For months and months I’ve been shaping up and working out and struggling to do anything to return to my former athletic glory. Yes, it’s true, I used to be an athlete when I was younger. But somewhere along the way of running my own business, I fell out of shape. (I can’t even blame being a single mom, because I used to be athletic then too!).
Actually, I’ve decided that “falling out of shape” is not the proper term. It makes no sense. People may fall out of love, or fall out of bed, but it’s not likely that you fall out of shape. It’s more like people sit out of shape.
For instance, my shape went from a nice hour-glass to round. It didn’t happen because of a fall. It happened because of a couch, quite frankly. True, it happened over a winter or two (with a spring, summer and autumn in between), but it was really the couch that caused it. A snuggly, comforting, warm couch that enfolded me when I was tired, cold, lonely and depressed. And I sat there. For a year. Or maybe more.
Then around Thanksgiving, I was talked into taking a ballet workout with a friend and that convinced me that the couch wasn’t nearly as comforting as I thought. Not compared to working my muscles to the exhaustion. And the four hour endorphin high that came with it.
So I threw myself into finding my shape. Unfortunately, every inch I fought off became a battle I waged against myself–body, mind and even soul. It sounds so violent! But if you could read my thoughts while I’m working out, you’d know I do feel rather angry about it—angry for sitting so much, for eating so much, for not caring so much. Angry at how much harder it is to lose weight now that I’m getting older. Angry at how my life is NOT set up to be healthy.
It’s all my own fault, I know. No one forced me to sit so much, or eat what and how much I’ve eaten, or set my life up this way. It was a choice. My choice.
Then, last week, I was lecturing my youngest about something, and she said “aren’t you the one always saying that ‘it’s the thousand choices you make every day that determine what your life is going to be?'” Yes, I say things like that to my daughter. And I do believe that’s true. I just don’t like it when it’s used against me.
So I pouted and then thought about it, then started looking at every one of the choices I make in a normal day from the time I choose to get up to the time I choose to go to sleep. Of course, what followed was a good half day of arguing with myself about what belongs in each day and what doesn’t. I have a sneaking suspicion that there’s a lot of crap in between those hours that doesn’t belong there, but I defended all of it to myself because…well, I don’t really know why.
Exhausted from my mental arguments, I went to my Pure Barre workout and judged myself in the mirror until I was so shaky, sweaty and exhausted that I began to bargain with myself instead. “You know, you could be running instead,” I heard one thought say and my body responded by toughening up and holding on to the butt shaping exercise more desperately. I hate running.
“You could join Cross Fit with some of your friends,” another thought said, and somewhere deep inside me something shrieked in horror. I know others love it, but I’ve tried it, and it’s NOT for me.
“You could go back to karate,” said another thought, and I pondered how ballet training and karate are actually very similar.
In the next 40 minutes, a hundred other options crossed my mind from creating my own circuit training to giving up.
When I climbed back into my car enjoying the post-workout bliss, I was debating whether I could give up life as I know it and become a wandering hermit who just walked. Probably a little dramatic for the situation, I decided. That’s when the Blue Zones crossed my path. I’d read about them a year or so before, but somewhere in the comfort of my couch, I’d forgotten the lessons.
- Move Naturally–build a life that nudges you to move, especially movement you enjoy and walk
- Know your purpose and ascribe to a greater purpose
- Eat wisely–mostly plant-based diet, only to 80% feeling full and a little wine every day (whew!)
- Connections matter most–family first, then a tribe that supports you
Most of these lessons fit my idea of living well–meaning well as in healthy and well as in great. I don’t intend to be a supermodel, or starve or kill myself for fashion, or to meet some societal judgement, or anything else that’s not natural. I merely intend to live naturally and well.
So I look over the Blue Zones list and zero in on “especially movement you enjoy,” mostly because it’s at the top and probably the most revolutionary idea on the list. “You mean I don’t have to run?! Or join Cross Fit?!” I think excitedly. But what do I love to do?
Before I can answer, the answer presents itself. My playlist changed, and once again I stopped all thought and just imagined dancing to the lilting tune.
I love to imagine myself dancing. I do it almost all the time that I hear music playing. I think about what kind of dances would work with the tune, which steps would be best at differing points in the tune, who I’d like to dance with, and sometimes even what kind of dress I’d wear.
“Why don’t you go back to dancing?!” my mind asked me excitedly. “Because the only time I get to dance I have to pay—and pay A LOT—to have someone to dance with. It’s just not natural!” I argued. I laugh. My grandparents would have tsked-tsked me for saying that. Dancing was something they did all the time. It was a common social practice, and everyone knew how to do it. There was no need to pay anyone to dance with you, and I’m not talking about bump and grind, but dances like the waltz and tango and swing dance. Oh, how I long to East Coast Swing!!!!
Isn’t dance why I’m in the Pure Barre class and own a dozen ballet workout DVDs to begin with? Wasn’t ballroom dance always the best workout I ever had…mainly because it never felt like a workout? Wouldn’t it be wonderful to dance again? YES! YES! YES!
A song from Michael Flatley’s Lord of the Dance comes on my play list and I smile thinking of myself gracefully floating across the stage then stamping out a complimentary rhythm. Maybe I should take up Irish Dancing! I mention it to my youngest later, and she laughs. (And laughs. And laughs.) But then again, she laughed at my doing ballet. And ballet has been great for my shape. But to fly around the floor in someone’s arms and climb inside of music—well, that’s my idea of a great time!
That night, in the darkness of our very first thunderstorm of the year, I go back to dreaming about dancing and thinking about making choices. I can choose to continue arguing with myself, judging myself and feeling angry about sitting out of shape. Or I can choose to make better daily choices. If dancing is the way I want to shape up, then by-gosh-by-gum, then who am I really to argue with myself. Now, I just need to find a partner.