One of the most wonderful aspects of nude recreation, that I am always most keen to share with others, is the connectedness that social & outdoor nudity makes me feel with respect to my motivation to pursue the goals of bodily health and fitness. Perhaps it is a matter of simple coincidence that I’ve spent my entire adult life immersed in both cultures: i.e., I started enjoying nude recreation at the age of 20, and had been inclined toward healthful living and athletic pursuits even before that age. Living in Northern California, too, certainly encourages an open-minded and happiness-seeking soul to gravitate naturally toward embracing athletic pursuits and a lifestyle friendly toward openly casual nudity. It is a place where the outdoors simply beckon one to take-up surfing, swimming, running, hiking, cycling, etc., and to think more openly about possibilities for enjoying life.
But I also feel that (for me anyway) there is something more than a merely coincidental link. I feel, and have always felt, that there is a synergistic connection between the two things, in a way that definitely keeps me motivated and happy. Before I’d discovered the immersive joys of nude recreation, I understood the benefits of a healthy lifestyle and of the discipline involved in athletic pursuits. However, I didn’t yet directly “connect” athletic activity with the feelings of being in touch with my own body and spirit. In a way, I viewed health and fitness--at that very young age--probably in the way many people view it: as something of an inconvenience, but one that should be done anyway, in order to reap the benefits at a later time. It was only when I started attending nude beaches on a regular basis that I really began to develop an awareness of how much I actually loved to use my body for recreational/athletic pursuits. I began to understand how the discipline involved in difficult athletic pursuits actually serves as a sort of “kinetic key” that unlocks a door to greater understanding and appreciation of the self.
The obvious explanation (and I think it’s not a bad explanation) is that nudity certainly makes one more “aware” of one’s body. Being naked, and the profound “feeling” of nakedness, in settings other than the comfort of one’s own home, I think serves to make a person much more aware of how they actually feel about their body. There is a distinct psychological advantage that exists somewhere within the release of that particular inhibition. Establishing a level of comfort in being nude outside, with other people, imparts a sort of acceptance of oneself that can serve to encourage a greater interest in owning one’s health and fitness.
For myself, the way I would describe it is a growing awareness that “I” am not something separate from my body. My body is who “I” am, every bit as much as the mental construct that is my identity. I’m nothing without my body, and thus I regard it as something “sacred” (to the extent that I actually hold such beliefs--I try not to take it too seriously). And in that regard, my desire to keep myself as healthy and as fit as possible becomes a part of my radical acceptance of myself. It has become for me, in other words, a complete reversal of the ways that our culture seem to encourage people to pursue health & fitness. I.e., popular culture, at large, is set-up to encourage feelings of insecurity about our bodies. For women, in particular, there is so much undue emphasis placed in mainstream culture on the notion--for example--of working on your “bikini body” for the Summer. We are made to feel as if we should not accept ourselves, and then encouraged to buy (of course) all sorts of products that purport to help us reach our “goals” (all of which, by-the-way, have very little to do with actual health & fitness, and everything to do with achieving a very narrowly-defined ideal of beauty).
My comfort level with being openly nude has encouraged me to pursue health & fitness on my OWN terms, for how it makes me feel about myself, rather than simply the way I look. It is part of my lifestyle and who I am. I love to feel energetic and beautiful to mySELF, first and foremost. I’ve learned to embrace physical activity as something that is truly integral to my identity, to the point that I really do feel a sort of spiritual awareness when I push myself to higher and higher levels of athleticism. There is something really magical that happens when I push past limitations that I thought existed--when I “will” myself to accept the pain and suffering as a part of the natural experience of my body.
I have a very personal and simple example of this manner of experience that I’d like to share. My particular activity of choice is long distance trail running. It’s something that I love for so many reasons. It is solitary and challenging, and puts one very much in-touch with the wilderness. I love to run for hours and hours at a time down isolated back-country trails. For me it is pure bliss. I participate in ultra-distance trail races, on occasion--not for the “competition” aspect, but simply to test myself and to be a part of the trail running community. Not too terribly long ago I participated in my first 50-mile event--the longest distance I’d run to that point. I found the distance and the course to be extremely challenging. As with any longer distance run, much of the battle is psychological--one must be willing to confront pain and suffering, and to sort-out the desire to quit. By mile 30 or so, I had started to really feel the effort, and was going through a lot of psychological turmoil to keep my head in it and stay focused on my desire to finish. At some point I found myself absolutely alone on the course, and I reached a sort of epiphany that contained a type of irrepressible joy over simply reveling in the experience--pain and all. Along with that joy came an unmistakable sense of wanting to be naked. Almost without hesitation I stopped to remove my shorts and tank, stowed them in my hydration vest, and ran the next few miles nude. It felt absolutely spectacular--one of my fondest memories of being nude outside, really. I can’t even describe in words just how closely in-touch I felt with my body and how completely comfortable I was with myself.