Confession: I hate exercise. And not just in a “man this is a drag” kind of way. I mean on a visceral and spiritual level I DESPISE going to the gym. I mean how depressing is that place? First of all, they have horrible lighting, which if you’re having even the slightest little breakout, makes you look like this:
Not to mention pretty much everyone there looks miserable and my god the tedium of it all. I’ve been the dead eyed girl running on the treadmill or elliptical for an hour after dutifully working all my muscles in isolation on those horrifyingly complex looking machines. And let me tell you, it was exhausting, mentally and physically. I’ve since abandoned the gym but am well aware that if you don’t use it, you lose it and since I would like to be able to walk up a flight of stairs when I’m 80 working solely my remote and eating hand won’t cut it. What’s a girl (or boy) to do?
It’s easy, really, when you start to realize that any activity that moves your body can count as exercise. This idea was absolutely liberating for me. I’d always thought that if you didn’t hate it, it wasn’t exercise, but I’ve slowly come to realize how restrictive that thought process is. So I left the gym behind and went searching for my preferred form of activity.
I’ve settled on several sports/actions, which set my soul aquiver and leave me deliciously exhausted in that way that’s only possible after you do something you really and truly love. So here we go! Some of these activities I won’t be able to do with any regularity until I have an actual income, but they still made the list because they’re great.
It’s amazing how great a simple walk or hike can make you feel. I go every evening except when I have night class, in which case I try to squeeze it in during my afternoon break if I haven’t put off my assignment until the last minute. There’s an ok park close to my house, which is my regular stomping ground because it’s about as full of trees as you’re going to get in downtown Toronto. I like to get a nice clip going and I usually walk until I get hungry for. For me, walking is amazing because not only am I working out the kinks from a day of sitting in class, but I also use this time for my form of meditation. I never bring my cell phone or an iPod. My walk is my “me time” and I use it to it’s full potential. I’ll often practice presentations and write assignments or blog posts in my head while I’m out about, which saves me tons of time on homework since I’ve already figured most of it out by the time I sit down to work on it. This time is also when I work through anything that’s been weighing on my mind, be it personal or professional. It’s amazing what you can sort out when you’re not distracted by wonderfully horrible TV shows, emails, or responsibilities. All in all, my walks are a great workout for my body and my mind and I always feel completely rejuvenated when I get home, and not just because I know it’s dinner time. If you do nothing else, I highly suggest incorporating at least a few minutes of walking into your day. Even if you don’t want to go initially, which I’ll admit is sometimes the case for me, I’m sure you’ll appreciate the fresh air.
You may start to notice a theme with me in that most of the exercise I like to get is in the form of solitary sojourns. I love people and I love being around friends and classmates all day, but I also need time to recharge. Swimming is unbelievably therapeutic for me. I love the measured breathing and the sound the water makes as I ever so gracefully glide through it (hey, a girl can dream). But perhaps my favourite thing about swimming is the actual physical sensation of water rushing around the body. I can’t even describe it. It just feels so primal and magical. Not to mention it’s a great total body workout that you can tailor to your current level of physical fitness. I never feel better than I do after a really amazing swim in a lake, river, or swimming hole, but make do with what you have. I don’t think you could pay me enough to swim in an open body of water surrounding Toronto, so a pool is the next best option. Salt water pools are optimal, but I think the physical and emotional benefits of swimming far outweigh the health risks of chlorine. To make myself feel better, I always go in the sauna for a few minutes afterwards and imagine all the chlorine leaving my body via my sweat. Not sure if that’s what happens, but the thought helps. After my sauna I love to immediately take an icy cold shower. I go as cold as I can stand it and stay in as long as possible. It’s crazy invigorating.
This is another solo activity that has me flying down mountains at break neck speeds attached to two pieces of, uh, fiberglass I think? Not sure what skis are made of to be honest. But how awesome does that sound!? I’ve loved skiing ever since I was a kid. There’s something about standing on the top of a mountain with the whole world stretched out in front of you that just can’t be put into words. Then the truly amazing part comes. Pointing those skis downhill and taking off for the bottom. You’re completely alone and the only sounds you typically hear are the sounds of your breathing and the scratch-swoosh of your skis. Not to mention the speeds you can hit! My god. I think it’s as close to flying as I’ll ever truly get. Again, most of your body is involved when you’re skiing so it’s a great allover workout. There’s something so satisfying about getting down into a tuck and just feeling the burn in your thighs as you race down Lollapalooza trying to avoid hitting any major bumps. Skiing that run in flat light is dangerous. I’ve had many, many yard sales due to unseen ledges catching me unawares and launching me sky high. (Any Sunday River folks out there know what I’m talking about?) It’s all part of the fun though. Not to mention après ski is always a blast.
Again, something I’ve loved since I was just a wee one. I haven’t been able to do it much in recent years due to the prohibitive cost, but once I’m financially solvent, my first real purchase (aside from kitchen equipment) is going to be a horse. Horses are amazing animals and again very therapeutic to work with. They’re crazy intuitive, so your emotions are reflected back to you through them. They can sense when you’re upset, scared, angry, you name it. They’re also typically very affectionate animals and if you work with the same one consistently, you can form a strong bond. I think that’s one reason I love riding so much. And again, when you take off in field at a gallop, it’s like flying on land. No wonder the Riders of Rohan are so insanely epic. They’ve mastered flight! So riding is a great way to incorporate physical activity in your life, especially if you also care for the horse by mucking out his or her stall and carrying gigantic bales of hay to feed them. Honestly, after not riding for a while you can tell the next day. It works muscles I didn’t even know existed.
Since I don’t have a lot of money right now, another thing I’ve started doing to get my workout in is to put on music from bands I’ve seen live and channel the energy of the concert. Then I just shake what my mama gave me all around my apartment, typically while singing at the top of my lungs. It’s cheap, effective, and unbelievably fun. Not to mention you break a sweat like you wouldn’t believe. I love dancing at shows, but they’re usually so packed I can’t fully get my groove on. Well I don’t have to worry about any of that in my living room since I have free range to jump and spin and shimmy to my heart’s content. So if you hate doing pushups, planks, and dips as much as I do, give apartment dancing a try!
So those are my favourite ways to exercise that don’t involve a treadmill or bosu ball. What kinds of activities do you like to do to get your body moving? Let me know in the comments! As always, have a whimsical day!