Sam gets serious: Most of the exercise she does isn’t fun and that’s okay

I’m an expert level adult. I’ve been adulting, as the kids say these days, since I was 8. I was practically born an adult. I’ve lived most of my life as the practical one, the serious one, the organized one, and the one who can do hard things. I’m that person. You might call me in a crisis but I also worry that I’m not that much fun at parties.

Eldest child. Virgo. Child of immigrants. Former Catholic, taught by nuns. You choose your favourite explanation. All are true.

For years though exercise hasn’t been a hard thing. It’s been the fun in my otherwise pretty serious and focused life. I’ve treasured it for that reason. I can let go. Ride. Run. Hop. Skip. Jump. Lift. Throw. Climb. And so on. Whee! Zoom!

Sam selfie in the gym mirror, wearing my feminist t-shirt, leggings, and my knee brace

Life has changed a lot since we started this blog. I’ve had to say goodbye to soccer, promise never to run again, and take a break from Aikido. There’s been no CrossFit either. These days a lot of what I do for exercise isn’t fun. Hard, boring, painful physio isn’t fun. I’m having a hard time adjusting my attitude. Even walking isn’t always fun and I’m worried that my dog isn’t getting enough exercise. Sorry Cheddar! But also, I’m thankful for off leash dog parks where Cheddar can run even if I can’t.

Cheddar in bed

I shared Barbara Ellen’s piece in the Guardian Let’s stop pretending exercise is fun on our Facebook page and got more than 50 comments pretty much right away. It seems that hit a nerve. It hit my nerve. Just a few years ago I would have resisted the message. I still urge people to find physical movement that brings them joy.

But I understand now when people complain about the pitch to “find joy in movement” in a very embodied way that I didn’t before. I apologized for that message here. It’s kind of like “love your body.” It’s an imperative that can feel oppressive. Not only do I have to exercise, I have to enjoy it? Um, no. I’m in pain a lot of the time now and my mobility is limited when not on two wheels. I think I need a shift in how I think about exercise. It’s not always going to be fun. But that’s okay. It’s still important. And see above, I’m good with serious important things. I’m disciplined about doing the things that need doing. I’m the kind of person who files expense claims pretty much right away when I get home.

I can find other fun things–theatre, music, art, fiction, games–and not put pressure on exercise to be fun. I love my job. I love writing. I have to stop counting on walking and make time for things I can easily do–like swim and bike-when I travel. According to this article on life after full or partial knee replacement, that’s my future anyway.

Every month is bike month in Sam’s books.

I still like lots of physical activity. I’m happy lifting weights at the gym with Meg. I’m going to blog about that soon. She just was named personal trainer of the year at the University of Guelph fitness centre. I’m also really looking forward to the outdoor cycling season, to racing our family Snipe, and to some canoe camping trips in the deep woods and wilds. That tells me that I’m not quite as bad as the people for whom this blog post was written but I’m not far off: Hate exercise and just want the health benefits?

I’m also a happy, positive person by nature. I look out my window at work and there’s sun. It’s spring. And I’ve got some cool succulents. There’s lots of joy in life even if it won’t come from walking!

6 thoughts on “Sam gets serious: Most of the exercise she does isn’t fun and that’s okay

  1. “”find joy in movement”…is kind of like “love your body.” It’s an imperative that can feel oppressive.” Wow – powerful. To me, it is a “yes, and” thing – an imperative, and therefore can feel oppressive, yes, *and* it’s aspirational. Also, I love your turn to self-compassion and encouragement saying it’s okay because you are good at serious things and can therefore still make this important thing happen. Thanks for blogging!

  2. Thanks for putting into words what is probably percolating in lots of our heads– certainly mine– these days. For me, some forms of exercise (inc walking) are not as fun as they were or as I hoped (my ankle just isn’t back to its old self… yet… ever? dunno). Turning pragmatic is something we can do, and you really laid it out there for us. Thanks! And: lovely succulents! The planters are gorgeous!

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