To all of my friends who have invited (and urged) me to join your gym, thanks, but no thanks. I get it. You love, l-o-v-e, LOVE your Zumba class. CrossFit is life-altering. And your hot yoga class has been transformative.
You go, girl!
But I will not be joining you. Really, thanks for the invitation (and for your thinly veiled concern for my extra winter pounds — you know who you are), but contrary to what you might think, the fact that I am not sporting spandex and sweating it out in a room full of people does not mean that I am at home on my couch with a bag of salt and pepper kettle chips, a Coke, and the last three seasons of Mad Men. No really! At least not all the time.
I do, in fact, exercise. Not in public. Nothing Facebook-worthy. But every day (okay, most days), I strap on my hiking boots, grab my Gandalf-like walking staff, and take off for parts unknown. Well, not exactly unknown, but certainly unpaved.
I am a hiker. But even if I were just walking down the streets of a suburban neighborhood or through a city park, I would still rather go for a walk than join an exercise class.
I admit Zumba looks like fun, and I think I’ve still got a few moves. I could probably tear it up out there. CrossFit, on the other hand, looks brutal, but I’m sure after a few sessions, I would feel like a total badass. I understand and admire your committment. I get that exercise classes have a lot to offer. But what they can’t offer, and what I desperately need, is some alone time.
I crave the quiet of the trail. Walking gives me an hour of silence. Blessed, beautiful silence. Just the sounds of the breeze, the babbling brook, and my boots pounding on the soft earth. I need that time to think. And to not think. I need that time free from talking and listening to music and worrying about how I look attempting a plank. I need to be alone in my own head.
I need to walk alone.
What I definitely do not need is anything else on my schedule. I do have to carve out time for walking. I can’t just go about my day hoping I’ll mysteriously find an hour of free time. But I can be flexible. I like to go for a hike late in the afternoon — a little peace and solitude at the end of the day. But if it better suits my schedule, I can walk later in the evening or early in the morning. The point is, I don’t have to rush around and bend and twist my schedule to make it to a class that starts in five minutes. I don’t have to plan my day around an exercise class. I need an exercise routine that I am committed to, but one that doesn’t stress me out.
Speaking of being stressed out, I’m not. At least not about how I’ll look in my swimsuit this summer. I have spent the winter blissfully tucked away under layers of wool and fleece. I don’t need a daily, scantily clad reminder that in a few months I will have to bare my ample thighs and hefty arms to the world. But when that time comes, I will happily don my mom swimsuit and hit the pool, knowing that I am fit from months of climbing up hills, stepping over logs, and ducking under low-hanging branches. My “fitness program” is not likely to produce six pack abs or beautifully sculpted arms. But it keeps me in decent shape and clears away the mental cobwebs. That’s good enough for me.
There is something about a walk that is cleansing and freeing. I like the exhilaration of the cold and the gritty sweat of the heat. I don’t want to exercise in a climate controlled environment. And I don’t want an exercise routine that requires equipment or an instructor. In fact, I don’t want my exercise to feel like exercise at all. I want my fitness routine to be and to feel natural like, well…like walking.
So, there you go. It’s not that I have anything against exercise classes. To each her own. My own just happens to be quiet, alone, and not post-worthy. But hey, if you ever get tired of the Zumba crowds or the CrossFit craze, consider giving hiking a try. Maybe I’ll see you on the trail. If I do, just don’t speak to me. It’s my “me time.”
A version of this post originally appeared on BonBon Break.