So I've been thinking, what is 'health'? I mean physical health; we could talk forever about mental health, financial health, relationship health...
I am finding I am in a paradox of sorts. I grew up and went to school learning that exercise was what made our bodies healthy. That idea of exercise, at the time, was one of 'no pain, no gain'. I've accepted now that that is not the truth in health, though I still find myself on my bike, pushing hard, riding longer and further to reach what? I talk to people about the classes I run, the rides I go on with my bike; I am finding that everyone has the same idea of exercise, not surprising really.
I was on my bike the other night thinking about what I've been reading in Katy Bowman's book: Move Your DNA. Now I haven't read even 1/3 of it yet but it has me thinking and re-assessing what the idea of me being healthy actually would mean. She talks about how movement is the key to health, not having to go to the gym and lift weights, not having to go to boot camp trainings and push until we want to puke... I think about these ideas and recall the last 30 years that I've been in the gym, teaching yoga, and training to compete in Skeleton. Where have my injuries, my pain come from? What would my back be like if I truly gave up my competitive idea of exercise and just moved, each day, throughout the day. Not to a level of sweating and pushing, but to a level of building stability, allowing for mobility. Not pushing to 'get my foot behind my head' in a yoga class, but just moved, flowed through my day, playing with my kids, maybe cleaning the house, crawling up and down the stairs instead of walking, squatting to get the laundry from the dryer; the ideas are endless...
So here is my conundrum: I love skiing the steeps, I love going fast on my bike. Mentally I still see that person riding in front of me as a rabbit I have to chase down. I know, ridiculous. I'll admit, I have a little competitive side. I also love the feeling of knowing I am getting stronger, though as I write that I think about how I use Strava on my bike and I look at those results and sections that I can work harder, go faster... I am thinking I need to cancel that app.
Recently I was in Amsterdam and of course riding an Amsterdam bike everywhere I couldn't help but get up to a good cadence, pass people, and fly through the streets; but I was sweating everywhere! All day! If I lived there, I'd need a shower 3x a day. So after a few days I consciously tried to take it slow. There was one morning (yes we'd been out for the night drinking) that my 20 min ride turned into 2 hours because of getting lost. That is a long ride on an Amsterdam bike... but you know what... after that, no back pain for about a week. So now, do I go buy an Amsterdam bike and once a week head out for a night of drinking followed by a 2 hour ride? Or maybe, just maybe, start taking things a little easier in terms of my competitive side. Enjoy the slower bike rides with friends... hit up the cruiser runs at the ski hills (though I don't know if I'm ready for that much of a change yet).
I talk to quite a few people who say they can't workout. I've always said/thought 'bullshit' (pardon my language... sometimes I swear) because there are so many ways that you can workout. At the same time, they likely have the same idea of exercise that I've had. The pushing, the sweating, the mental anguish of starting a fitness program and half way through thinking 'what am I doing here?'. That along with all of the social media videos of amazing people who have worked hard at being able to do what they do, it can make the idea of starting an exercise program insurmountable. Now this isn't to say these videos shouldn't be posted, they can also inspire. I have a few videos up on YouTube... you'll see in one of the latest ones is that I'm working on rolling to the side. This is a video that looks easy... I mean we likely roll over in bed numerous times a night. At the same time, can you breakdown the movement itself and try to keep your lower body relaxed and just use your upper body to initiate and finish the roll? Now can you do it by just using your legs? Sure, it seems like a dull movement, but if you try it you'll see just how juicy the move makes your body feel and, realistically, if you break it down and move slowly you'll start to recognize the connections through the body that help you build stability & mobility.
Now what? Have 10 minutes before you have to leave the house? Want to do a warm up or cool down? Would you like to move your body before getting to a chore? Take 5-10 min to roll each day and let me know how you feel after a week. Maybe take a branch and lay it across your counter for a day so that you have to drop down a little to get under it each time you go into your kitchen. Sit on the floor and do some work or fold laundry. All these little movements add up through the day. Need a little help re-learning these movement skills? Look for a Natural Movement class.
So here is the new paradigm that I'd like to create, what we need to see. Along with diet, exercise needs to come back to the basics of thinking of what movements we do throughout the day to live a pain free, Dr. free, injection free, pill free life. Something that we enjoy doing everyday. Something we CAN fit into our day. If that means you crawl up the stairs in your house, work on your squats to get the laundry done, maybe even put a log in your kitchen so you have to step up, over and off while you make dinner (seriously I have a friend who had that brilliant idea). This is a small effort, many times a day. Let's change things up!
What would exercise look like for you if this is how you thought about health? While you think about it... I'm going to cancel my Strava account.