Or, how I’m breaking my belief that being fat means I can’t enjoy being outside
Back when I had Tinder I had this line in my bio for the longest time “Outdoorsy in the sense that I like getting drunk on patios.” It was kind of true, in the way that almost all dating profiles are kind of true. I DO love a good patio! But I also deeply yearned to be outside, in the grass, with the sun beating down on me, exploring new places. The problem? For far too long I told myself (and was told in different ways) that my body was not the type that COULD enjoy outdoorsy activities.
From a young age I’ve struggled with cardio on solid ground. Throw me in a pool and I can go seemingly forever. Ask me to walk up a hill? No thank you. In youth soccer I would hate actually having to play; I distinctly remember sitting down to pick flowers during a game. When it came time for the dreaded fitness tests I would be walking that dang mile. Even in basketball, a sport my Hoosier ass loves, I would struggle to keep up with the team (but WHEW was I an excellent post).
Listen, I know we’re all good at different things, but it felt like my entire family was good at walking up hills for the fun of it. Me? Not so much. My friends? Track stars, land endurance galore. Me? I truly thrive in water, aka not on a hill. And these stories I told myself about not being good on land eventually became my core beliefs and reality.
Because of these beliefs, I stopped trying to enjoy the outdoors
My ideal outdoor space was patios at bars. I hated bugs even though I spent my youth endlessly fascinated by worms and tadpoles. My world shrunk to only be indoors, even though I truly do thrive in the sun (but not in deep summer, please note the distinction). I shut myself off from the fun that I could have exploring the world, and shut myself off from opportunities to connect to others via outdoor bonding.
But! I started changing that! Last year I made it my mission to “hike” once a week with my dog. I felt myself get stronger, and started to enjoy the time in nature. I finally understood why Finns like nature baths! But then March 13, 2020 hit and I became terrified of leaving my apartment. I would only go on necessary walks with my dog, and rarely ventured out farther than the grocery store for fear of being infected. We still didn’t have a lot of info about Covid-19, but we did have enough to make me terrified.
So, I only worked out as a means of reassuring myself that my lungs were functioning as expected. I lost the strength I had built up over the course of two months. And when I finally ventured back out to hike it was really fucking hard. I almost lost a shoe in unexpected mud that swallowed my legs up to my knees. The hill I could easily walk up was difficult again. And there were so many people out it was impossible to keep socially distanced.
I decided not to try again after that.
Which brings us to March 2021, when I came out to Massachusetts to escape March Madness stuff in my hometown. I decided that since I was alone with my dog surrounded by woods, I might as well explore a little. It absolutely SUCKED to walk up the hills (HILLSSSS) required to get to the hiking path. I was breathing heavily before I was even halfway up the first one.
But, I did it. And… it was actually not bad. I didn’t feel the pressure of other people judging me, so I took breaks to breathe. I didn’t have anyone waiting for me, so I could take a longer time to hike. And my dog fucking loved it. So I started going more frequently!
Now that I’m back out here for a full two months (only 2 more weeks left!) I’ve been trying to get in the woods once a week. I’ve gotten stronger, I’ve started going further, and even took a path that led me up my THIRD hill at the start of the hike. It absolutely sucked starting again. My legs were on fire, my lungs were gasping for air, but I felt like a weight had been lifted off with each step I took into the woods.
Basically, by giving myself the space I needed to start, I’ve come to enjoy being outdoors again.
Plus, my dog fucking LOVES it. And what is love if not making some sacrifices, am I right?