And sometimes, when you do, you just look silly.
Seriously, people? You remember why you’re heading up to that 24-Hour Fitness, right? For the exercising? You are riding an escalator past a set of actual stairs to get to your favorite stair-master. That’s how far removed we are from an organic exercise experience. (Organic in that it’s a naturally occurring part of the whole of our day — not organic in that it looks the same but costs more at the grocery store.)
I know those people weren’t purposefully avoiding the stairs and they just stepped onto the escalator out of habit, but seeing that picture was kind of a defining moment for me. I decided to try to make EXERCISE the default thing I just do out of habit, rather than the alternative.
So, for lots of reasons, but that picture is definitely one of them, I don’t go to the gym anymore.
I used to. I was a DI athlete in college and spent no little time in the gym. Although I can’t say I ever loved it. Even so, as a young mother, I had a membership at the local YMCA, and week after week, I’d frantically attempt to cram in a workout on some machine or other in the seven minutes before the slightly goth chick from the kids’ club would come winding her way towards me with my sad baby.
It just wasn’t working out. (See what I did there?)
I know some moms like going to the gym. But for me, I never liked it all that much to begin with, and it wasn’t the best way for me to get a workout. First, it was something I had to do alone. I had to get my husband or the aforementioned slightly goth chick to watch my kids in order for me to do it. Second, it took a whole chunk out of my day. Especially once we started homeschooling, I needed to be really protective of whole chunks of my day. We have to be at home in order to get our school work done. The commitments that I make for us away from home, need to be worth the time that they take away from our school day. Third, it was an expense, even just the YMCA was a bill we were having to pay each month. Most months, I could think of things I’d rather do with that money.
So, I quit the gym and started being mindful of incorporating exercise into my daily routine. Seeing that picture made me pretty much swear off of escalators and moving sidewalks forever.
I walk or run places whenever possible. At my in-laws’ in Chicago that’s pretty often, since the park and the pool and the used book store and even the little grocery store are all within walking distance. At home in LA, it’s more difficult. What you’ve heard about nobody walking in LA is pretty much true. We don’t even have sidewalks in our suburban Los Angeles neighborhood. But our local parish is in walking distance, and, since I try to make it to daily Mass anyway, I walk or run there and back each day. I say a rosary and spend some time in prayer, all while getting some exercise. (I don’t get sweaty when I run. I don’t know why, I just don’t. If I did it probably wouldn’t work for me to run to Mass, so I’d walk.) Usually, I’m pushing a loaded double stroller for bonus points.
There’s something extraordinarily satisfying about accomplishing so many things at once.
During the day, I go up and down the stairs at home, as often as possible. When I have to drive, I park in the back of the lot and I don’t move the car in between stores at a strip mall. I carry stuff. I pull weeds. I sweep. I vacuum. I chase toddlers.
I am currently carrying around the cutest 25 pound weight you ever did see — almost all the time.
It turns out that I didn’t really need to go to the gym after all. There is plenty of exercise to be had in my daily routine, if I just stop trying so hard to avoid it. And exercise that happens organically doesn’t feel like a burden. It doesn’t usually get skipped even if it’s a holiday or I’m having a rough day.
I’m not as fast as I was in my racing days, but I feel like I’m as fit as I ever was. And I’m saving time and money and setting a good example for my kids by exercising organically. That’s what works for me!
Kendra Tierney is a Catholic wife and mother of seven kids. She writes about anything that comes into her head at Catholic All Year and only the important stuff at Blessed Is She. She wrote a little book about confession for children, called, wait for it . . . A Little Book About Confession for Children. Her two favorite doctors are Who and Pepper.