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Exercising and Cultural Adaptation

This morning I felt like Bambi.

I put on inline skates and started skating for the second time in more than three years.

It used to be a regular activity. I could navigate stairs safely and in control with them. I even trained and completed a 90 km inline activity.

It was one of my favorite forms of exercise for the many years whether it was during undergrad at Northwestern along Lake Michigan, in Indianapolis on the Monon Trail, or since 2008, living in a south suburb of Gothenburg, Sweden. The Säröbanan, a long nicely paved trail over a former railroad, ran for many kilometers north along a beautiful coastal stretch of

the Gothenburg archipelago. It was good for the heart and muscles.

And it was good for the spirit and soul, with the smell that my husband describes as “fresh” and I describe as “rotten seaweed” and the ever-present cooling breeze.

Then we moved to Columbia, South Carolina.

We didn’t have an ocean for at least a two-hour drive.

Nor was there a decent paved surface for any distance. I tried once, but the rough asphalt mix and poorly maintained surface was too much for my middle-aged body to endure.

I could have quit exercising.

But it was too important to me in living my mission and purpose.

I could have moped and sulked and complained.

“It’s not as good as home.”

“I can’t do what I usually do.”

“This move ruined my life.”

I could have ruined my husband’s life and job, as well as my daughter’s.

But not doing that is also too important to me in living my mission and purpose.

I knew I had to adapt.

I had to find a way to figure out what was really important to me and keep doing it. I had to let go of what I couldn’t change and focus on the things that I could.

I knew exercise in itself was very important. Research shows that maintaining reasonably fitness is a key factor in successful aging. I can’t stop growing older, but I can take steps to slow the degradation and maintain a functioning body. So I need to exercise.

I also knew that going to a gym or fitness center wouldn’t cut it for me, at least as regular exercise. It would be a forced activity, not the joyful energizing experience of being along the sea.

Lastly, safety was important. Unfortunately one of our main contacts in my daughter’s school was killed biking on area roads just as we moved to South Carolina. I didn’t want to take my life into my hands each time I exercised.

Finally, I knew that doing laps on available sections that were functional (a few hundred meters at most) wouldn’t give me the motivation to be out the two to three times per week needed. Not quite as soul-numbing as a gym, but close.

So I researched.

I found out that the area had some of the best mountain bike trails in the Eastern United States. I also found a state park that was a few minutes from my house with an adequate trail for regular exercise.

I changed my tool set and methods, but kept my habit of exercise. I exchanged the ocean breeze and “fresh” ocean scent for sunlight filtering through and releasing the piney scent of the loblolly pines.

But I kept what was important to me within the constraints both I and my new location had.

Recently I contributed to an online post in a Facebook group about moving to Sweden. Someone had asked if they really should consider moving as there were so many negative posts about Sweden.

My contribution was that every country has good and bad points. Having a good or bad experience is more about understanding them, understanding the culture, deciding if you want to be there, then choosing to make the best of it.

Making the best of it is adapting. It’s realizing that things aren’t just like home.

But if you know what is important to you, you can adapt to meet that in a new place, just as I found a new way of exercising.

If you need help to know what is important to you, to find your mission and purpose, a great way is my Guided Interpretation to the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People class. I also offer individual coaching, in addition to classes in high performing teams, intercultural communication, and leadership. Reach out today!

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