Illustration by Kelsey Garrity Riley
January 4, 2017
One woman’s attempt to balance a life well lived with, well, living
written by Colleen Troy
As I write this, a pack of frozen peas is perched on my knee, which has throbbed since yesterday’s “Body Architecture” class. That’s the one where the middle-aged are punished by being forced to squat, lift, gasp, and heave for a half hour or until they vomit. Meanwhile, as you read this, I am either eating a brownie smothered in ice cream or enduring a 90-minute spin class. These activities are inexorably linked in my life. I take the class, which burns a million calories (I looked it up!) and allows me to enjoy the brownie covered in fat.
This unvirtuous circle fuels my resolve to enjoy a long life of eating and drinking by punctuating it with an occasional sweat or lift. After all, in order to fully enjoy my farm-to-table-to-mouth-to-thighs lifestyle, I need to own my bed-to-desk-to-table-to-bed reality.
It all started with an epiphany, which came after a long day of leaf-raking and bagging. Awaking the next morning, I heard a horrifying scream coming from my own injured self, struggling to stand as every part of my body begged to lie back down and die. Every person who’s gone through rehab says the only way to reform is to hit rock bottom. And I realized right then, felled by fallen leaves, that I needed to make a change. Happily, a few sweetened cups of coffee and Aleves later, I was able to shrug off the memory of the pain. Well, the shrugging hurt a little.
Fast forward to my annual checkup, where I was cruelly required to step on a scale. Now let me just say that I am blessed to live in Charleston. And I do food PR for a living. So it really and truly is not my fault that I must consume many fine meals, cocktails, wine pairings, and dessert tastings on the regular. I do this for my craft! That rationalization always worked well, until I saw that scale, which reminded me of the day after my yard penance. And I realized I had done worse than hit rock bottom: I’d allowed my health to move into rock bottom’s basement.
I recall my doctor prattling on about how important it was to move my body. That we were designed to test our muscles by running from saber tooth tigers and climbing up cave walls. My inner voice interrupted to note that walking to Kudu Coffee is not cardio, reaching the tall shelf for cereal is not yoga, and ending your night with a half rather than a full pour is not a diet. I also heard my stomach rumbling. I wasn’t proud.
So I did what many of the middle-aged among us do: I resolved to exercise enough to offset my passion for every food group. Since I have a straight-up right-left dyslexia, I didn’t try Zumba. Weak in body and spirit, I said no to CrossFit. And since I hadn’t thought about my core since choosing classes in college, I nixed Pilates and barre. But I do know how to ride a bike, and even clumsy me can’t fall off of a stationary one. So I hit the spinning circuit, and it hit me back—hard, so hard I remember surveying the room for one of those heart-starting kits.
I marveled at the people who jumped off their bikes after a workout to blithely run to another class in the next room. I was so tired that I could barely lift my forkful of post-workout pie. But I powered through, and victory was sweet.
Now, a little more than a year after I first visited the gym, I’m actually pretty committed. I grab about four spinning classes a week (and occasionally add some sculpting or yoga). I’m insane enough to have become a regular at the 5:45 a.m. class, which is full of other bleary-eyed souls who understand that a workout delayed is one never done.
But don’t worry: this isn’t a sanctimonious message. I’m not here to proselytize that exercise is awesome and nag you about why you aren’t doing it. I am writing simply to celebrate the act of a resolution well met. Sometimes we just have to wake up, smell the coffee cake, and realize that despite our best bargaining skills, reality, and gravity, aren’t budging.
A new year is a great time to make a promise that we’ll launch or quit something important. If we’re lucky, we do it in time to make positive change in our lives. And if we’re really lucky, there’s an ice-cream-covered brownie at the end of the rainbow.
To read more articles from our January issue, click here.