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Winter Workout

Confession: I don’t like going to the gym.

Not because I don’t want to exercise, I just prefer to do it outside — alone. I’ve never been motivated by working out with others, and tend to get discouraged more easily when doing so. Maybe it’s a hold-over from my many years of organized sports from toddler-hood through my senior year of high school. I felt more stress and panic than focus when a coach was yelling to run faster, jump higher, dive farther. I felt self-conscious as mean high-school girls sneered during practice, and when their mean parents muttered and yelled comments from the crowd.

I never looked like I was having fun while playing in games: I was so worried I would mess up, let people down, fuel a flurry of comments from the crowd, get yelled at, or be pushed even harder at practice the next day for not performing well. It all seemed so life or death, which was difficult to pair with girls I knew who were cutting their skin to feel something, throwing up their food, or dealing with real issues outside of the gym.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t regret playing sports: It’s where I first learned the difference between physical and mental strength, and about the meaning of preparation.

I’m glad I can play pickup games for basketball, softball, and volleyball — and know the rules. That muscle memory returns and I’m a fairly decent player. I enjoy playing now much more than I ever did then.

Playing sports also instilled in me the craving of moving my body consistently each day. You just won’t find me making public commitments of moving my body by running a triathlon or doing a “fun” run.

To this day, I find I push myself harder when I work out alone, whether that be walking, biking, swimming, running, or doing strength circuits. Over the last few years, I’ve tried running with friends, but their joking comments about how I looked when I ran, or the obviousness in how much slower I was cut deeply. It left me feeling like I’d rather sit on the couch under blankets and not move.

When I lived in North Carolina, I braved most 90-plus degree days and bundled up for the low 30s, but when winter hits in the Midwest, I feel panic set in.  How will I move each day without being in a gym, around people?

To be honest, I still haven’t mastered this. I probably need to let go of some neurosis as well, and start going to the gym. I’m working on it. I’ll get there someday. The reality is, it doesn’t matter how many indoor workouts I create on my own, I move less in the winter than I do in the summer.

So, what do I do to move my body when it’s -20 outside?

  1. I do indoor circuits in my apartment. I sprint up and down the short hallway when I know my roommate won’t be there. I do jumping jacks, run in place, jump rope. I do burpees, squats, push-up variations, ski-abs, plank variations, and triceps bends. A few of my favorites: Shaun T.’s Insanity-Inspired Workout (Video), The Countdown Workout.
  2. I run up and down the four-flight stairwell at work (it’s a side staircase and rarely used). I recently started doing exercises on each landing: jumping jacks, burpees, squats.
  3. I race my coworker and friend, Maggie, up and down the stairs and do burpees at the top. I’m a tinge faster going up the stairs, and she’s much stronger and faster at burpees. Yet, she’s an encouraging person — maybe I’m letting some of my neurosis go by finding generous people.
  4. When visiting my parents, I use their elliptical, bike, and weights in the basement.

So if you’re a “gym” person, remember when you see others there, they may be taking a very brave step. Be kind, be generous, and although everyone needs a little nudge sometimes, let them go at their own pace. They’ll get there.

Extra Reading: Overcoming Gym Jitters

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