Enjoying Exercise

I’m a little surprised by how many people tell me they do not exercise. It may seem a small thing, but I see this as sad. The idea of health, through exercise, is a hard won achievement; it presupposes we don’t need it for survival.

Yet here in the United States, the wealthiest country in history, we seem to have forgotten the importance of doing things solely because we enjoy them, mentally, physically and emotionally.

Yes, I know: We are all so very busy. Between work and family and social obligations, where are we supposed to find the time?
But there’s a deeper reason, I’ve come to think, that so many people don’t have time to exercise: We’re afraid of being bad at it. Or rather, we are intimidated by the expectation that we must actually be skilled at what we do in our free time. Our exercise, “self care”, has become too serious, too demanding, too much an occasion to become anxious about whether you are really the person you claim to be.

If you’re a jogger, it is no longer enough to cruise around the block; you’re training for the next marathon. If you’re a trail walker, you are no longer passing a pleasant afternoon on e a leisurely hike, you are trying to plan to hike the Rockies or at least garner a respectable social media following. When your identity is linked — you’re a yogi, a surfer, a rock climber — you’d better be good at it, or else who are you?

Lost here is the gentle pursuit of a modest competence, exercise , let me remind you, is supposed to be something different from work. Please do not let values like “the pursuit of excellence” creep into and corrupt your thinking.

It’s more important to do it correctly once, than wrong over and over, just to look like you’re performing.