Well, y’all. It’s June already. This year is almost half over.
I feel like the last two months or so have been a complete blur with all of our travel. Since early April, we’ve been to Maryland, Virginia, Oregon, Montana, Utah, and parts of Idaho we don’t usually visit. All of these trips have been important and worthwhile, and couple of have been super fun, but my word–that’s a lot for this homebody. And it’s not over yet; we have at least one weekend booked in July and two in August, and who knows what will come up after that…
I do enjoy visiting family and seeing new places, but travel does drain me. I like my habits and routines, and it’s really tough to keep them consistent when we’re on the road. So I guess that maybe this is a good time to revisit Rule #2: Move Every Day (one of my Ten Rules for 2023) and evaluate how to approach it going forward.
Why I Wrote This Rule
Let me give a brief recap of my fitness journey. I’ve been an off-and-on exerciser for many years, but I didn’t really hit my stride until 2017. I was coming off the worst year of my life, struggling with grief, wondering about my purpose, and knowing that I needed to change something or slide into oblivion. I had success with Body for Life once before, and I loved the combination of weight lifting and cardio, so I started that system again. By May 2018, I had managed several personal fitness records and managed to meet my weight loss goal.
I was doing well with maintenance and gradually improving my running speed and endurance all through 2018 and 2019, and I was thinking about new goals for the coming years, and then…
And an interstate move.
So while I’ve not gained back all the weight I lost nor lost all the fitness I gained, I definitely needed a reset going into this year. And though I did set a new weight loss goal and a few fitness goals, I decided I needed something simpler–a lower bar. I decided that there was no way I could mess up with “Move Every Day,” so that became Rule #2.
Back To Basics
In some sense, my 2023 rule is a callback to 2017. Back then, when it was a struggle just to get out of bed in the morning, I told myself that all I had to do was 20 minutes of cardio or about 45 minutes of weight lifting. That was it. I could sit the rest of the day if I wanted. I decided that if I got up, took kids to school, and got some exercise and a shower before noon, that was all the productivity I would require of myself for the day. Usually I could manage more, but on the days when that wasn’t possible, I had already given myself permission to crash if necessary.
This year, the reasons for the low bar are different. I’m not in the same place I was in 2017 at all. Idaho is pretty good. My oldest three kids are (basically) settled, and the youngest requires very little from me at this point. I have an office of my own where my commercial work and fiction await every day, and I’m usually pretty excited to sit down and work on all of that. And like I said, I don’t have the same amount of weight to lose as I did back then, nor am I as far from being “in shape” as I was at the beginning of 2017.
I’m 53 this year, almost 54. I wake up sometimes and wonder when my body decided that some random new muscle, joint, or ligament would just pop up and remind me of its presence. I still like to lift weights and run, but sometimes, it’s a lot harder to push through to the end of a workout than it was even a few years ago.
So I decided that this year, I would have a plan and maybe set some goals, but that I would mostly focus on just moving a little bit every day (or nearly every day). “Moving a little bit” can mean a six-mile run or a total body weight workout, or it can mean a stroll along the river, or it can mean errand day in Coeur d’Alene when we hit the Costco, Wal-Mart, Home Depot, WinCo, and other random stores (trust me, I get my steps in on those days).
Because here’s what I’m realizing: even “moving a little bit” is an improvement over most people my age. I don’t say this to be mean, but statistically, most Americans in their mid-50s are not “moving a little bit” every day. Most of the main causes of death in older adults are related directly or tangentially to inactivity and obesity.
I have no intention of sliding back to obesity, and I would still like to lose these several pounds that I’ve gained back, but also?
I think it’s okay to be at a maintenance level–to try to maintain a reasonably healthy weight, get a reasonable amount of exercise, and not expect myself to be an Olympian at this age and going forward.
The Benefits of Exercise
Earlier this year, I read the book What Makes Olga Run?, by Bruce Grierson. I have long found inspiration from women 70+ who pursue fitness goals that might be tough for some 20-something women to hit. Olga Kotelko fit right into that category, along with Sister Madonna Buder, Ernestine Shepherd, and a whole bunch of random ladies I’ve seen walking, jogging, hiking, bicycling, doing yoga, lifting weights, or whatever they do to keep physically fit into their later years.
Volumes have been written about the benefits of exercise, and I’m pretty sure that none of this will be new to any of you. Since there is so much out there, I’m just going to focus on the benefits of regular movement (besides weight control and better cardiovascular health):
- Improved mood
- Better sleep quality
- Reduced inflammation
- Improved immune system function
- … And a host of other benefits, including (potentially) improved brain function and memory, slowed aging, and general improvements in skin, bone, and organ health.
For me, as a white woman at greater risk of osteoporosis, with a family history of pre-diabetic conditions and breast cancer, exercise is especially important. Weight lifting helps me improve bone health and slow the loss of muscle mass. Cardio keeps the blood sugar under control. And all of it helps improve my mental health. When I’m exercising regularly, I handle ambiguity better, I’m less prone to bouts of sadness or depression, and I’m much less irritable. Everyone is safer when I’m less irritable.
Results So Far
Up until April, I was doing pretty well with Rule #2. I recorded five or six days of exercise most weeks this year.
But when this crazy busy season of travel started, I had to give myself permission to allow myself to skip workouts while we were on the road. I always pack assuming that I’ll exercise, and I always find it nearly impossible. This most recent trip was especially tough; I went over a week without regular exercise, and I was not very active on most days, either. There were a host of reasons that I won’t go into, but suffice to say that I’m resetting all of my habits this week.
I’m also reminding myself this week that every week is a fresh start. In fact, every day is a fresh start.
So this week, I’m restarting… again. I got a full weight workout yesterday, and today, I will get my sore legs out onto the pavement for a jog (or maybe just a plod).
From here until the end of the year, it looks like–at this point–most of our scheduled trips are short–long weekends, basically. I don’t think I’ll need to skip more than a day or two for these upcoming trips, if that. I’m going to double down on my efforts to lose some of this extra weight and improve my fitness while we’re at home and operating with normal schedules, but for upcoming trips, I’m going to just assume that exercise will be nearly impossible, and I’ll give myself permission to skip those weekends if necessary.
Because above all, these “rules” are meant to promote a healthy, balanced life–not to be so stringent that they stress me out to fulfill them.
Next week, I’ll be back with a NEW character profile from The Taurin Chronicles–a minor character who has a small but pivotal role to play in the final two books. See you next Tuesday!