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Life’s Better When You’re Making Things

If quarantine time has taught us anything — and it’s taught me many things — it’s that we humans are inherently driven to make things. When gazing at our little goggleboxes grows tiresome; when we are limited in our ability to gather at restaurants, bars, gyms, or offices and distract each other, eventually we will say to ourselves, “I would really like to make something.”

Maybe we will start small with a loaf of banana bread; maybe we will aim a bit higher with sourdough. Maybe we film an elaborate tiktok with our family. Maybe we will tear up all the carpet in the upstairs bedrooms and refinish the hardwood floors. Maybe we will design an app for timing the maturation of a sourdough starter or create a home-built drone out of Lego blocks and a kit bought online. Maybe we’ll finish the scrapbook we started two years ago or take up knitting.

At some point just sitting there and taking it all in just isn’t enough. You got to make something. What is satisfying about creating things, even if they’re not Martha-Stewart-perfect? I’m not sure, but it feels so elemental, it must be encoded in the human genome. “I made this!” cried the cave-person who painted on the walls in Altamira. “And so did I!” shouted the much-later human who created the wheel and axle. “As did we!” said the various people who invented and improved the telescope. Leaving aside questions of who got there first, and whether these creations were solo or group projects, or even whether these creators knew their work was going to be problematic for the “higher ups,” you just know that they felt fantastic about what they had done.

Same thing with banana bread – on a slightly more modest scale. The endorphins are released, and the baker feels, “I am here. I have forged rotten bananas into sustenance for myself and those around me. Huzzah!”

When our distractions and entertainments are whittled down to a precious few, we realize that life is better when you’re making things.

So let’s go make some stuff. Even after we get vaccinated.


Why I Started and Stayed with Aaptiv

Some time just before Thanksgiving I read an article about Aaptiv, an audio-based training app. Aaptiv has pre-recorded training sessions for different activities: some in the gym, some outside, some strength, lots of cardio, and tons of coaches. There is also a real music (not muzak) soundtrack behind every session. Truthfully I think I had subconsciously been trying to create this app on my own for years. I would make workout ‘mix tapes’ and then write down training routines I had seen in magazines. Then I’d plug in and try to do them without dropping my cheatsheet in the grass or just losing my place and giving up.

I signed up for a month-long trial membership with Aaptiv, and was pretty much hooked after two weeks. To my surprise I committed to a six week program called ‘Walk to Run One Mile’. I am not a runner. I probably hadn’t run a mile since junior high school. But I did it. The feeling of elation when I completed the program was overwhelming. I had run almost two miles without stopping, no asterisks! And the reason I did it was because of the coach’s minute-by-minute instructions and encouragement. Even on the days when working out was the last thing I wanted to do, I would remember the rewarding feeling of the coach saying, “You are a-MAY-zing!”

I have never met an Aaptiv trainer I didn’t like, but so far my favorites are Ben, Ackeem and Jade. Ben is like the energizer bunny and was particularly good at getting this self-doubting athlete to “just try.” Ackeem is like a spiritual drill sargeant. You definitely don’t want to let him down. Jade is no-nonsense mellow, and always helps me to reboot my mind. In every workout, whether it’s walking or yoga or meditation, I am grateful for the the positive messages I can take into the rest of my day. They are almost more important to me than the workout itself.

I am not shilling for the app, although I am obviously a fan. TBH, the strength workouts are harder for me to follow. I don’t always know what the moves are, and the verbal descriptions can be confusing. (A half turkish get-up, wha?) but I flail around anyway and google it later.

So what are the results so far? I’m still working out with Aaptiv three or more times a week. I’ve lost some weight and toned up a bit, but the biggest change is in my confidence. I definitely look forward to the “me time” of working out. Deciding what session to download is almost like shopping for shoes!