“The hardest thing about exercise is putting on your tennis shoes.”
By JENNY PRUITT CLEVELAND
I’m a sucker for anything in list form and anything that makes life simpler. Especially when it comes to workout routines.
Magic Eight Moves … Unbelievable Four Minute Cardio … Three Moves, 300 Muscles … Five Minute Fat Blaster …
Which one will deliver the best results? … Drumroll … The one you’ll do.
Every morning my mom spread out an old brown beach towel on her bedroom floor and started her cassette tape of inspirational lecturers. Then she’d count. Leg raises, sit ups, scissor legs, arm circles. All ‘70s-style in silk nude-colored cross-your-heart bra and underwear with a firm elastic band covering her navel. It was so routine in my life, I figured it was what all moms all over the country did every morning. Sometimes with little four-year-olds beside them on their own beach towels trying to keep up.
It was more than routine for my mom. It was ritual. Or as close as you can get to a “solemn ceremony” with its prescribed order of actions when you’re in a cross-your-heart and granny panties counting down from twenty.
We all have daily rituals—things we do so habitually they’re just about automatic. Making our coffee, brushing our teeth, checking the mailbox, eating dinner. These rituals provide structure and a sense of certainty and peace for us. (Just think about what your life would feel like if you didn’t have these rituals.) They’ve become so second-nature to us, we take them for granted. And that’s the point. And the potential! Of making exercise a ritual, that is.
Think of your workout not as a routine, but as a ritual. One that can grow and evolve as you do. One that adds meaning to your life.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that when your workout becomes second-nature, you’ll forever defeat that “I don’t feel like it today” feeling.
“The hardest thing about exercise is putting on your tennis shoes.” That’s what my mom says. She’s in her seventies. But just last night with her grandson, she climbed one twisty flight of stairs and two dusty ladder stairs to ring the bell of the cathedral bell tower in her hometown. In the dark, by the light of her grandson’s cell phone. Six weeks out from a double mastectomy.
“Once you get your tennis shoes on—or your biking clothes, or yoga mat, or broom handle, whatever—you know you’re going. ’Okay, this is what I’m fixin’ to do,’ you say to yourself.” She really does have the broom handle that she duct-taped ankle weights to the ends of. She made it before her surgery, thinking it would be just what she needed afterwards.
“This arm won’t ever stretch out again completely,” she says, holding her right arm a little crooked over her head, “and I don’t know if it ever will, but I’m working on it.”
Yes, she is. In her quiet, solemn, ritualistic way.
Jenny Pruitt Cleveland is a Content Crafter in Nashville, Tenn. She swims, bikes, and runs a lot. In former lives she’s been a middle school teacher, magazine reporter and editor, cycling tour guide, and underwater photographer.