My brother had a dog named Loki, a black springer spaniel mutt, who loved the water and loved chasing balls. If you combined the two, say a lake and a ball, he would chase that baby for hours. Hours. Until his legs were shaking. Until the sun was setting. Until my brother had to leash him to make him stop.
That’s what exercise should feel like. Believe it or not, there is an exercise out there that will feel that good to you. Our bodies were designed to move and every single one of us has something that will feel like that spaniel and the ball in the lake
As I’ve said before, I was the anti-PE girl. And I’m still so uncoordinated that I wouldn’t dare pick up a tennis racket or try to throw a baseball. But this afternoon, I headed out to the garden. I kept thinking I should go swimming because I’ve been doing it a lot and my massage therapist said that my back looks great, and many of us are headed out to the national RWA conference next week, so I wanted something to keep looking good. Calves and back, that’s what I’ve got. (And forearms, baby. Let me flex my forearms for you sometime. Please?) Everything else is showing its age.
What I did instead of swim was drift out to the garden. Shade comes into my backyard in the late afternoon, and I can address certain tasks even if it’s a hot day. I’ve had some black fabric bags to hang on the fence for weeks, and I found some cheap, half-dead petunias and verbena at Lowe’s the other day. I told myself I could do a little gardening, then go to the pool.
I changed my shirt and shoes—again the RWA conference is coming and my feet have their usual, embarrassing walking sandals tan—and headed out. Gloves, a cute flowered bag with pockets that Christopher Robin’s mother sent me (she sends great gardening things from England) and got to it. Digging a little here, pulling weeds there, tying up some beans. A wild thing that had been adding a nice bit of architecture had finally grown too tall so I dug it out and put in some squash. I pulled more weeds.
It was hot. I sweated a lot. My face was streaming, and dirt stuck to my chest. I kept thinking I’d stop in a few minutes, but I had an idea to put the leftover petunias in the cinder blocks I use to prop my fig trees up high enough that when my darling dog lifts his leg, he doesn’t pee INTO the pots. If he pees on the petunias, they’ll cough a little and be fine the next day. When that was finished, I decided to dig out the dead rose and put some cucumbers there.
By then, I was seriously thirsty so headed in for a drink of water. I glanced at the clock and realized I’d been out there for three hours. THREE hours! I drank a big glass of water and headed back out to finish up, dragging my trash inside, making sure the new plants had water. Of course I was famished.
Because you know how many calories general gardening burns in three hours? 1143. (According to Net Diary.) You know how many are burned by swimming 35 minutes (laps, moderate)? 339. I could have gone to swim, but I wouldn’t have stayed in the pool for three hours.
I gave myself the physical activity I adore and in the process, burned as many calories as lifting weights or swimming laps for hours or doing three Zumba classes, back to back. It’s also great exercise, lifting and moving, bending and squatting (sort of—squatting isn’t that easy these days). It’s not cardio, but it’s healthy and meditative and powerfully relaxing. As I sweated putting dirt into containers and screwing hooks into the fence, cortisol was pouring out of my body. Worry dropped away and I stopped thinking about anything at all, which is always a good thing for the brain and creativity and healing. I only thought of the plant in front of me, the sun on my shoulders, the weird pleasure of sweating so much.
A good lesson.
What kinds of activities make you feel that rush of joy? Maybe it isn’t a classic form of exercise, but something else. What is your ball in the lake?
And if you haven’t found one, what is something you have thought you might want to try….but you are nervous/worried/might look stupid?