I never developed a fondness for sweat. “Go out and play” was not a happy childhood instruction. I much preferred “Go to your room and study,” except I’m not sure anyone ever told me that: I did it on my own. As one who started living from the neck up at an early age, anything in the sports/exercise/fitness category was sorely lacking in appeal.
The “seated activities” – reading, writing, conversation, theater/cinema/TV – are totally what I’d have sung about had I been Julie Andrews going on in The Sound of Music about my “favorite things.” This preference, and the way I’ve seen sadness and disappointment exacerbate the predilection for a sedentary state in myself and others, led me to coin a condition, Activity Resistance Disorder. It will appear in print for the first time in my upcoming book, The Good Karma Diet. I know it’s real because I’ve experienced it repeatedly: ARD, experiential proof that a body at rest really wants to stay that way.
But I know we’re supposed to be moving – even more than was once believed. And there’s no time off for being over 40 or over 50 or over 60, as was once the conventional wisdom. If anything, we need to be more consistent about exercise as we get older. Why, then, does it not get any more appealing? I figured this was a matter of, simply, “Suck it up.” So I tried. For years.
I’ve done yoga, off and on, since I was seventeen (it’s always seemed like the most civilized of exercise philosophies), and I’ve belonged to a gym almost one-hundred percent of the time for the past twenty-five years. I’ve never been crazy about cardio. I can’t dance, despite childhood ballet classes (or perhaps because of them); and swimming calls for getting cold and wet – the only states less pleasant than sweating. But refusing to be a slouch, I have consistently done some kind of yoga, the treadmill or the cross-trainer (thank God for, first, CDs, and now podcasts), and sometimes I’ve gotten into weights enough to actually like it. That’s been sufficient to keep me in decent shape overall and pretty good shape sometimes, causing me to believe that I never suffered from ARD after all. But then I’d get a cold, or an injury, or take a vacation – and getting back to those curls and squats and deadlifts could take weeks, sometimes several.
To remedy the situation, I’ve at times had trainers. I love having a trainer, but I’d probably also love having a private chef and a masseuse and chauffeur. The fact is, I have no more business paying someone over $100 an hour to be sure I make it to the gym than I would hiring someone to drive me there. It’s a great short-term thing to learn good form and the like, but unless you’re really rich, it’s not sustainable. I always thought the trainer would get me so jazzed about working out that when my time with him or her was up, I’d keep going with great enthusiasm. Well, I did keep going for the most part – I have a Nike tee-shirt that says, “Every damn day just do it” — but the enthusiasm has often been less than infectious.
So, I was going along, same old, same old, watching the clock in CardioSculpt class, trying to figure out why that hour was the longest of the day. Then somebody who’s an aerial and acrobatic yogini, Ashley Galvin, started following me on Instagram. I looked at those pictures, and doing what she did was all I wanted in all the world. But of course I couldn’t do that. I have injuries (wanna hear about my neck, shoulder, wrist, knee, ankles? – no, of course you don’t) and I’m, well, let’s just say “mature” – way too mature for hanging upside down and flying through the air. But you know what? Hanging upside down and flying through the air are even cooler than reading and going to the theater.
I looked up a school here in the city — Om Factory — that offers both aerial and acro-yoga, and I had to try. How bad could it be? Well, impossible. It could be impossible. Embarrassing. Yeah, that was really likely. Dangerous? Probably not too dangerous, or someone would have sued the place before now. So I went. In that class, I could have been anybody’s mother, and maybe somebody’s grandmother, but I could do most of the moves in the beginner class and it was amazing. I felt completely in my element, and that class – 75 minutes – sped by. You see me smiling in the above picture? It’s because I’m ecstatic!
It occurred to me that perhaps there’s a genetic component to exercise appreciation. I hadn’t thought of it before, but my daughter does silks – a type of advanced aerial performance. Maybe instead of being a tennis family like the Williamses, or a football family like the Mannings, we’re more like the Flying Walendas.
Here’s what I know today: I will never do what my daughter does, but I understand why she loves it. And I love going to these yoga classes. At first, I thought, “I can cancel my gym membership.” But after a while, that morphed into, “I’ll go to the gym to be stronger and fitter for aerial yoga.”
For me, thinking outside the gym means hanging and flying and climbing (I’ve discovered a rock-climbing studio, too. It’s amazing how many mobile opportunities are out there). For you, it could be roller-blading, snow-boarding, trapeze classes. It may even be even something offered at your gym that you’ve never tried before. You’ll know it’s yours when the time speeds by, and you can hardly wait for the chance to do it again.
Victoria Moran is the author of books including Main Street Vegan, Creating a Charmed Life, Shelter for the Spirit, Lit from Within, Younger by the Day, and the May 19, 2015, release: The Good Karma Diet, available for preorder with an exciting gift and contest. These days, she spends a good portion of every week upside down, when she’s not reading her favorite fitness publications, Definition Fitness Magazine, and Vegan Health and Fitness Magazine.