When it comes to exercise, what counts as an “off” day?
I don’t do what I would consider an official work-out every day, one that requires a sports bra, a watch, and my Brooks. I want and need off days. But even on my off days, I still spend a lot of time running around because I get a lot of exercise just doing what I need to do.
At work, there is a lot of walking around, from room to room, from freezer to bench to centrifuge to sink to…I definitely do not have a desk job. I feel mostly grateful to not have a desk job (though I do have a desk, thank goodness), but it can be exhausting, trying to keep up with my to-do list. I’m always more ambitious in my planning than in my ability to cross things off the list. I’ve come to accept that most days my to-do list won’t be completed, and it’s okay.
Outside of work, I use my feet to run errands and get around town. I walk or bike to the grocery store, to the coffee shop, to Target. When my errands involve several miles of biking, I will count that as my work-out—an official work-out!—but even the short-distance errands require muscles and calories and motivation. I also cook a lot, and cooking is an active process. Some nights I opt to cook instead of working out, so as not to exhaust myself trying to do both, and that decision helps me to feel balanced in my approach to exercise: not too little, not too much.
Technically, I suppose, I have had two off days in a row. On Friday night, I biked a little while picking up supplies for dinner. Yesterday, I biked in the morning and the evening: morning, to the hippie food store and evening, to The Home Depot to look at shelving options for my writing studio and its explosion of books. Then, before lunch, I had a burst of inspiration when I realized that the temperature outside was cool enough for me to go for a walk. I hadn’t gone for a walk, just for the pleasure of it, in a long time, so I laced up my sneakers and did a slow, lazy loop around my neighborhood. I walked through the dog park, too. The dog park has this short stretch of path that goes through a woodsy section with lots of trees and shade and greenery. There are vines hanging off the trees, too, giving the woods a slightly eerie feeling. I thought there would be swarms of bugs in the woodsy section, but it was quite nice to visit yesterday. I went walking through the woods a lot before summer started. Here are two photos I took in March, earlier this year. I love the dusky light in these shots.
I think my off days are important for reminding me that exercise and activity can have a really soul-enriching effect when I’m not counting minutes and pushing myself into oxygen deprivation. I find it’s easier for me to do the treadmill work-outs and the long runs when I know that there will be time for gentle walks, fun bike rides, and impromptu photo shoots. The important thing is to take good care of this body that carries me through life.