Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Exercise isn't just for gym rats...

So I know there are a lot of people who just hate the gym. Whether it's because of the meat market atmosphere some of them have, or the smell, or the sweat, or the funky machines that look like torture devices, or what have you. Gyms aren't for everyone (or maybe they are, you just have to be in the right frame of mind).

But here's the in the States, I feel like many of us have gotten so lazy in our daily lives, that if we don't go to the gym, we get no exercise whatsoever. I've seen people drive to the gym (admittedly, it was in an area where you have to drive because it wasn't a walkable city), then park illegally near the entrance because they couldn't walk THREE extra minutes by parking on the other side of the lot. To go to the gym. To exercise. That baffles me.

I think a lot of people view exercise as an all or nothing thing. You go to the gym (or on the bike trail or whatever), pound out of sweat, work really hard, or you just sit on the couch or hang with friends. There's no middle ground.

Well, for all you New Year's resolutioners out there, there IS a middle ground! And it's called walking, and stairs, and ice skating, and snow shoveling. Exercise in a gym helps strengthen and tone, but if you're not able to get there, then there are functional activities that can get you moving.

Now admittedly, this time of year isn't great for working out outside. I really miss my morning walks to the subway in the morning, but it's just too damn cold out now. And the cyclists this time of year must have a death wish with all the ice and slush on the roads.

But I can't tell you how many people I see every day taking the elevator to the second floor of my building at work. The second floor! Now, I realize that some people can't climb stairs, but honestly, these people looked perfectly capable, just a bit on autopilot. Granted, I used to work on the third floor, and I've been taking the elevator, so I'm a bit of a hypocrite. But I also do go to the gym a lot, so I feel entitled to a little bit of relaxation (and yes, I realize that could be what these people are doing too).

Something else I noticed...I walked out my front door onto the open air walkway last week, and the walkway was covered with snow. The snow ground into my boots, and when I stepped into the tile stairwell, my boots went everywhere. And I thanked my lucky stars I've taught gliding because as I was walking down the stairs, one foot kept shooting out to the side, just like the gliding skating that I used to teach. So I was used to the sensation, but I'd never actually found a functional application for the movement before. Coolness of coolnesses!

You can even get your weight lifting through functional exercise with all that wonderful drifting fluffy stuff outside. Shoveling snow is great exercise for your back, shoulders, biceps, legs, all that stuff (as long as you shovel properly and don't overextend your back), and it gets the heart rate up as well. So one of these days, if you don't have a mega-long stretch to shovel, break it out old school instead of the snow blower.

Since this is French week, I'll close this post in France. When I was there, there were very few gyms around to join, and even fewer classes. My impression (from both books and talking to people) is that the French don't really like to sweat that much, and high intensity exercise isn't as common as it is here (Tour de France not withstanding). But man do they walk everywhere, and they're much more likely to take the stairs than the elevator (if there even is an elevator). So there isn't as much formal exercise, but there's more movement in day to day life. And honestly, I think that's the way to go. Because if it's incorporated into day to day life, then you don't even notice you're doing it, and therefore don't need motivation, since it's just normal.

1 comment:

Romny said...

I live on the fourth floor so I try to make a point to take the stairs when I can. Sometimes I'm too tired or I have a bunch of groceries with me but for the most part I take the stairs. Also, last week I painted my room. MAN! Was that a work out. Going up and down the stool and bending and hamstrings were killing me! For three days I was walking like an old biddy.