Fit Friday: Joy

Several ideas have crossed my path this week that have made me ponder my hyperfocused approach to fitness, especially swimming.

Earlier this week, I was talking with a good friend who said, “I don’t time my walks and don’t care how far I go, so it doesn’t matter to me. I left all of that competitive time (running, walking, etc) stuff behind in the military.” Instead he walks by the river, watches the morning sun and the ducks on the water, the beavers build their lodge, and basically enjoys being outside.

Another friend sent a link on the “Fun Theory”, a fascinating YouTube video documenting a social experiment. A group of engineers transformed subway stairs from plain into a black and white, musically functional piano keyboard – and 2/3 more people took the stairs just to play on them.

Entrepreneur and fitness guru Jonathan Fields has a fabulous post on how to make exercise more fun than sex. Perhaps he’s a tad optimistic, still, he has a point. We used to run around outside playing until we were exhausted as kids, and never once thought of it as drudgery or exercise.

So what do I do?

I swim. A lot. I’m kind of obsessed with swimming. And truly, I love it! I enjoy the coolness of the water, the weightlessness, the strength, grace, rhythm and endurance I feel in the water. In a pool, I like the smell of chlorine, the stillness, the snap of a perfect flip turn. In open water, I like the light refracting through the water, the waves, the sense of connection to the natural world.

Still, I let myself get so hyperfocused on the trivial details, the part that matters so much less. I require myself to swim two miles per workout. I want to get faster, I’d like to get my mile back under 30 minutes. I need to kick more. Intervals would make me faster; harder workouts would improve my time.

Holy crap, I’m 45 years old and I’m not and never will be Dara Torres! As my friend said, it’s not about competition. If I do what I love, and focus on the things I enjoy most, the rest will follow. And even if they don’t, I’ll stick with it, because doing what brings me joy motivates me.

I also walk and do yoga, but I don’t get so wrapped up in compulsiveness there. I don’t know if it’s because I am not so attached to those activities, because they aren’t naturally competitive sports, or because they don’t lend themselves as easily to the process of continuous evaluation and improvement.

The line between exercising for enjoyment, fitness, physical and mental health, and obsessively, compulsively exercising to a rigid perfectionist standard, is not fine and is not blurry. I wander across it far too often. I need to – I will – focus on joy and loving what I do as a primary goal, a lifetime goal.

3 Responses to “Fit Friday: Joy”

  1. Choyu Says:

    Jeri, do what you know in however fashion it pleases you! Some people do things for the pure joy of it and others do it and enjoy the times aspect as it gives one a sense of a barometer, no one expects you to be Dara Torres, they just WANT you to be happy (those that matter anyway) I love Volleyball and try improve everytime as it gives me a good feeling knowing that I gave it my best effort and sometimes that means really buckling down and focusing! No, I will never play in the Olympics, but when I do play I give it my all! Same as running, I am no Usain Bolt, but I want to improve my time and it still gives me joy! Now if I do not make a ‘certain’ goal, I do not beat myself up over it, I accept it and hope that I gave it my best effort! So basically I am saying “do what works for you!” and all will be fine! Just keep swimming, swimming, swim-ming (I love that movie!)

  2. Jeri Says:

    Choyu – I’ll probably vacillate between the two, and rely on good friends like the first one to gently remind me when I’m getting a little bit too over-the-top in one direction or another. I love that movie too, in fact, if I ever tweak my blog template so that it displays my tags you’ll see that my swim posts are tagged “Just Keep Swimming”. :)

  3. Beast Mom Says:

    I personally enjoy measurable goals. Progress makes me happy. I also feel great enjoyment in just the experience of things. Don’t always have to measure or plan.

    There is a place for both sides of the coin you describe.

    Interesting post.

    -bm