fitness

If You Cannot Go Big, Go Small

I’ve done quite a few big things in my middle age meandering in the world of activity and fitness. When I was 35, I decided to do a C to 5K program. Let me be clear, I was really starting from the couch. There had been nothing aerobic in my life up to that point except maybe dancing. I was coasting on my youth and maybe also a little messed up from bad gym class experiences of childhood. I think it took me over a year to actually get up to 5K running and that felt HUGE. Little did I know where all that would lead me.

16 years later, I’m a person who has cycled from Toronto to Montreal a few times, run a half marathon, cycled up the coast of NFLD in adverse circumstances, hauled people all over Algonquin Park with a canoe on my head, rode a lot of horses, experimented with lifting heavy things and much more. Running 5K is a thing I could just do right now, if I wanted to. I’m super proud of all the big hard things I have done with this body, yet I am also aware that I’m not really chasing the next big thing. I hope there will be some things, I have some plans, but I’m more focused right now on the immediacy of moving and how it seriously doesn’t have to be much to make an impact.

One of the points of advice you read a lot on this blog is “find a thing you like to do and do that thing”. Think about it. Isn’t that the most delightful fitness advice ever? Isn’t it better than telling you that you are going to die young if you sit too much, or that you have to work out intensely 30 minutes a day or you will die young, or you will die young if you don’t walk fast enough, or any of the other sensational headlines around fitness that we are assaulted with constantly? Just find something small and do it.

The benefits of that became very alive in me last January, when I was doing Adriene’s 30 at home yoga thingy. I wrote about how I loved it here. None of those practices were over half an hour. Not many of them were particularly intense. It was the only exercise other than dog walking I was doing as I was in the middle of a life implosion and the respite of her daily uploads kept me from falling off a cliff. My osteopath was the person who commented that my musculature was “enlivened”. ENLIVENED! What more can you ask for, seriously?

Now, I did not continue to do yoga every day for the whole year. But, when I had no ability to do anything else and I needed to move, I would do a 15 minute practice and feel better. At this point in my life, exercise has to, at core, be about feeling better.

There was this piece carried by the CBC (Canadian national broadcaster) that impacted quite a few of us and I thought I might do a whole blog post about it but decided against it because, at the time, I was just angry. She is an Instagram star and I guess that’s how it got brought to their attention. The woman is 73 and she got fit (with the help of her daughter’s fitness program, which she is also clearly promoting) after getting fed up with herself at age 69. I heard her interviewed on the radio as well as reading the article and I was angry about it because it is a story of hating herself. She hated herself and then she went on a quest to find a solution. That solution came in the form of beating her 200lbs body down to 138lbs and then presenting herself to the world as finally acceptable. It is also the case that her other health markers improved which is awesome. My concern came in listening to her voice, where I heard vestiges of fear and self-hate looming to take her over the minute she lets up on her vigilance. She is so pleased to be able to “look at herself in the mirror”, yet it comes with the fear of loss if she doesn’t keep going big. This just isn’t the kind of fitness I’m interested in. I’m not blaming this iron pumping grandma for her fear fuelled odyssey. What I really want for her is to find out why the journey didn’t lead her away from that lingering body hatred. The virtue of movement is not only found in suffering. In fact, I think if it is only about pushing and suffering and achieving, we are doomed.

I am counting down the days (6 left!) to the New Year and another 30 day Adriene yoga thingy. I’ve been brushing up with doing more at home practice when I can and I feel better every single time. I’m also eating a lot of cookies and walking my dog all over the country side. Life is lovely at last, my implosion having settled, and adventures are coming my way. I hope you can find a small thing to do when big feels beyond you, and love yourself while you do it.

A yellow lab with a red bow collar in front of a Christmas tree
Shelby the Holiday Pupper thinks you are awesome and should go do some at home yoga only after you give her some cheese.

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