“Don’t make plans; make options.” This has been the motto for me and my partner this year, and I thought about it in relation to fitness in a Facebook post I made recently.

This isn’t a motto that comes easily to me because I like plans. I like spreadsheets. I like to do lists. I like things consistent and reliable and predictable.

But life isn’t always consistent and reliable and predictable. Certainly we’ve experienced that during these 2 years.

I think in some ways my relationship with fitness and movement has been a practice in letting go of plans and making options. I’ve always had activities in my life that were movement or fitness related that I loved and wanted to continue doing, and I’ve had times when they were taken away from me for one reason or another and I had to pivot to something else.

Sometimes the “something else” was something I was really curious about or really wanted to do; other times, the “something else” was something I felt like I ought to do, or that I knew would help me with some specific thing, but I wasn’t truly interested in it.

When I spent the summer away from my usual ballet classes, I used B.K.S. Iyengar’s Light On Yoga to make my own routines.

When I moved to Scotland for a year in college, they didn’t have the type of modern dance classes I wanted. I knew I needed to dance so I joined the ballroom dance society, made the team, and competed in cha-cha-cha and samba.

Me and my dance partner Wolfgang competing at Nationals in 1988.

I felt like I needed more so my flatmates and I took a weekly aerobics class where the teacher only used Fleetwood Mac’s Tango in the Night so now when I hear those songs my body tries to do the remembered exercises from that year.

Another time my body wasn’t tolerating the modern dance I loved so I took up belly dance and spent 5 years draped in sequins and metal coins.

I couldn’t tolerate walking the year I had plantar fasciitis so I used an elliptical trainer and downloaded an upbeat app that played music and encouraged me to “just keep going!”

When COVID shut down my aerial studio, my straps teachers taught a Zoom HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) Class that I called my “crazy class” and I bought a Feet-Up trainer to practice headstands. My partner and I pulled out baseballs, basketballs, frisbees, and footballs and walked to local parks to play. I grabbed our ancient jumprope and took it out in the back yard to get my heart rate up.

When my crazy class got cancelled, I signed up for an online kettlebells series.

I’ve swum and lifted weights. I’ve done the Jane Fonda workout and tons of yoga. I’ve walked and hiked and even run for a very brief time in my life once the plantar fasciitis healed. (Highly recommend Zombies, Run! to make running tolerable.) I’ve skied and sailed. I’ve done PE with Joe and Nia, t’ai chi and kung fu.

The thing is, a lot of this stuff I did because I was shut out of something I wanted to do for some reason: an injury, a location, time, money, a change in life. Every time I got shut out, I mourned the loss of the thing I really wanted to do. It’s hard to lose something you love.

And while I was mourning, I would do whatever presented itself. Because I knew my body needed it. Because I knew my mental health needed it. Because I knew there might be something that would spark a new interest that would carry me for a while.

So far, there always has been. But also? Sometimes it has taken a while. And some teeth gritting to just make myself do the thing.

There’s a popular meme in recent years about how if something is not a F*** Yes, then it’s a No.

I get the reasoning behind that but I’m going to cordially disagree. If I waited to feel a F*** Yes, I’d frankly never do anything at all except read.

The first two times I skied? I cried and got angry and thought I was going to fall off the mountain. Then, it became magical.

I absolutely sucked at Frisbee until my partner taught me the correct way to throw. Which I have to re-learn every. single. time.

The elliptical trainer bored the pants off me.

Nia just seemed weird and new-agey, even for me with a high tolerance for the woo-factor. Not everything is a winner.

Sailing captured me immediately (although I did it only because of people who showed up in my life at that time and not through a natural inclination,) but trapeze had to win my affection since it filled me with fear and loathing the first time (and the second and the third and the fourth…and okay, for the first several years) I tried it.

Ballroom dance? Magic. Kung Fu? Nah.

It’s amazing to devote time and energy to a discipline and experience that slow burn to mastery that for me starts to become that feeling of F*** Yes. I wouldn’t give that up for the world.

But it’s also good to be ready and willing to pivot because you can’t always count on that experience. And when you pivot, be ready and willing to suck at it and maybe not like it and just keep going anyway. I’m grateful to my fitness experiences that have helped me learn this lesson AND it still sucks much of the time. Life changes. Bodies change. Sometimes we just have to roll with it. And trust that the magic will find us eventually if we put ourselves in its way long enough.

© Autumn Needles Pilates and Fitness LLC