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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