outside with the cuties
June 9, 2018 7:19 PM   Subscribe

Are you a historically living-in-your-head person who became very involved in physical activity (a sport, yoga/martial arts, etc.), to the point of very regular/daily practice? What was it like to transition your life to be more about embodied pursuits?

I feel like my relationship with physical activity has been traveling along this hockey-stick-shaped curve. For a long time I've been gradually increasing my daily walking, experimenting with new activities, trying sports and practices out. Recently, it all sped way up. I started going to yoga 3x a week and LOVE it. I just want to be in that place of focusing on the physical every day, it's so lovely and challenging and engrossing.

I'd like to make the switch to daily yoga practice, and/or in general doing something vigorous physically every day. In getting closer to making this switch, I've also become aware of how, in some ways, this is a fundamentally different approach to day-to-day life. I'm so used to things being primarily mental - my ideas, my goals, my worries - and yet I feel so much happier if I'm organizing a big part of my life around the physical and embodied, and the pursuit of a physical(+spiritual) practice.

Given that I'm still someone who loves researching and collecting information (and not that I expect to totally like Become A New Person or anything!), I was curious what making this kind of commitment might feel like months or years down the line. Is there anything you wish you had known when making the decision to prioritize, say, at least an hour of vigorous physical activity a day?

Thank you!
posted by elephantsvanish to Health & Fitness (8 answers total) 39 users marked this as a favorite
I’m someone who hated exercise, and preferred reading/gaming/drawing or anything sedentary. For 45 years. In the last year, I started swimming 4-5x a week! I’m very interested in the responses you get to this question. I’m still not at the point of going on the weekends, but I want to get there. I have a friend who has worked out (lifting) almost every day for 25 years, and that’s so foreign to me. But that kind of commitment is finally something I picture myself having. At times, I barely recognize myself from a year ago.

I do see already that my new habit requires that I say no to other things. Or at least modify. If friends want to hang out after work, I either have to meet them late so I can swim before, or leave early so I can swim after. But I absolutely don’t let myself skip swimming for other plans. It’s a little harder to be spontaneous. But if I’m tempted, I think about how I will feel at the end of my swim, in contrast with how I will feel the next day if I don’t do it. This forward thinking about positive consequences is not something I’m used to. I actually get very sad when I can’t go in to the office, because then I can’t swim - whereas most people I know are thrilled for work from home day.

Good luck, and I’m glad you found something that makes you feel good.
posted by greermahoney at 8:15 PM on June 9, 2018 [3 favorites]

One thing that surprised me was how much this affected my social circles. Not just that I hung out less with my sedentary-lifestyle friends, but that I ended making new friends through my thing. I kind of expected to be able to isolate my new thing to only the time I did it, but it leaked out, a lot.

A less surprising thing: whatever your thing is, look at the old-timers. You're very likely to end up like that. Make sure that's desirable or avoidable. I do a thing that's all about jumping up and down, and you can really see what a toll that takes after a few decades. Minor injuries are sort of par for course, and they add up. So I try to be quite careful about warming up, paying attention to good form, and giving up for the day if I feel myself getting tired. Better to progress more slowly than to be prescribed six months' rest.
posted by meaty shoe puppet at 9:37 PM on June 9, 2018 [3 favorites]

This is totally me. Tai chi was my gateway activity. I was in my 40s when I started it - and I don't actually remember what got me into It. I do remember the moment I realized that it wasn't moving my body I hated - it was gym class. I feel that the gym classes I took and the horrible gym teachers I had made me think I hated all physical activity (I grew up in the 60s and 70s - I hope things are better now).

When I was diagnosed with multiple brain tumors in 2007, I just had this thought that I needed to take yoga, so I took private yoga classes for a few years and loved that. I still do yoga and some other exercises every single morning. It's just part of my day now - and I really have to do it because I'll have debilitating back problems if I don't. I had wanted to take fencing in high school, but my mother's response was that I'd look fat in a fencing uniform, and that was the end of that. But at the age of 51, eight years ago, I decided that if I was ever going to learn to fence, I'd better do it, so I got involved in the local fencing scene and totally fell in love with it. I am, by the way, the world's worst fencer, and since fencing is competitive, that is sometimes hard to deal with, but I still love it. I keep trying. There are a lot of kids who take fencing, and I can't tell you the number of parents who have come up to me and said they plan to eventually take classes too - they never do - and I tell myself I am awesome for trying.

meaty shoe puppet is absolutely right about injuries. I've had to take time off a number of times - most recently because I tore some tendons. But it was really cool when the sports medicine doctor referred to me as "an active fifty-something." It's also very true that you end up dropping other aspects of your life. I fence twice a week, and I decided I had to drop my trivia nights because three nights a week out of the house was too much. Physical activity is also a great stress reliever. One thing I love about fencing is that when you're in the middle of a bout, you really can't think about anything else.

One other thing - as a person who intellectualizes everything, I end up reading a lot about sports and activity. Born to Run is a cool book. And I listen to health-based podcasts - Rich Roll's is a favorite.

But changing to an active person is absolutely doable and, in my experience, very fulfilling. It has brought me friends I never would have met otherwise. I'll never be a great athlete, but I don't need to be. It has really enriched my life, and I'm so glad I started down this road.
posted by FencingGal at 7:11 AM on June 10, 2018 [10 favorites]

Internally focused austistic here. At best I live with one foot in the outer world and one foot stuck in a purely cerebral realm. (Which is a dramatic improvement from my youth, during which my contact with the outside world was minimal and reluctant — but a lot of good people put a lot of hard work into me for many years.)

Took up running in my mid-to-late thirties, and was suddenly able to identify various formerly uncategorizable yearnings I’d experienced over the years as cravings for physical activity. I was so out of touch with my body I didn’t even understand was it was trying to tell me. Move! Leap! Push!

I experienced profound improvements in mood and sleep efficacy, with lasting effects.

Because of some of my austisitc tendencies my biggest problem is overdoing it. I’m somewhat obsessive, so being balanced about food, injuries, and self-care took some learning.

I currently run a daily 10k, rain or shine, and it is on the whole a massive positive in my life. However I am also scheduled for minor surgery in a few weeks to address some issues my doctors say become common in a certain class of endurance athletes. (Correctable issues, I’ll be fine!) The challenge there is for the weeks until my surgery I’ve had to cut down to a daily 5k, which is tough. I keep cheating and getting in trouble from my wife, who checks in on me via Strava.

Daily physical activity has improved my life, my outlook, my health, and my feelings.
posted by Construction Concern at 8:41 AM on June 10, 2018 [5 favorites]

I have tried and tried but just can't stay in a normal exercise habit because I get so mentally bored. The only things that have worked to get me out walking around consistently are political activism (petitioning and canvassing) and playing Ingress.
posted by Jacqueline at 5:41 PM on June 10, 2018 [2 favorites]

I started running last year, rapidly became addicted... then got a injury which frustratingly stops me from running for the moment.

So what I wish I'd known was how easily you can get injured and how long it can last. I should have been more cautious about progressing too quickly.

Also people who've spent a lifetime doing exercise I think have a better grasp of what pain means. I.e. what are good pains that you should push through to make progress, and what are warning signs that you need to stop. That's something you might want to try to learn.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 2:00 AM on June 11, 2018 [2 favorites]

This is me! I used to have exclusively sedentary hobbies: reading, drawing, knitting, video games. I liked the idea of outdoor sports but didn't think I could ever be that person - I hated getting sweaty, feeling out of breath, and above all, failing in front of an audience. Despite that, I started going to the occasional yoga class when I was 25. Over the past decade I've gradually increased my level of fitness and worried less about people watching me flail around. Eventually I ramped up to yoga class weekly, running a 10k trail run with 980ft elevation gain (in sand!) last summer, rock climbing 3-4x a week in the gym with a trip outdoors every few months, and hiking with a 30lb pack on trails I couldn't carry myself up 5 years ago. Climbing and backpacking are great activities for people who love to do research and solve problems. :)

I actually do feel like a new person! I don't have terrible, life-ruining insomnia anymore. I feel better emotionally as well - I know adequate sleep has a lot to do with that. My social circle has expanded to include my climbing and backpacking friends, but I also play mandolin in an ensemble on weekends half the year and I still see my friends from school. I fit outdoor weekends around that. I also don't read as voraciously and I've almost entirely dropped gaming as well. You'll have to decide what your priorities are.

And yes, definitely learn the difference between pain you can push through and pain that means injury. I'm still figuring things out - I've been to physical therapy twice in the past year. After spending so many years hating physical activity, it's surprisingly hard to take a break from it now.
posted by kiripin at 3:53 PM on June 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

These were so insightful and encouraging to read, thank you!
posted by elephantsvanish at 8:50 AM on June 22, 2018

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