By Louise Kennedy
I feel as if I’ve turned a corner. Then again, several times so far in this project I’ve felt as if I’ve turned a corner. And if I keep turning corners in the same direction, of course, I’ll end up going in circles. Which is also how I sometimes feel.
But on my more optimistic days – and this, for whatever reason, is one of them – the circles feel more like an upward spiral. I may have been in this spot before, but each time I return to it, I’m a tiny bit wiser and a tiny bit more likely to keep moving upward. That’s my hope, anyway.
The corner I’ve turned this time is the discovery that I can actually enjoy exercise. I felt that in spades last week, during – and after – my exhilarating bike ride on the Cape. And the glow from that ride made it easy to hear, and agree with, my editor Carey Goldberg’s latest tip.
She’d been talking with an expert about what to do with me – how to get me really into the groove of exercising every day. She’d suggested, to both me and the expert, that maybe she should write me a “scary” letter about all the bad feelings that come from not exercising – not so much the long-term effects, which we all know, but the daily fatigue, ennui, anxiety and general blah-ness that she gets on the days she fails to work out.
I thought it might work, but it didn’t exactly fill me with joy. And her source vetoed it outright. Better, she said, to get me to think more about my motivations for exercising – not the bad things that will happen if I don’t, but the good things that I’m aiming toward by changing my ways. That does feel more helpful. And so does the next tip: to stop demanding that I work out three times a week, or do more all the time, or whatever burdens I place on myself and then feel guilty about dropping. Instead, just make one appointment: one time in the week when I will do something physical.
So I did. I planned to ride my bike yesterday morning.
And then I didn’t do it.
But – and this is the important part – even though my family plans changed and made it hard to get out that morning, the knowledge that I had an “appointment” with myself made me reschedule it for the afternoon. At that time, it turned out to be simpler to go for a long, brisk walk in the woods with my son. And if that sounds like cheating, you try keeping up with a 6-foot 16-year-old who’s been running and lifting weights.
Best of all, it was fun. It was a beautiful day, and we were walking a path that I remembered taking with him as a toddler, past a pond where we’d watched for frogs. They were still there, and we were just as happy to see them. And we talked, not about anything much but just in the casual, happy way you can do when you’re striding along in the woods with someone you love.
This isn’t “working out.” This is life. And it’s good.
And here’s the thing: I can’t wait to do it again.
Even if I’m walking in circles, I think I really am getting somewhere.
Readers, are you getting closer to your health goals? If so, what works for you? And if not, is there one thing you could do this week?