What is an active life?

The past two weeks have been fairly typical for me.   Pre and post-work activity included three volunteer commitments; one bike to work; four physical therapy appointments; five dinners with friends; 6 hours on a bike as a race marshall; one five hour round of golf, 7 Summer Shandies, 2.5 miles of swimming; and a mere 40 minutes of walking and running.

It sounds like a lot.  That’s at least one commitment, every day, for something social – not to mention the working out that needs to be wedged into the schedule.  As I went through physical therapy this morning, where I got the great news that I’m going to be released this week, I couldn’t help but think: with all that on the schedule, am I really doing enough to live an active life? 

Surprisingly (at least to me), I think my answer is “no”.  Let me tell you why.

For the past five months, I’ve been rehabbing a running injury.  For the seven months before that, I was hurt, but not getting treated for the “right” injury.  For the seven months before that,  I was in brutal, everyday pain, which I attempted to run through, only to create more pain.   The list continues, and it aint pretty.   This injury has been a long time coming, but in the past five months, I have worked harder, and exercised more patience, than I ever have in my life.

In all that time, though, the life I had built of being an active, sporty person, somehow became less active, and less sporty.  Oh sure, I was still doing what I could – but instead of doing something active, every day, I was struggling to put something on the calendar where I could be active, but NOT have pain.  It was tough.  Habits changed.  Poundage was gained.  Not poundage I wanted.

In May, when I finally started getting treatment for the injury, I put the Chicago Triathlon on the calendar.  It takes place on August 29.  Last week, I finally got cleared for a return to running program.  It’s been so long since I ran pain-free that I wasn’t sure if I could even get the nerve up to do it.  But I have.  Take that fear, plus the fact that it’s been hot, and it’s been intermittently rainy here, and I haven’t probably ridden, or swam, nearly as much as I wanted (yes, those are also known as BIG FAT EXCUSES).  I’m at about 65% of my training…and I’m not sure if it’s enough.  That said, I have PLENTY of time for are the premiere of Covert Affairs, and the newest Jennifer Weiner novel (loved it!) and Sunday mimosas at the cutest brunch place ever. 

But what am I doing in between?  Am I on my feet – or on my butt – most of my day?  Well, I’m not picking up my house every day.  I’m not walking to the park just because I can.  I’m not biking to the grocery store (which is less than a mile away) ; and I’m not jumping out of bed most mornings to get in a good ride before work.  I’m watching a lot of TV, and I’m sleeping in, baby!

So I’m not where I WANT to be right now, as far as activity is concerned.   The question is: what helps me, Sallie, get back to it?

Part 1: Surround yourself with active friends.  It’s far, far easier to maintain an active life if the people around you are active.  If anything, the past two weeks bears that out for me.  Would I have gotten out of bed at 7:30 on a Sunday morning for a swim in the glass-like waters of Lake Michigan were it not for my friend Abby agreeing to meet me? Nope.  I would have slept in, missed the “rain” window, and blown the best swim I’ve had all season.  When I got there, my other friends Lisa and Joe were also sitting pretty at Ohio Street, and we had a nice chat before jumping in, too.  Would I have caught up with them otherwise?  Yes, but we happened to kill two birds with one stone – something you can do pretty easily when you have active friends.

Part 2: Find a way to build in active engagements.  The weekend before, I served as a bike marshall for the Rock n Roll Chicago half marathon.  I was asked to help because I’m a longtime fan and customer of Chicago Endurance Sports, who provides many of the bike marshalls.  What did I get out of it?  Tons.  A chance to catch up with my running buddies; the amazing view of a totally closed City of Chicago as part of the Lead Pack; and the goodwill of tailing everybody as a sweeper at the end.  That opportunity only came my way though because I’ve done some volunteering with the group before, and they know I like it.  I had a ball, got a great workout in, and got to see my friends again. 

Part 3: Find a solution to the “I have a hard time getting motivated to work out on my own” problem.  My personal challenge is staying active without the social network.  I simply need the motivation of knowing I’m expected to be somewhere, at some time, in order to get moving on some days.  It’s a key part of living an active life for me.

Does that mean that I can’t work out on my own?  No – in fact, I love that, too.  I actually prefer to NOT have to coordinate with others when it comes to some fitness.  But it does mean that when I’m struggling to get workouts in, and struggling to be more active, I call on that network to help fill the missing gap.   This week, it means I made plans to swim with Abby at least ONE night (we said two, but even that’s looking like one); and I’ll probably look to meet another friend for a bike ride on Friday morning.   Also, I have a carrot.

For me, the Chicago Triathlon is such a HUGE priority that I will.not. miss the opportunity because I didn’t get my walk/runs in.  By placing it on the schedule, and knowing that I have to be at a certain level of fitness to complete the race, I will get the walk/run workouts in.  Period.  First, because the race is very long, and it scares me to be unprepared; and second, because it is my single greatest proof – to me, and only to me – that I’ll have healed from this injury.

What does it take for you? This is what it takes for ME to live an active life – to meet the demands of work, and play, in a way that doesn’t make me want to go crazy.  The question is: what does it take for YOU?  Are you doing what you could be doing to lead a more active life?  Are you struggling to do things alone?  What makes you get out the door?  And how can you make it easier?

As we go through this process of becoming more active people, these are the questions we must continue to ask ourselves.  The ONLY way to create sustainable, real change in our lives is to constantly monitor and be aware of what IS and ISN’T working for us, and to adjust accordingly.   Don’t be afraid to be real about who you are, and what works, and what doesn’t.  It can help you change your life.

Think about it, and try out a few solutions.  Figure out who you are, and what you need.  It’s not always easy, but it’s always worth your time and effort.

See you on the path!

6 thoughts on “What is an active life?

  1. Are you in my head? You are! Wow. Me and my mental buddies have been having this conversation off and on for a while and it came down to this: I KNOW how much I LOVE the power surge I get from exerting myself physically and I have to do something (anything) every day to keep that craving fresh in my mind.

    I’m scary good at the excuses game. After my triathlon in June, I found ways to put off my training habits every day – up until yesterday. I had a long and fun but exhausting day. At 9:30 pm I was ready to wrap it up and call it a day but then my inner drill sargent showed up and reminded me that I promised to start training as soon as I got back from my VT trip. So at 9:30, in the mud from the rain earlier in the day, I went for a run.

    It was good and I knew the minute I got out of the driveway that I made the right choice. And today it’s going to be a swim. And tomorrow a workout AND a run. I posted my run on Daily Mile last night with a sense of victory.

    Moab Half Marathon 2011 here I come!

    • Hannah –
      I loved this reply! I am not in your head – but I think we all share this mentality. (Well, maybe not all of us). I’m seriously, SERIOUSLY impressed at anyone who goes out to run at 9:30 at night – and in mud and rain? Even better.

      I know what you mean, too about recognizing how good it felt the minute you got out there. Isn’t that how it feels? Okay, for me, it’s at least 5 minutes in, once I’m warmed up – but still, you hit that Point of Awesomeness (otherwise known as the POA) and you’re in – on that endorphin high, happy as a clam.

      Rooting for you in Moab 2011 – sounds like you have exactly what you need to get there!

  2. Great post. Can you give me some tips from your walk/run program? I am doing Danskin on the 23rd and I am petrified of the run. I sit around and fret…..but don’t ever actually run. I don’t know what I am going to do!

    Covert Affairs rocks.
    Have you tried White Collar?

    • Siobhan –
      Thanks 🙂 The run/walk program I’m using is actually a “return to running” program given to me by Dr. Chin at The Running Institute – Chicago. He’s a swell dude, and it’s actually pretty easy. For me – and this is just for me – Week 1 is 4:30 of walking/ :30 running X 5 (at least, I think that’s it)…plus a warm up and cool down. As I found out last night, ANYONE can run for 30 seconds, even a girl who hasn’t run in over a year!!! Danskin’s on the 23rd? My suggestion is to get out there for 30-40 minutes, focusing mostly on walking right now, with some runs thrown in. The beauty of the run is that you can ALWAYS walk it – and if you start this week with 30 seconds, you can move up next week to a 4/1 mix, and the week after to a 3:30/1:30 – if you feel like it.

      Honestly, the run doesn’t matter. Run, walk, whatever – as long as you’re going as fast as you can, and covering the distance. There were several years where my walk was faster than my run, and if that’s the case for you, go at it!!!

      Sal
      p.s. I have tried White Collar – but I jumped in mid-stream and am slightly lost. However, am now addicted to AMC’s Rubicon instead – real spies, all the time!

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