Fitness Mindset

Somehow, I have learned to enjoy exercise. I wish I knew how, so I could explain it to others.

For most of my life, I had never been any kind of a fitness person. Sports was not a thing in my family. In school, I was always the last to be picked for teams, because I was always smaller than everyone. My entire professional career has had me sitting at a desk. The only real exercise I got during my adult life was working around the yard.

About fifteen years ago, I stepped on a scale and was shocked. My Body Mass Index had strayed into the “Overweight” category. I changed my eating habits, and I went to the gym for a while. The gym wore off, and I rode a bicycle for a while. Cycling was good until I moved somewhere that is not bike-friendly (which is basically all of rural America). Years later, the only thing that stuck was eating better. My weight has stayed under control, but I was not really in shape; specifically, I have had little endurance for any kind of exercise.

However, my interest in hiking has gradually increased over the last few years. Hiking is okay for a minimal amount of exercise. It gets your heart going, especially if there is an incline, so there are health benefits. It’s good for your legs.

Hiking led to backpacking. Backpacking is different from hiking in that you are carrying a 40+ pound pack. It makes me slower, exhausts me faster, and muscle pain is a bigger problem. I learned one early spring backpacking trip after months of not hiking that I was in no condition for backpacking. I needed to go on a rugged hike every weekend for several weeks to recondition myself for backpacking. GOAL.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but this was the factor that made all the difference: I had a goal. Not an arbitrary goal selected for the purpose of motivating myself. I really wanted to be able to go backpacking, so I really needed to put in the work to get myself there. And it worked. Five weeks later, I was able to go backpacking, my knees weren’t sore, and I was able to travel the miles I planned.

Keep in mind that I have A.D.D. and I am a master procrastinator. I can find excuses to get myself out of doing anything. Discipline was also necessary, but I just wouldn’t have done it without that goal.

Hiking and backpacking led to trail maintenance, which expanded to include sawyer tasks. Carrying a chainsaw in a backpack turned out to be something else I wasn’t in physical shape for. With the pandemic, I did a lot of it, and it was wiping me out every time. My endurance was limiting my effectiveness as a sawyer. GOAL.

It wasn’t my legs this time so much as my aerobic/cardiovascular capacity. I made the decision to start cycling again, and I went two or three times a week. I found an eleven-mile paved trail with hills that was away from the city and not full of contagious people. And it worked. My endurance on the bike improved steadily. After several weeks, I went out and hiked up a big hill with my sawpack and didn’t have to stop for a break. Once so enabled, I went out frequently with the saw, and that became my exercise.

I reached a point where my legs were in great shape. The muscles are toned and hard. Inevitably, I have made comparisons with the rest of my body, which is pillowy and flabby. My arms, I have noticed, have much less aerobic capacity, and relatively little physical work with my arms leaves me breathing heavily for a long time to recover. Obviously, I need to focus on my upper body.

But what exercise? There aren’t many good options, but I have settled on this: weight training and canoeing. I’m not going to a gym during a pandemic, so I have bought weights (at great expense, because of the demand for weights during the pandemic). And I now have a canoe. It’s a bit cold to use a canoe safely right now, so I am focusing on weight training.

I haven’t been at it for very long, but I am finding that I am looking forward to using them. Even as I write this, I’m wanting to stop what I’m doing and go down and get in some exercise. I will do that when I’m finished. There is going to be some learning involved, and more gear to buy, but I’m getting there. I am just getting to the point of figuring out how much weight to use for the exercises I am doing, and I am already improving the amount of weight I can lift. The fact that I look forward to it, and have been keeping at it, suggests that I have a sufficient GOAL. I guess that goal is to look good or something.

We’ll see what happens.