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What This Body Can Do

In my 20’s, I did not even own tennis shoes. I never went to the gym, did not play a sport and never, ever ran. I made a point of not running. Hobbling around on ill-fitting vintage heels with a cigarette in my hand, I was suspicious of people who exercised. I thought a commitment to exercise was a sort of moral flaw, suggesting an unhealthy obsession with appearance, rather than focusing on the important things in life like drinking coffee and reading.

Ironically, I married someone who loves to workout. He is one of those people whose knees constantly twitch under the table, itching to be powering a bike or running up a hill. Still, I did not commit to exercise. I dabbled, but mostly exercise was the thing he did while I stayed home and took a nap.

Then, I had a son, a higher-energy version of his father. Before I knew it, I was surrounded by people whose dearest joy is to stand on their heads or do feats of strength. As 40 approached, I began to feel like it was a now or never situation. I had to get in shape or my 9 year-old son and husband would soon be spending weekends rock climbing and running races while I stayed home and did the dishes.

When I was 39, I signed up for an Olympic-length triathlon. I found a training schedule on-line that required working out 6 days a week! Instead of spending my mornings lounging in my pajamas, I was getting up to go on a 15 mile bike ride. At times, I questioned what I was doing. Was this some sort of mid-life crisis? What about my life-long commitment to sloth?

However, after the race, when I was freed from the training schedule, I found that I missed the daily workouts. I missed the sore muscles that reminded me of the miles I can run. I missed the energy boost and shot of endorphins that exercise brings--I love the world so much more after a long swim. I missed being able to sleep well at night, resting tired limbs that worked hard for me.

I soon added exercise back into my daily routine, incorporating strength training, signing up for more races, and even attempting ridiculously complex yoga moves that I found on Instagram. It took me a long time, but I realized that exercise is not about what my body looks like. It is about what my body can do. This body has birthed a baby, carried an infant, is raising a child, and it can still move itself over thirty miles for “fun”. Exercise helps me to work all day and still have the energy to play basketball with my son or do a family race at the track. And bonus, the coffee and book feel even better afterward.

Alaina is a wife, mom and full-time high school English teacher, triathlete and former bystander.

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