Lately I’ve been feeling more than a little stir-crazy in the gym and I’m sure it has everything to do with the brilliantly-sunny weather we’ve been having in my neck of the woods. If you are from a part of the world where sunshine is a scarce resource at certain times of the year (upstate New York, anyone?), you probably understand how sacrilegious it feels to go INSIDE when Mother Nature has bestowed the gift of a sunny day upon you.
While my first instinct is to grab my Kindle and park myself on a lawn chair from sunup to sundown, I must resist this urge in order to avoid skin cancer and a relapse of the un-fit-itis I was experiencing last summer. It is only natural, when the weather becomes hot enough that you break a sweat simply from the effort of finding your flip-flops wherever you last flung them, to reach for an ice cream cone instead of a dumbbell, but we must remember to balance our summer fun with some summer exercise. The good news is that we can often COMBINE our summer fun with exercise.
We don’t have to feel sorry for ourselves, isolated in a near-empty gym, watching the dust gather on the Nautilus machines as we steadily pedal the elliptical while our friends are lounging on the beach. Over the long Memorial Day weekend, I made the conscious decision to NOT go to the gym and, instead, I sought other forms of physical activity. Not only did I avoid wallowing in self-pity while my friends were off having a good time, but when I finally did return to the gym on Tuesday, I was refreshed and ready to get back to my routine.
On Saturday, instead of driving twenty-five minutes to the gym and doing an hour-long legs workout inside, Don and I took Jack for a wander around town and then went exploring on our bikes. We biked approximately twenty miles (ending at a beer garden for dinner, of course) and saw a lot of beautiful scenery along the way. My legs (and bottom) were quite tired at the end of the evening, so I don’t feel like I missed out on anything by skipping the gym. In fact, I probably came out ahead- along with my workout, I got a tan, fresh air, and some social time with Don. Mega bonus!
Sunday featured an early morning horseback ride and then a day trip to the nearby Weltenberg Klosterbrauerei (it is the oldest cloister brewery in the world, established in 1050, and influenced the strict German Beer Purity Law, the Reinheitsgebot). Weltenberg sits on the Danube river and there are miles and miles of hiking and biking trails around it. We spent the morning hiking, had lunch in the beer garden (recurrent theme here!) and did more hiking after lunch. According to my FitBit, I walked up the equivalent of 104 flights of stairs which is an impressive accomplishment and was totally worth it for the view of the monastery from across the river.
When Monday rolled around, I spent most of the day lamenting the fact that even long weekends are far too short. Since Saturday and Sunday were so busy, we hadn’t made any plans for the final day of our weekend. I had yet another early morning ride with my four-footed friend, did some gardening and yard work, and we took Jack for a long walk since his walk on the day prior had been shortened by our levels of exhaustion after spending the day hiking. Something I noticed as the weekend progressed was that, while I was doing at least as much (if not more) than I would have been doing in the gym, I never once looked at my watch and wondered if it was time to stop yet. When at the gym, especially when doing cardio, I’m constantly checking to see if I’ve done ‘enough’, but this weekend the time flew by and I was disappointed when the hiking and biking had to come to an end.
When I made the decision to avoid the gym over the weekend, I was worried it would result in a lazy, not-changing-out-of-my-pajamas-so-you’d-better-get-some-Indian-takeout-for-dinner, fused to the couch weekend. I had reservations about my will power; I wanted to let myself off the hook and break up my slightly stale gym routine, but I didn’t want to sabotage myself by sitting around all weekend. This was definitely a test of my commitment to fitness; if it had gone poorly and I had sat around like a bump on a log, only getting up to grab another handful of Cheetos from the cupboard, then I would have had to relegate myself to the confines of the gym for the summer (a benefit of not living close to the gym- once I’ve spent the gas money getting there, I feel obligated to make my workout count!), but, since I managed to do more than I probably would have in a normal workout and had an excellent time doing so, I think I can let myself find alternatives on the weekends when I feel like it. The key to anything, really, is balance. If we let ourselves get stuck in a rut by doing the same routines again and again, then we are more likely to abandon our fitness regime altogether. By balancing out my gym-time with some outside time, I welcomed my return to the gym on Tuesday as a chance to give my tired feet and legs a rest and was ready to get back to the dumbbells. Even if you are not yet bored with your routine, I recommend mixing it up a little- take a hike, go for a swim, maybe give surfing a try? The possibilities, really, are endless and summer is only around for a little while.