A Few Thoughts on Exercise

I remember being a kid and being fascinated by the phrase ‘hitting the wall’ when people referred to running a marathon. I understood enough about the words to know that the runner wasn’t supposed to stop when they hit the wall. Most people hit the wall during a marathon, but they find a way to push past it and keep going. Or they stop. That intrigued me. Not enough to want to run a marathon, but enough that it made me understand we have more stores of energy than it appears on the surface.

Exercise has always been a place for me to realign. Get solidly in my body. Get my stuck energy flowing again. It blows the top layer off my anxiety and allows me to access the good stuff. The beautiful thing about exercise is there are so many different ways to enjoy it. My favourites are running, walking, hiking, biking, swimming, volleyball, dancing, yoga, and paddleboarding. I have been enjoying more bike riding lately while on holidays and I found a ride that I could enjoy that wouldn’t take me far from home where my daughter was. This was time just for me.

I found a great loop in a quiet neighborhood that had some uphill and some downhill. I could do the loop over and over and race against my last loop time and get my heart rate up higher than it had been lately on my vacation. Felt great. I noticed this morning that there is a point on every single loop where my body wants me to gear down and make the hill climb easier. Each time I get to choose whether to give in to that desire, or choose to kick it up a notch, and give it more effort and intensity to get up the hill without gearing down. And in doing that I achieve much more than if I had geared down and made the pedalling easier on myself. There are also days when I may be in pain, I may be exhausted, or I may just not be feeling it. On those days I do go easier. But not very often. The exhilarating part of exercise for me is in pushing myself beyond what I thought I was capable of. We are capable of so much more. We all are. And life is constantly showing us this.

How about childbirth? Anyone ‘hit the wall’ when birthing a child? When you feel that you have been pulled, stretched, pained and weakened more than ever before… and then someone says to you “you are doing great, only 5 more centremetres to go”. BOOM. WALL (or tears, or swearwords, or begging for drugs). I can’t go on. And then you do. Because you don’t have a choice. It may not be pretty, but somehow we muster whatever grit it takes to move past the wall and get that baby out!

I had been riding that biking loop in the same direction for a few days. But today I decided to ride it in the opposite direction. Two interesting things happened. I got a totally different visual view of the neighborhood I was riding in. Like COMPLETELY new. And the second thing was that I got lost! All of a sudden, an area that I thought that I knew like the back of my hand was different and I found myself lost. WTF?? Hilarious. But again, this felt like a lesson. Sometimes we need to switch things up, make a shift, make a change. In doing so we find a new perspective, get out of our comfort zone, and reignite our interest and attention. Beginner’s mind comes into play… It also brought a phrase to mind that I have heard many times: “if you do what you have always done, you will continue to get what you have always gotten”. But a simple shift, and you may end up somewhere completely new and unexpected. And you will be forced to engage in a way that maybe you hadn’t done in a while. I find that invigorating. There is nothing I like less than feeling like I am in a rut.

Some of my best inspiration comes to me when I am exercising. Not to say I love every minute of it, but it allows me to focus in and quiet my mind in a way that I don’t find that easy to do otherwise. And that is why I enjoy doing it. Keeping my body strong is a bonus. Keeping my mind and soul strong is even more valuable to me.

Find your preferred type of movement that allows you to connect back to yourself. Push beyond your perceived limitations and rejoice in the feeling of breaking through your barriers and walls. While respecting your body of course. There is a time for healing and rest. But then get back to it, in whatever capacity you can manage. And enjoy the fruits of that determination.

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