Every year, my husband and I and our twin boys go to Florida to visit my parents for Spring Break. It’s a beautiful community, right on the ocean, and I have to admit that every time I am anticipating this wonderful trip, I start to worry about how I will fare without my usual workout regime and all its accoutrements: my favorite studio, gym, trainers, treadmill, bench, … what if I (gasp!) run out of my favorite pre-workout powder?? What if I cannot find the exact same type of protein bar that I rely on so heavily to fuel me after my workouts??? Truly I become obsessive about things as I mentally picture myself eating batches upon batches of my mother’s home baked cookies, sipping chardonnay with my husband at Sunset, and having the best ice cream in the world at the beach club. Basically I fear reverting to all teenage eating habits since I will be under the same roof as my parents for the next 10 days. And then of course, I arrive and the first thing I do the next morning is to go for a long run, and it sort of mentally resets my head. The next 10 days are not going to be the norm, fitness wise, but that can be a good thing. Let’s see what we can do, we might surprise ourselves.
“I don’t know what you’re worried about, there is a FITNESS CENTER a half mile away, Susan”, my mother says to me. “FITNESS CENTER” in Florida conjures up images of 80 year-old men with white sweat bands on their heads and black knee socks. I get nervous. “There are weights there, it’s nice.” She adds. Again, I picture 3 lb. dumbbells and a couple machines left over from the 80s when they used to have a Vic Tanny’s in the nearby strip mall. She gives me that look, and I decide then and there that it is my daughterly duty to take her up on this well-intentioned suggestion. I arrive at said FITNESS CENTER early the next morning, and I am pleasantly surprised. The gym is humming with people of all ages and fitness levels and there are an abundance of adequately modern treadmills, bikes, ellipticals, weight machines, free weights, kettle bells, medicine balls, TRX… frankly better than my gym at home. I get to it and put my earphones in, hopping on the treadmill. Sure, it wasn’t a Woodway, but it did go as fast as I needed it to for my sprints, and I made it through my 16 minute interval running sequence tuning out the world, and happily in my “zone”. I was so pumped, I decided to do a bit extra and ended with side shuffling, squat hops, and crab walks on a steep incline. Wiping myself off with a towel, I powered down the machine and stepped off for more water. It was then that I noticed them.
Two older men who fit the aforementioned knee sock description perfectly - 2 treads down. Staring at me. They didn’t think I could hear them. “Did you see that GIRL?” (“Girl”…heart melts!), “I think she’s training for the Olympics. She must be.” “I’m going to ask her.” Man with headband comes over to me, “EXCUSE me,” (Very loudly), “Yes”? I smile, taking headphones out of my ears, which weren’t on anyway. “Well my friend and I, we just have to know… “ His next words hung in the air so I could almost see them over his head in a cartoon bubble, “What are you training for?”. I knew they were expecting me to say, “Oh the upcoming Ironman” or something that sounded impressive, but all I could think of was how much I needed to train, how much I needed to move my body and work out, how much I craved the physical exertion, and how sweat has become an imperative in my life. It isn’t a means to an end, it is the whole enchilada for me. LIke, if I don’t work out, my head just isn't right, my nerves are on edge, and I am not terribly pleasant to be around. I wanted to explain to them how when I’m carrying a tired, mid-meltdown kid in one arm, and two full back packs on my shoulders while holding the other kid’s hand and walking 10 city blocks, I’m unfazed. Its that kind of stuff I’m training for. How do you articulate that in passing to two sweet older men who just want a sane succinct answer they can tell their tennis buddies the next day? “I just like to. Nothing in particular.” I said, somewhat breathlessly while beaming brightly as the endorphins had clearly kicked into gear for me. I could tell from their disappointed and dare I say disapproving faces I had failed them. They had wanted more.
But really, what more is there than the day-to-day life we live? Each of us, with our own responsibilities and obligations, face challenges by the minute. We never know when we will be called on to muster up the reserve strength that we have inside. Usually it’s not for those large momentous occasions. Usually its for the 3 o’clock on a Thursday kind of moments, when you’re going about your regular day and all of a sudden there is something or someone who requires you to rise to the occasion. Before I started working out regularly, I remember feeling tired. All the time. I wondered if it was vitamins I needed, or more sleep, or maybe I was just adjusting to being an “older” mom of toddler twin boys. It wasn’t that – I wasn’t training! We are each born with a body, we are each then, by de facto, athletes. We have a responsibility to keep this body physically fit. I am not saying we all have to walk around with 6-pack abs, what I am saying is you can’t expect to get excellent output from a body that you aren’t treating well with nutrition and exercise. Somehow we have gotten used to a culture where exercise is a “treat” for our bodies, rather than a necessity. Nothing can be further from the truth. I know it's hard to get it in, it's hard to go to a spin class every day when you have a family and an hour commute to work and need to also come home to make dinner and tuck the kids into bed. But – you don’t need a class. We can make modifications to our daily routine if we think about it. If you really make fitness a priority, and something that’s near the top of your mind every day, you start taking the stairs at work. You walk instead of take a taxi 20 blocks. You start taking the subway stairs two at a time. You stretch in the morning and fit in 15 minutes of sit-ups, push ups, air squats, and maybe some tricep dips. There are ways to train every day, we just need to look for them. I promise you, if you start making little modifications here and there, you find more and more time hidden in your day where you can “fit in fitness”. It will become second nature, and you’ll wonder how you got by before.
Some of you may be runners, or maybe cyclists, dancers, tennis players, golfers, yogis, football players, fencers, equestriennes, bob-sledders, or champion couch potatoes. There may be a hundred different ways you choose to get your sweat on - or not. But every single one of us is a daughter, son, mother, father, brother, sister, friend... we each play a role in our life and in the lives of those around us in this beautiful, hectic world. We are all interconnected - our energies and our intentions. Our bodies are the only thing we have from the minute we are born until the minute we die. And how fit we are can help or hinder us in fulfilling our daily roles. If we think about fitness in this way, we can start to see that much more than preparing for a marathon, game, competition, or tournament, the most important training we can do for ourselves and for others, is training for life.