I was in a hurry on Thursday. I got to the gym at 2:05, and I needed to get back to the house before Colin got home. It was packed, probably the busiest I've ever seen it. Fortunately the people who come to this part of the gym aren't there to mess around, and everyone works around each other pretty well. I moved through the warm up, sets, and intervals quickly, doing my best not to short change anything. Then I did six rounds of jump rope intervals, stretched on the Smith machine (it's just like an adjustable barre!), and headed for the door. As I left the trainer behind the desk said, "Catherine, you work so hard." I just smiled and kept walking, but in my mind I was protesting loudly. "I'm not working! I don't know what it looked like, but that was not work!" I felt upset, misunderstood, but why? Why should it bother me that someone thought I was working hard?
Today during my stretch I figured it out. I was stretching and thinking and thinking and stretching, and it came to me. The only way this is ever going to work (i.e. inspiring people to exercise) is if we make exercising as much fun as eating. What? How can we possibly do that? Then I remembered, there was a time when, as a rule, I just naturally wanted to move more than I wanted to eat. It was back when I was a kid, riding a bike, or a horse, or a sled. Walking to a friend's house, building a fort, sliding down the staircase in a cardboard box. Who wants to stop and eat when you can slide down the stairs in a cardboard box while Mom and Dad are out of the house? I suddenly realized that what I've been doing in the gym for at least the past year isn't working out. It isn't hard work. Honestly it isn't work at all. It's practice, and it's playing. I only do it because I want to, it makes me feel good, and it makes me happy. What does any of that have to do with work, and when and how did it become work? Forgive me if a hint of bitterness creeps in, but for me it started around the time we stopped having recess and we started having P.E. It was also around the time my parents put me on the swim team because my sister could swim fast, and they thought I was too chubby. It started when I stopped moving for the sheer pleasure of it, and I started working out because I was told to, and because it was supposed to be good for me.
At the age of 46 I am resolving never to work out ever again. From now on when I go to the gym I will be either practicing a skill or playing a game. This is our precious free time that I'm talking about here, and it seems to me that we shouldn't be spending it working. When I earn my certification, I may not even call that working. It won't even be that big of a deal as I can simply call it training or coaching or teaching. No longer will I work a muscle just because I should, or because it's the next thing on the list. I will connect each movement to what it can help me do out in the world, and I will continue to lift heavier or reach farther or jump faster for the sheer pleasure of it. When I do a close grip push up, I will lower my chest all the way to the floor because it's satisfying to do it that way.
In the end does it really matter if I call it work, or play, or practice, or rehearsal? It probably doesn't, but I have started to pay close attention to the people around me who love to move, whether they're walkers or swimmers, dancers or lifters, and somehow, when they practice it doesn't look like work.