Pull your hair back and put on your body glitter

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For many of us, exercise is a constant quest for good vibes. Besides the obvious physical benefits, the thing that keeps us coming back, day-in and day-out, is the endorphins, often during and immediately after our workout, and also, the equilibrium that exercise provides throughout the rest of our day(s).

I do track some of my workouts using metrics provided by Strava and my FitBit. But, I don’t dig deep into the metrics. I don’t pay a lot of attention to splits or similar. I look at overall time and pace per kilometre. I do enjoy seeing where I was faster during certain runs but my motivation for running faster amounts more to sensory motivation. How did I feel in that run where I was faster? What did that stride feel like? Can I mimic that stride next time? I read this article yesterday, “A Longevity Doc’s Secret to Crushing it in Old Age“. While I find some of his advice moderate and helpful (albeit slightly ableist and tinged with a Type A lens) in some examples, where he talks about V02 max, my eyes gloss over and I know that I am never going to be calculating my V02 max as a metric,”You also want to be able to hike on a hilly trail? To do that comfortably requires a VO2 max of roughly 30 ml/kg/min. Let’s take a look at the results of your latest VO2 max test—and guess what, you only scored a 30. You’re average for your age, but I’m afraid that’s not good enough, because your VO2 max is also going to decline.

So what motivates me when it comes to exercise? There are moments in my decades-long journey that are entrenched in my psyche. The feeling during a long run where the body is in sync with the mind. The feeling of finishing a race. Having salt crusted on my face during long marathon training runs and knowing I look ridiculous, but being weirdly happy, even if sore. Those last few minutes in a spin class, decades ago, when the instructor would say OK, “close your eyes, put your head down and just GO!” and I would sprint like crazy to the finish line.

For that last one, at the time, the spin studio I went to didn’t yet have metrics tied to your bike. I preferred it that way (after experiencing the more modern version years later with the metrics/leaderboard). How much you were “giving it” was all based on your own feeling and perception. That feeling of letting GO and spinning your legs and the feeling in your chest and brain were pretty telling, however, and have left its mark.

A few years ago when I joined the band of people buying stationary bikes during the pandemic and using the Peloton app, seeking that feeling, was part of my motivation to use Peloton for the spin-style classes. I did find it in some cases, although perhaps not quite the same without being in a big, loft-like workout space, with dozens more people spinning alongside you and the carefully curated music playing loudly on the speakers. Yes, the Peloton classes provide curated music, but I often have it playing pretty low, out of consideration for my townhouse neighbours. I don’t have other spinners around me, but rather, my two dogs sprawled out on the couch.

I haven’t been using my bike as often and I gave up my Peloton app awhile ago when they increased the prices (combined with real life options opening up, just didn’t seem worth it). However, I started a new job a couple weeks ago and I am adjusting to a new schedule. I can still go to the gym a few times a week and run a couple days a week, but on a couple of the weekdays, when I need to go into the office, having the option of a bike ride before work is appealing, so I signed up for a “free month trial” while deciding if I want to recommit.

The first class I joined was a 30 min 90s ride and it served just the purpose I was seeking. And, as a bonus, the instructor, said at one point, “Pull your hair back and cover yourself in glitter and GO”. I appreciated that visual in the moment. When was the last time I dressed up to go out on the town? It’s been awhile. Not even sure I want to do that, but I can appreciate seeking that FEELING of liberation. Of no stress. Of no perimenopause. Of not worrying about multitasking with brain fog. I can seek that feeling of pulling my hair back and covering myself in body glitter and enjoying that moment. I hope I can seek that type of feeling well into my senior years. That will motivate me to continue exercising more than any V02 max calculation.

Nicole P. is enjoying her new workout schedule and using how she feels as a metric of success.

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