years ago. It was her mother-in-law who died. We held hands and sang along with Hallelujah and Let it Be and wept. She whispered “we’re breathing in unison.”
That’s what moving every day is for. To find my unison with the world I’m moving through, to breathe deeply when my heart is racing every time I look at the news. To find that presence to be as grounded as possible, to trust that I can move when I need to.
Fieldpoppy is Cate Creede, who lives, works and breathes in Toronto. She writes for this blog on the second Friday and third Saturday of every month.