Moving well at 53…or any age: Lifestyle, or Living?
Having a looksee outside of the educational, informative, and fun people and organizations I follow through the Three Branches Wellness account, much of Instagram seems to be focused on advertising lifestyle. Exotic locations, daredevil experiences, the latest shiny acquisitions. Seemingly ever glowing and blissfully happy. Little of it reflects reality for most people; much of it is unrealistic and unattainable, and for humanity at large, unsustainable.
There are multitudes of studies showing that excessive use of social media tends to make people less happy. Perpetually scrolling through the carefully curated lifestyles of others is a lousy way to condition the brain to release the various neurotransmitters we need to feel good about existing. When you passively watch people doing the things, rather than doing your own approximation of them, you trick your body into a short-lived satisfaction but gain zero benefit to your well-being. Like most addictive behaviour, succumb to it for long enough and it will negatively impact both your mental and physical health.
My business is promoting living. That is, working with what you have to get the most out of your time here on the pale blue dot. There’s little to curate, less to maintain, and as you’re the one doing the things, that neurotransmitter delivery system works in its intended manner.
Case in point: Part of my reality is residing in the midst of Greater Toronto’s ever-expanding sprawl and not owning a car. While that might sound rather limiting, with a little savvy and resourcefulness there’s plenty of living to be had for the vehicle-free – maybe even more than forthat large portion of the able-bodied habituated to rely on a car for pretty much everything.
Several times each year, I’ll take my once-a-week day off (hello, entrepreneurial life!) and head out from ours into the Humber Valley, where I cycle to its northwest end at the Claireville Dam and back. This segment of the trail (which also runs south all the way to Lake Ontario) covers approximately 50km and barring a brief stretch where the path has to be abandoned for street and sidewalk, it’s a long and relatively easy line with less than 200m overall elevation change. A respite from car-centric Toronto roads, it’s a beautiful way to experience the city’s abundance of nature. Oh, and you get to bike under a section of the busiest highway in North America – the 401 – which is pretty cool.
Sometimes I’ll cover it in a relatively straight shot there and back, like I did in the first December of the pandemic when I got restless and decided to head out on a cloudy, 4°C afternoon. That one required a generous mug of hot chocolate upon return and a couple of days’ recovery.
My first warm weather valley ride tends to be a more moderate undertaking, with a packed lunch and plenty of stops to take in the many sights and sounds along the trail. In the spring, lilac and jasmine scents permeate, nesting red-winged blackbirds protectively line the tall grasses like a security detail, and rabbits, groundhogs and deer are regular sightings.
With post-COVID work finally picking up over the past couple of months, this year I set out a bit later in the season than usual. My trusty ride having returned from its annual tune-up at Newson’s Bike & Skate, and with the day’s perfect forecast of a sunny 19°C, it was time to break in the new chain and cabling, as well as my endurance mettle.
I also see trips like this one as a way to condition myself for future, challenging undertakings, like the 10+km hikes I’ll do later on in the year, hauling 13 or so kilos of camp gear into provincial backcountry and Crown land. It also helps my overall cardio, strength, metabolism and mental well-being, which makes it easier to teach yoga and movement classes, maneuver around the floor administering shiatsu treatments, go on even longer bike rides and do all the other things I hope to continue doing into my 60s, 70s and beyond.
You know, living.
For many, the past couple of years have resulted in a reduction in their quality of living. In my neighbourhood, I have run into numerous former attendees of my classes who admit that restrictions and pressures led them to fall out of their wellness routines. Some tried online classes, but without the sense of community and mutual support that comes from sharing effort and space with others, they eventually lost interest. Others have been considering returning to the gym and to group classes, but still harbour fears around getting sick – ironically, avoiding activities that can help keep illness at bay.
Living both requires and builds confidence. Setbacks – whether injury from overtraining or a worldwide pandemic – are bound to happen. When beset with any sort of stumbling block, the question then becomes whether or not you are able to persist in your efforts. As interdependent beings, after a major setback we sometimes need assistance in picking ourselves back up, brushing off the dust and returning to dedicated self-care. And it’s here that I will remind that this care you afford yourself gives you the means to better care for others in your life, too – win-win, for all concerned.
While you don’t have to embark on 50km bike rides to be living, if you’d like to get there, I can help you on your journey. If you’re a long way away from that and would simply like to get moving, maybe reduce pain and feel better about your time here on the pale blue dot, I can help with that, too.
Who knows – maybe one sunny spring day, we’ll meet each other on the path.
Pictured: Friendly feline along the way, trees and flowers at the Humber Arboretum, hillside snack break among the dandelions, abandoned wasp nest, the Arboretum’s wildlife garden, Claireville Dam, and the trail’s unassuming end, looking back into the city alongside the 427 highway.