The Mindfulness of Exercise

I creak open the heavy door into the small and smelly room. I take a mental count of who has joined me in this soon to be sweaty battle of man (or woman) vs machine.

I climb onto the beast and am met face-to-face with a panel full of choices. Do I want “training”? Do I want “fat burn”? Do I want “keep going until you throw up or die”? Oh wait, that’s not a choice.

I begin a slow walk to warm up. The sound of my “drop-a-beat” workout playlist starts to mirror my increasing heart rate. Reverberating louder and louder in my ears as I pick up speed.

I press the “increase speed” button with my index finger. Beep! Beep! Beep!  I arbitrarily pick a speed that (hopefully) won’t send me flying against the opposite wall.

This is it. I am now in it for the long haul. The long haul being at least 30 minutes.

I try and control my breathing, huffing and puffing feeling things moving that I wish wouldn’t. My legs feel strong, my arms pump rhythmically as I feel the belt move in circles underneath my feet.

The sweat begins to bead onto my nose. And like osmosis is want to do, it travels and collects in my suprasternal notch at the base of my neck–evidence of my exertion collecting in a salty puddle.

My achilles tendon starts to pull. I have a whole new appreciation for that oft-forgotten Greek hero. That spot is a b****.  With every step, it feels like a rubber band being stretched tighter and tighter, tenuously close to snapping.

I keep going. Sweat now running into my eyes temporarily blinding me every few minutes. I am suddenly very aware of my breathing and I wonder whether or not my companions think I’m breathing too loudly.

The muscle in the crease of my elbows is tight. My lungs want to burst. I am so hot, I feel volcanic. I remind myself that when I first walked in, I had goosebumps all up and down my arms because it was so cold. What I would give to feel those bumps again!n

And, I continue. I hit 15 minutes and scream victoriously inside my head “HALF WAY THERE!

And like a wall, a huge red brick wall, it hits me. Suddenly, it feels as if I am 300 pounds and climbing a mountain. Heavy, so heavy.

I slug through, breathing in and out, shaking my arms out, keeping my shoulders down, opening my chest, feeling my feet hit the ground over and over again. Every minute feels like a minute closer to what dying must feel like. Death, dripping all over me. I concentrate fully on surviving my final 15.

3-0 minutes shines brightly onto the panel, I quickly hit stop. My legs feel like jello and the sweat has traveled further south. I wipe the beast down. I collect my things and walk bowlegged and wobbly to the elevators.

And, I realize: I was in the present, in the moment, those entire 30 minutes. Every breath I took in and out was the only thing I concentrated on in that moment. Every step I took was the only thing I could focus on in that half an hour. Getting through that next 60 seconds was the only thing I thought about. Perhaps, could it be–I was mindfully meditating the entire time I was working out and didn’t even know it?!

 

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Mindful Living and The Search for Personal Fulfillment

I know that I haven’t blogged in quite some time (close to a month!). I used to feel guilty about it and then I remembered that writing is one of the great pleasures of my life. I never want to feel as if it’s a requirement. That, to me, connotes duty and responsibility and I think we have enough of that in our daily lives.

Additionally, part of mindful living is focus on the present and on one (ok, maybe a few) things at a time. It is so easy to slip into a habit of stressful check-lists in an attempt to exert control and feel productive when stressed or major life events happen. Mindful living, in my opinion, first and foremost asks for a sustained gentle awareness of what matters most to our mind and body from moment to moment. So long story short, I had to get through the past few weeks as mindfully as possible to come back here.

So, I got engaged! It was simple, intimate, and pure. Everything I had hoped for in a proposal. I’m also moving in a few short weeks and will be sharing a space with someone again for the first time in six years. All this to say that keeping myself centered, holistically healthy, present and aware is just as important to me as finding the perfect rug for my bedroom, packing, and organizing.

The other day, I was talking to my life coach (yes, that’s a thing and I would love to be one). We were discussing how each and every time I find my life ramping up in stress (both positive and negative), I knock out my meditation practice. And then she asked me: “Is it because it’s for you?

I paused. And I realized–sadly–that yes, so much of my focus tends to be on my commitments that I made/make to other people that trump anything that I’ve committed myself to. 

I would venture to say that this is a common theme in our lives. How often does the thing that you love, you know betters you, know is important to you, gets moved down to the long list of “everything else?”

Shouldn’t our practices, our interests, our hobbies, our training that provide fulfillment in more ways than one be just as much a priority as that project that has an upcoming deadline?

YES. It should! My practice is for myself and therefore a priority.

Do you prioritize your personal passions and curiosities in the same way as your duties and responsibilities?

Perhaps, your dedication to your personal fulfillment would allow you to be a better employee, daughter/son, mother/father, boss, significant other, friend, and partner.

Perhaps, the betterment of you is for the betterment of all.

Happy #mindfulmonday !