In many ways, an outlook like this sounds easier said than done. But I just stopped. Quit running that very day in March of 2008 and haven’t ever done it again since. That’s three more years of living without so much as seeing anything above 4mph on the treadmill. I was elated.
I took up walking. A comfortable pace, a podcast, music, a phone conversation with a friend, sometimes outdoors, sometimes in, always in a more loving way than when I ran. Walking felt calming, soothing, like giving myself love. It didn’t feel at all punishing or brutal like the days when my joints ached on impact. I had more energy. I could walk anywhere, at any time, with anyone, in any manner.
I’ve watched the Biggest Loser in years past, and I shudder to think about how enslaved lots of contestants must feel to the gym. I read articles about how past winners (and losers) still hit the gym for upwards of two hours a day in many cases, just to maintain their weight loss. And having lost a similar amount as those folks, I know they must be nervous of stopping such a rigorous routine. Their bodies become so used to such a high calorie burn everyday, what shock would occur if they stopped? They must keep on keeping on, right? Well, no, not exactly.
Maybe lightening up on movement will mean their systems are shocked temporarily, but after a while maybe they’ll realize that when they don’t engage in excessive cardio, they’re not as famished all the time. Maybe they’re not quite so drained. Maybe moving in any way for at least a bit of time each day is enough to stay put on the scale.
So hear me and please, please, please, believe me: You do not need to kill yourself in the gym, you don’t need to run everyday, you don’t even need to own exercise equipment.
I will repeat that last bit just because, well, I can. Can somebody pass me a megaphone? You do not need to kill yourself in the gym.
You do not need to run when you feel like crying, move when you feel like only a movie would restore you, power through when all you really need exists in a nap.
You must find your life first.
You must find.
Your life first.
Yes, I think you should exercise to lose weight. You can run; you can jog; you can bike; you can take group fitness classes; you can swim. Or you can walk. All that matters is that you’re moving, that you’re burning calories. And for some odd reason, I believed that running was the only way.
Only now do I see that it wasn’t. It isn’t. Obviously.
Today, my exercise is walking to and from work, which is about 1.5 miles away from my home, so in total it’s 3 miles. I walk to local shops and restaurants, I might walk to get coffee in the morning or late afternoon when I’m convinced an iced Americano cures the blues, I’ll take a stroll with Daniel on Saturday afternoons and ask him questions about life and things that I still need to know after nearly six sweet years, or maybe I’ll do none of those things. Last weekend, for example, I didn’t leave the house more than once, and that was a car trip. Maybe the only movement that feels tender is outstretching on my not-quite-leather sofa. And really, that’s become quite alright with me. The outstretching, not the leather alternative.
The point is, you can find something you don’t hate, something you quite like, and maintain your weight. You just have to trust that if you’re doing the best you can, and you’re moving your body in some way each day, and eating well, that you will find the weight that’s true to the life you want to live. That weight should include desserts when you want them, drinks when you need them, and laying on the couch all day because your DVR talks sweeter than the pavement.
The thing is, exercise is great because it makes you feel energized and positive and mentally light. It’s a way to work the kinks out of your life, your day, your upper shoulders. You find confidence and strength in pushing your physical limits. For those reasons, and only those, it’s beautiful.
And though you will not love it everyday, it’s something you.will.do. for the rest of your life. You must. So find something that restores you. Walk. Call your friend and walk for 40 minutes on Saturday morning.
All I can share is my experience and it is this: I’m no bigger and no smaller than I ever want to be. I’m where peace met my mind and my body and then introduced them to my soul. And all I like to do is move my legs, swing my arms, and listen to podcasts on parenting and astronomy. Because maybe one day I’ll be an astronaut mom.
But I move because the world has too much to show me to stay still.
I swing my arms because I realized in seventh grade that holding them rigidly at my side makes me walk like a Ken doll. Minus the ambiguous genitalia.
I stretch upward and outward because all of life feels like it’d rather hold me tight to the Earth.
I’ve fallen down hills, in ditches, scraped my knees, and bruised my ego.
I began looking up rather than at the sidewalk.
And I’ve found her.
And she’s safe.
You’ve done it. You finished the series. *You can now collect a sizeable monetary refund for your time.