Wellness Stack VII: Exercise / Fitness
My father would love nothing more than to finish one last half-marathon. Last year at 70, shortly after our last run together, his hip started bothering him. Was he running too much? Was it simply old age? Either way, after taking four months off to give himself a rest, and testing the water again, it seems his hip is still unhappy. That half marathon may be out of reach.
Ultimately what the Buddhists say is true: Nothing is permanent. Everything will go at some point. There may be no greater teacher of this than the human body… when it begins to ache, and sag, and hairs turn gray, and hips become unhappy. I suggest to you all — this fact is beautiful, humbling, and ought to serve as a deep source of appreciation for the human body and life in general. The body is absolutely miraculous — millions of years of evolution honed this spectacular marvel of survival. Experience it while you can.
Why Fitness is Treasure
Who are we? Often times we feel like some mind, some soul, that just so happens to have a body that serves it. Sometimes the body can feel like a nuisance and entirely detached from what “we” — this “mind” — wants to feel… pleasure and ease. Perhaps there is no greater example of this than junk food! Irrefutably ecstasy for the mind. Irrefutably bad for the body. By the way — I LOVE junk food. Please don’t think that’s where I’m going. (Read more separately).
Regardless of where you fall on the continuum of attitude toward the body — I posit emphatically: any degree prioritizing a state-of-mind over a state-of-body — even if only slight, is where a person can miss out on one of the greatest possible aspects of being alive, being a human being, of feeling a wholesome satisfaction, if only you use it.
Please — don’t regard the body as something that serves the mind. Instead, consider it as one in the same. The mind and body are one! Therefore, how you care-for and challenge your body has PROFOUND influence over your sense of wellbeing.
Getting less abstract, more specific, the following is what I personally guarantee will blossom in a healthy relationship with fitness. And look, I hate the word “guarantee”, but it is totally justified here. After 15 years of doing this — I promise… it’s legit.
Not just physical. Mental. Take cycling. Get on a bike, and ride, right? No. What about changing a flat tire. What about learning to ride on road, vs gravel, vs crazy mountain trails with ruts and stumps and puddles. What about becoming one with the bike — as you instinctually shift gears around turns and are hurled from a fast descent down hill into a sudden uphill. What about learning to stand-up gently on the pedals, and move your body around over the bike carefully, as you hit bumpy terrain. Discovering these vast worlds of challenges and mastering them is extremely rewarding. The mind-body thrives on challenge.
… and as you continue to subject yourself to more challenge, either by mastering one activity, or trying many new ones, you grow. Over the course of weeks, months, years, you can feel — wow. Look how far I have come. It’s not about being the “best” vs other people. It’s about celebrating the struggle and small moments of breakthrough you find on your own journey.
Flow state, aka being in-the-zone, is the mental state of being fully immersed performing an activity, and a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment of the activity.
Flow state is a separate topic. Simply put — flow state is feeling the magic of living in the moment. Not worrying about work tomorrow, or regretting that thing you said to that person yesterday — no room for that here. In Flow, you are living RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW, and it feels absolutely wonderful. Physical activity, undoubtedly, is one of the best possible ways to find flow state.
Finally return home from that run? or maybe still in the middle of it? Either way, without even trying, out of nowhere, it will feel like your body is somehow giving you hug. It’s saying — hey — THANK YOU — for taking care of me. Now I’m going to reward you with this wonderful glow for a while. Please, enjoy life.
Does this need an explanation? It turns out, really cool people ALSO love doing stuff outside! Yesterday, I biked 40 miles through a series of paved roads, farmland paths, and muddy woodland trails — with two incredible human beings I know. Afterward, we reveled in how hard it was and found some ice cream together. I mean — is this not the stuff life is made of?
Mindpower / Stamina
Of course your body will become stronger if you eat well, sleep well, and exercise. Most people understand this. The wild part is, so will your MIND! This strength applies easily to everyday life. When a challenge gets thrown at you, you will worry less. If you struggle with something, you will not get discouraged. And you will feel calm, from all the time spent in flow state and allowing your mind to be present. The payoff here cannot be understated.
How do you access this treasure? Get out there! Find a challenge and stick with it! It really does not need to be more complicated than this. There are so many ways to push your body. Whatever you do, I would suggest a good mix of activities that stress our muscles, and pump your heart (cardio).
My Fitness Experience
Sometimes fitness (and nutrition) can seem royally confusing and miss the point. It can seem like a chore, or motivated by purely by guilt, or motivated simply for appearance. I sincerely hope that the MAIN reason anyone engages with fitness is for themselves, because they intrinsically understand and appreciate how miraculous the human body is, and how profoundly rewarding it can be, mentally and physically, to challenge it while you have the chance. Any other benefit from there is secondary, IMO.
I follow a simple diet and use weights and run regularly. No other tricks or hacks or mumbo jumbo. Big fan of autophagy. Headline photo is me.
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