|Colonnade Boston, Flickr|
Not very long after I first met my running mentor, G, I saw her wearing a t-shirt that said: "Running is cheaper than therapy".
Little did I know that I would eventually come to fully understand the truth within those words! (As a beginning runner, I felt more like I needed therapy after running! It was so hard!)
I have since realized that exercise in general, when done at the right intensity, is absolutely effective at dissolving most negative emotions. And negative emotions, whether we are aware of them or not (ah! denial), abound.
Frustrations are so numerous in everyday life, coming in all shapes and sizes and always awaiting us when we least expect them! How does one transcend it all?
Not to mention existential angst, that no one is immune to even if most of us are kind of oblivious to it (denial again, or lack of lucidity?)
If it wasn't for everyday life frustrations and the deepest fear that life is meaningless... would addictions even exist?
Take a look at the all-too-common vices:
Why do so many of us
- shop like it's a religion/treat shopping malls as the new temples
- spend hours online or in front of the TV
- do drugs?
And why do we pursue pleasure-provoking or pain-numbing activities to a point where it interferes with our health, relationships and finances?
Why do so many of us
- have anxiety
- have depression
- have anger/aggressivity
- take pills for any of those afflictions?
And why don't we feel good in our "normal", natural, unmedicated state?
It's because deep down inside, often unconsciously, we have those unresolved questions about the meaning of life and what will come "after" (if anything). That, on top of all life's vagaries and stresses (and maybe a difficult childhood).
I'm no different. I often feel overwhelmed by daily hassles. I often feel the weight of existential dread on my shoulders.
We are human. We can't endure that. We need to cope. In our search for a coping mechanism, we encounter many such coping mechanisms that have non-negligible side effects: hence the problems with our health, relationships, and finances.
As I was training at the gym this morning, feeling the burn and/or sweating profusely and/or out of breath (depending on what exercise you caught me doing), it occurred to me that I was treating existential angst in the best possible way: by exhausting my body.
And it works. It really does. Even if you started by simply talking long, brisk walks. Or even short, slow walks, if you're completely out of shape. The idea is to start. Make it a habit. And increase the level of difficulty.
Sometimes (often) you will question it. I would lie if I said I never have fantasies of skipping my workout, or calling it a night after 15 minutes. In the morning in particular, I am often anxious to be done. It might have something to do with the alternative: I know that instead of working out, I could still be in bed.
(When I exercise in the evening I rarely wish it was over, because in that case the alternative is the following: instead of pumping iron, I could be home listening to my kids whine. Er... bring on the burpees!)
At the gym this morning I met R, who's one of D's colleagues and also a friend of the family. We talked briefly about why we are so committed to working out every day. I mentioned one of the most important things my personal trainer has taught me: "There is no excuse". Don't feel like it? Tired? Headache? (I had one today) On vacation? No excuse. Just work out. As my friend M, who also works out daily, and who takes no bulls***, would say: "Suck it up, buttercup".
Or, as I would say "One man's excuse is another man's overcome obstacle".
R added: "It does takes a special personality to commit to this kind of lifestyle". I thought "Yep, you have to be plain nuts!"
But in reality, what it really takes to commit to exercising every day is the first-hand knowledge of its benefits. Once you experience them, and compare that feeling to how you feel when you don't exercise daily... you are among the blessed ones who know. Once you know, no excuse can ever get in the way again.
I exercise daily as a gift to myself. And I thank myself for it every day, too.
What gift have you given yourself lately?
What gift will you give yourself this week?