Kristin and I used to run together at least once a week. It started when we both fought fire, and we ran or worked out together every day. That summer we ran in the rain, water sloshing into our mesh running shoes. On hot summer days, we ducked into the woods to ditch our t-shirts and bask in the cool shaded trails. We swam across ponds in the moonlight, mooned helicopters while swimming in local lakes, and once we were attacked by an angry army of ravenous mosquitoes as we trudged up a hill with weighted packs. After we left fire and moved to Missoula , our workouts and runs were a chance to catch up weekly within our conflictingly busy schedules.
Running adventures with Kristin were exhilarating and exhausting, and always led one of us to thank the other for the extra push of inspiration to complete the workout. From the threat of bears, blossoming lilac bushes and open roads in St. Ignatius, to my first Waterworks loop in the sleet and icy trails, we inspired each other to go the extra mile, summit over the last hill, and venture down the unexplored path.
Our runs didn’t feel like runs, in the monotonous sense of the word. Our runs were a time to share relationship problems, excitements of new love, political ideologies, work stresses and gardening tips. Our hikes were a time for reminiscing and sing-alongs. With our minds distracted, we sweat and pushed our bodies up mountains and along trails and laughed as we sped down the M in Missoula or scrambled over logs in the woods.
I didn't always love running. In high school, running was the epitome of monotonous. My gait was erratic, my feet shuffled on the pavement and my only motivation was to lose weight. It wasn't until my first year fighting fire with the Forest Service that it finally clicked. I was running on trails in Oregon with friends, up desolate highways in Nevada, and all the while learning to pace myself and enjoy each step, step, step.
The passion and inspiration you find in any sport or activity is what draws the line between exercise and physical fitness. Exercise, though crucial for a healthy lifestyle, has narrower parameters. It is a chore that we all must do to keep ourselves fit and healthy. I frequently find myself exercising before work, knowing that my day will be sedentary and that exercise will keep me calmer and more grounded. Physical fitness is the excitement and enjoyment of doing something you love as a part of your overall lifestyle, and working up a sweat while doing it. Fitness is the training and the game, and the smile it puts on your face.
The formula for healthy physical activity is getting your body moving, your blood pumping and your lungs heaving. All too often, however, working out can become monotonous or can feel like a chore. To avoid this, make it fun! Get a running buddy or three, and make a game of it. Race to the top of a hill, take turns thinking of different strength training drills or lunge patterns, explore new running trails, or go to a dance class together.
If the formula is movement, blood flow and heavy breathing, then the key is passion and enjoyment, and sometimes even a little distraction. Firefighting ignited that passion for me. Kristin inspired that excitement.
Anna Rose is a Certified Personal Trainer and the Sales Advisor at The Women's Club in Missoula, Montana. Anna also writes for OutWords and 406Woman.