As I’m setting new fitness goals I can’t get Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In out of my head. I’ve spent the better part of my adult life holding myself back physically.
Most of the time, at the end of a long day, or any day, and on the weekends, I looked to fill my time gently. I was seeking comfort. Movies, theater, spa treatments, books, sleep. Go to the gym? Are you kidding me? I biked a little, but I’ve always had a bike with a lot of gears, and you know which chain I lock into.
The one slight exception was skiing, which I learned to do at a young age. Growing up on the East Coast I skied in subzero temperatures and icy conditions. But when I discovered Colorado and Utah I became a vacation skier. Even now you won’t catch me out there in bad weather. Powder, sunshine, barbeque lunches on the side of the mountain with California Coolers (do they still make these?).
A few years ago it took a European ski instructor to trick me into learning how to ski the bumps. It was more like a hostage situation than a ski lesson.
When the small group of us, mostly men, got off the gondola it looked like we had landed on the moon.
“What was it about I don’t ski bumps did you not get?” I asked René, I think his name was.
“If you don’t learn to ski the bumps there will always be too many.”
“If you learn to ski the bumps there will never be enough.”
OMG, give me a break. I looked around at the group (guys) and it was like a frat party. They were practically giddy.
It wasn’t that I was afraid to ski the bumps.
Okay I was.
But I also thought it was stupid.
Like it’s not enough to be at 6,000 ft. above sea level with little minks darting in and out of aspens. We have to fabricate mounds of snow packed together two feet apart from each other creating an obstacle course as you head down the narrow slope of a mountain that looks like the edge of a skyscraper.
I thought all I needed to do was somehow get myself to the bottom and then do my own thing.
But I let René teach me how to ski the fucking bumps.
When I think back to that day I know it was the scariest thing I’ve ever done. The mountain was so steep and to get started you had to point your tips downhill. You felt like you were going to free-fall.
I haven’t skied in years. The last time I was in Utah I did not go out looking for the bumps, but I didn’t avoid them either.
So now as I’m devising a strategy to get to my next milestone I’m thinking about how hard it is for me and many other women to push ourselves when it is uncomfortable or when it is inconvenient.
Or when it seems stupid.
Sometimes our days feel so packed with stuff to do that it’s all we can do to find a way to relax. Either by avoiding the gym, or like many women, including myself now, by working out.
Even now as I’ve got a disciplined fitness regimen I’ll catch myself slipping into relax mode on the treadmill or taking it easy on the elliptical.
Lord Baltimore sent me a recent medical study that shows if you don’t lean in when you exercise and exercise vigorously – as in, red in the face – you are not going to see results.
And then there’s the issue of setting priorities and ultimately doing triage when your time is limited. Some of us are innate nurturers and depending on who’s around or what project we’ve volunteered to support everyone else or everything else takes a front seat to our fitness goals.
I know it sounds like I haven’t found balance. I haven’t and I’m not sure I want to. I am working hard to lean in because leaning in does not come naturally for me where exercise is concerned.
At Petit Louis in Baltimore last night I was talking about this over a salad of mesculin greens tossed with Reggiano Parmesan and an amazing red wine vinaigrette. I was surprised to learn that the dressing was made with five simple ingredients: red wine vinegar, canola oil, shallots, salt, and pepper. (Because you know I asked.)
We agreed that as women we do so much to complicate our lives, and we are not good at making ourselves physically uncomfortable.
We’ll stop at Whole Foods, Trader Joes, and Giant to get the seventeen ingredients we need to make the perfect dinner after leaving work and maybe not going to the gym.
Or if we do get to the gym our minds are elsewhere and we’re decompressing and not leaning, or in this case, digging, in.