I feel a need to exercise. If I do not exercise on a regular basis, I become very displeased with myself. For at least 15 years now, I have pressured myself to exercise on a regular basis, with periods of non-exercise here and there. Which is why the past two winters have been very trying for me. I have gone into pretty dark slumps, mainly due to a lack of exercise and the resulting winter weight gain.
It is true that I enjoy, to a great degree, the benefits of physical activity. Let me be clear here, the word “exercise” signifies something I feel I am obligated to do, whereas the phrase “physical activity” signifies something I love to do. I make this distinction for many reasons, but the main one is that I feel people, mainly women, are pressured to exercise on a regular basis in our society in order to become or to maintain the thin physical appearance the media constantly and overwhelmingly displays. I duly acknowledge that obesity and the modern American diet are awful, but I am not obese. The problem is that I think of myself as if I were.
Along with that mentality, i.e. “I am fat,” comes a lifestyle that always seems to be working against our bodies. Everything we strive to do ends up being an action to change our bodies, to work against ourselves. I will eat to change, I will exercise to change. On the other hand, we have our heritage, which overwhelmingly medicates every single emotion with food. So, we’ve got the message to be thin, but we’ve also got the message to eat eat eat. I believe I am not alone as a woman who, very uncomfortably, straddles both realms. For me, these two seemingly opposed worlds are in my bones, in my blood. Sometimes the thought of being at ease seems impossible.
Yet, I know that my life is moving towards truly addressing these issues. There really isn’t much room for my obsession about my appearance in a life where I strive to build a better world than the one I find all around. I also admit that I am learning a lot about my body-conscious issues from paying attention to the messages that farming can teach me. Respect, kindness, harmony, submission and strength, just to name a few. When I truly listen to myself, the message I hear is that I should eat respectfully and responsibly toward myself, others and the Earth, and that I need regular physical activity.
I want to take care of the Earth, why not my body? Regular physical activity keeps my metabolism going, wards off depression, brings out mental clarity, evens out my hormones, encourages healthy sleeping patterns, keeps the blood flowing, increases libido, and so on. And those are actual, physical results of physical activity.
During the growing season, I must say, I hardly need much more activity than what is necessary to keep the vegetables coming out of the ground. I am so incredibly happy farming, and a lot of that well-being comes from the physical activity. However, I do often become sore during the summer, and I actually, for the first time in my life, experienced some real pain last year due to being on my knees a lot. I found that a regular yoga practice was a welcome addition to my life. Sure, yoga is very trendy, everybody is doing it. But there is a good reason why so many people love yoga. Yoga, if practiced properly, teaches proper alignment and breathing techniques that actually come in handy while farming. If farming makes me feel stiff, yoga stretches me out. And, if I can return to the whole body issue again, there were many moments in my yoga practice where I felt strong, graceful and beautiful, feelings I rarely ever feel throughout my day to day life. Yoga helps me feel at peace with my body.
I’ve got two more months before the work season begins in full swing again, and have made a promise to myself to try to really take care of myself until then. So aside from adjusting my eating habits, I have been at a loss as to what kind of physical activity to engage in. I kind of have a “thing” against gyms. Florescent lights, equipment, electricity, locker rooms, no thanks. As someone once pointed out, it would be really cool if we could harness the energy produced by working out at the gym to power our homes, but since that is not the case, I would rather just use my body to get a good work out. I understand gyms, they are warm, easy, but I just can’t. Recently, and I mean really recently, I have taken to hiking daily. I got a hiking pass to the Mohonk Preserve, and honestly, hiking makes me happy. Seriously giddy. Although it is cold outside, I find the brisk air brings a kind of clarity to my thoughts that doesn’t quite happen when it is hot and humid. I also bought some spikes to go on my hiking shoes for the treacherously icy terrain that’s going on on the mountain these days. Now all I have to do is stick with it. My intuition tell me that if I do, I’ll be better for it. Not in order to become thin, but just because I want to and it makes me happy.
A little bit of pressure on myself is actually a good thing, as long as it is really coming from me, and not some twisted regurgitation of everything else.