Exercise: vampire or muse?

When I was younger I was allergic to sports. I was a nerd and thought all sports were stupid and fitness was icky and draining, something that would wear me out. Exercise was a vampire.

Thirty years later, I’m practically a jock. I’ve completely turned around, see myself as a bit of an athlete, actually love some sports — mainly ultimate1 — and I have at least some respect for most of the others. (Even hockey, to the absolute horror of my 18-year-old self.)

But that was just ordinary growing older and wiser. What’s more interesting is that I now see exercise as invigorating and refreshing. It seems that way to me even with my mysterious health troubles and chronic pain, which make exercising a lot more truly icky and draining than it ever was back in the exercise-hating day. But the right dose of exercise still delivers a net benefit, and I can’t imagine trying to slog through a whole day of hard mental work without it. In fact, the exercise is probably even more valuable precisely because of the things that make it harder.

Or one step further…

Maybe my grown-up appreciation for the refreshing quality of exercise came about not in spite of my health problems but because of them. When I was young, I didn’t need the refreshment. I could power through mental work with youthful vigour; I was blessed with reserves I just don’t have today. Since I got sick, a day of uninterrupted mental work just seems impossible without taking breaks for fresh air and exercise. It’s as unachievable as all-nighters, drinking binges, and eating more than one pancake at a time.

  1. Ultimate is a Frisbee team sport, co-ed and self-refereed, with soccer-like intensity and usually the mood of a good party. Players tend to be jock-nerd hybrids: lots of engineers and scientists. Hippies invented the sport, but have mostly been displaced. I played regularly from 1997 through 2017 before finally, reluctantly retiring.