This outdoor pool is one mile from our house. A house that we’ve lived in for almost four years and we’re just now getting our butts over there to take advantage of it. It even meets the “Three C’s” (that I just made up) – Close, Clean and Cheap. Don’t ask me what took us so long, I have no idea.
It was really hot around here last week, and one evening I took Ava (who’s 9) and her friend down to the pool to cool off. They jumped in the deep end and I hopped over to one of lanes to swim laps while they played. I don’t think I’ve done laps since I was early in my pregnancy with Kaz, and I’m definitely sure I’ve never swam laps in an outdoor pool before. I was looking forward to the new experience.
But after about 10 minutes of lap swimming, I started to get bored. This how swimming goes – it’s boring. No music, no change in scenery, up and down, turn around, pick your wedgie, down and back again.
In the past I would have forced myself to ignore that boredom and tough it out for another 20, 30, maybe even 40 minutes. Suck it up lady, you can stop once you’ve gotten your 30 to 50 minute work out in.
But with my new approach to doing less cardio these days, I decided to do what I really wanted to do: get the heck out of the lanes and go over play with Ava and her friend. And so that’s exactly what I did.
Together we took turns swimming to the bottom and shooting back up. We watched each other turn somersaults under water and they showed me all the things they can do. Ava’s been too nervous to go down the pair of water slides (that you can see in picture above) and instead of saying “it’s no big deal” or “it’s just like jumping in!” or “come on, you can do it!” – I just did it myself and didn’t say a word. Soon, her friend was going down the slides with me. Before long, Ava felt confident enough to try it too. (And then she wouldn’t stop!) I was reminded of all the things I use to do in the pool as a kid, when I loved swimming with my best girlfriends and we were “exercising” without even realizing it.
After a little playtime I decided to do a few more laps, only because I was feeling into it again, not because I felt like I had to. Some slow, easy freestyle, a little backstroke, plus a few laps with the kick board too. (At least with the kick board you can people-watch to keep things interesting!) Ava eventually came over and asked if I would come back and hang out with them, and after “one more lap” I re-joined them for a little more of the same water play until I felt sufficiently pruned and ready to get out.
All in all, we were probably in the pool for an hour, maybe even an hour and a half. There’s a part of me that will always watch the clock and note how long I “worked out” – but fortunately there’s another part of me that can appreciate the bigger picture too – one of most important reasons I like to stay fit: to set a good example for my kids, to have the energy and ability to keep up with them, to play together and build connection and help keep the lines of parent-child communication open.
I need to mention that the content of this post has been largely inspired by my new favorite podcast, The Everyday Paleo Lifestyle and Fitness Podcast with Sarah Fragoso and Jason Seib. I’ve been considering what Mark Sisson says about chronic cardio for years now, but it’s this podcast that has allowed me to REALLY take this “less is more” message to heart. Sarah and Jason spend 50 – 60 minutes each week discussing the Paleo diet, Paleo fitness, answering listener/reader questions and sharing their knowledge and first hand experience as trainers. I’ve learned so much from these podcasts and have been seriously inspired by what they have to say, I highly recommend them if you’re looking to re-evaluate your own approach to fitness or need some motivation to get moving.
These days my workouts consist mainly of walking, yoga and a lot of functional fitness – staying on top of the housework, hauling groceries into the house with a 26 lb toddler on my hip, riding my bike to and from the yoga studio, walking to the farmer’s market down the street, the occasional walk-turned-run when Kaz has decided he’s had enough of the jogging stroller and we’re still a mile from home. I’m still running sometimes too because I truly do love to run, I’m just doing it less. It’s all good, I’m loving it.
Whether you have kids or not, I want to encourage you to give yourself permission to play. Let your fitness be fun, really! Take an impromtu detour on your run or walk. Bring your camera and take pictures on a hike. I know it’s cliche – but get out there and try something new, or go back to some activity you haven’t done in a long time. Both your body and soul will thank you for it, and maybe even your kids will say thank you too.