All deliberate speed

The cooktop of my mind has many burners. You likely figured that out a long time ago, but I wanted to point it out as I say:

Ever since I started counting my steps last December, I’ve been puzzling over how, left to my own devices, I take so few in any given day.

This has been on one of the small simmer-burners in the very, very back. Because it’s odd rather than important — if I’m not paying attention, I’ll take about 500 steps in a day. But I’m otherwise healthy, I exercise formally three days a week, and do all those other appropriate things for a woman of my age and class. So it’s sufficiently unimportant that, when I first mentioned it, my friend J said, “Oh, that’s not true. I take 2,000 steps a day on the days we don’t exercise!” She does; I don’t. Really.

Appalled at this evident level of sloth, I started “taking steps” every day, aiming for 5,000 and then 7,000 steps daily. After all, how could I take a hiking vacation if I barely moved in my usual life? Hitting these targets has been and continues to be a conscious task…I seldom reach my goal without specifically walking for walking’s sake around my block. And a daily 7,000 has proven to be next to impossible for me during the heat of the summer. But reaching step-goals is not what I’m talking about today.

I’m talking about Newton’s First Law.

J & I have started working with a personal trainer. [Insert side tale with surprise gym closing, former employee of gym, etc.] We now do the exact same moves, with the same weights, at roughly the same time.

Roughly. J moves markedly faster than I do.

As I thoughtfully pull my arm through ten rowing lifts, J has finished our allotted fifteen. I lag behind her step-squat rhythm until I use her feet as my metronome. I carefully eliminate momentum from my exercise…I can’t say whether she does too, only that when I move at that pace my limb swings like a tire on a rope. It flat-out takes me longer to do everything than it does her.

Maybe you know enough of my stories to think, “Wait. Weren’t you a sprinter when you swam competitively?” Yes, I was…but in the background my coaches all wanted me to compete in the middle distances. The ones that are a hybrid between pacing like a marathoner and moving without reserve. In fact, one of the sensations I can still recall in my body is that of feeling tapped out but yet pulling out unused energy for one last burst. Going flat-out, but I could go faster.

I think of my Granny, part of whose self-image was being a Slow Person. Evidently my great-grandmother was quick, precise, and liked things done a certain way because as my Granny went about her tasks she would say that she was not going to be quick, and that she did not appreciate how her mother had “gone behind her” as she worked. (My Mammaw died when I was 9, so the frustration was still fresh.) And while my own mother is a paragon of delegation and doesn’t “go behind” anyone, I could clearly see how much longer it took me to do any of the things my mother also did. It takes me longer than it does My Sweetie, or my darling chefly A…though both of them give me a wide berth to chop at my own speed when I’m holding the knife. I align myself with my Granny: in body, I am a Slow Person.

Which I newly suspect has repercussions beyond the hand-eye-coordinated activities I’m used to accommodating. Somehow, in ways I don’t know how to observe or measure, I truly move more slowly,

and move less.

I don’t know how I feel about this realization. Taking ten thousand daily steps, for me, means twenty to thirty minutes of walking — on top of whatever motion the day contains by default — thus making those blithe “Park at the other end of the parking lot!” prescriptions sound hopelessly naive.

After all, first I would have to leave home and go to a parking lot.

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