This article originally appeared in “Chicago Tribune.”
For most of my adult life, I’ve had a movement agenda. In college, I ran to stay thin and ward off the freshman 15. After graduation, I continued running to prove that I could be fast. Then I got injured and switched to strength training – first to fix myself, and then to get stronger and gain definition.
None of these are bad reasons to move. They all served a purpose for me and led me to where I am today. The issue isn’t how I moved; it’s how I didn’t move.
I look back at my years spent training for races and targeting muscle groups, and I see missed opportunities – times when my one-track movement mind caused me to miss the big picture. In short, I missed out on fun.
It hit me last weekend when I took my boys to my aunt’s lake house in Wisconsin. On Sunday morning, my aunt said to me, “We’ve got a house full of adults. Feel free to go for a run and we can watch the kids.”
Sounds like a great idea, right? Get in my miles, make up for the previous night’s birthday cake and tire out my legs so I wouldn’t feel bad about sitting two and a half hours on the car ride home. A couple of years ago, I totally would have been all over it.
But I could run anytime. It seemed like a waste to do the same out-and-back run along the lake that I’d done every summer for the past 10 years. I was in a different environment, with different things to explore. And I wanted my kids to explore them, too.
“Thanks,” I told my aunt. “But I think I’ll take the boys exploring on the Cam-Rock trail.”
The Cam-Rock trailhead was just outside of town and was an attraction for hikers, mountain bikers and trail runners. I’d been coming to my aunt’s house for years and I’d never actually hiked it. Why? Because hiking wasn’t in my movement agenda. It wasn’t going to make me stronger or faster, it wasn’t the most efficient way to burn calories, it really didn’t serve a purpose in my training goals.
It had never occurred to me that maybe hiking the trail would be FUN.
I look back to when I was a kid and movement was joy in and of itself – not a means to an end: Look, a ball! Let’s kick it. A tree? Climb it! A big grassy field? Perfect for running through. A hula hoop, a jump rope, monkey bars, puddles, a chalk-drawn set of squares on the sidewalk – you name it – it was a reason to move. Maybe you can remember those days, too.
So what happened?
Fear of getting fat, concern about what other people think, obsession with meeting a goal, an urge to go to extremes to make up for an otherwise sedentary lifestyle, turning exercise into punishment for eating “bad” things, emphasis on efficiency and productivity with no room for play, and general adulting tendencies.
Goodbye, hula hoop.
I’ve missed out on too many juicy life experiences thanks to stupid movement agendas. Not any more.
Here’s my new agenda: Movement that brings me joy.
It’s only within the past year or so that I’ve started to make this change. I credit my kids for leading me here. Instead of seeking time away from them so I could move on my own, I started looking for ways to move with them. I started playing again. I watched them squeal with joy when jumping from a ledge or catching a ball and tried to put myself in their place. I stopped racing (and competing) through life and started slowing down to appreciate its juicy opportunities. I fell in love with movement again.
So the boys and I hiked the Cam-Rock trail. We stopped to look for frogs in a yucky swamp, carried some branches just for fun, and raced each other over a footbridge. We were surprised to find a playground at the end of our route and stopped to climb the monkey bars. We sped back home because the mosquitoes were hungry and so were we. Then, as all good stories end, we ate ice cream.
Nicole Radziszewski is a freelance columnist. She lives in River Forest and is a certified personal trainer and mother of two. Check Nicole out on Facebook at Facebook.com/mamasgottamove.