Sunday, September 14, 2008

Work, play, and staying fit

Growing up as a woman in today's society, for many years, led me to the belief that I had to be on a "diet" and work up a sweat every day at the gym, and had to keep my weight below a certain, unattainable number on the scale.
For years and years I tried to play the game. I remember the summer before 8th grade, I worked out every day on my mom's stationary bike to loose a few pounds ( incidentally the blessing of womanhood suddenly changed my childish figure into that of a fertile and vuluptuous woman). I don't remember if I thought I was "fat", but regardless, I worked hard to loose some weight before school started in the fall.
In high school I joined in the only sport I was coordinate enough to try, Cross country running. Of course, my figure would only benefit from the exersize, but I learned quite rapidly, that it was no easy task to take up running mile after mile, day after day. I suffered with painful shin splints, and was discouraged on the "easy days" when my easy pace left me miles behind the pack of jogging kids. I gave up on running and joined the gym. Again.
I lost some pounds, and ate a low fat vegetarian diet.
I went to college, and promptly gained the weight back, plus some. Oh I tried to force myself to run on the wooded trails around the campus, and get up at the crack of dawn in the freezing winter to get to the gym, swim, ride the elliptical or lift weights. Pretty much every minute of it tortuously boring, and I never seemed to loose the "weight" I desired. I felt fat, unattractive, and exhausted.
This cycle continued into my early twenties, with another gym membership at the urging of a partner unsatisfied with my weight. I joined group sports again, this time a women's road cycling club. I trained and trained for a 100 mile race, somewhere between 2 and 6 hrs a day, all the while hoping I'd shed a few pounds. I never did. I got fit, I completed my race, and I even enjoyed riding the bike with the other women in the group, but I burned myself, overtraining, and never achieving the "goal" of loosing the weight I wanted.

I think it was at that point that I gave up on doing anything to loose weight. I resigned myself to the fact that I'd always be larger than the skinny soccer girls I'd grown up with, and 20 something college girls in their pink mini skirts, chasing frat boys. It wasn't me.

What was me was putting on a pair of sturdy shoes and taking a hike in the mountains in the crisp winter air, walking as slow as I wanted, stopping to look at frozen orange mushrooms on a fallen tree, or taking off my sandals in a wash running with spring runoff, hiking up my skirt and wandering up the wash to find the blossoming manzanita bushes, kissed with spring rain. I forgot about "racing" or exersizing for the sake of loosing a few pounds or getting "fit". I moved my body because it felt good to move in a natural way, picking my way around rocks in the wash, or hoisting myself up over a large boulder. Walking down a trail for an hour to discover an isolated peak where I could take a nap, and then walk back up the trail at the end of day, break a sweat, and feel completely full from my time sitting under a tree just a mile down the trail, rather than hiking in 6 miles in from the trailhead, as fast as I could, just to turn around.

I've always hated exersizing for exersizing sake, and now, find myself getting my "exersize" in more natural ways, while working, and while playing. During the month I stayed at the Anima Center this summer, I learned to physically challenge myself to accomplish tasks, yet at the same time, take time for myself, to rest, and play. I would walk up the steep hill every morning, and then chop gnarly pieces of juniper with a large, heavy maul. To most, the idea of chopping wood might seem difficult and distasteful, but the feeling of splitting a tough log in two, and filling the wheel barrow full of wood to fuel the wood stove which cooked much of the food I ate, was incredibly satisfying. I worked, I sweat, and I accomplished something ( as opposed to running in place on a silly machine in a sweaty stuffy room.) Then I'd head back down the hill to take a break and take a swim in the cool river. My daily exersize came from the simple tasks I did during work, and during play. One day I walked an especially long way for a dunk in a deep beaver pond at the end of a very physically demanding day. I didn't have to walk that far for a swim, but it felt so good to walk, slowly, mindfully, and in anticipation of a cool swim in deep waters.

Now, at home, I find the satisfaction of physical effort to accomplish something far more fulfilling than a trip to the gym. I've spent the last two weeks digging my new garden beds early in the morning. It isn't an easy task. I work hard, break a sweat, and get tired. My muscles get sore and fatigued, but it feels so good to know that the work I put in now, is going to make all the difference in a very short while when I begin to harvest fresh, organic greens, full of nutrients, and full of my energy and intention. My sweat and love is going into every square inch of that dirt, and will subsequently feed every plant that grows there, and will nourish every cell of my body. How's that for exersize? Satifsying and nourishing, it doesn't burn out my adrenals, and feels good. I like to push myself beyond the point I think I can go, and then rest and relax.

Exersize wasn't a "task" to fit into our days for many thousands of years. We just did it. We walked where we wanted to go, and daily life required us to move our bodies in different ways, every day.

So, here's a few ways to get some exersize, without really exersizing ( and certainly not going to a gym).

  • Build a garden! Digging, weeding, and hauling harvest!
  • Go wildcrafting! Find yourself a place to wander around and gather plants for food or medicine. Walk, stoop, climb and carry.
  • Chop wood! Get yourself a woodstove and chop some wood.
  • Walk to the grocery store and carry your purchases back home. I live a block away from the store, just far enough to get a nice walk in, and close enough it seems rediculous to drive there! So I walk. Today I had to walk there and back 3 times.
  • Take a walk at sunset with your beloved. Just walk, talk, catch up, and enjoy the evening air. A good way to end the day.
  • Play with a child! Go to the park with your own, or a friends child ( w/ permission of course) and play tag, catch, water ballon toss or any other game that you can come up with.


beautiful_hippie said...

OMG... I love this. I have always had the urge to loose weight but failed on so many things. But this hit a nerve somewhere and I have noticed I loose and get healthier with things I enjoy like I love to dance to music. Its a daily thing. I love going on walks and noticing life out there... thanks... I think Im going to go for a little walk

Shamana Flora said...

Yay! I'm glad it inspired you. DOnt waste the years I did on constantly trying to "fit" into their mold of what healthy looks like, or how much healthy weighs. Health at any size.

Dancing is perfect, i totally forgot to mention that, though I had meant to...dancing is a fabulous example! I did afro brazilian dance in college for a little while and fell in love with movement for FUN sake!
I'm hoping to pick up belly dancing in the not to distant future too! a good way to move, feel good, and love on your body!

Lacey said...

I appreciate this post alot. I'm a personal trainer, and up until recently have always loved my job. However my personal life is leading me in the way of a more natural and simple life. I actually just put in my notice at work last week, I can't work somewhere that conflicts with my views and passions. I see the stress in trying to fit in keeping up an image. Making time for the gym ultimately means that you aren't working or playing hard enough in life. Like you said, I've worked harder putting in a garden, playing with my son, building furniture.... We are planning on building a cob house soon in the future, you can't get a work out like that at the gym! Oh and there's no amount of horrible tasting diet food that can keep your body healthy like food straight from the earth's bounty! I'm excited to have stumbled upon your site. I look forward to reading your posts!

Shamana Flora said...

Thanks for reading Lacey, its true, natural ways of getting exercise are so much more fun, and more beneficial to the spirit.

Tara said...

Yes! I cannot bring myself to do the crazy artificial excercise thing. Even when I join a gym for a week for the shower, and I tell myself I'll do the eliptical every day before my shower... I don't.

For the last couple weeks I've been walking to the big river first thing when I wake up every day and chopping a lot of wood. It took off some of those lazy van dwelling pounds.

Shamana Flora said...

Yay for rivers and wood chopping! I'm sure you'll find life on your land so full of activity you;ll never need to worry about th gym. Well, winter maybe less active, but still, you wont be worrying bout the gym, nice and toasty with all your choopped wood for fires and such.:)
Probably too cold to swim in the river eh?

Alyss said...

Amen sister! I have always been a proponent of natural, outdoor, productive activity. I walk my dog every morning before work and spend my weekend days on long, lazy walks with dogs and friends and plants. Occasionally I do go to the pool for some lap swimming because the good swimming holes are a) too far away for an evening trip and b) too cold for most of the year :) But even then, I'm swimming because I enjoy moving my body, not because I'm trying to loose weight. Eating real food, being real about your life and doing real activity - that's how to have a real body :)

"The mother of us all, the oldest of us all, Hard, splendid as rock, Let the beauty you love, be what you do. There are a thousand ways to kneel and kiss the earth"~ Rumi ~