I spent the last few days enjoying some much needed time off, spending one-on-one time with my husband on a road trip. Even though I thoroughly enjoyed my mini vacation, I started feeling a bit antsy towards the end when I hadn’t spent any time at all exercising or training for my upcoming 5K, which is now less than a month away. Throw in some decadent meals intermixed with quite a few gas station snacks on our trip and I was feeling rather uncharacteristically guilty at my lack of working out.
I was starting to let it affect my mood when in the middle of the third hour of walking around at the zoo, my husband remarked that we were for sure getting our exercise in for the day. I asked him what he meant, and he said, “You’re kidding me right, we probably walked the equivalent of a 5K.” It hadn’t hit me until that moment that even though I had already drank an entire water bottle, was sweating through my shirt and my feet were aching from all the walking, that I was actually exercising. It blew my mind.
All this time, I never realized that I had been surreptitiously doing exercise and not even realized it. I had associated working out with a very specific set of actions usually involving a gym, treadmill or an exercise class. An undoubtedly very limited scope. Never once had it occurred to me that all the times I played soccer at the park, tossed a football around in the backyard or held secret dance parties in my living room, I was actually exercising. I’m way more active than I previously thought, and this revelation is just quite shocking.
I know that I used to have a much more sedentary life in my early 20’s compared to now, but the guilt I sometimes felt at not moving more was simply me inadvertently choosing to not look beyond the traditional workouts and acknowledge the other ways I was being active. I have written before about how I do so many different physical activities; in April alone I played at least six different types of sports. Yet I barely register any of the times I am out there wielding a tennis racket or doing yoga poses in my bedroom after waking up as exercise. This has really changed my perspective on what it means to be healthy, mentally and physically. I wonder for how many other people a simple, mental shift like this might be the difference between self-loathing that keeps them on the couch and the ability to recognize that they already are active and maybe just need to push themselves the extra mile to be truly fit. I now wish I had a log of all the zoo visits, parks, beaches, hiking trails I have visited in the last 10 years. It might make me look back at the last decade in a much different way, with a much kinder and positive outlook towards my life, knowing that I have been on a fitness journey far longer than I ever even realized.