Two weeks ago, I went lane swimming for the first time in a long time. In my last blog post, “All Lanes are Open,” I commented on how I often let my excuses overtake my need for physical exercise. I left the pool that day hoping that I would have better self-discipline going forward. While I did think about swimming more, I found that fitting another session into my schedule was still difficult. In fact, I haven’t fit another one in yet.
However, this is not a self-deprecating post. I may not have succeeded in getting to the pool, but I still got a workout in. Only, it wasn’t in a gym, on a track, or in a studio. It was in a house. And no—it wasn’t an at-home fitness program.
Last week, my mom and I set out towards the small Albertan town where my sister had moved. Our goal? To help her clean her new place so she could begin settling in. When we arrived and saw the little two-bedroom bungalow nestled on the large property, we were giddy with excitement. It was a house with character. Inside, wood paneling and mismatched trim adorned the walls. Vinyl flooring ran throughout the house with some newly replaced planks poking up in attestation.
The highlight of the mid-century home was the proper storm cellar situated in the floor of the laundry room. The heavy floor-door revealed a series of six-inch-deep stairs that led to a surprisingly high-ceilinged cellar. Here housed the furnace, a work bench, some smaller pieces of furniture, and, of course, cobwebs. Thankfully, there was a sliver of a window to ease claustrophobia.
What does this have to do with fitness? We had to clean the house. All of it. I’m talking dusting the walls, washing the walls, scrubbing the baseboards, doing all-the-above to the floors, disinfecting the bathroom, degreasing the kitchen, and deodorizing everything. Then there was dodging flies while vacuuming up their deceased friends from windowsills. It was an intense workout!
To tackle it all, we decided to divide and conquer. I declared myself in charge of the bathroom, doors, and windowsills. My mom and sister tackled the main bedroom and living rooms.
Have you noticed the abdominal workout that cleaning a bathtub provides? If you’re like me and refuse to stand in the bathtub while cleaning the surroundings (because—gross), then you’ll understand the shoulder stretch you get from reaching across the tub. It is a must to engage the core muscles to avoid back injury. Then there’s the up, down, side-to-side motions. Thankfully, cleaning the basin portion offered a relieving stretch along the lower back as my glutes lowered me into a squat.
Then there are the mystery group of muscles that are featured in cleaning toilets that are situated close to walls. I had to be deliberate in my movements, keeping my muscles obedient to ensure I didn’t bend carelessly around the bowl. I certainly did not want to pull a muscle on my first task!
Cleaning the vanity and mopping the floor—and re-mopping it after my sister’s boyfriend walked through with boots to change the light fixture—concluded my bathroom workout. Next were the doors. Now, that is a good squat routine!
Our trio reconvened to tackle the kitchen which, fortunately or unfortunately for me, provided a similar full-body workout as the bathroom and doors did. Arms were favoured in scrubbing out cupboards. Legs and core were the primary targets of the lower cupboards and the space behind the appliances. Even with all three of us tackling it, breaking a sweat was easy come by. We happily took advantage of water breaks.
Amid the scrubbing and polishing, us girls got to talk. We’d laugh over cloths, asking each other which one was for soaping and which one was for rinsing, and asking ourselves why they were all the same colour when there were other colour options. Even though we were too busy and too tired to talk about deep things, we all felt content just being around each other.
Doing life together is a value that I hold dearly. If I had it my way, I would do everything with at least one person present, even if it’s reading in silence. Having this extroverted viewpoint does often stifle my ability to self-start my fitness routines, but it’s a part of my personality. Companionship ignites my spirit.
I did feel more sore in the days following the cleaning than I did after swimming, but I still experienced the same gleeful energy as I did at the pool. The joy from working out alongside two of my favourite people made me realize that hard workouts can be completed without mental burnout. I can leave tired and wake up sore and still want to do it all over again. I thought that feeling was reserved for passionate fitness gurus.
I seem to have a pattern emerging. My fitness journey finds success most frequently when I execute it alongside something my soul loves. In the pool, my love for the water propelled me forward. At this house, it was my love for my mom and sister.
While I wait for my next lane swim or deep-clean day at a friend’s place, I’ve decided to come up with a list of things my soul loves and see if I can pair them with a physical activity. Maybe I’ll try hopping on my stationary bike and watch train-wreck reality TV. Maybe I’ll go for a long walk-and-talk with a friend. Unfortunately, I have yet to come up with an idea where I can read or write while exercising.
If you have an idea for me, please let me know in the comment section below. While you’re at it, let me know if you are a solo-fitness person, or an extrovert like me who prefers having someone else’s energy come alongside.
Stephanie Morris is a transcriptionist and writer based in Alberta, Canada. She is a wife, a mom of two, and a newcomer to the career-writing world. As a fancier of history and literature, she aspires to blend the two in fiction and nonfiction pieces. To follow Stephanie’s writing adventures, find her at @words.and.smores on Instagram.