Winter Workouts: Pouring Myself Nice Glass of Endorphins

Cloudy Day

I let the original version of this post sit in the queue and marinate for a while, and then I scrapped it. It sounded way, way too Eeyore-ish, and that is not how I wish to be thought of. But I admit to struggling with a heaping case of the blues lately. I always look for the whys and the wherefores when I don’t feel great, emotionally or otherwise, and I suppose this feeling I can’t seem to shake could be ascribed to something like Seasonal Affective Disorder or some such.

I am not full of angst like the music my now-grown-up kid once listened to along about middle school: you know the stuff—wailing, hair-tearing, woe-is-me girls with heavy black eye makeup, über pale skin, and dark fingernails lamenting the uselessness of it all. Whatever it is. Because, you know, they have so much lamentable stuff in their young lives, and nobody can possibly, possibly understand them.

Nah, I don’t feel like that. I feel a bit like the photograph: the sun is not quite shining. But it is not quite shining all the time.

The days are now obscenely short here in Vermont, darkness falling by 5 pm. It has been unseasonably warm, and that is fine and dandy by me. In fact, I’d go so far as to say this particular fall in Vermont feels awfully familiar, like, say, fall in East Tennessee. But winter will at last step over the threshold (it has already banged on the door a couple of times), and I think the anticipation of a solid four or more months of it is a big part of my mood.

So here is my response to this ridiculous demeanor that is not really me.

Last week I did two new things. On Thursday I attended my first-ever spin class. For the uninitiated, I shall explain. You get on a stationary bicycle in a room with lots of other folk on stationary bikes, and you pedal like crazy to the beat of insane music whilst an instructor—who is facing you on a stationary bike—screams at you through a little mic to “stand up!” and “power up that hill!” and “don’t dial it down!” and “we still have four more intervals!” and in general tries to motivate you to ride ’til you vomit. And just when you think you might, the class is over.

Here is the really great part: you have sweat dripping from your brow, and your nose, and your chin (at least, I did), and you feel really, really good, as in, Who cares that it is winter for four more months? This is the brain chemistry that I miss so, so much from my days as a long distance runner.

The second new thing I did was to join the local recreation center so I can start swimming at least a couple of times weekly. Swimming was something I once had the luxury of doing every single day, and the only thing required of me was to step outside my back door into a beautiful pool.

Those days are long gone. But I can still swim. I admit to feeling a bit self-conscious, finding myself rounder than I was in the years immediately post-divorce. Dang pastries.

I do not care. I want that brain chemistry. I desperately need that brain chemistry.

So to yoga and weight lifting classes I now add spin classes and swimming.

And there is one other thing: last week I bought myself a decent-quality sketch pad. When I was a kid I used to draw like crazy, and I loved it. In fact, I exercised my creative muscle to the point of being obnoxious. When I was not in ballet class I was sitting at the piano banging out something fun on its keys, or playing pretty arpeggios on my classical guitar. When I was not doing homework up in my room, I was sketching something, usually ballerinas.

Lately I have felt an urge to draw dancer feet; I come by it honestly. If my drawings are not too embarrassing, I will share some of them here.

Someday I hope to have the means (and the bravery) to undergo the somewhat risky foot surgery I need to be able to comfortably run again.

‘Til then, I plan to sweat as much as I can (and draw pictures of smelly ballerina feet) in the dead of winter so the sun will shine all the time.

Sunny Day


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