fitness · season transitions

Summer’s ending. Does it mean my fitness is over too? I hope not.

This summer has been the most relaxing and fun and satisfying one I’ve had in years.

Hand-drawn picture of a sun and a kid saying "Yay summer!"
Hand-drawn picture of a sun and a kid saying “Yay summer!”

Although there have been some fun trips (to the beach in SC with my sister, her kids, and their friends; and Tucson, AZ for work and a lot of play with my friend Kay),  mostly I’ve been home. This has given me time and opportunity to cycle more and do yoga a lot-a-lot more. Throw in some walking and swimming and this and that, and I’m feeling really good and comfortable in my body. Yay again!

A cute cartoon person in purple shirt, olive shorts, red shoes, jumping. I feel like this too.
A cute cartoon person in purple shirt, olive shorts, red shoes, jumping. I feel like this too.

I’ve generally been moving around on my own power a lot more and driving my car a lot less. All this is wonderful.  And I’m aware of the great privilege of having such vast amounts of flexible and unscheduled time.  Professors do work in the summers (and I also teach one session of summer school online), but we typically don’t have to be in offices 8+ hours a day, 5 days a week (deans have different deals, as Tracy and Samantha can attest).

But all that is changing, and soon– the first week of September, to be exact. What this means is that I will be driving 3+ days a week to and from school, which takes around 2.5 hours.  Each day.  Yep, I live far from my work (another privilege, I know). There is public transportation to school, but it would mean either:

  • bus plus subway plus commuter rail plus 12 minutes’ walk; or
  • cycle downtown during rush hour plus change clothes in train station bathroom plus commuter rail plus ride or walk to office;

Each of which takes 1:45–2 hours each way.  That’s 3.5–4 hours each day. I’ve tried it many times, but just can’t maintain it.

But enough of this.  Here’s my big worry.

Last year I had way too many work commitments and a schedule that didn’t work well for me. I felt exhausted and harried and didn’t have the wherewithal to do the physical activity that would help me feel better in my body and about myself. I felt like a total wreck by spring.

It took time and commitment and support from everyone I knew (thanks so much, everyone!), but I am now feeling great– I’m moving a lot, feeling connected to friends and family, working on my various projects, and enjoying life. I want to continue this movement, these connections, these good feelings into the fall. But how?

I posted about this on Facebook, attaching an article from an overworked academic who collapsed on the job. This phenomenon isn’t limited to education, of course. Many or most of us have pressing obligations at work, plus responsibilities to others in our lives. This leaves little time for self care in general and physical activity in particular.

Yoda, saying "many directions pulled in I am; overwhelmed easy to be".
Yoda, saying “many directions pulled in I am; overwhelmed easy to be”.

Anyway, lots of Facebook friends posted ideas that worked for them, like a standing or treadmill desk, timers to remind us to move every so often, even dancing in one’s office (love this idea, Claire!). Some folks shared their frustrations, which helped enormously. Here are a few of them:

I just can’t function without my walk. Because of that I just have to do it no matter what meetings deadlines or students. I accept a crappier performance – in that sense – as the trade off (long term it means a less crappy performance, so there. Am I in hospital with burnout? No. Lots of times, that’s the win.) 

yeah. already with the first week of pre-academic term meetings, i am suddenly and erratically having to be places too early and get home too strung out to do anything — and i’m staring at the most beautiful new running shoes waiting to use them until later this week. I find I have to acknowledge how dysfunctional my workplace is and just be ok with that before i can do any self-care — that is, i have to believe it’s real and i deserve a walk or a nap or something delicious. i appreciate knowing it’s not just me.

That is what I really needed to hear.  We’re not alone. I’m not alone.

A smiley face smiling, and thinking "phew."
A smiley face smiling, and thinking “phew.”

Yes, in order to maintain my fitness and comfort in my body and life, I have to get strategic.  There are loads of strategies out there, open to me, and I will be blogging about them later on. For now, though, I just wanted to know two things:

  1. yes, it’s hard to transition from summer to fall (with all that means for anyone’s life) and hang onto self-care patterns.
  2. we’re not alone in this– we are all bummed about it, and maybe we can come up with some ideas and plans for fall fitness after the splendor of summer.

How are you feeling about the seasonal transitions, readers? Has yours already started? How are you doing? What do you need or want in the way of help? I’d love to hear what’s you’re thinking.

What are you thinking about? With a cartoon duck (for fun).
What are you thinking about? With a cartoon duck (for fun).

4 thoughts on “Summer’s ending. Does it mean my fitness is over too? I hope not.

  1. I have different but related worries about the start of the school year. Argh. Might blog about them. Anyway, I feel your pain.

  2. I am a student who enjoyed the summer. My schedule allowed me to move and to do physical activities everyday. I am a little bit worried about classes starting soon. How am I going to keep to my commitment? I need my daily routines to be functional.Great blog post

  3. Thanks for raising this and for giving me the nudge to pause over it and reflect. My transition will be less stark because I’ve been going in regularly, at least four times a week most weeks, through the summer (as an associate dean with a team and a bunch of admin work that isn’t season-specific, it’s part of the job). I love campus during the summer because it’s quiet and relaxing. I usually don’t need to be at work as early, so I can have more leisurely mornings and often I can walk to and from work (50 minutes each way). That all changes when the fall comes. Things ramp up quite a bit. But I’ve pared my fitness routine down to a thing I can sustain most of the year unless things really go awry (as they did last winter when I had a six week cough and I was traveling a lot to places where I couldn’t or didn’t run). I’m not as worried about losing that rhythm as I am about not getting enough sleep. Good luck getting back into the commute, the semester, and coping with the end of summer!

  4. Hmmm..there’s a huge bunch of readers who probably are long past academic studies full-time. I love summer in my city because car traffic is not as busy downtown. What has been tough this summer in western Canada have been the 500+ wildfires and smoky air for weeks in British Columbia and drifting into southern Alberta. So my cycling has been shorter trips because of noticeable forest fire smoke taint in the air. Imagine travelling down on TransCanada highway towards Banff National Park and not seeing the Rocky Mountains by the highway!

    I think more of the hard icy wintery days where I don’t bike…

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