I really like food. If you put something in front of me that I enjoy, or even just -kind of- enjoy, I’m probably going to eat it. There are of course exceptions. There are times that I have been too full to eat another single thing. Over the years, I have dabbled in vegetarianism (it never worked because…sushi) and pescatarianism (which never worked because…bacon). I have gone thru periods of exclusion (dairy free, gluten free, sugar free). But what it has always come down to is that I love food. And so, as my body grows older and my metabolism slows down, I fight the constant battle of every mid-life human: How much exercise is enough to eat the things I want to eat. And how do I find the time to do it.
Now, let me be clear: I have grown fond of the gym in my post-athlete life. In my first year out of undergrad, I was looking for hobbies. I was living in a new city. I didn’t have a lot of friends. I needed things to take up time when I wasn’t at work. And there was a Planet Fitness located about a 5 minute walk from the theater. So – I got a membership. It was mostly running and elliptical and starting to experiment with a few machines. But it was something. And I went five times a week. Even on days when work was strenuous, I would pack my gym back and head there. It was a way to blow off steam and wind down. During the next summer I learned how to swim laps. The next year, I was in another new city and got a membership to the YMCA. The gym kept me moving and allowed me to always eat whatever I wanted. I thought about it less in those days, but looking back – I never thought about what I ate. And it was a privilege.
Since moving to NYC, finding ways to keep myself moving has become more difficult. I bike when I can. I go to the gym when I can. I hike when I can motivate myself to get out on a day off. But it never feels like enough.
When I arrived home from hiking this August, I became very aware that I had lost weight. And not just that I had lost it, but that parts of my body that I have been unhappy with were suddenly looking how I wanted them to. When you go walking for two and a half weeks, it starts to pay off. But when I got back, I was also nursing an injury. It took a while to get back to the gym. And then I kept a solid regiment for a while. And then I went to Portland…and it was easy to just stay inside and lay around all day. As much as I want to be a person that gets up and goes all the time, when it starts to slip back…it’s easy to keep it that way. For every day I don’t go to the gym, not going the next day feels easier.
It’s like this for so many things. Waking up late makes it easy to wake up late the next day. Ordering take out once makes you realize that it’s quicker than making your own food. Forgetting to take your vitamins one day makes it easier to forget them again. Pattern begets pattern. And choosing to break an easy pattern for something more difficult can take a lot of work. For me, this means that I need to stop writing now and pack my gym bag. I need to make myself take it with me tomorrow. I need to not convince myself after lunch that I don’t have time or it’s a bad idea. I need to remind myself how much better I feel when I exercise. I need to do so many things to mentally get over the hurdle that grows taller every day. I think these are the hurdles that keep people from doing so many things in their lives. And it’s all I can do to clear this one so that maybe the next one will be easier.