I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with exercise. I love the feeling of being active, and even more than that, I love the high I get after a fantastic workout. I love how my clothes fit when I exercise regularly. I even love drinking water when I workout — and I notoriously hate drinking water otherwise.
The problem, though, is that I hate gyms. I hate the monthly membership fees, the smell of stale sweat and recycled air, other peoples’ eyes on me when I am feeling vulnerable: when I am sweating and breathing hard and pushing myself to lift higher or run faster. I prefer to struggle privately. I also have never enjoyed classic workout routines: lifting weights, cycling, the elliptical, stairs, crunches, push-ups and other typical exercises.
So I’ve always tried to use common sense in order to stay active and healthy. And with the new year and the new life that I’ve created for myself, I’ve regained a lot more control over my days and how exactly I want to fill them. I can eat what I want, and I can exercise when and how I wish to. This has come to mean, over the past three months, that I eat mostly vegetables and I try to be active for at least an hour every day.
My new life as a single woman living alone has resulted in Zumba classes, afternoon walks, morning snow-shoeing and evening visits to the beautiful indoor track that’s part of my small town’s YMCA. On starlit or snowy nights, I often tie on my sneakers, step outside my door and walk around the empty streets of the harbor, past busy bars and the bookstore, across the library lawn, over the footbridge and back. I stare up at the moon and feel the cool air in my lungs, feeling peace in my soul and energy in my bones. And it feels like a rebirth of some sort. I’m in better shape than I have been in a long time. My body feels clean and light — not heavy from inertia or sugar, from carbs or guilt or bitterness.
Call it wisdom, call it being close to turning 30, or maybe call it a stubborn decision on my part to never feel guilty for my lifestyle again, but I don’t believe that New Year’s resolutions to become healthier and more active have to involve expensive gym memberships, two-minute planking, endless squats and sweaty old men eye-balling you on the treadmill. They can be as simple as finding time to walk with the moon and Orion’s belt after dinner. All day, I greedily look forward to a brisk walk by the sea or a romp in the snow at the golf course. Neither activity feels like forced exercise. Rather, these daily and solitary excursions into nature lift my spirits. Getting more toned and losing weight is really just the icing on the cake. And the best part is that these simple steps add up. On days when I’m able to be active outdoors, I average over 15,000 steps. I call that a win-win situation. What’s good for your soul is good for your body.