I have become more enamoured, in the last year or two, with putting one foot in front of the other.
In the years before I became a mother and started to realign to my own sense of who I was and who I wanted to be in the world, putting one foot in front of the other was never good enough for me.
For the majority of my twenties, I was an avid triathlete. I broke a record for long distance swimming, and then three weeks later, I climbed Mount Kilimanjaro. I played a couple years of competitive women’s tackle football. I ran a marathon, and then a half marathon. I biked to work every day, topping out at over a hundred kilometres a week.
I realize now that what I was was in fact an exercise addict. I think I enjoyed all of that physical intensity and competitive pressure, but it’s very hard to differentiate, now, looking back, whether I actually enjoyed the act of running that far or swimming that hard, or if I enjoyed the reaction I got from telling people what I had accomplished, or the feeling of satisfaction I would get when I pushed through another distance goal.
Those years taught me more about myself and my body and what I’m capable of than I can express. They taught me resilience and strength and courage and lessons I am deeply, deeply grateful for. I credit much of the self-belief that impacts my day-to-day life now with the fortitude it took to live up to my own expectations then.
But I also bear the burden of those years. I have injuries to my lower back, knees, and shoulders that I am not sure are reversible; they are worsening as I age. They are the physical remnants of my constant striving, which, I realize now, are physical reminders of all the ways in which I wasn’t good enough yet.
These days, I walk a lot.
The competitive, goal-driven part of me still exists, and she gets a kick out of wearing a pedometer and setting step goals. But if my younger self knew that this is what exercise – which I now prefer to refer to as movement – would look like, she would be shocked and dismayed. Or maybe she would have slowed down a little, so that she could ensure herself the joy of still being able to run painlessly ten or fifteen years on.
The thing is, even though my movement practice no longer involves record breaking or Facebook-post-worthy competitive endeavours, I enjoy it.
I enjoy it in the moment.
Not the reaction I get from others who hear of what I’ve done. Not the satisfaction of meeting some externally-validated measure of physical prowess or fit appearance.
I enjoy the sound of the birds, the crunch of gravel under my feet, the shroud of trees around me and the dappling of sunlight. I love how quiet my mind gets, and how, with each step I take, I make space for inspiration to flow in.
I enjoy the sense of adventure that comes with heading out on backcountry hikes, which are my new favoured form of physical accomplishment – one that involves traveling to a place I’ve never been before, and experiencing Mother Nature in a deeper way.
One foot in front of the other.
It’s probably a metaphor for life nowadays, too. I used to be almost solitarily motivated by goals. Now, though I have a few goals for my life (travel more, write a book, see Dave Matthews Band play live), I’m far more motivated by the enjoyment of the day-to-day.