Country Cardio or When Introverts Exercise (My Silent Midlife Crisis, Part III)

Country music is three chords and the truth.  –Harlan Howard, songwriter

For many, the word “exercise” conjures up hundreds of negative, SWEATY connotations.  If you’re an introvert, you could likely multiply that number by a million.  And if you’re me, one could amp it up even more.  Exercise just sounds awful–exertion, perspiration, racing heart, muscle burn, etc.  Combine that with the thought of joining a gym or signing up for a class with a bunch of strangers and the idea becomes absolutely overwhelming.  So obviously, I’m not a fan…and yet, I’m also not an idiot.

Exercise is important, that’s what THEY tell us anyway.  They’re right, but that doesn’t mean we have to like it…or at least I don’t.  As an introvert, exercise has been rather tricky for me.  Fortunately, I’ve settled into a routine that hasn’t killed me (at least not yet!) and of course, I had to add my own dramatic flair to it.  I mean it wouldn’t be me if I didn’t.

ENTER THE EXERCISE BIKE.  You’ve probably seen the Peleton commercials and I’m definitely not that girl, but it was my inspiration.  I figured a stationary bike was perfect for me.  I could ride at my own pace, work up to a good solid routine, stay indoors, and monitor my progress all while indulging in Netflix!  Jealous, right?  It was the perfect solution…ALMOST.  It wasn’t long before I decided that this was a little too easy.  I mean the saying goes, “no pain, no gain,” right?  So I decided I needed to add an element of suffering AND discomfort to my cycling.  Thus, the Country CARDIO music playlist was born.

These 11 country songs fuel my 10-mile daily ride all the while generating an emotional punch that stirs up just the right amount of heartbreak, memories (good and bad,) and tearfulness.   From the very first song to the last song, I experience a rollercoaster of feelings…love found, love lost, break-ups, good times, hopefulness, hopelessness, dreams shattered, dreams fulfilled and more.  Yes, all good stuff!  And while I only truly loved country music for a few years in the 1990s, these songs are near and dear to my heart today.  I can remember exactly where I was, who I was with, and all the circumstances surrounding each song.  It’s like unlocking a memory treasure chest with each pedal turn…the perfect compliment to my current midlife crisis.

All the nostalgia of George Strait and Garth Brooks combined with girl power ballads from Martina McBride and The Dixie Chicks (yes, I’ve forgiven them,) intertwined with Tracy Byrd, Vince Gill, and Brooks & Dunn.  (Betcha can’t guess which song is my favorite?)  The memories span from leaving home for college to moving halfway across the country AND BACK, plus so many more.  One minute I’m so grateful for everything, then a simple song change has me feeling all melancholy in a lonesome bar somewhere.  Another song has me completely heartbroken and the next musical selection reminds me how much I learned from that same heartache.  To quote one favorite, “And the words of every sad song seem to say what I think….”  Sure, it’s a tad dramatic, but that’s what makes it perfect.

So maybe I don’t work myself into a total sweaty mess on these little treks, but I know that I feel like I’ve run a marathon when I’m done…even if it’s just an emotional one.  My bike doesn’t have an incline setting to induce burning thighs, but I’m satisfied with the melodramatic pain.  I might not be building tons of muscle, but know that in one way or another I’m growing stronger.  Somehow it all seems like enough.  When I step off the bike, I feel accomplished.  I feel empowered–like I’ve done something and been somewhere.  I feel sore and worn…and there might even be some perspiration, too.  Sounds like exercise to me…

I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.   – Philippians 4:13

 

 

 

 

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KEEP CALM, Summer’s Coming (15 Days of Sunshine-Inspired Songs) SONG 6

Sometimes the best vacation is a staycation.  –author unknown

I love the movie, “The Wizard of Oz,” for many reasons…but especially for the line,”there’s no place like home.”  It’s just so true.  Of course, one never knows just how much they love home until they move away.  At least that’s how it was for me.  That’s why this next song made my summer music playlist.  I can remember coming home to visit my parents and my dad blasting this song on repeat FOR HOURS AND HOURS in the garage.  The funniest thing was that no one complained.  In fact, there were many times that I caught family members singing along!

“Heaven” by Los Lonely Boys came out in the summer of 2004.  I was in my late 20s, married with one child…and I was pretty much anything but hip.  But there’s something about this song that just makes you feel cool–regardless of age.  “Heaven,” written by a trio of brothers from Texas, captures a laid back summer vibe with its infectious chorus.  Peaking at No. 16 on the Billboard Top 100, the tune went on to No. 1 on the adult contemporary charts for 16 weeks.  Interestingly enough, the song also registered on the country music charts, too.  The song eventually led to two Grammy nominations and one win in 2005.  Their biggest hit to date, this song set the tone for so many that summer.

It doesn’t take much for me to remember that afternoon at my parent’s house.  It’s always a party when we visit!  Lots of family, food and laughter.  I can still see my son (a toddler at the time) working his dance moves outside in the garage with my dad.  Whenever I hear “Heaven” it puts a smile on my face and I am grateful for both summer and a place to call home!

Up Next:  SONG 7…”That’s when I had most of my fun….”

KEEP CALM, Summer’s Coming (15 Days of Sunshine-Inspired Songs) SONG 5

I could never in a hundred summers get tired of this.  –Susan Branch

“Steal My Sunshine” by Len hit the airwaves during my first summer as a resident of sunny California.  The song was all things Golden State–feel good, shiny, pop inspired, retro and contemporary fun–imagine how surprised I was to find out that it was the product of a Canadian group!  This little goodie hit the pop charts in 1999, but takes some of its great music flavor from both the 70s and the 80s. Besides all that, who doesn’t love a song whose music video features an orange moped posse?

While crawling through my Bay Area commute, I recall scanning through my radio presets only to discover this song playing simultaneously on two stations!  Whaaaat? Both the pop and the alternative station spinning the same tune, whoa–this song must be special!  So I turned it up and quickly added another song to my list of favorites.  “Steal My Sunshine” was inspired by a night at a rave, helped reunite an estranged brother and sister, and almost didn’t make it make it onto the group’s CD (fortunately it was retrieved from its hiding place…under the cowriter’s bed!)  All of this makes for quite the story behind a song that landed in Billboard 100’s top ten and on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the “Best Summer Songs of All Time.”

This catchy song was still receiving plenty of airplay when I finally had an opportunity to visit Los Angeles that fall.  It was the perfect background music for a trip to Venice Beach, celebrity sight-seeing and soaking up all things California.  Today you can still find it on a number of summer playlists…including mine.  All the more reason to love a song that enjoys elite “one-hit wonder” status as it “perfectly captured that warm, lazy feeling you get when late summer still seems like it could last forever,” at least according to Stylus Magazine (2007.)  And I think they’re right on.

Up next:  SONG 6…how far is heaven?