Over the past several weeks as I’ve intensified my physical activity with my triathlon training adventure, I’ve been surprised and pleased to notice a change in my relationship with my body. I’ve gotten stronger and I’ve lost a little weight, but it’s basically the same 61-year-old body I started with. Yet, I am so much more comfortable in my own skin, with a different sense of ownership. I first noticed the change about week 2 of training. I was changing after swimming, and I realized I wasn’t paying much attention to modesty, just going about my business of towelling off and getting dressed.
As I explored this, I realized that the previous attention I had been giving to covering parts of my body while changing wasn’t really about modesty, nor was it due to shame or embarrassment. In other words, it wasn’t about appearance. As a physician and a life long active person, I’ve seen a whole lot of bodies in a variety of shapes, sizes and conditions, from premature babies the very old, and everything in between. I’m pretty darn middle of the road as such things go.
If it’s not appearance, what is it? It’s an increased sense of belonging or connection to my body; ownership if you will. As I am more active and my fitness level increases, my ease of movement and sense of well-being grows. I experience myself as more responsive, able to adapt to changing physical circumstances with ease; I can jump to the side to dodge an oncoming vehicle or person, reach, bend, twist, squat, do whats needed without having to work to set up the task. To use an automotive analogy, I feel less of a clunker and more of a (older, low-end) sports model.
With this ease and comfort, I’m also rediscovering a sense of playfulness. I noticed this today in my yogalates (as its name suggests, it’s a combination of yoga and pilates, a long time favorite of mine) class at the Y, when I fairly automatically explored another option with the ring we were using for an exercise, in a mildly silly way.
This is not to suggest that I always move beautifully. Just this afternoon, I came out of Costco to discover it had started raining. I stepped from the curb onto the wet and oil-slicked pavement, and down I went, in an inelegant foot first slide. Safe! Grateful to be uninjured and that my bag held only dried apples and fish, not the 2 dozen organic eggs I often buy, I arose and continued on my way. Moments later, a kind woman pulled alongside me and inquired if anything other than my dignity was hurt. I thanked her for her concern, and replied truthfully that I was fine, and as a figure skater, I am so used to falling, it hadn’t occurred to me to be embarrassed! Sometimes I’m upright, sometimes I’m not, all part of the adventure.
As I ponder this change, I’m thinking that one of the significant elements here is the variety of activity that I am doing. I’m skating, swimming, running, bicycling and doing yoga, pilates, and gyrotonics. Every part of my body, including my mind, is engaged and challenged. I suspect that there is considerably more interlinking and activation of neurons in my brain in different areas, and this may be contributing to my different, more integrated experience of self. I look forward what further changes I experience.