The very word conjured up negative images and unpleasant feelings for me. It made me feel sick, just thinking about how nauseous I would have to get, to work up a sweat (which was almost impossible for me, at the time!) much less to lose weight from it.
It wasn’t that I was lazy, or did not enjoy being physically active. I loved going for walks at the park and strolling through the farmer’s market. In fact, I preferred walking or biking over driving, any day.
It was just that I was frustrated. Fed up with flourescent lights and gym memberships and personal trainers. I was tired of the pressure and the requirement and the obligation that life in a post-modern culture had put on it.
Somehow, in my departure from the naturally active life of a young Amish girl whose family made its living primarily off the land, I had gotten sucked into the dreadful pressures of an image-driven society. One in which chiseled abs and airsprayed legs seemed more important than happiness and where long flowing hair over a flawless size 2 body, had now become the end-all commercial for fitness.
It had, at least for me, lost its basic joy and been reduced to some sort of prequisite for “looking good.” And I was burned out! Burned out at the movement it had become and the motivations that drove it.
Until one day, about two years ago, when I began to love my body and honor its need for pleasure and fun, just as much as its need for exercise.
I returned to my childhood joys and began to garden and walk to the neighbors. I watched my chance to race my daughter to the top of the hill or to the edge of a lake. I would ask my husband to drop me off at the end of my mom’s long dirt driveway and I would run the rest of the way to her house. Then I would help her stack firewood, or feed her chickens. I would get my “exercise” by picking her beans and watering her horses.
Because it was fun! And because I wanted to.
Somewhere around that time, I also began rebounding. Actually I should say I re-discovered it. I remembered how fun it was, and all the reasons why I had bought a mini-trampoline, in the first place, five years before.
I had purchased a “Cellerciser” soon after my dad’s diagnosis of lymphoma, upon hearing about the benefits of rebounding for the immune system, and in healing lymphatic cancer. It was one of the top recommendations that came up, in the classes at Oasis of Hope. Not only that, but I had talked to a few people there who had experienced incredible healing from it.
As per my usual thought process, I thought: If this can heal people from cancer, can it not also prevent people from getting cancer in the first place?
So I bought a rebounder as more of a healing tool for me (and my dad!) than an exercise machine. I bounced on it regularly for a few months and truly enjoyed it. I was amazed at how great I felt after just ten minutes, and how it drained the puffiness from my eyes, like nothing else ever did.
Then I lost my dad, and along with him, I lost my motivation for using it. So I quit. I quit bouncing and dancing and living.
Until that day not that long ago, when I found myself and I found my joy again. The week I committed to doing all the things I used to love, I remembered that small round source of joy that had been my trampoline. It was still stuffed away in the garage from our recent move.
So I dug it out and placed it in a sunny location in our back yard and I jumped and danced my little heart out.
I loved it so much, I began to look forward to it, every morning. I would feel the stagnant lymph draining from my body as the fresh morning air would flood it with oxygen and I would feel energized for the day.
Within a few weeks I began to notice a definite change in my body. I was feeling much better in my clothes, and in my spirit. People noticed and commented on my weight loss but even more so, on my muscle tone and my energy. Even though I was no longer on a strictly clean diet or on HCG, (more on that, later!) like I had been in previous weeks, I was losing mental stress, as well as inches.
And I was getting my Vitamin D! Talk about some mileage from just one activity!
I loved it so much, I haven’t quit. Except for the last month or so of this pregnancy, and even then, only because the midwife strongly advised me not to.
But I miss it! I can’t wait to get back on my rebounder and dance. I can’t wait to feel that rush again. The rush from doing something that not only my body craves, but that my mind also loves.
The word no longer makes me feel nauseous. Instead, it conjures up feelings of health and happiness and well-being.
Because I’ve found something that I love doing, in which exercise is just an added benefit of what I’m already enjoying. I’ve re-discovered some childhood activities, in which fitness is just the by-product and not the focal point, of those activities.
What about you? Does the word “exercise” make you cringe? When you think of fitness, do you think dreadful thoughts of sweat drenched bodies on elyptical machines or half-dead ones panting on the side of a marathon? Are you fed up with dingy gym lights and smelly locker rooms?
Then don’t “do” it. I encourage you to give it a break. Instead, think of the most active things you love doing. And then DO those things.
Exercise should, at the very least, be FUN. It should never be reduced to a prequisite for “looking good” or even an obligation to being healthy. And it should definitely never be the driving force behind a craze for beauty in an unrealistic, image-driven world.
I believe it should be, as it was in my Amish childhood. Just a normal part of our daily routine and our otherwise happy, everyday lives.