I quit exercising at some point in the first three months of last year. I’m not sure when. It was an odd spring with lots of travel and emotional grind, so it’s a little hard to remember when I just got sick of the daily will-I-nil-I argument with myself about getting on my recumbent bike and decided that it was costing me more than it was doing for me. But at some point, that felt like the sanest thing I could do for myself. And it was actually really nice.
But I was also eating rather badly—stress/distress eating, and the combo inevitably caught up with me. Lots of really lousy blood sugar numbers, increasingly sore knees, and a definite drop in general stamina were all becoming noisy at the beginning of the semester. So I got back on the bike.
And it made some really, really weird noises. Now, said bike is/was something like 25 years old and had been awfully noisy/creaky for a long time, but it worked. Hard to complain about a bike that wasn’t very expensive (ordered from Penney’s) in the first place and gave decent service for 25 years. So I got on line, read a bunch of reviews, and ordered a remarkably well-reviewed and remarkably inexpensive folding recumbent. Then it took several weeks to get around to moving the old one (heavy thing, lots of stairs), and a couple more weeks to get around to setting up the new one (relatively easy). Then I stared at it for a week or so before I actually got on. And jumped off. It felt funny. Different angles. Too quiet. Just weird.
So I stared at it for a couple more weeks. We now have most of a semester in between my resolving to get my carcass back on a bike and actually even approaching said bike. Sigh.
But I woke weirdly early this morning. And thought about the bike. Then I got on line as usual and thought about a lot of other things (finding cover art for a book, Xmas shopping, aggregating my several to-do lists…), wrote a couple of e-letters to lovely friends, and so forth, and so on. But then I remembered my good intentions and hauled myself away from the Glowing Screen of Doom by promising myself that I could just do 10 minutes and read a magazine I’d been wanting to get to for a while.
22 minutes and most of the December issue of Real Simple later, I was still pedaling away and was goofily contented. Firstly, the bike didn’t scratch at the blackboard of my nerves with its squeaking and creaking. Which turns out to be really nice. Also, it turns out that the back support is really comfy—also really nice. And then I registered that I hadn’t tried to figure out how to set the tension to make myself pedal harder—I’d just pedaled. And that was really, really nice. I’d managed to break a sweat, so I know it was doing its cardio thing—or close enough for my universe, but I hadn’t paid any attention to my program or level or actually set the timer, I’d just ridden, and it turned out to be rather nice—soothing, even. I stayed on for another 6 minutes, until my husband reminded me that I actually needed to get dressed and go teach.
Soothing. What a radical notion for exercise—for me anyway.
We do such weird things, have such weird conversations around our bodies. It’s all about competition and a sort of goofy internalization of the Olympic ideal—you know, faster, stronger, whatever. We don’t think we’ve exercised unless we’ve worked our bodies hard enough to crack open the endorphin dam. I know this is a source of real pleasure for many—of stress-relief and solace and strength. But it seems possible to me that there are many of us for whom pushing our bodies competitively in the name of virtue is just kind of toxic. And that there may be a non-violent approach to healthy movement that revolves around being gentle and just plain doing, goal-lessly, grindlessly, grimace-lessly.
Ironic that the motto might be something like “Just do it.” But maybe in a different, distinctly un-Jillian-Michaels-like tone of voice.
I’d say I was going to keep working on this (maybe Tai Chi is down the road), except that I think I am going to unhook my whole approach to moving from the idea of work and the idea of discipline. We’ll see how it goes. I may never learn how to ratchet up the tension on the bike. And it may be fine.