April 17, 2015

Why I Let go of Trying to Be “Fit.”

exercise kids gym class

In a breath, I let this go: the driving sense that my body should be different than it is.

I also let go of any notion of “fitness.” I don’t even know what that word means. There’s a mainstream fitness narrative that doesn’t make sense to me any more.

Perhaps it never did.

It started with a vague desire to “be in shape” as I approached my 40th birthday. I got really caught up in it for a while: the food rules, the workout “programs,” the results. Like it’s a thing.

But it’s not a real thing; it’s a social construct.

If we’re not careful, it can leave us perpetually feeling like we should do more. Be more.

Or be less.

It took me a while to see it, but I was chasing myself in circles.

So in one breath, not so long ago, I stepped out of it. I thanked it for the experience. I took a few good lessons and bits of information.

And I quietly moved on.

Here’s what I know.

I love to move and sweat. Most days, I don’t feel quite right unless I make it happen. Perhaps in another life I was a Spartan runner. Or a warrior tasked with running through the night to get food for my tribe.

I don’t know.

But the act of moving and sweating creates a state of being which allows me to come home. It forces me to the present. In creating the physical sensation of work in my body, I create a meditative space to feel and be. It is an end in itself.

It also creates an enormous opening for gratitude.

My God, look at my body. Look at yours.

Look at me walking, and running and lifting things. Moving the pedals. Slicing through water. Gasping for air. Stretching. Waving my arms about. Walking up stairs. Lifting myself out of bed every morning. Touching people’s shoulders and backs.

Wrapping my arms around my family.

This body has been serving this soul for 45 years. As I get older—and my knees crackle and pop a little more and I get twangs of this and that—I stand in amazement of it all. I declare the whole thing a miracle.

The fair, Irish skin, reminding me of my windswept ancestry.

The lines settling in around my eyes and mouth, born of a thousand careful-or-I-might-pee-my-pants laughs and my fair share of tears. The shadows that tell stories of the restless and relentless work of parenting. And many late nights working at my craft.

The hips, which allowed me to carry and fairly easily birth our two little miracles six and nine years ago.

The scars that are the marks of life…of childhood falls, adolescent growth spurts and surgical incisions of adulthood…and that one particular harrowing night.

And never mind the inside stuff. The bits and pieces that magically keep working. Like the remaining ovary that gave us the possibility of our second child. The lungs that push air in and out. The blood that keeps circulating, circulating, circulating. The brain that keeps directing traffic. And the heart. Oh, my alive and beating heart.

The idea of it all is staggering. It’s all written on the body. Our experiences. How we move. What we eat. The stories, choices, ancestry, work and struggle. And the love. Especially the love; the stuff that radiates inwards and the stuff that pours out. My body is my warrior canvas. As is yours for you. It is an absolute, goddamn miracle.

So I move, sweat, jump and run because I’m wired to. It’s my archetype. I now relax into it and let it show up on the body. No other reason is required.

This is the narrative where my sports and movement and fitness live.

The other stuff is gone.






Stop “Shoulding” Yourself to Exercise: Revitalizing Fitness with Mindful Movement.




Author: Susan Dowse

Editor: Renée Picard

Image: Kevin Dooley at Flickr 


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