“If it’s healthy or good for you, it must not taste or feel good”. As silly as this sounds, many of us think this way much of the time. We compartmentalize our junk food from our healthy food, and we set aside ‘penance’ time to drag our butts to the gym and sweat, before indulging and lounging guilt free. We don’t view our activities as part of a complete whole, but rather the healthful parts as a means to an end, in order to have our ‘enjoyable’ time. What if we could see all as the whole, enjoying both ends of the spectrum equally? It’s all about yin and yang anyway; just like too much healthy food and too much working out are also bad for you.
Let’s look at this thing called exercise. When most people think of working out, they think of the weight they need to lose, the cardiovascular health their doctor says they need to achieve, or working on the lack of muscle tone they notice in the mirror. They then set out to ‘fix’ these things in order to get them done and over with. This is a very limiting way of exercising your body and experiencing your body training sessions, as if there is a finite result or end destination of your working out. This is akin to the ‘quick fix’ mentality of our society that we see when a scumlord or city are trying to meet their bottom line. Let’s face it, patches and maintenance tactics only last for so long. How many pot holes get filled in by half-assed efforts of the city, only to be back to being bigger pot holes six months later? Or how about the scumlord who keeps patching the rusty pipes, allowing the corroded pipes to infect the water, until one day the whole plumbing system busts and floods the units.
The patches are equivalent to our intermittent efforts applied when we get desperate from back, hip, or knee pain, or are in dire straits because our extra weight is leading to complications, thus backing us into having to put in a paltry, ‘after the fact’, effort. The thing that is being patched is inevitably getting weaker, corrupted, and structurally less sound as we are standing by watching. Rather than occasionally filling in the pot holes, we need to keep the road well-paved, constantly renewing our body and mind. Rather than putting electrical tape on rusting pipes, let’s keep the pipes shiny and clean through constant efforts of willful and aware exercise and exertion.
These consistent efforts will entail being present with your mind while you are working out your body, experiencing your workouts psychologically as well as physically. We fail to do this in many things in our lives, as we think of what we’re going to do over the weekend while we’re at work, or we rush to get done cutting the grass on Sunday so we can have a beer and sit on the couch. This mentality of always doing something to get to a future activity, then shows up in our workout sessions as we are not consciously aware of what we are doing, but just going through the motions to get to the reward. Because of this, our efforts will usually be temporary and the effects will be minimal. ‘Do what you are doing’ – in other words, when you are working out, be there working out, and willfully live that reality at that time, rather than just getting through the ‘drudgery’ to a future time.
Most people’s desires when they go to the gym are purely superficial, as in, how will this make my body look better, or how will this make my back or hip hurt less when doing my normal activities. These are fine and dandy, but they can be limiting and short-sighted if not accompanied by an inner awareness, more often than not. When working out becomes a way of life through an awareness of what it brings to our life, and is not just a means to an end, then it won’t be seen as drudgery anymore. When it is embraced as a part of who you are, it will have a real affect on your psyche, and the other activities of your life will be more enriching through better clarity and balance within. Embrace the difficulty, don’t detest or begrudge it, for without difficult things to overcome we would be faint-hearted pansies with no heart.
Consistently working out as a way of life, and the discipline it entails and fosters, readies us for the difficulties of life. The other obstacles aren’t so daunting when I have a sense of accomplishment physically, knowing I can push myself when low on energy, energizing and motivating myself in the process. When I know I can control my actions and behaviors during that time, it creates a greater sense of self-confidence in my ability during other endeavors. Working out supplies the texture of our life, something for the other parts to hold and attach onto. One must have a solid foundation and base from which to grow, share, create, and interact. It is easy to get scattered and disparate, and a sense of order in our lives starts with fostering singular focus and purpose through diligence in exercising our physical body.
The body and mind are not separate units, so stop trying to make them such. Realize how they are infinitely intertwined and tied into one another, for there is no lasting happiness until this is realized. If I don’t experience my body while I am working it out, I am not truly connected to my body’s physical well-being. You cannot be happy by just indulging and fulfilling the body, that will be short-lived and soon lose the appeal it once had. Until you make physical awareness of your body a part of who you are, working out will be a laborious, necessary evil that you are only doing to affect a future health state. Be present and thankful for the activity at hand, and feel what your body is going through. When it becomes difficult, view it as a challenge designed to strengthen resolve and determination in all areas of your life. There is no greater sense of accomplishment and fulfillment than powering through a difficult workout when you feel you don’t have it in you. When we find ways to tap into our power within at a physical level, the affects it has on our mental state are quite amazing, as we rise above the limitations of our inherent laziness.