Tonight my legs are singing. I went running on the treadmill at lunch today again and man do I love running. Of course not the part where my legs are killing me and I think I am going to keel over but the part afterwards where I am sweaty and red faced and exhilarated. Building the little exercise room and shower were a fantastic idea. Before I went running I was a little tense and anxious and afterward I was relaxed and felt I could take on the world.
Exercise of all types is a source of joy for me. When I was kid, we weren’t allowed to watch TV (hippee parent rule) but the good thing that resulted from that crazy mixed up plan of my mom’s was that I spent a huge amount of time outdoors. I swam and ran and played softball and baseball and ice skated on the Forand’s rink and did cartwheels on the front lawn for fun. Back then, it wasn’t ‘exercise’ it was ‘fun’. I didn’t do it to be ‘in shape’ I did it for ‘fun’. I could have cared less if I had ‘abs of steel’ I just wanted to have ‘fun’. A few years ago I began to exercise to get in shape and lose weight and hated it. I would go to the gym and use the elliptical or the treadmill and just felt like a hamster on wheel…lots of running, no purpose. The irony is that even though I was exercising my head off, the scale wasn’t budging. I got very discouraged and gave up. Then about two years ago, I realized that I love to swim with the kids for ‘fun’. As it turned out I was ‘exercising’ and didn’t even know it! We would swim the width or length of the pool and I was having a great time. It sounds a little silly but until that moment I hadn’t made the mental connection that being physically active was both fun and ‘exercise’ at the same time! That was the beginning of a whole new relationship with physical activity for me. I started walking everywhere and would swim laps and enjoy it and started biking to work and the next thing I knew I was training for a triathlon. I ran and biked and swam and enjoyed almost every minute of it and when my first race came and I finished it, I was hooked. Not on triathlons per se (although I do love em) but on being physically active all the time.
Being active has proven to be a huge mental health boost for me too. The irony of course is that when I am most sad or stressed, I have trouble getting motivated to be active and yet that is the time I need it most. When I am in the blue phases of life, I back off the running and biking and swimming and instead just stroll into town or swing on the playground until I am feeling like running will be ‘fun’ again. Finding a way to just enjoy the fun of physical activity was the key to maintaining an active life for me.
Take home message for today: Find your ‘fun’ and you won’t have to exercise ever again!
Run, bike, stroll, swing, or swim and each day will be your best!
Molly O’Shea, MD Birmingham Pediatrics + Wellness Center 248 816 2558