I’m currently on holiday break and have set a goal of starting to exercise again. I did great for the first ten days (possibly the longest streak of my adult life, btw). With the exception of Christmas Day, I ran every day, did light weightlifting every other, and each time finished with physically deep, mentally grounding stretching every day. Then starting on the 29th I failed to get myself in gear. Didn’t exercise for five days. This morning I finally exercised again, largely because I was inspired by seeing my wife exercise last night.
This experience reminded me of a few things.
- I hate exercising. I am doing this for my own health and for my family. My job is not at all physical but it is highly stressful, and I need healthier ways to alleviate that stress. I also want to experience as much of my son’s life as possible, so I’m doing my part to live longer. I am a happier person when I am healthier, which makes me a better husband and friend to my wife. Finally, I am now in a leadership position and my mood has an effect on scores of people. I need to improve myself internally in order to be more supportive externally. But there’s no pretending I enjoy any of this.
- Getting back into shape is such a rollercoaster. I had to psych myself up for the first few days just to get started. However, I was motivated by a desire to shed stress that had built up over the past several months at work and by observing how crooked my grandmother’s and father’s spines are becoming when we visited family over Thanksgiving. I’d love to prevent that happening to my own back if it’s possible. By the sixth day, I felt quite good about myself. Felt really great when I got myself up out of bed on the 26th and exercised again. Then my motivation declined precipitously, shall we say. On the 30th, I convinced myself it was okay to take a day off. ‘I am on holiday break, after all!’ Then it was New Year’s Eve. ‘Come one, it’s New Year’s Eve!’ Then it was New Year’s Day. ‘Come one, it’s New Year’s Day!’ But then, yesterday was plain old January 2nd. We didn’t have any plans. It was a Saturday. No way to rationalize it, I just slacked off. The internal monologue became, ‘I suck.’ And I didn’t get up early this morning to exercise, which had been my routine at the beginning of the break. I slept in. I had half of a cup of coffee. The prospects for exercising today were slim. And I felt like shit about myself, because I was failing to reach my goal of developing an exercise routine over the break. No way to deny it, the progress I had made was slipping away. Then I thought about Alicia exercising the night before. She also bought me a pretty good supply of Kind bars, which I like to eat before exercising. She has helped facilitate this whole plan, and I was letting it fall apart. So I made myself do it. I set up the treadmill and laptop so I could watch Making A Murderer while I walked/ran, and I did it. I once again feel pretty good about myself mentally, and my body feels so much better, especially after the big stretch at the end of the workout. Speaking of…
- The stretch is my favorite part of any workout, and that’s coming from a former high school football player who for a couple of years fell in love with weightlifting during the off-season. Lifting still feels pretty good, but these days the stretch is the best. I am comically inflexible by nature (seriously, I haven’t touched my toes since my twenties), and I carry stress in a handful of places, making my legs, lower back, and neck even stiffer than they are by default. I take my time to stretch and now throw in some yoga poses because I’ve found they stretch certain places that really need it – and because I’m trying to use stretching as a means of becoming more balanced and grounded mentally.
(Quick side notes: For the early part of my adult life I did physical labor, so I recognize that I’m writing about white-collar, First World Problems here. My early twenties self would be mocking me while reading this, and if certain of my friends are reading this, they are too. Don’t blame you, fellas.
Also, I am guilty of skepticism when it comes to the whole body-mind-spirituality-new-age realm of thinking. I know I aggravate my wife when I don’t buy into it. So she has got to be LOVING the fact that I’m using phrases like “balanced and grounded.”)
This morning’s stretch is actually what made me sit down to write this. I laid out the yoga mat on the floor (Mrs. Marker prefers that I not transfer sweat from my back to the living room rug, and I do not argue with that position) and did my little bit of weightlifting, then I commenced stretching. As I said, I use the stretch these days for both physical and mental ends. It’s a time to find a healthier frame of mind and get grounded for the rest of the day (there I go again). This morning, though, Alicia was bustling around the house doing a few chores at once, the dishwasher was running, the clothes dryer was running, my son was playing Minecraft on the television complete with background music, and the dog, as she always does, was under my feet on the mat eating and rolling around. In other words, if one were to try to create a meditative, introspective atmosphere, the house this morning was pretty much the polar opposite of what that would look like.
But in the midst of a tree pose (like I said, fellas, laugh it up), it occurred to me how perfect it all was. I was surrounded by my family. We were all safe, healthy, and together. It’s the beginning of a new year, and we had time to just be together. For a moment, I thought about what it would be like if I could no longer hear and sense my wife’s presence in the house. Or hear my son’s voice as he played. Or see that the dog was trying to take over the yoga mat.
That kind of solitude doesn’t sound peaceful or meditative at all. All of these things passed through my mind, and I felt enormously grateful for all that I have. And I suddenly realized I felt grounded. Huh, so that’s how it works.