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This whole body image thing is so artificial. The skinny body the media promotes is impossible to attain without constant food monitoring and constant exercising. Exercise, as we know it, is completely artificial. Forty minutes of cardio, 20 minutes of toning, 20 minutes resistance training, target different muscle groups on alternating days. The right shoes, the equipment, the energy bars, the electrolyte replenisher.

I want life to provide our bodies' exercise needs. You walk because you have to get from Point A to Point B. You tone your core muscles while carrying with you the things you'll need when you get there. Your job requires you to use your body and not just your brain. That's not what life is like. When your body faces what should be an everyday challenge, it's often unable to respond.

Last night I picked up a giant load of books and other stuff from a freecycler in a second-story apartment. I carried 3 50+ pound boxes of books down 20 stairs, then helped carry 2 more even bigger boxes. I did it, but paid the price. Nothing torn or broken, but lots of muscles tender and sore: biceps, hamstrings, lats. All my nerves aquiver. And my head hurts.

What would it take for my body to be able to face that task without incapacitating myself for the next few days? Weight training? I don't know. I'm not convinced that exercises done in the gym replicate the work we no longer do in every day life.


sulu-design said…
Very interesting post... it's all stuff I think about a lot myself.

It's hard to say that everyday living should provide our bodies with their exercise needs since everyday living is all over the board for different people - from people who spend entire days in front of a computer for their livelihood to people who swing hammers and carry bricks all day long. From people who work from home to people who bike for thirty minutes to get to and from their jobs. Life provides each of us with such different physical experiences that I think the artificial element of exercise for exercise's sake can be worthwhile for some of us.

I honestly love working out in the gym, almost as much as I love hiking, biking, and swimming. I feel like the time I spend in the gym makes me enjoy those other activities more, as the weight training I do gives me sustained strength and stamina when I engage in non-gym activities. But I actually like the act of working out for its own sake, too... kind of in the same way that I like making jewelry. Both are non-essential and artificial - but both bring a sense of satisfaction and happiness to my days.

If, however, one doesn't get happiness out of time spent exercising at a gym, I don't think it's worth it. I do think that taking care of one's physical health is a worthwhile concern, so finding something in life that provides for a raised heart rate and a little resistance to the muscles is important. Sounds like you might have that in your walking. And freecycling. Maybe you just need to find more free stuff...

Wow. Long comment here. Hope you don't mind my two cents.
shy_smiley said…
I appreciate your comment, Sue, because it gives me perspective. I crave a holistic, organic life. I look for ways to work toward it but feel stymied. I started enumerating the obstacles but of course it reads like a laundry list of excuses.

I don't get the sense of satisfaction and happiness you do from working out in the gym. Thinking about your well-phrased argument for "exercise for exercise's sake" makes me wish I did. Have you always enjoyed your gym workouts, or did that sense of satisfaction develop over time?

Key for me is finding something my body and mind respond to positively. I get that from walking, so I'm going to concentrate on upping the ante there.

And I'll tell you something else: my brain needs more honest exercise, too. Your two cents gave me something to think about and something to respond to. Thanks.
sulu-design said…
I'm glad I came back to find your response here.

I'll admit, since you asked if I've always enjoyed exercising, that I didn't like it much when I started doing it regularly about five years ago. At that time, I'd gotten myself to an unhappy and unhealthy point in which my teaching job was sucking my energy from me. I'd gained a noticeable amount of weight from emotional eating and from not engaging in anything other than work and sleep. After years of all of this negativity, I finally realized I needed a change.

I started working out at the gym with the specific intention of losing some weight, which happened slowly but surely as I forced myself to stick with it. I found that the longer I went to the gym and the more my body adapted, the more I really felt good after working out. I wasn't just feeling good mentally because I was proud of myself, but I truly felt good physically. My muscles stopped aching and started feeling strong and capable.

The mind/body connection is strong. I'd say that exercise became like an anti-depressant for me. Over two years time, it helped me realize that I could make changes in my life that desperately needed making. As you know, I ended up leaving my profession and moving across the country. I know this sounds silly, but I wouldn't have had the courage, confidence, or strength to do that had it not been for the physical changes I'd made.

Of course, working out at the gym isn't for everyone. Like I said, I enjoy it like I enjoy making jewelry. It's a hobby for me. If it's miserable for you, I say phooey - skip it. It sounds like you've got activities (like the walking and freecycle lifting that you already do) that gives your body the attention it needs. I'm looking forward to hearing about how far (literally and figuratively) your walking takes you.

Enough with me and my long comments.
shy_smiley said…
Certainly the mind-body connection is strong. Change is difficult to make without the strength to see it through. Furthermore, when you incorporate something so thoroughly into your life it's difficult to imagine your life without it. Can you imagine giving up your gym workouts? I can't imagine giving up my walks. I've walked or jogged for years now. Just realize lately that I need to up the intensity. Maybe, after several years, I'll build up enough strength to make some changes that need to be made.
auntie m said…
I enjoyed reading all the comments. I have run and work-outed regularly since I was a senior in college. It is the one part of my life that I feel that I have complete and total control over. It has kept me sane and provided an anchor not to mention that it has kept me relatively thin and shapely. I love working out at the gymn and the high I feel afterwards and I love running and walking by myself outside. It gives me time to think and make decisions and enjoy nature. The eating aspect figures greatly into this. I find that even hard exercise can not erase the effects of overeating and to be really thin I can barely eat anything. Although if you really truly eat very healthy it is amazing the amount of food that you can eat and stay thin. But who wants to do that always and forever. Treats are such a treat and we should enjoy them also so I've come to accept a bit of roundness in my body for the pleasure of a treat now and then.

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