Wow! It’s spring! It’s really, really spring! At least it is here in Bloomington, Indiana. (Yes, I know for my readers in the southern hemisphere that it’s autumn. But autumn’s nice too…) The snowdrops are blooming, and green things are poking their little heads up all over my yard.
I feel moved to look up the very word “spring” in my huge, comprehensive, unabridged dictionary. (Random House, 4th Edition. Wonderful book.) There is a lot there, but here’s some of what it says:
1. to rise, leap, move, or act suddenly and swiftly…
2. to be released from a constrained position, as by resilient or elastic force…
3. to issue forth suddenly
4. to come into being, rise, or arise in a short time
(skipping a bit)
24. to leap…
25. to secure the release of someone from confinement…
All of which goes a long way towards explaining the use of the same word for
38. the season between winter and summer…
After all, what happens this time of year?
The new lives that have been constrained inside bulb and bud are released, seemingly instantly! Infant creatures of every sort issue forth suddenly from the womb, and rise and leap about! And it all arises in such a short time. Seemingly overnight, the world is transformed.
And every year, I’m transformed too. I’m released from the confinement of my home, and of all those heavy clothes. I feel the urge to move – perhaps even to rise, and move suddenly and swiftly. In particular, to move suddenly and swiftly out the door into the sunshine!
Yes, this is the perfect time of year for the formerly sofa-spud-esque to start – you guessed it – exercising. How can you not feel energized by the sun? How can you not want to get outside?
I’m not talking about going to a spinning class, or lifting weights (though I think lifting is important), or anything federal like that. I’m talking about getting outside and moving. Taking a walk. Going for a spin on a bike. Raking up winter’s debris from the yard. Going to the park and playing on the swings! The sort of thing that Mark Sisson, author of The Primal Blueprint, refers to as “moving around slowly,” and recommends we do a great deal. This is the sort of exercise that all able-bodied people can do, and can embrace.
It’s also the sort of exercise that requires the least equipment – got a pair of comfortable shoes? – doesn’t call for training, and is least likely to net you a sports injury. But it counts! It really counts.
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My friend and sometime collaborator, Dr. Rob Thompson (The Glycemic Load Diet) states that just a half hour every other day of simply strolling – not power walking, just – well, moving around slowly – will make a huge difference insulin sensitivity, which in turn will improve your general health. It also will improve your sense of physical and mental well-being. Will it make you lose weight faster? Maybe, maybe not. The record of exercise for weight loss is not terrific, but improving your body’s insulin utilization certainly can’t hurt.
Further, as an amplification of my ongoing health heresy, I’m convinced that sunshine is good for me. Not letting myself turn bright red, just getting out and doing something while the sun shines. It makes me exuberant! It makes me courageous! It makes me feel like anything’s possible! And you know what? It’s a whole lot easier to change your way of eating – and your life – when you feel that way.
So get out of the house.
Yes, you! You with the high speed internet! Turn off the computer for a while, put down the smart phone, and go check out the Big Room – you know, the one with the blue ceiling and the overhead lighting. Don’t worry about serious exercise, just move around. Go for a walk. Smell the flowers. Pat a dog or two. Just get that stale winter blood pumping through your veins, getting charged up with fresh spring air.
Stuck at a desk? Take a bag lunch and head outdoors to eat. When you’re done, walk around the building at the very least. Or around the block. Or, if all else fails, around the parking lot. (I’ve done this. I admit it’s not the most appealing option, but you’re still getting sun and fresh air.)
When you have a day off, actually take a day off for a change, or at least half a day. Forget the dry cleaning and the stuff you need at the hardware store. It will be there tomorrow. Take the kids to the park, and this time actually play with them on the play ground equipment. Swing. Climb. Play a game of hopscotch. Stroll around the duck pond. Throw a Frisbee. Pull the toddler in a little red wagon.
And, while you’re at it, breathe.
Fat burns in the presence of oxygen. Really exhale all the way – purse your lips and blow till you can’t blow no mo’. Then suck in all the air you possibly can hold. Repeat – repeatedly! I can’t begin to tell you all the ways that regular deep breathing exercises have improved my body and my sense of well being. I promise you that oxygen is one of the best “rushes” you’ll ever have. Certainly the cheapest and the safest.
This is exercise at its finest – movement not for some agenda or goal, but simply for the sheer joy of movement. I’ll quote from The Arts of Beauty, Or, Secrets of a Lady’s Toilet by Madame Lola Montez (subtitled “The personal beauty secrets and legendary cosmetic recipes of the celebrated nineteenth-century courtesan, mistress of King Ludwig and squanderer of millions.” Sounds like fun, no?) In the chapter titled “How to Obtain a Handsome Form”, Madame Lola recommends, “Plenty of exercise, in the open air, is the great recipe. Exercise, not philosophically and with religious gravity undertaken, but the wild romping activities of a spirited girl who runs up and down as though her veins were full of wine.” No drudgery, no going for the burn, no worrying about perfect form, just playing. It will improve your body, your heart, your mind and your life. It will also – and this I truly believe – strengthen your resolve to eat intelligently, for a body that is a source of fun and joy is a body that you will want to care for.
You’ve been cooped up all winter. Now go out and play!
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