Intuitive activity, revisited

Split image: on left, headshot of Tracy, sunglasses, ball cap and buff, earbuds cable visible, smiling after a run, snow in background; on right, overhead of Tracy’s feet in running shoes, lines of shadow on ground, and snow.

Cate’s post the other day about her 2019 goals and the challenge she is doing through her gym got me thinking about intuitive activity again. I first talked about it quite some time ago, in a post called “Intuitive Eating? Yes! Intutive Exercise? Not So Much.”

I got thinking about it because of Cate’s comment about how her challenges of 217 workouts in 2017 and 218 workouts in 2018 (both of which she met and far exceeded because she’s a rock star) helped her learn a more intuitive way of being in her body. I wrote about my skepticism for intuitive exercise almost six years ago.

A lot has changed over the six years, and whereas it took me 27 years to become an intuitive eater and that shift was the result of conscious effort and commitment, I think it’s taken me only about 5 or so years or even less to become a more intuitive exerciser. My theory back then was that my training goals required me to push myself. And no one actually wants to push herself. No one really wants to get into those short bursts of intense effort required for intervals.

Ahem! Really? No one? While it may not be quite the same “knowingness” that I feel with intuitive eating–where I can check in with myself and actually become aware that a honey crisp apple would be just perfect right now in so many ways (the crispness, the coolness, the sweetness, the freshness!)–there is definitely a kind of body awareness that makes me want that tough workout in a way I never have in the past. I have actually come to enjoy the feeling of effort, of pushing harder, of feeling that strength and physical endurance.

But more than that, because yes I will admit that I wouldn’t always choose the work out that my trainer Paul has in store for me at the gym, or the speed work Linda maps out for me, I have a more intuitive sense of the kind of activity I want to do. When I haven’t run for a few days, for example, my body wants to run. When it’s been awhile since I’ve done yoga in the hot room, my whole being wants nothing more than to sweat it out on the mat. And though I’m not sure I would find the consistent motivation for heavy weights without the personal training, I love and always have loved resistance training.

This all goes to say that I do think I have come to inhabit my body in a new way since Sam and I completed our fittest by 50 challenge back in 2014. I have talked about a sense of “confident ownership.” A few months after my 50th birthday, I wrote “Mine All Mine: How Getting Active Gave Me a New Way of Being in My Body.” Already then I had experienced a dramatic shift in how I felt about my physicality. Today, having continued on the fitness path that I dedicated myself to for our 2012-2014 challenge, I’ve moved in to my skin even more dramatically. Activity is simply a part of my daily life, no different from eating and sleeping.

I shape my activity around slightly scary goals to keep me on my toes. My current slightly scary goal is the Around the Bay 30K Road Race in Hamilton on March 31st. A little scary but mostly fun. The whole thing just makes me smile.

So yes, I do have a more intuitive relationship with activity now. I mostly do what I want, and I do it consistently. And I sometimes don’t do it as much because for various reasons my routine gets thrown off. Then I jump back into it and I feel like myself again.

Where are you in your relationship to physical activity these days? Do you have any aspirations in that area of your life or are you happy where you are?

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