endorphins and other lies

Portovenere26_013 Exercise people piss me off. I’m not speaking of people who enjoy exercise or even the women who eventually come to say "I kinda miss it" on their day of rest (though I kinda want to kick them in the vagina). I’m referring to those who advise others to find an exercise they enjoy and can stick to, the ones who use the word "routine" and say "habits" and "burn" without referring to illegal substances. As fond as I am of tennis, if I have the choice between chasing a fuzzy yellow ball or loafing about on a boat with a cold crisp glass of white, I might just sprain an ankle dashing for the nearest life vest.

When I was last in Italy, Smelly and I went on–what I thought was going to be–a leisurely stroll in Cinque Terre. It was the hike from hell. Never mind that I wasn’t prepared and was lugging a 40lb. backpack while wearing an ill-fitting bathing suit, walking shorts, and pumas without socks. It was treacherous, and I was about as in shape as Humpty Dumpty after the fall. And yet…

When we finally made it to the last town, I didn’t want to stop. It was not, I assure you, anything to do with endorphins. It was the sunset falling over the buildings, the lavender shadows, and the way white seemed to have a pulse. I dropped Smelly off at a bar, and despite my quivering thighs, I negotiated more steep hills and chased the sun to capture the moment, to get the gesture, to remember a time when what was going on around me seemed so much more important than the hurly-burly defeatist crap in my head. And it was then that I realized, if I was ever going to exercise regularly, I wouldn’t be allowed to know it.

Sex these days hardly lasts 4 minutes, never mind a continuous 40 minutes. Sure, once upon a time hunters got their exercise by, well, hunting, searching and sometimes tackling their prey. Sadly, even composing each and every suggested item on a Bon Appetit menu wouldn’t burn enough calories to negate the caloric damage of an aperitif. So as enjoyable as sex and cooking may be–and as much as they might be the direct route to a man’s heart–they’ll never be the solution to my exercise woes.

Those mall power-walkers are onto something. Jean shopping, I’m convinced, has to burn as many calories as elliptical-machining my way through an episode of Army Wives. A shopping spree, or even the idea of running errands as if the time it took to complete them earned me some type of valuable points toward a grand prize (much the way the program "Supermarket Sweep" worked), might just do the trick. When I was younger, I could easily spend the day at an amusement park without even once thinking about food. I’d buzz through the park, racing from one accident-waiting-to-happen to the next. And I realize, it’s really just about finding what it means to you today, to go outside and play.

What activity can you do without even noticing the time? Sure you might be tired, but you’re too excited to stop. I imagine it’s the way some kids feel playing tag. I’ve never once found a sport that I wished would never end. Running my mouth doesn’t count.



  1. (Damn! And here I thought running the mouth did count.) I'm in complete agreement with you on this one! (Besides ballet warm-ups. I just keep picturing myself with a rock hard ass. No, not even close yet)

    What I discovered over the last couple of years, is with photography, I don't realize when I've hiked a whole arboretum. I get caught up in getting cool shots, I don't notice that a half a day has gone by, before my limbs feel tired.

    I have to hand it to you; one treacherous hill and I would have headed to the nearest bar, backpack in hand. ;-)


  2. Biking, not hard core generally but more leisurely. Always have liked it but never found a good bike until now and it was designed for women, so comfortable. It's a Towney. Sometimes it's just the two of us, sometimes a group with a picnic and games. It's something your kids are going to want to do and something you can do with them that is fun.

  3. something is wrong: the date under your post reads "June 15, 2008"!!! I had to stop and wonder for a moment! Stephanie is reporting from way into the future today! :-)

  4. I'm with you on this one. I do exercise as much as I can because when I don't my intense hatred of my own thighs consumes far too much of my life. Honestly, the hours I spend obsessing about cellulite is more time that it would actually take to just work it off. However, even as a 9 year old kid taking the annual physical fitness test in gym class, I walked the mile "run". I didn't care one bit about the dirty looks from my gym teacher who had to wait around for me and the other lazies to finish (even at 9 I knew gym teachers were kind of a joke). I just strolled my way around the intramural field, chatting with my friends. I can't remember ever actually wanting to play tag or chase a soccer ball.

  5. I hated exercise growing up. I still am not a fan of the gym and can only tolerate it if I bring my ipod filled with bumpin music and stimulating podcasts to keep me motivated. But it was when I started rock climbing that I realized I could exercise and not feel like I was exercising. My muscles grew strong throughout my whole body (and I was thinner than I've ever been) all just as I was trying to conquer the next move and get up the darn rockface. And as I grew stronger, certain moves and body positions became motivation in themselves. It was exciting to improve and to know I was strong enough to get up just about anything within a certain difficulty rating. This opened up my mind to other possibilities, and now it's hiking and skiing that don't feel like exercise. Mountain biking will be my next endeavor. Getting outside, into the smells and sounds and breeze of the mountains is what makes it feel like an adventure vs work.

  6. I was late for work today and I saw you on The Today Show!!! I was SOOOOO happy. You looked beautiful and I just wish it was longer. The segment was too short. It was karma because I am never home at that time. And I am such a fan of your books, blog etc… Congratulations Stephanie!!!

  7. Listen, just the fact that you DID hike the Cinque Terre is AMAZING! I recognized the picture right away (we spent 4 days there a few years ago). My biggest accomplishment was hiking the 300-something steps from the train station up to one of the villages. Of course, this was after 5 days in Florence and the aquisition of huge blisters on both feet. I finally got smart and wore my flips the rest of the time.
    I hate exercise too, and the only way I'll go to the gym is if I am absolutely sure one of the TV's will have something good showing that will distract me. I do walk about 5 miles 3 times a week with my husband and his daughter, but she sets the pace and the last time I tried to keep up, I screwed up my right foot so I haven't been able to go at all! I'm thinking my own pace and a book on my MP3 player to keep my mind occupied.
    How do you download books, anyways?!

  8. Wiifit…
    My brother bought this and I tried it out. AMAZING! I was so sore the next day. I am definitely going to get this.

  9. I could drink wine and talk to friends for hours. I guess the wine part is kind of bad though.
    When we were in Capri last summer we did a lot of hiking. I felt like a sweaty mess about five minutes in. But every corner brought something more amazing to see. I must have taken a thousand photos. I have them framed all over the house and friends are constantly asking for copies. Who can resist the lemons as big as your head?

    By the way, I started Moose last night. I know you designed the cover, which I love, did you also design the interior? I am a book designer, so I pay close attention to the design of every book I read. I absolutely love the typography. The numbers above the scale lines are such a whimsical touch.

  10. I HATE "exercising" for its own sake, and can't stand jogging, lifting weights, aerobics or basically any physical activity that doesn't involve competition and/or skill.

    The activities in which I can participate without noticing the time, no matter how physically tired I may be, are ice hockey and playing drums. Playing ice hockey is physically and mentally intense and nothing motivates me to push myself to the brink of exhaustion more than chasing that silly little black rubber disc.

    Drums are my passion (and my career) and I can play for hours and hours without realizing how much time has passed. The feeling I get from playing sustains me through physical exhaustion, and believe me, at the end of a 4 hour gig, when it's 3am and the drunken crowd is screaming "ONE MORE SONG!", the pure enjoyment of playing/performing is the only thing that keeps me going. It sure as hell ain't the money!

  11. Wait. 4 minutes of sex? And your husband doesn't mind you saying that publicly?

    Well. Activities where I don't notice the time… SEX, for one. And dancing. I can barely get myself up two flights of stairs without huffing and puffing, but I can literally dance my ass off for 6 hours straight, without stopping.

  12. Same as you lady, wandering a foreign town with my camera… London exhausted me until I had to get on the double-decker bus with a coffee, just to get off my feet for a bit. Even now, if I have to run cross town from the Upper East side to Chelsea, chances are there's some dashing with bags involved. You just don't notice it cause you're seeing cute outfits, cute men, dodging cabs, focusing the lens. All so much more engaging than counting down the hour to the stretch and "thank you" clap at the end of an exercise class.

  13. Boxing.
    I'm a huge ball of nervous energy. I'm convinced I'm going to have a heart attack and die by age 40 if I don't learn to calm down. Boxing is just about the only thing that will do this for me without giving me a hangover. It gives you a serious 'I can conquer the world' high and clears your head at the same time. Also, the people going on about the Wii…a friend of mine lost 8 pounds the first month she had it.

  14. I love playing a casual game of Ultimate Frisbee with friends. We end up laughing and sweating like crazy.

  15. Snorkeling. We went last year at Hanauma Bay and had to body surf back to shore, 2 feet over the coral.

    I'm blown away that you're on the Today Show. That's huge! I'm so proud of you.

  16. Horseback riding. I spent my late twenties/early thirties getting up at the crack of dawn to ride at the L.A. Equestrian Center on Saturday and Sunday mornings. (Best thing for a hangover…) If you're doing it right it burns a ton of calories and works the legs and core muscles. I would just try to imagine riding in the Olympics, even though my jumps were pretty small.

    I haven't ridden in a while due to back to back pregnancies. As soon as this little one pops out and my lady parts are back to normal I hope to start a weekly lesson again. That is if I can find a somewhere to ride here in Marin.

    Loving the activity really does make the difference. I cannot drag myself to a gym to save my life. Stroller Strides classes weren't bad. Had to give those up when we moved though.

  17. I'm feeling rejuvinated by Wii Fit. I feel like a kid again. The games/exercises are all short in duration so you get to hop from one to the next. Before you know it, 30 minutes have passed by and you are panting about just how hard it is to hula hoop for 3 minutes straight.

  18. I like to exercise, but I get so damn bored. How many times can I walk or ride the same route, take the same class (or variation of), or do the machines before I'm bored out of my skull! I try to change it up, but as soon as I "learn" it or get the hang of it, I lose interest.

    I do love gardening, which is HARD work too, but I'm in Florida and it gets bloody hot as hell.

    Maybe salsa dancing!

  19. The fiance' and I started bowling on Sunday late nights at the rock star style bowling alley nearby. After three hours of tossing a ten pound ball down the lane, I'm usually sore the next day (legs AND arms) but haven't noticed the workout because I am laughing at myself. The beer helps too (or hurts the calorie burning, I suppose).

  20. Duh, tennis for me makes the whole day zip by. There were times I would play 4 hours in the morning, lunch, and 4 hours afterwards with a hope to play after dinner. I also enjoy walking to do errands but this can only be accomplished in a pedestrian city.

  21. Surfing. The channel variety. I'm not making a joke. I firmly believe there's no point in moving unless absolutely necessary.

    Does walking to the door to retrieve my take out order count? Probably not.

    Sex. Definitely. I mean, with someone other than myself. Hey, if I can't be with the one I love (and there's no one I love at the moment), I'm loving the one I'm with. And might I add, I'm damn good!

  22. Horseback riding, hands down. It's like the most exhilarating pilates workout you can imagine. And adding in barn chores, even once a week (I used to do chores on Sunday mornings in exchange for board), changes your body in amazing ways, without you even realizing it.

  23. i thought wiifit would be super lame and not very helpful at burning any fat (go ahead kick me in the vagina…ha!), but it's ridiculously fun. it charts my progress for me……i also get to hula hoop with the wii…who knew that would do anything for me?

  24. i thought wiifit would be super lame and not very helpful at burning any fat (go ahead kick me in the vagina…ha!), but it's ridiculously fun. it charts my progress for me……i also get to hula hoop with the wii…who knew that would do anything for me?

  25. I love hiking. Swimming (treading water) with the kids. Walking the dogs (unless it is raining, which it does all winter andmeans I have to bath them afterwards..I need some doggy raincoats apparently.)

    I wish I were more like my 10 year old daughters who can turn a CD on and dance for eternity. Maybe I should ask for lessons..

  26. Oh! 4 minute sex at your stage of the game? Steffie work on this! 16 years married today and we last/do much more than that.

    (Ok, yeah, when the twins were little it was hit or miss ;) Think of what you have to look forward to! Post twin little baby/kid sex!

  27. I've done that hike! Sadly, I stopped at the bar instead of continuing on like you did – ha.

    I think hiking is the only exercise I can do without noticing the time – and even then, I have to have my dog with me to really enjoy myself. There's something about watching him cavorting around with a goofy smile on his face that makes me forget the fact that I'm exercising, too.

  28. Cinque Terre was one of my favorite hikes (and I loathe exercise in every form…it's unfortunate). Without that scenery, I'm sure it wouldn't have been (okay, stopping for foccaccia and pesto pizza along the way also helped). My dad–avid biker/hiker extraordinaire–is always telling me that I need to find a kind of exercise that I love. It just doesn't seem to exist–without Italy as the backdrop, at least.

    I see you're coming to Chicago soon. I wandered around the city all day yesterday with my boyfriend and we were both dead tired by the end, and had probably walked at least 6 miles. I proclaimed that having someone's hand to hold whilst walking all day really made it must more enjoyable. Too true. :)

    Hope you enjoy your stay in Chicago! I was planning on making it to Woodfield, but with my graduation party looming this weekend in may not happen. We'll see…am still crossing my fingers. :)

  29. That's the whole thing: finding exercise that forgets time. Steph, I have hired a personal trainer for 3 months that had me bopping up and down on every single fricken wall imaginable. I've been trying to lose weight and for the amount of time (2 hrs per day 5 times per week) — I. should. be. a. twig. !!! Anyway, I looked at the clock a lot, even though I enjoy the "feeling" of exercising, mostly afterwards – the accomplishment part of it, but even with an iPod or whatever, songs get old and finding a way to diminish the thoughts of: I GOTTA GET OFF THIS ELLIPTICAL NOW…………….never ends.

    I must find a new way. Someone told me that I might be allergic to wheat gluten.

    Have you heard of this???

  30. yeah, exercise people piss me off, too! i know exactly what you mean! but when i went to hawaii the first time, i got to experience what was known as Manoa Falls. what i didn't know was that it was literally an hour or so hike through a rain forest/jungle. it was muddy.. i slipped and slid everywhere. got mud all over my fat ass and then was warned that if you see/feel/hear rocks falling, stop where you are until you hear the rock/rocks hit the water, then move on. my bro-in-law had my then 3 yr. old daughter on his shoulders and with no shoes on, was walking those muddy rocks like nothing. meanwhile i'm the dumbass in flip flops, and ill-fitting bathing suit covered by a dumb ass sarong with mud caked all over me, but man, oh, man… when we got to the falls… oh, my, God…. how beautiful… and sooooooo well worth it! it was one of the most beautiful things i've EVER witnessed in nature! a fresh water pond that was deeper than deep with a high waterfall… it was amazing and so well worth it! i hope where ever we move to on the Big Island of hawaii will be surrounded by mountains, ocean, waterfalls and all sorts of other grandeur! Manoa Falls closed the spring of 01. 10 tourists lost their lives during one of those rock falls. that's too bad, because it was so well worth it!

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