The Tortoise or the Hare: On Modern Notions of Exercise and Health

When I was in college, I ran long distance. I had never been a runner before that, but for some reason during the summer after my freshman year I got it into my head that I needed to be able to run a mile without stopping. After I could run a mile, I thought, “One mile? Bah! I bet I can run TWO miles without stopping!” And so it went for the next several months.

When I got back to college I decided to join the cross-country team in addition to working on campus and taking eighteen hours of coursework. Needless to say, I became a *bit* crabby during the few weeks I tried to juggle it all, and in the end, I chose to exercise on my own and focus on my work and studies.

exhausted-runnerSince that time, I have gone back to running once a year, every year. The problem is that I, unlike my father and husband, have no natural running ability, and it feels as though I am breaking rather than nourishing my body. It has, in fact, broken my husband’s and father’s bodies: both have had multiple knee surgeries. Still, I am always drawn back to running for the potential weight loss it should yield even though it brings me little joy and is never sustainable.

Recently I purchased a Fitbit wristband and frankly, I love it. Instead of trying to figure out how in the world I am going to fit in running or another kind of exercise that requires changing clothes, using equipment, and/or traveling to a gym, I simply build more movement into the day. By checking my steps on my computer or iPhone, I keep myself honest about how much *normal* exercise I am getting and whether or not it’s time to take the dogs for a walk, clean the house, or chase my daughter around the backyard. In short, it allows me to have a real life that incorporates normal movement for my health rather than requiring an investment of time and money that I don’t have.

When it comes to exercise, I think we are all encouraged to be The-Tortoise-And-The-Harehappy little hares instead of steady tortoises. But is that ultimately good for us? I may not have a rock hard body, but I am healthy and honestly have more energy and peace than I ever did running long distance. Like the pace of the tortoise, this lifestyle change is sustainable and pleasurable.

There will always be new exercise trends and programs; but you can also just throw on a pair of shoes, grab your friend, child, or pup, and hit the street. Moreover, this exercise is enough–in fact, when you see those hares that look like they’re ready to vom’ at any moment, remember that you are going to make it to the finish line and be able to continue your day. Figure out how to integrate movement in your life, rather than let exercise rule it, and both you and your body will be better for it.


Many thanks to and for the images.

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