During PST, we talk a lot about "healthy lifestyles" or, more specifically, how to maintain them once we get to site. We are told at the beginning that if you were very physically active before coming to your host country that you'll likely gain weight during your service, whereas those who were less active will lose. For me, I was in the "very active" group, choosing to go to the gym and to snowboard, take long bike rides, and generally be outdoors. I expected to gain some but also wanted to keep a lifestyle that kept me feeling good about myself and spry. Most of us vowed similarly but, unfortunately, this was usually not the case.
Many pick up bad habits to kill the time. Some people start smoking or drink too much or fill the empty hours with learning to cook new foods or waiting for a care package with tasty treats to remind us of home... and then binge eating them. Although I have still never ever smoked a cigarette, I did fall prey to overindulgence. I learned how to bake bread and fell in love with the smell as it filled my kitchen and I struggled to say no to kind neighbors when they over-filled my plate with Setswana foods. But eating what I like has rarely been something I denied myself.
Working out is infinitely more difficult when living in a village. For one, there are no gyms to go to. And second (and perhaps more importantly), we are an absolute spectacle if we go for runs outside. My fellow Peace Corps Volunteers and I have often said that we feel like a zoo animal with everyone watching us and studying our mannerisms. While a daily run would feel great on the body (and likely spur a parade of children trying to keep up), the soul takes a beating when you are constantly scrutinized. Most PCVs opt for indoor workouts of the likes of Jillian Michaels, Hip Hop Abs, or Insanity. That is, until the unbearable heat kicks in and getting up to fill your water bottle makes you sweat like you just ran a marathon. Oh yes, it is a hard life... Oh woe is me. But, really, I have tried on many occasions to get back into the swing of things and re-kindle my workout routine but bloody blisters and torrential downpours and nearly four months without water always kept me at bay. (Would you really want to hang out with me after nine workouts without a shower? Cuz that's how many days I had to go sometimes when I was out of water... GROSS!) I mention all of this because many of my compatriots and I have started to feel the wear and we are determined not to let anything else stand in our way. With less than seven months left in our contracts, we are finally taking a stand for our health.
So I ask of you, my family and friends, every so often ask me how my elliptical is treating me... hint hint Tija!