Giving Up My Scheduled Workout Regimen Made Me Fitter Than Ever
Leaving the city for the summer and saying goodbye to my go-to fitness studios, running routes, and workout buddies helped me focus on fitness and health in a whole new way.
One of the perks of being a freelance writer is that you can work from anywhere at anytime. So long as there's Wi-Fi, I can make an office.
So this spring, when my fiancé-a tennis professional in the Boston area-got offered a job on Nantucket for the summer, it was hard to say no to relocating for three months. (Plus, we actually met on the little island off of Cape Cod five years earlier and are getting married in September.)
I was excited about the adventure. And just about everyone I talked to expressed their interest in our situation (How romantic! You're going to be so tan! The summer before your wedding!). But I also started to worry.
As many people who work from home can likely relate to, both my routine and the people in it are hugely important to me, particularly as someone who's focused on health and fitness. In Boston, I had my favorite local spin studio around the corner (hi, Handle Bar!) and an amazing new CorePower studio less than a mile away. I had my walks around our neighborhood (note: getting in 10,000 steps is hard when you work remotely), and my usual friends to sweat with. Fitness wasn't far.
With a half-marathon planned for October, moving for the summer also meant I'd be leaving behind my running buddy and the paths along the Charles River that we'd jog every Saturday morning.
Nantucket, of course, had all of these things (workout classes, running routes, yoga studios). The problem: As an introvert, I'm not exactly the first person to try something new. I liked the classes I did, the people I knew, the routes I ran. Furthermore, for as long as I can remember, exercise has been my antidote to an anxious mind. On Sunday mornings in college, waking up with the blues of a hangover looming over me, I would drag my roommate up and out for a long run around the neighborhoods of Worcester, MA. Today, after long days of writing (and extra hours tacked on planning the ins and outs of a wedding), I still found calm from working through a familiar 45-minute spin class.
So my mind started to wander: Where would I work out on Nantucket? Would I be able to keep up with my routine?
I also was used to cooking most of my meals at home. Knowing that the studio apartment we'd be staying in didn't have a full kitchen stressed me out. So, as any reporter would do, I got to work researching workout studios, supermarkets, and running routes.
Before I knew it, it was mid-June and we were pulling up to the island on a ferry, and my fiancé was off to work 10-hour days.
Moving somewhere you've previously only visited for a few days at a time gives you a whole new view of the place. And one of the first things I noticed was that while having a car on the island was incredibly useful (biking with grocery bags = a no-go), everyone biked. Fortunately, my fiancé and I had retro Schwinn beach cruisers with us for the summer (a must for island living, right?).
To be honest, though, I didn't know how much I'd use mine. I'm not a biker. While I'll always spin indoors, I'd much prefer a jog or a walk if I'm outside. But on one of my first days on the island, I biked 6 miles without even trying to. (Driving an old Toyota Tundra on cobblestone streets is not a pleasant experience.) I actually appreciated the new form of exercise, too. I felt it in my quads. I bought a bike lock. I craved the wind in my face. I started spending more time outdoors. From where we were staying, town (where just about everything is located) was only a mile away-about a five-minute bike ride.
So in order to do anything-buy a smoothie, mail a letter, work at a café for the afternoon-I'd need to bike. Soon, I was logging mile after mile, sometimes over 10 a day. It wasn't such a drag, either. In fact, I started working the rides into my day by choice. After a few weeks of biking around, I felt more energized, too-much like I did when I lived in New York City and walked the 25 minutes from my apartment in Gramercy to work in Midtown every morning and back home every evening.
For me, biking became a way to explore a new place. At a gym in the middle of the island, I took a spin class on an "un"stationary bike that moved from side to side while you rode (not for me). In town, I found a lovely boutique studio with barre and boot-camp classes where I met like-minded people. I sought out pop-ups (including The Class by Taryn Toomey) and cruised to innovative, healthy places to eat.
In the confines of my small apartment, I also got creative with my own at-home workouts. I ordered weights and resistance bands on Amazon and brought my equipment outdoors, trying out new bodyweight exercises and interval workouts, working in moves I almost never did at home. On his off days, my fiancé and I would bike to new beaches down dirt paths and swim in the waves.
Eventually, I stopped worrying about whether or not I had done a "true" workout for the day.
I also found a restorative and peaceful yoga studio to wind down at. I can't quite explain the awe that a 4-mile bike ride at sunset after a yoga class brings about. The small stressors of wedding planning (read: seating charts.) suddenly didn't seem so overwhelming.
Running routes came to me through trial and error, too. Nantucket just so happens to be filled with scenic, sunny paths stretching from the outskirts of town to the outermost beaches. (A side hobby became tracking down the best SPFs!) One route in particular-a 6-mile trek to Madaket on the island's western point-became my go-to. (I also learned that for $2, a bus will bring you back toward town.)
Part of the reason I love my long runs in Boston is that they take me around a city I love; they're filled with views of the river. (I'm a water lover.) On Nantucket, with routes overlooking acres of conservation land and small ponds, I certainly get my nature fix and see parts of the island I'd most likely skip over as a tourist. Few things, I have learned, beat ending a long run at a beach.
Working in the health industry, I know the power of variety when it comes to fitness; of movement throughout the day when it comes to general well-being; of mindfulness when it comes to staying sane. I write about it every day. But I think I'm also guilty, to some extent, of falling back on a routine, of going through the motions, of crossing off fitness just to cross it off (or using it as a tool to beat a stressful day). I'm guilty of never truly experiencing what I'm doing in the moment. (We can *all* probably relate from time to time.)
Come Labor Day, I won't have my miles-long jogs to the beach or my newfound bike routes or my scenic spots here, so for now, I'm soaking them up. And while I'll certainly return to the classes I love at home, if anything, my summer so far has not only gotten me outside, it's gotten me out of my comfort zone.
It's helped me to (re-)discover the health and fitness that exists outside of the studio walls. It's everywhere around us.