Sunday, 22 June 2014

The Joy of Not Working Out

For many of the most garden-variety reasons, I didn't much like high school gym class (except for square dancing in Grade 11; that was fun). Then high school ended, I got into doing (and eventually teaching) aerobics classes, and being fit became important to me. The activities varied over the years — aerobics in all flavours, running, swimming, strength training, cardio machines, rowing — but, until quite recently, I was always on some kind of weekly workout schedule ... always making sure I clocked x-number of minutes/hours, kilometers, reps, laps, etc.

Cute kiddies spotted at the bus stop: "We just bought banana bread!"

Now, those who know a bit about my lifestyle may wonder why my list of fitness activities doesn't include cycling — that activity I've done almost every day for the past 15 years, including a few years of bicycle commuting between Vancouver and Richmond.

Well, you see, I've never thought of cycling as a workout. Even though the hills get my heart rate up and give me leg muscles ... even though I sweat and burn calories and all that jazz ... cycling has always been more about the scenery, the thinking time, the fact that I'm not cooped up in a car, spewing noxious fumes into the air and wondering how badly overdue my next oil change is.

It's also something I almost always enjoy, in contrast to almost everything I've ever done on a cardio machine/in a weight room/in a muggy, hyper-chlorinated indoor swimming pool.

I'm not averse to exercise — au contraire — and many of my official "workout" activities have been plenty enjoyable (especially rowing, which straddles the workout category and the contemplative-communing-with-nature category).

No ... what I've become averse to, I guess, is the notion of working out as something that's separate from "regular life" — something that needs to be done and gotten out of the way, no matter how unpleasant or inconvenient (an idea I recently encountered on a bus advert for Anytime Fitness, a 24/7 gym: "Get a workout in, then get on with your life!").

Here's Freddie on that same bus ride. We're heading out to UBC for a non-workout hike. :)

Kits Community Garden
[I'm tempted to apply for a plot but fear my thumbs aren't green or motivated enough!]  

The fact that 21st-century North American urbanites don't tend to lead inherently active lives (and thus need to plan for exercise) is hardly an original observation. But it's something I've thought about more since Freddie moved in. Living with a heavy-ish, high-energy dog has meant that physical exercise (walking/hiking/running with Freddie, towing Freddie to work, lifting Freddie in & out of the bathtub, etc.) has become a bigger part of my regular life. I do far fewer scheduled workouts; I don't keep track of time or distance or reps or nothin' ... and I'm discovering I like it that way.

Joanne and I discover a new trail in the Seymour Conservation Forest!
[Most of the trails are dog friendly.]

I don't think my overall fitness has deteriorated. I probably can't shoulder press as many metal plates as I could in the pre-Freddie days when I was hitting the gym a couple of times a week ... but who cares? I'm pretty sure pushing my bike + dog trailer up Arbutus Street has kept me in reasonable bench-press shape. And I do still (grudgingly) lift weights at home ('cause the people who claim that strength is the Fountain of Youth have convinced me).

However! Lest anyone think Freddie and I are living the idyllic, athletic life of our pre-techie ancestors ...

... fording streams and foraging for berries ...

... trail-blazing ...

 ... tree-climbing ...

... let me hop down off my high horse and say, "Er ... no."

I see scenes like this one down below, and I'm reminded how much recreational/life time I still spend sitting down, doing bugger-all in the way of physical exertion.

I might not be glued to a TV, watching World Cup football ...
... but nor am I tearing around a big field (or farming one, for that matter) for big chunks of my day.

Sitting is the new smoking, they say.

"Whaddaya think, Freddie? I'm not a musician, but if I stood at the corner of 4th and Yew during my non-teaching terms, lecturing on the structure of the analytical paragraph (with plenty of gesticulation, for added upper-body effect), would anyone stop and listen?"

"Freddie? Hello? Yeah, OK — point taken."

Back Lane Blooms

Church Yard Apples
I'll keep working on not working out ... in the most active way possible. Which may, for the moment, mean marking midterms in an upright position. But if anyone needs any bags of peat moss or cords of firewood transported — carbon-free — gimme a call. Freddie's trailer is versatile!

Thanks for stopping by!

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