Life is messy and confusing. Sport, on the other hand, is clear and measurable. Normally, my next race motivates me to train. The race is my “why.” But I’ve been slowly coming back from an injury, running consistently for the first time in over six months. Without a race on the horizon, my “why” has been less obvious, leaving me unmoored, and at times unmotivated. As I’ve struggled to rest, rehab, ice, heat, massage, strengthen, stretch, and visualize my way back to racing, I’ve had to embrace other “why’s.”
It turns out there are many reasons why I work out.
1)Exercise is time to myself. Of course there are other ways for me to practice self-care, but sweating is my favorite.
2)I haven’t yet given up on my eventual goal of qualifying for and running the Boston Marathon. Although my workouts have not been specifically geared toward this goal, as the talented Dan King pointed out at an awesome talk I attended this spring, everything counts, whether it’s a short run, a bike ride, or any other form of cross training.
3)Exercise makes me happy. I know most writers will tell you the best time of day to write is the morning, and maybe it is, but I would prefer to begin my day by moving, not sitting at my desk. Returning from a run or a ride as my family is sitting down to breakfast makes me feel like I am ahead of the game and gives me energy for the whole day. Or at least naptime, depending on how many times I got up with Lady Bug. And if you’re like “Wait, what? I thought the child was two.” She is. She’s just not a great sleeper.
4)Exercise is a chance to be social. No miles are covered quicker and more easily than those peppered with conversation and laughter. Even on a bike ride, when wind or having to ride single file makes it impossible to chat, a pair or a group shares a collective energy that you just don’t have when you’re solo. Also, there’s the physical energy, you get from drafting off of the wheel in front of you, of course. Even in a class where you don’t socialize (like the Total Barre class I’ve been at my gym lately), motivates me to show up and try my harder than I would if I were alone in my basement with a video.
5)Exercise is a way to enjoy the outdoors. This winter, when I was unable to run and totally unmotivated to ride, I noticed I rarely went outside, except for little jaunts from the house to the car and across parking lots. I felt restless and realized I needed to get out more, even if it was just a walk in my neighborhood. One of my favorite tricks for getting a baby to stop crying is to step outside with her. Nature has a soothing effect, whether you’re three months old or one hundred and three years old.
6)I’m not proud of it but exercise helps me manage my anxiety about food and my weight. I don’t remember a time in my adult life when I didn’t wish I were thinner and/or else being really anal in order to maintain my current weight. My scale is tucked away where it’s hard to access, so I rarely use it, but I know when my pants are feeling tight and I occasionally hop on the scale at my gym. While I don’t plan my meals according to my exercise plans, I feel freer to indulge in ice cream or a restaurant meal when I’ve worked out. I know I should be dealing with the root of the anxiety instead of trying to assuage it, but I don’t know what to say about this except I’m not perfect, which should be a surprise to no one.
7)I really enjoy watching a show while I workout indoors. I never feel guilty for watching a show while I’m exercising indoors. Once in a great while I relax with my laptop and Netflix but the vast majority of my TV watching occurs not on the couch, but with my iPad on the treadmill, the trainer, the elliptical, or the stairmaster. Generally, I watch an entire series, and then I move onto a new series. I feel like I have accomplished something every time I complete an episode, similar to how I feel when I finish a chapter of a book. I know, it is no feat to stare at a screen for 45 minutes, but that is just how my mind works. I’m about halfway through the final season of Parenthood, and as much as I will be happy to have completed it, I think I will miss it.
Why do you work out?