Functional Fitness, Everyday Joy

Today I ran into work, my eyes soaking in the fall colors as I breathed the aroma of wet ground from yesterday’s rain and the dying leaves on the pavement. Despite overcast skies, the 60-degree temperatures and quiet air made for delicious running conditions.

I recalled my life in the city last year at this time, when the federal government shut down for two weeks and I was furloughed. I remembered how much I wanted to be at work (who knew?!), and all the time I spent outside pondering things like government budgets.

As the shutdown ended and we returned to business as usual, I wrote about observing the Washington area’s transition to fall, the familiarity of the trees, and how the brilliance of the leaves’ emerging colors prompted my own daily stresses and fears to fade. Watching the trees reminded me to pay more attention to what really matters in this life.

I stopped taking my surroundings for granted. The trees, ground, and sky change frequently. All I have to do is step outside and look around to see it.

Fall leaves

I also found new appreciation for my work and the daily trip to the office. Morning commutes are still the best. Car traffic might be heavy and the downtown sidewalks hectic, but side streets and areas along the National Mall are still waking up to the day. I try to route myself through these quieter places when I can.

I am fortunate to live in a city where my feet can easily carry me to my job, as well as other essential destinations in the life of a grown-up. I’m lucky to have a level of health and fitness such that my two feet and my bicycle can be my primary means of transportation.

I’m not an athlete, but to me, accomplishing daily activities under my own power is the heart of functional fitness. Daily outings and errands may not be as exciting to experience as things like an extended bike tour, a long brevet, or even my recent eventure.

But they can still be significant and beautiful in their own way. All I have to do is open myself to the city around me and embrace my body’s movements to experience this everyday joy.


  1. MG, if you’re not an athlete, I don’t know who is! You’re a great example of someone who enjoys the diversity of sport. Even when cycling you explore all different types of rides – the commute, the casual ride, the challenging ride, the event ride, – and all the fun these entail. You find great ways to enjoy and share everyday joy!


  2. I like that phrase, functional fitness. I have found that my motivation to ride places is largely dependent on it being a purposeful destination. To work, to errands, to a concert, to coffee, to friends…There is just something compelling about it to me…


  3. i like that term, functional fitness.
    my spirit and my mind remain young as my body ages, and i enjoy the “work-out” and exercise in which i partake in activities of daily living.

    love your blog. this post is excellent.


  4. Great post! There is so much beauty around us, but it’s so easy to miss it in the rush of everyday life. Cycling and taking public transportation for the past year has allowed me to slow down enough to see, feel, and enjoy that beauty.


  5. I identify with your thoughts, though I could never put a name to it. Getting around under my own power and teaching my children to do likewise has enriched me personally, and I hope on some level it’s given them independence or at least options before they learn to drive. Before the auto was invented it’s how everyone got around, and perhaps with all our technological “advantage” these days, living a simpler life at least on one level has filled mine with meaningful joy. To walk to complete errands, shuffling through autumn leaves, or pedaling to work or to pick up a gallon of milk is more than saving gas or avoiding traffic. It fulfills an inner need.


    • Thank you, though I can’t take credit for the term. I first learned of it through some of the fitness blogs I was following a couple of years ago.


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