Sunday, January 22, 2012

OUUUCHHH: May 9, 2010

I exercise kind of a lot. I have found that I need to in order to be (relatively) sane and happy. Two years ago, I started working out regularly with a friend who also happens to be an incredible trainer, and that experience has added an entirely new and wonderful dimension to my adventures in exercise, sanity and strength.

When I say it's wonderful, of course, I mean it's truly awful. These are probably the most difficult hours of my week, every week. And I sure do love it.

Agony: It's the gift that keeps on giving

    I recently bought myself a little Mother's Day present: six weeks of routine, painful overexertion that often borders on torture.

    Three evenings a week, I cut out of work at 5 on the dot, don my workout clothes and pay a perfectly nice woman to make me totally miserable. Running, push-ups, weights, lunges, more running, squats and maybe, for good measure, endless abdominal exercises of utterly improbable variety and difficulty.

    It's pretty much the longest hour you can imagine. And it's absolutely wonderful.

    What makes it really wonderful is not just that I am getting stronger and fitter and feeling great about it and setting a good example for my kids by challenging myself physically and teaching them the importance of exercise. Those things are all good. But what's really wonderful is that when I am engaged in this hour of torment three times a week, all I am thinking is, approximately: Ouch. And sometimes: This is never going to be over. Or even: Oh God, please don't let me throw up.

    I am not thinking about work, and I am not thinking about chores, and I am not thinking about my kids or my house or the bills or my deadlines or the dog needs to go to the vet and the truck needs an oil change or the laundry pile is taking over the bedroom or how on Earth can my baby boy be 10 years old already?

    No, for that hour three times a week, there is no room at all in my head for any of it. Not one iota of space for any thought that isn't connected to: Ouch. And sometimes: This is never going to be over. Or even: Oh God, please don't let me throw up.

    I have about a decade of experience in trying to balance the mental demands of life as Mom, wife, employee, daughter, friend and household drudge. I have tried a little bit of everything in my quest to carve out a tiny corner of mental and physical space that is just mine. But I am -- and have always been -- a miserable failure at relaxing, emptying my mind, letting stuff go, just being in the moment. I just don't seem to know how.

    But this works, and it works completely. It is the only thing that ever has.

    One key to the success of this system is that I don't even have to decide what to do. I show up, I do what I'm told to the best of my ability and I try to survive it. That's it.

    There is no guilt associated with the time I'm stealing from my job and my family because what I'm doing falls into that noble category of 'exercise,' and no one with a shred of decency begrudges anyone their exercise. And there is even, occasionally, a teeny bit of praise for my efforts from the woman who directs this whole endeavor. So the uber-nerdy people-pleaser in me even gets the small, rare thrill.

    So now I know. If I truly want to empty out the deep, cluttered purse that is my mind, I have to flip it over and fill it with something that leaves no room at all for anything else. I have to stuff it full of: Ouch. And sometimes: This is never going to be over. Or even: Oh God, please don't let me throw up.

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