How to Exercise More Easily in Your Thirties (Or The Things That Don’t Have Labels)

I was never that into exercise classes, or into any kind of collaborative workouts, really. But yoga classes and Pilates classes and Urban Rebounding (aka trampoline classes) sound so cool. Theoretically, workout classes seem like a great idea to me, but I never actually go. Well, it’s rare. Even when classes sound cool, it’s super rare that I can commit to being at a specific class at a specific time. Maybe it’s that certain rebellious streak running through me. Honestly, when I exercise, I just want to be alone.

Running and strength training became two of my favorite exercises around sophomore year of college, when I realized that I really liked the gym when I had headphones on. Before college, the idea of avoiding sports at all costs very much appealed to me, and I had lumped the gym in with ESPN and dodgeball. But running is a solitary sport, and no one can hold me accountable if I don’t run more than a mile (except self-critical me). And strength training is another loner activity most of the time, where I can lift as heavy or as light as I want and people mainly leave me alone save for the occasional ” here’s how to lift better!”

Both running and strength training are very mainstream, acceptable forms of exercises to do, even if not at the gym. But sometimes I don’t feel like going outside and running, or outside to the gym (my gym is 11 blocks away), so I do a “home workout.” These workouts usually consist of body weight strength training exercises (i.e lunges, squats, pushups) and the equivalent of half an hour of jumping jacks spaced out in intervals. When I get into a conversation with someone about working out, and I tell them I didn’t go to the gym today but instead did a “home workout, which includes a lot of jumping jacks,” people usually kind of snicker. Jumping jacks seem to be a weirdly unacceptable exercise to do. They are part of an unlabeled and non-mainstream exercise program that I made up. But that’s okay- it works for me.

Sometimes I feel too tired or too pressed for time to even do my home workout. For awhile, during one or two of the most exhausting auto shows I worked, where I was standing on a hard floor for 9 hours in heels all day, I would solely do my ‘5 minute workout’ every night before bed. All this workout consisted of was a bunch of different ab exercises (sit up variations), and a bunch of push-ups. Sometimes on super-motivated nights, I’d actually do this workout for 10 minutes instead of 5. This may sound like only a little bit of time, but the differences were notable to me. I felt better. And then eventually I’d go back to the gym and run and do hour long home workouts and get back to my irregularly scheduled program.

I guess the main thing about exercise in your thirties, or anytime really, is to do what works for you. I prioritize wanting to go back and work out again, and be consistent with exercising multiple times, so it’s important for me not to hate my workouts and feel like they’re too hard. They just need to be hard enough…or sometimes they just need to be easy. I try to stay kind to myself.

Once I’m actually working out, I find it easier to continue working out. The hardest part is usually starting- which is, coincidentally, the hardest part of doing anything.

And some days I just stretch…I put on music and stretch everything that hurts, and then I make up stretches that have no labels and that I have never done before, or maybe I have once but I’ve forgotten them. All I know is that it helps to let your preferences lead the way. Tell your body: ‘Remember, this is good- this is your favorite. This will be an easy one. We’ve got this.’

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Consciously Removing Unconscious Labels

New Orleans is one of my favorite cities in the country. However, I’ve been here before. Numerous times. And so I’ve found it hard to care as much as I used to.

When I arrived in New Orleans for work two days ago, a dull happiness beat in my heart. But then that happiness was quickly covered by a grayness. For me, this grayness is common…it occurs when I find it hard to feel.

I remember the first time I ever came to New Orleans- about two years ago. I was so excited. I took a Mardi Gras Tour, a Walking Tour and a Ghost Tour. I wanted to do it all- even though I was working. I ran along the Mississippi River before work. I ate beignets for dessert. I took pictures of balconies at dusk. I daydreamed about Tennessee Williams plays and listened to jazz. Voodoo stirred my soul. Everything was so unique.

This time, because of all the other times I’d been here before, my mind duly noted that New Orleans was one of my favorite cities. My eyes glossed around town. I’d seen it. I felt anxious. I felt nothing much. New Orleans had become a label.

I wouldn’t even have registered this, except that the other day a guided meditation I was listening to talked about how labeling things had become the norm for almost everyone. At first I thought ‘absolutely not me!’ and then I realized labeling is actually my unconscious’ favorite thing to do. Labeling orders my world and keeps everything recognizable, safe and easy. Does this sound familiar to you? You put things and people into a box and label it with an opinion, and then you just look at the label to know what’s inside. It’s hard to really see things again after that.

I know academically that even when you see the same thing 100 different times, it’s never the same. But it’s so hard to actually grasp the meaning of that in real life. So hard.

So yesterday I decided to fight the labels. I was going to look again. I was going to see New Orleans uniquely once more. I was going to move past the grayness and feel something new while seeing something old.

So I stared down the alleyways..the ones I used to thrill at seeing in NOLA, but now passed by. They led to their usual gorgeous open courtyards.

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And again I saw the funny gates that led to nowhere. A gate guarding a brick wall.

NOLA Gate

And I once again saw a city maybe falling apart. And a city with bizarre examples of its slow ruin scattered everywhere.

Stuff started to pop out at me that I hadn’t exactly seen before.

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And the grayness lifted for a second as I became curious. So I just kept on looking.

I realized it was the first time I’d been here in November. And I saw leftover Halloween decorations.

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And places that had never needed Halloween decorations. photo 5

And places that had funny signs.

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And places that were just paint.

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And I followed the sound of some church bells and stumbled onto a glass blowing school by accident.

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So I went inside and sat and watched glowing hot glass become birds and pumpkins…glass shaping itself from nothing to something right in front of me. I hadn’t seen glass blowing live since I’d been to Venice many years ago…and I’d always found it to be an unbelievably neat process. It still fascinates me.

And for a moment I felt happy.

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And as I sat and watched liquids become solids I had to admit to myself that my New Orleans labels weren’t gone- they weren’t that easy to remove. But yesterday, through sheer will, I had set them aside for a second, and for a moment the grayness had lightened.

Ultimately, I couldn’t summon up the same amazing feelings as the first few times I’d been to New Orleans. I didn’t suddenly jump for joy. I didn’t burst into tears. I didn’t have a sudden revelation. But it was okay.

I felt…a much more subtle movement inside. Something raw. Something clear. Something new.

 

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