Friday, June 26, 2015

Staying Active is the Goal

For the majority of my adult life, I have taken pride in the fact that I am physically active. I worked out throughout my two pregnancies and even made time for it when my children were young and I had to workout with them on top of me. During some of my worst rheumatoid arthritis days, I did what I could. Staying active was always the goal.  However, in the last few years, I've really struggled with motivation.  I feel strong when I complete the workouts that I once craved, but they just don't motivate me anymore.  At one time, carving out an hour of my day to workout excited me, now it feels like my time is being robbed.  I finally decided that I am tired of being angry with myself for not working out.  It was time to find out "why" I am not motivated.  The answer came last weekend.

Most likely the answer has been coming to me slowly, but it all made sense last week.  My husband and I took our bikes to a forest preserve that we ride in frequently.  It was crazy full of bike and running teams. We decided to skip this site and move on to a more remote bike path that we haven't ridden in for years.  I was in love.  I didn't want the ride to end.  We stopped and watched a deer for a while, and basically just took in the beauty all around us.  I was rather pleased with my endurance up the steep hills and loved the nature all around us. This is when the answer came to me.  I have entered a new phase of my life called midlife. My needs are different now. The reason I am not motivated to wake up early and get started on a workout routine is because it no longer meets my needs. I now need movement that also nourishes my relationships, my spirituality, or has a purpose.  For years I woke up early and participated in high paced workouts and loved them.  Now, I wake up and look forward to heading out for a long walk with my border collie no matter what the weather is like. I've realized over the years that I look forward to the sound of birds in the morning like some people do to the release of a new song. I laugh out loud some mornings as I watch two squirrels chase each other up and down trees. People are friendly in the morning and say "hi". I like that short interaction with my neighbors.  Before starting dinner, I head out again for a shorter walk.  This walk generally allows my mind to find calm from the day.  During the day, I like to do yoga type moves that allow me to focus on the needs of my body.  Lately, I've had stiff ankles that have required a little more attention.  I look forward to Fridays when I have the day off and mow our large yard. Afterwards, I spend time trimming branches and weeding. This type of exercise is something I can appreciate for the next few days as I look out my window. I'm one of those weird people that enjoy shoveling snow and raking leaves especially if it is with my husband or son. I like the rhythm of these jobs.  On the weekends, I want to get on my bike and ride side by side with my husband. This is when we have some of our very best conversations. At work,  I try to integrate exercise into my day. I walk the four flights of stairs every work day and often take a short stroll during break to get outside, clear my mind, and stretch my legs. I wear my Fitbit constantly and make sure I hit my goal every day. I use it as my guarantee I am not being a couch potato.    

When I take an honest look at what I am doing, I do indeed get exercise. Am I going to win any competitions with this type of exercise, look like a model, or achieve some out of the ordinary achievement? No, but I never was before either.  That has never been my goal. But, the exercise I am getting right now fits who I am right now and that is the best type of exercise. On the days I work, I work long hours on my feet engaging 100% with other people. For an introvert, this is highly exhausting. On my days off, I need activities that fill me with energy again and what I am doing accomplishes that. I don't want to say I am an old gal, but I do realize I am in a new phase of my life and with that comes changes that I want to embrace.  I now want the physical activity I participate in to be meaningful.  Doing a 45-60 minute exercise class no longer accomplishes that need.  Spending an hour or more mowing the lawn (I don't use a self-propelled mower) does. My needs have changed both physically and mentally with age.  I've been struggling with myself because I have been trying to get my body to fall back into workout routines that are outdated for me and no longer satisfy my needs. Staying active is still the goal, but now it requires the elements of spirituality and purpose to complement it.