Fitness and sustainability: what makes it click?
The other day while digging through old videos in my basement searching for my long lost figure roller skating tapes (yes, they're coming to a blog near you very soon!), I came across a video that for a time, changed my life back in the late 90s. It was Oprah's "Make the Connection" video. Remember that one?
At the end of 1997, when I watched it and subsequently purchased the companion book, I had a nearly two year old baby girl at home, a full-time design job, a hubby, a house and about 40 extra pounds on my 5 foot 6 inch frame. I decided to follow the 10-step plan and get a bit of fitness back into my life. I didn't want to be a chubby, out-of-shape, tired 31-year-old mom. It was time to get busy.
A year later, I had dropped 30 pounds, was exercising (though not enjoying it) 5 to 7 days a week (mostly doing Cher Fitness step aerobics at 5 a.m. every day in my family room) and thought I had really figured out the keys to being healthy.
Then, drastically departing from Oprah and Bob Greene's plan, I took up smoking again, quit exercising, and got even thinner.
Here I am all these years later, having gone up and down the scale a handful of times, having restarted and quit smoking more than I'd like to admit, and now I'm exercising again. But for some reason, THIS time feels different.
Why is that?
I thought about Oprah the other day, and remembered this video and how utterly amazed I was at her transformation, and the fact that she not only got fit, but she trained and ran the Marine Corps Marathon. At the age of 40, after a lifetime of struggling with her weight and inactivity, she ran a freaking marathon in under 6 hours. Oprah ran for 26.2 miles.
Of course we all know that she never maintained that level of fitness. Her journey is nothing if not well documented. You can always count on Oprah to keep it real and continually explore it from new and enlightening angles. That's one of the things I admire most about her.
Just last May, I was touting her show with Geneen Roth, author of Women, Food and God. But as I have moved further into this whole running thing, and have found myself not only enjoying the act of being out in nature and running, but even missing it on the days I take off, I had to wonder: what did Oprah miss with the whole running thing? Why no sustainability in her own life?
Was her running simply about a goal and nothing else? Was it purely a means to an end? And more importantly, what is my running about?
When I started exercising back in January, I had one goal: move more, eat less. But what that really translates to is: for the love of all that is holy, get thinner!
I recall quite clearly begrudgingly lacing up the old running shoes, jumping on the treadmill, and watching the clock for when my next walk break was due. It was not love at first site. It was 'this is what you have to do if you want to be thinner, end of story.' There was nary a drop of love to be found anywhere in my basement.
In the video, Oprah is seen working out really hard, complaining the entire time how much she loathes being there, doing what she's doing. And oh, do I get that. Or at least I used to get that.
But I have to wonder: did she ever look at the process of running and find any joy in it?
I am finding joy in the process. Last weekend, I went on a five-mile trail run. Five miles along the Mississippi River, under tree-lined cover on muddy, sandy trails. I ran side by side with someone I didn't even know, and we chatted the whole way about life and running.
On my drive home, I was elated. Aside from feeling like I'd just been running on the set of Twilight, I had no idea that running through the woods could make me feel so proud and strong and connected to my life.
This just has me thinking about what is it that makes fitness, or the act of moving your body one of sustainability? Why can we keep it up for a time only to lose the inspiration or the dedication?
Why do I look at my hot pink running shoes and smile every time I walk past them in the hallway?
Why is this so different this time?
Finally, what did Oprah miss that for some reason is clicking for me?
Don't get me wrong: I do not have the magic bullet to health and fitness here. I'm fully aware that I could leap off this wagon at any time without warning. But something IS different. Something is changing.
It ain't just about getting thinner anymore.