The most effective form of exercise is…

I’ll never forget the question.
The crowd that day was eager to hear from Exercise Physiologist and trainer to the stars, Jimmy Pena (who also happens to be an old friend of mine) when it came out of nowhere:
“What is the most effective exercise you can do for physical fitness?”
hmmm..
Decked out in their track suits and tennis shoes, people were throwing out answers left and right- “Running!” “Spinning!” “Rowing!” “Crossfit?”
I admit, I was thinking up a few of my own, and once everyone quieted down he said, “After writing countless articles on health and fitness since 1998 (he’s being modest, he’s one of the nation’s most published fitness experts) and even after co-authoring or contributing to 6 health and fitness best sellers, I can say with certainty that the most effective form of exercise is (wait for it…) whatever you’ll do.”
huh.
That’s.. yeah.
wow.

(The truth is always simple.)

We all know that we can have the most sophisticated equipment, the best workout plan, etc., etc.. but if we have no desire whatsoever to even do the work, it does us no good, because we won’t do it. Right? (Raise your hand if you have now or have ever had a piece of exercise equipment that sadly became an extra closet or bookshelf in your bedroom. Hmmm? Anyone?)
I never had that problem. I love to work out. It’s ok, you can hate me. Lifting weights is enjoyable for me.
Well, that is, until about 3 months ago.. when my world turned upside down.
I was going through a big life change (which I’ll write about soon) and I started experiencing a drop in my energy level, and then out of no where, I completely lost my desire to lift weights.
(Moment of silence, please)
Utter sadness.
So I did what most fitness fanatics do. I pushed myself to stay after it anyways, going through the motions until one day I just couldn’t do it anymore. And I stopped.
What happened? Where’s the love? I mean, seriously, this wasn’t supposed to happen to ‘people like me’, I encourage others to work out and live healthy, I’m supposed to be the good example, dangit!

I felt bad and even guilty for not working out, don’t ask me why, I just did. Habit.
But the motivation had absolutely left me. And it was no where to be found.
It was about a week later, when I decided I wanted to finally start a garden in my back yard (after years of wishing), aaaaand I thought it would be cool to lay a brick walkway around the two beds (because I like to come up with new ways to torture myself).
Our home is 104 years old and every square inch of her bad self needs renovating, including the large mess behind the house most people refer to as a “back yard.” So, completely uncharacteristic of me, I started spending two hours outside every morning working on my back yard. Hauling around buckets of dirt, shoveling sand, carrying bricks of all shapes and sizes, digging compost trenches,

knocking the mortar off the old bricks with a small axe, etc..

And guess what? I loved it! (Whoa, stop the presses.)
I was out of breath and sweating up a storm (it was hotter than Hades out there), but I really loved it! The two hours flew by and I couldn’t wait to get back out there the next day. I felt like I did when I first started with weights. I felt at home.. and relaxed, it came naturally.
(Here’s my yard in progress..poor thing. If you blink you might miss my cucumbers coming in.)
So, somewhere in the middle of all that I stopped feeling guilty about not doing ‘regular exercise’ and started to see the work in my garden/backyard for what it was- a dang good workout. And wouldn’t you know it, just this week (some 3 months later), my love for lifting weights, returned. Aaaaand they’re back to kicking my butt. :-)
So, am I starting over in some ways? Have I lost a little ground in the weight room? Yes. There’s no other way around it. But what I gained was a refresher that exercise can be anything that’s physically demanding (and progressive), even hauling bricks and shoveling sand.. and it should be enjoyable. Because, bottom line, it doesn’t matter how “effective” a particular exercise is for the masses, what works best for me is… whatever I’ll do.

What is your favorite form of non-traditional exercise? Do you enjoy lifting weights? Do you have a garden? (Please say yes to that last question so you can help this little brown thumb out.) :-)