On Movement

“Do you like to move?”

I start, blinking at the girl next to me, the source of this question. I’m momentarily confused. “How do you mean?” I ask, thinking that I really don’t love moving homes, though there’s an undeniable sense of excitement the day of.

“Like, are you into sports or stuff?”

With a small mental Oh!, I shrug, self-consciousness winning out for now. “Well, yeah. I was a competitive sprint kayaker, and played competitive soccer before that. I haven’t done either in years though. Lately I’ve mostly just been lifting weights and doing sprints and walking and stuff. I’m currently in exercise ‘rehab’ after having taken about a year and a half off to.. work on some health issues.”

She nods, but doesn’t let go so easily. “I’m a distance myself, though I also took some time off to.. work on some health issues.” She smiles at me then, and I’m smiling back at the deliberate echo of what I’ve just said. Despite myself, I’m curious as to what she means. “My training is mostly focused on track practices right now.”

“Cool!” I reply, and mean it. I am genuinely interested in how other people move.

As my father is known to say, there are three things you shouldn’t talk about in polite company: Religion, politics, and food. I’m in full agreement. Diets tend to acquire a cult-like following, particularly if they “work”; and, seeing as we all have to feed ourselves, food us something that affects us all, however much we choose to implicate ourselves in the actual politics of eating. Because there are politics, believe me – and if you’ve managed to remain completely unscathed I both applaud you and must regard you with a healthy dose of skepticism. It’s practically inescapable: tabloids, television commercial, internet banners, ads on the sides of city buses. Foods and diets abound. Unwittingly, we’re consuming and reworking almost every thing we’ve seen (Jean Kilbourne’s “Killing Us Softly 4” provides a thought-provoking apperçu into the ways media affects us).

Anyways, on the exercise matter: moving, as of yet, is not something that has become unduly political. Of course, everyone needs to move, and it’s well-known that movement is essential for good health. Exactly how much or what kind is highly up to debate. Various professionals and fitness experts have all sorts of opinions as to the types of exercise we need, which can be a bit confusing. At this point, I think that the most important thing is that people get up and move in the first place, and are conscious to keep moving in ways that help them to function best. Also vague, I know – I’m certainly not simplifying anything here. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Take a walk. Go to the gym, if that’s something you like. Swim across a lake. Hike. Swing from monkey bars at a playground. Go kayaking. Lift heavy stuff.

As a student in exercise science, I find the diversity in people’s physical activity levels fascinating. Some of my classmates are hardcore weight lifters and body competitors, training for maximum strength or “ideal” physique, respectively. Others are casual gym-goers, and still more do nothing in the way of “formal” exercise. All of these things are fine, by the way.

My philosophy on exercise has shifted around throughout the year. I spent a number of years training at a relatively elite level, in soccer but more so in sprint kayak. I fell into running roughly around the time my disordered eating started – by the end of my senior year in high school I was running for an hour (on a treadmill) every morning before school. As my mindset shifted towards total homeostatic health (gradually, over the course months), I stopped exercising almost completely.

In May, I began walking to and from work, for a total of an hour of easy movement a day. I began going to the gym intermittently, work and studying often getting in the way. Recently, I’ve begun to go to the gym more frequently, and I’ve set a few tentative workout goals. I actually enjoy the gym environment – when I can make it work for my schedule. I strive to stay active and want to me a more conscious exerciser. I want to move in ways that feel natural to me. I’ve been lifting and doing some sprints. Long-lasting cardio isn’t my focus, just now – running is hard on the knees, and I find myself too bored to commit beyond twenty minutes or so.

A yoga and climbing gym has just opened up here, which sounds absolutely perfect – I’d love to add climbing to my fitness regimen, and yoga is something I genuinely enjoy and would love to get back into (my chiropractor would love that for me also – I appear to have lost quite a bit of flexibility). Price is an issue (I definitely can’t afford a yearly membership, or even a monthly one, on my student budget), so I’m leaning towards class passes and using these types of work-outs as enjoyable accessory forms of movement, with sprinting and weightlifting as my base. Ideally I’ll also walk to and from school every day, though in the winter months that does become harder.

So, how do you move? Is it something you do consciously? Does it just build itself into your day, or maybe not at all?

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