We've been enjoying some surprisingly warm & beautiful days so far this fall, making the transition to cooler weather gentler and more welcome. Even with the pleasantly warm afternoons, the mornings are still a bit too cold for me to wander far from my heating vent, so I've had to shift my daily walk from morning to afternoon. But I've been rewarded with the most beautiful afternoon sun that makes those dying leaves virtually dance and look more alive than ever.
Honestly, I've been dreading the change of seasons mostly out of fear that it would interfere with my walks. Walking and thinking has kept me reasonably sane this year, and the thought of having to forgo them strikes a particular fear in my heart. Over the course of my lifetime I've tried a little bit of everything in an attempt to trigger that latent gene for enjoying physical exercise that I've prayed existed in me somewhere. The fact is I just don't enjoy exercise. At least not enough to keep it up when there is any excuse at all to get out of it. But I know I need it. My body and my brain and my attitude needs it, but since moving hundreds of miles away from the best yoga teacher ever, I had pretty much given up hope of finding anything exercise-worthy that I would ever enjoy again. Until I started walking.
Recently a handful of families from our tiny church plant went through a weekend of training and team building together. It was loads of fun. We each took a couple of personality-type tests and learned about each others natural temperaments and strengths. It was fascinating and enlightening, and I learned a lot about myself in the process. I learned I am the most boring person in the world on paper. But, beyond that, I learned to see my natural bent and inclinations, particularly to things intellectual and analytical, as strengths that I should cultivate instead of always focusing on where I feel I am weakest.
Thinking about all that I had gleaned from that weekend during one of my walks, I realized what it was about walking that finally motivated me when nothing else did. Walking gives me time to think. Intellectually I know my body needs exercise to function properly, I know research shows exercise is as effective against the depression I wrestle with as anti-depressants, I know it is necessary if I don't want to keep packing on the extra pounds as I now approach 40. I understood and believed all of these things to be true, but it didn't motivate me to get my butt moving. Neither did the frustrating and fruitless struggle to lose the extra 10 pounds I had put on since moving to Colorado, and neither did the sluggish feeling in my body constantly reminding me that I'm getting older and my relatively good health so far is not a guarantee.
The fact is it took stimulating my mind, not my body, to convince me exercise was a worthy use of my limited time. I enjoy the physical benefits of walking--I do have more energy and I have finally lost those 10 stubborn pounds--but it is the mental and emotional benefits that keep me lacing up those damn-ugly tennis shoes day after day. I don't even complain about it any more, because I know as soon as those shoes hit the pavement, that time is mine. With no one else around to interrupt my thoughts, I can process or pray, argue with myself or vent--hell, I've even been know to walk right down the street bawling like a baby (the sunglasses are great for hiding puffy eyes)--and there's no better place to think and let your mind go than outside in God's beautiful creation.
The fall has always been my favorite time of year and now that I live somewhere that has a real, glorious and color-drenched fall instead of only dropping down 5 degrees from suffocating heat to merely roasting, I want to be out soaking every bit of it in. Thankfully, we've had a mild autumn this year and I hope it's a mild winter because I don't even like bundling up in my cute coats and hand-knitted scarves let alone the horrible spandex ensembles I dread having to wear just so I can keep walking through January. But I'll do what I have to do to exercise my brain (and body) as long as possible.
So, if you've been needing that little bit of encouragement or kick in the pants to get your body moving, I want to encourage you to keep trying! Don't give up until you find that thing that does it for you. I promise you, there isn't a less athletic person on the face of the earth than me. I fall off my own shoes daily just getting out the door so I get it, believe me. But I also believe our bodies were made to move and keep moving, so there has to be something out there for those of us to whom moving doesn't come naturally. So maybe try walking, but just try something. It is good for your body and your mind. And if you ever have the opportunity to discover your own temperament or personal strengths (even if you've spent a lifetime, like me, trapped in your own head and think you ought to know yourself pretty darn well by now), I highly recommend you do it! Know Thyself, and all that. It's a good place to start, and who knows where it will lead you.