My exercise goals

To help myself sort through some of the issues with this yoga thing, I thought I’d think out loud a bit about exercise in my life.

As regular readers will know, I’ve more or less given up on goals. I don’t find them helpful. Goals keep you focused on the future rather than the present. And there is always a tendency to focus on how much further you have to go than how far you’ve come. I prefer to focus on the road and let the destination take care of itself.

I have been trying to incorporate more physical exercise into my life. And succeeding, I think. When I first moved back to Canada and was living alone, I started playing basketball in a women’s recreational league. I did that for 3 or 4 years but last fall I couldn’t join because we were away and several of my teammates weren’t playing for various reasons so the team collapsed. I could rejoin that league as in individual and they would find me a team but I haven’t.

I have also been doing an aquafitness class at the local rec centre for a few years. I just decided to try it one year and I really like it. Doing aerobic exercise in the pool is just more pleasant for me than doing it on land. I like the other women in the class. I do it in the daytime so most of the others are older than I am (some much older) but that means there is no sense of competition either around fitness levels or body image or anything. (In fact, sometimes I wonder what the little kids who have swimming lessons after us think about the variety of naked bodies in the shower.)

The effect of that class has been noticeable in the ease of doing the exercises and in the shape of my body. My abs are firmer (under the beer gut). I think my cardiac fitness is better. I feel good. I am conscious of strengthening particular muscle groups and focusing on my posture, which is also greatly improved.

Last year, I decided to branch out and add a session in the weight room. I’m in a session you have to register for, with a trainer and the same group of women at the same time every week. Again, I am one of the youngest in the class. Because I know that posture is important to my general well-being (after an incident 3 years ago that a massage therapist managed to correct and then explain to me), I have had as one goal in that class to ensure that my upper back muscles are strong. And the trainer has been good at giving me a balanced program. Again, I can see my progress in the changes in the difficulty of the exercises and my ability to increase the weight on several of them.

I’ve been trying to add in more walking. We were trying to have one hike a week this fall. That didn’t quite work out but we did do more hiking than we have in the past. I also identified a 20 minute brisk walk around the neighbourhood. Tigger and I were starting to do that regularly. But now we have snow and are in that interim season when it still melts and refreezes thus leading to ice. It is harder to get out and we haven’t been going.

I know that one reason the classes work for me is that I am motivated by the social aspect. If others are expecting me, even if there is no impact on their experience by my not turning up, I am more likely to get myself there no matter what my mood. But I am not that keen on scheduling fitness classes several times a week. And although our finances could probably cope, I’m also not keen on paying that much for fitness. Just those two classes cost me over $200 a term. Walking around the neighbourhood is free.

I have tried to institute a regular exercise practice at home in the past, using a 10-minute a day plan I cut out of an old Oprah magazine. Tigger and I did it together and it worked quite well, but it was one of the things that fell off the agenda when we went to Europe. I bought that yoga DVD as an attempt to reinstitute that kind of daily routine again. I didn’t just go back to the routine we used before as it was too repetitive of what was happening in the paid-for classes but at a level that I thought probably wasn’t as helpful. I’m not sure it would really add anything useful.

I think that one of my goals for the yoga practice will be to diversify my exercise practice. But I know that I also just need to increase it. Getting a 1-hour cardio workout in the pool each week just isn’t enough, so I think I need some of the more vigorous practice that is also included in this video (though not the main course). But mostly, I need to add in things that will deepen and extend what I’m doing.  I’m not sure exactly how that will work. Maybe I just need to try some things and see what seems to fit.

If it isn’t clear by now, my goals are not to lose weight (and certainly not to lose a specific amount), be able to run a marathon or otherwise compete in some exercise related event, or to make my body a specific shape or dress size. I don’t even own scales and am never quite sure what I weigh. My doctor is not concerned so I’m not either. My body shape has changed as a result of exercise and that has had an impact on the size of clothes I can buy. But my posture is better, and strength helps that. And I feel better, generally. So I’m happy. Like I said, goals tend to take your focus off the present and off of the positive gains.

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6 thoughts on “My exercise goals

  1. I’m enjoying running – yes, I know that’s bizarre, but it’s actually something my body is quite good at (relatively light frame, and relatively long legs, and a straight gait) which is very encouraging. And it’s outdoors, which is also good.

    I find getting a balance so I am going out because I want to is the best thing, though it’s not something I manage all the time, by any means. When I feel that I ‘should’ I tend to resist.

    I do quite enjoy immediate goals – I’ll keep going for 9 minutes before walking for a bit, f’rinstance – but that is a momentary goal. In terms of long term goals, nothing but the vaguest – wanting to be able to enjoy doing x and find it easier next year than this.

    The road is the thing to pay attention to. Thanks for this, Jo.

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  2. It seems like you have a pretty good balance, and you are happy with your exercise. But if the social aspect is what gets you going, can you find a partner that would like to walk with you or explore yoga together? A buddy has always been really useful for me when I’m trying to get myself to exercise more.

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  3. I’ve been taking evening hatha yoga classes, up to three a week, since July at a studio near my home. But I have yet to develop a home practice for many of the same reasons you stated in your earlier post. My goal was not to lose weight, but to feel better in my body. I feel better, much stronger and more flexible, AND I lost noticeable weight in the process. The goal now is to develop a home practice but I am taking it slowly. Each class I take gives me a better understanding of the practice of yoga and how and when to incorporate it into my daily life. I will experiment today with taking class at noon from a different instructor, a brisk 15-minute walk away from my office. I’ll go with an office-mate I barely know. And then I’ll take another class at 7 p.m. from the familiar studio. I guess the point is that this pursuit is a work in progress. Change is slow. But I’m trying to steadily increase the pace a bit. I don’t expect miracles, but one day I hope to incorporate daily home practice. For now, the classes are working best for me.

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  4. Count me in as another person without a scale. I don’t know what I weigh – too much certainly – but I’m working on increasing my activity level. It’s NOT good for the body to be at the computer for so many hours! I’ve been doing a good bit of yard work, prepping the garden for next spring, chasing gophers, moving chickens. It’s all good. A couple of weeks ago I decided to wear a pedometer on my walk. It’s a talking pedo, and the friendly lady told me when I reached mile markers, or a certain number of steps. After almost three miles, she piped up to tell me that I”d burned 50 calories. 50 calories??? that’s like… an apple! I found her to be very discouraging after that! Good for you for working towards healthy habits.

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  5. JoVE I can’t believe I never found your blog before Havi pointed us here today. I love reading about your process and how you think about things, particularly about the yoga and fitness thing. I’m with you on the traditional goal setting thing, it just doesn’t work for me, for a variety of reasons, but mostly it sort of removes the now benefit of what I’m doing.

    I did recently discover that on the other hand, understanding my purpose for doing something makes a huge difference. I’ve been wanting to be active 5x a week, but just wasn’t feeling it. When I thought about why I wanted to (train to climb Mt. Hood) it gave the individuals sessions of activity so much more life for me. From the outside it may look like a goal, but that’s not how I see it.

    Thanks for being here!

    P.S. Do you have an RSS feed? I couldn’t seem to find the link…

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  6. I have the same thing going on and I’m all too aware I just weigh too much. Mostly because of the way I *feel*, which is crappy. When I am fit and weigh less and am more active, I feel awesome.

    So! I got an elliptical because I love it, and I don;t work out to loose weight, I do my workout because I enjoy it, I get a half-hour of alone time and I get to rock out to my mp3 player. 😉

    @ Shannon – just put /feed/ at the end of the jove’s blog address and you’ll find the feed.

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