What's In a Number?

girl sick in bed with a cold

There are a few things I’m sure of in this life, and one is that I am not an exercise addict. People who know me can attest to this fact, as can recent events during my 31-day challenge (inspired by an editorial written by Taste For Life’s Lynn Tryba and excerpted here:

Pick one thing you’d like to make a habit, and then commit to doing it 31 days in January.

A friend of mine did 31 yoga classes in 31 days in October. A co-worker teased her, asking if she was expecting a “transformative experience.” Yes, my friend said, she was. And she got one. While she let go of a lot of “emotional baggage” she’d been carrying around, she also lost weight in the process!

My friend went to yoga class when she was feeling a little under the weather, when she felt lazy, and when her body ached. It would have been easy to find an excuse to bow out of her self-imposed challenge, but she stayed true to her commitment, ending the month in better shape—emotionally, spiritually, mentally, and physically—than when she started.

Maybe best of all, she felt justifi ably proud of herself. I don’t think many adults get to experience this feeling very often. We have tons of expectations placed on us every day, by our workplaces, our families and, most of all, ourselves. It’s easy to feel like we’re not quite acing everything.

Whatever your goals are for the New Year, consider setting aside January to try a 31-day challenge of your own choosing.

To your health,
Lynn Tryba

Lynn suggested picking just one thing you know will help you in your life, or in your health, specifically, and do that thing for 31 days. January, she suggested, is a good time to do it because there are 31 days in January, and it’s the time people make resolutions anyway.

She’s very sensible that way.

So I decided to do some sort of organized exercise every day for 31 days. “Organized” might mean a yoga class or trip to the gym, it might mean a hike or snowshoe, or a day of skiing, or, just what we call a good sturdy walk. “Intentional” might be another word for it, as in “intentionally” walking briskly to a point 1.5 miles away (the exact distance of a rail-trail connected to our office building) and returning in an equally brisk manner.

My 31-day challenge went like this: 

January 1: Did an hour of vinyasa yoga at home, felt great afterward.

January 2: Couldn’t summon the energy together to do much; decided to walk to neighbors’ house for dinner.

I figured that walk—uphill, in the snow and ice, a half-mile each way—was at least something. And it felt sturdy.

But by the end of the evening I knew something was wrong: My voice had gone funny, my throat hurt, and I was lying on my back on my neighbors’ living room floor. (I just know the dinner invitations will come rolling in after this!)

But I insisted, against their concerns, that I would walk back home: I had to stick to my resolution, right? My 31-day plan?

Well, I made it home (obviously). But for the next several days my exercise was limited to pressing myself out of bed, hiking downstairs, and deadlifting wood pellets to feed my pellet stove, usually just after it started to go out.

I had a bad cold.

I know at least one person who would’ve kept exercising daily right through it, and I worry about her. When we choose to exercise through injury, pain, exhaustion, or sickness, it’s not about our health. It’s about something that has nothing to do with health. It might be ego, and might be about a certain amount of self-loathing, it might be about not liking what we see in the mirror, but it isn’t about health.

Exercise addiction is real (though some of us may have trouble believing that!), and one of the symptoms is that you still exercise when you’re sick. As much as we might believe all our hard work will go to flab within minutes of not sticking to our plan, our bodies actually need all the energy we can spare to get well. When we’re really sick, we need to take care of our health by not pushing ourselves, by resting, by drinking fluids and eating nutritious food. So, after these and more feverish ruminations on the meaning of life and exercise, I decided that sticking to my plan would only have been about “31 days,” not about my health, and I stayed in bed.

However, though it would’ve been easy enough to forget my little 31-day challenge after its second-day flop, I haven’t. “January” is just a word, and “31” is just a number. I decided to be reasonable, and start up where I left off. So today, still coughing, I dropped off my car to have the snow tires put on and “intentionally” walked off in the direction of my office, 0.7 miles away. And I walked back later to pick it up.

It’s a start, anyway. I’ll let you know how it goes.


Donna Moxley

Donna Moxley is the former managing editor at tasteforlife.com.