A couple years ago I was riding my bike down 101 into a head wind and a friend drove by. I did not see him at the time, but later he said to me “you looked so serious”. I have actually have heard this comment a few times in my life and I had to give it some thought. What my friend had seen was in fact just a face void of emotion. To tell you the truth, often when I am running or riding or weight lifting (if I am in the “zone”); I am not really present at the surface and somewhat absent. I am meditating!
As a long time educator of fitness, nutrition and healthy lifestyles, my goal has always been to help my clients and friends and anyone else that will listen, understand the spirituality of training and fitness. The experience one has, no matter what sport or action you choose is so much more than purely a physical event. There are elements to training that go far beyond that. And there lies the hook. I will admit of course there are times when I go for a run or workout in the gym when it just does not sync and the pistons are not firing. I call those times utility workouts. These are dues that must be paid because I know there are the payoff days. This part of the discipline, which in itself is a form of mediation- the ever existing balance in life and in training, the Ying and the Yang.
The beginning is difficult. We tend to mostly experience fitness in the left brain and the body seems uncomfortable. I want to convey to you the need to allow that experience, and move through it. Allow yourself to be a beginner, knowing that with the consistency of the discipline you will begin to reap rewards. And it can happen very quickly. When you begin your training it is important to let go of some of the images you have in your mind of what your body “should” look like or the mind chatter of how “out of shape you are” and so on. Training is more than vanity and more than looking good. Yes you are there to improve your health by becoming more fit but the real catch is the sense of self and well-being. A transformation occurs through training that leads you to discover who you are and a time to commune with yourself, a time to self-reflect.
I personally love strength/weight training and have been hooked since I was 17 years old. For me, it’s something I enjoy doing for its own sake apart from the results it gives me.
- Weight training allows you to communicate precisely with every muscle in your body, to send blood and vitality to every space.
- Weight training lets you lose track of time. You go into a flow where you become absorbed in the moment-by-moment process.
- Weight training develops physical intuition. You get a gut-level sense, an instinct of what your body needs.
- Weight training is ever changing and you learn to be flexible and receptive. You learn to let go of preconceptions of how you think you will train on any certain day. You go with plans but they do not always happen.
Another love of mine is running. It allows me to experience myself like nothing else. I do not see running as a social event. Usually I run alone. I don’t like to talk and breathe at the same time when I run. Personally I like to focus on breathing, and natural awareness that puts the world on hold. Thoughts come and go from my mind and all I can really do is breath and tune into the effort and surroundings. I love running trails and I don’t mind if they are uphill, (that just means I go slower and think of breathing even more). Nature and running go together like peanut butter and jelly, another one of my favorite things. But that’s for another article about nutrition.
Whether you are a runner or a walker, the solitarily aspect of that event allows each of us a uniqueness. It is what Ralph Waldo Emerson called our “individual genius,” our special way of being in the world. George Sheehan the famous running guru phrased it nicely when he said, “I know of no better way to find my own genius than running with no companion except the rhythm of my breathing.”
STARTING YOUR PRACTICE
I suggest that you mix it up, use different forms of fitness so you get to experience a variety of feelings and environments. Strive to do something that involves you being in nature. Something outdoors that you love to do and that can lead to a need to do other physical things that support that. Let’s call that the “physical domino affect”! Stay positive, I know that sounds cliché but try and let go of negative thoughts and chose to simply stay aware of your physical experience, with practice and with the physiological changes that will occur it gets easier!
Training is not a destination it is a place that you can find in within yourself and spirit!