The Best Activity
Expert opinions on the best activity for fitness vary. Some might advocate for swimming, because it’s easy on your joints. Others might claim that running is the best activity, since all you need is a good pair of sneakers. Some could claim that weight lifting trumps the others, since tons of new research argues that it does. Or, perhaps you’ve heard about the miracles of High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). I’m not an expert, but I’ve always held the belief that the best activity isn’t any one thing, but rather, the one that you’ll do.
When I moved into my first apartment in Toronto ten years ago, the indoor pool was a major factor in my decision. The first several months I lived there, I used the pool maybe two or three times. I was morbidly obese and lethargic, and I wasn’t in an active space beyond a gentle walking commute. When I flipped the switch in my brain and decided to become a healthy and active person, at first, the only activity that interested me was swimming. At 260lbs, on the first day of my new life, I swam exactly 30 lengths in my 12m pool, and at the time, that felt like a lot. For the next five months, I barely missed a day swimming, and I went from 30 lengths to 180. That pool changed my life.
One of the biggest pieces of advice I give anyone when they embark on a new fitness regime is to start where you are. For me, starting where I was meant starting in the pool, and building on my love of swimming. Maybe for you, starting where you are means getting out for a hike and walking in the woods. Maybe it means going to a dance class; maybe it means joining an ultimate frisbee league. I strongly believe that in the beginning, when you’re creating a new lifestyle, the most important thing you can do is find activities that fit easily into your life and do them on a consistent basis. This might include living room workouts, riding a bike, or pursuing an active passion. The early days are about building a habit, building up your confidence, and getting your body accustomed to moving. Later, you can build your intensity and mix in other activities if you so choose.
When you’re first starting out, you might only have one activity that you’re interested in, but over time you may find that your body wants you to diversify (or maybe you won’t, that’s okay too). I didn’t always have access to a pool or a gym and I used to hate running with a passion, so there were times I did a lot of living room workouts like P90x, P90x3, or Nike training club. At the time, living room workouts were my best activity, because they were what fit most easily into my life.
Recently, I’ve figured out that running, which was once my nemesis, fits into my life in a way that other things don’t. I can run wherever I go, which gives it a leg up over everything else. I started running when I was training for my first triathlon but it never really clicked back then. To worsen matters, during that time, I got injured running, so I never really became comfortable with it. People kept telling me that you needed to get past the first three months before you like it, but I’ve never been much of a glutton for punishment. Frankly, I started running so I could do triathlons, but it was never really my thing.
Last summer, however, I’d been fighting against the lethargy and losing for several months, and I decided that I needed a group of people to be accountable to. I joined a learn to run club at the Running Room, because I wanted something social and positive to get me back into activity. I found that running, which I previously had merely suffered through, became something that I enjoyed and looked forward to. I finally learned what was meant by a runner’s high, and loved the feeling of the energy coursing through me after a run. I also loved the kind, positive and encouraging people I ran with twice a week.
These days, I’ve turned a corner with running. I’m out running by the stunning waterfront trail near my condo three days a week, I just finished my second clinic with the running room, and did my first race of the year a few weeks ago. I thought it was going to be my only 5k of the year, but then I had so much fun on race day, I decided to sign up for the Yorkville 5k, in support of my friend Becca’s charity, The Assaulted Women’s Helpline. If you’d like to sponsor me and support this meaningful cause, please check out my fundraising page: https://yorkvillerun.com/profile/ashley/615/
The best activity is whatever you want it to be; it is the one that you can incorporate into your life, the one that will make you happy, and the one that you’re most motivated by. Maybe you have more than one. If you’re looking to start a new fitness journey, or even just to recommit after a long time of inactivity, find an activity that you can easily incorporate, the one you used to love, or the one you always dreamed of doing. Whatever it is, dig deep, find it, grab on with both hands, and don’t let go.