My coffee is getting warm while I’m outside watching the dogs play tug of war with their designated outside rope in the dirt that is our front yard. That, along with writing this, is a distraction to keep me from thinking about how sore my calves are, how tight my biceps are, and how badly I need to rub some bengay on- oddly enough- only my right glute.
Let me start by admitting something I’ve been ashamed of for almost ten years. A stigma that ruined a perfect record which represented a “good kid” and a “good student”. Labels I used to think actually mattered because people told me they did. Here it goes, deep breath…: I got a D in p.e. in 9th grade.
I joined a gym and started running when Lloyd and I first married. I’d heard someone say that taking care of your body is a way of showing love toward your spouse. It says I love you enough that I’m willing to torture and take care of my body so that I can stay on this earth as long as possible to continue loving you. Love for him and love for the self by taking care of it. With that came all the annoying stereotypes of being a runner: you’re always doing it, pompous posts on social media, trying to convince everyone you know to start running, spending way too much money on shoes, and those damn stickers.
My family couldn’t believe what I’d turned in to. My best friend from high school, an athlete all her life, didn’t look at me the same way. I felt so great I imagined running to Saluda and telling that p.e. coach that even though I may still not know the difference between isometric or isotonic exercises, I could at least run 6 miles. And who cares if my motivation was the chocolate milk and noodles afterwards.
With each run or gym session I saw my body changing. I lasted longer. I slept better. Most importantly, my mental state was the best it’s ever been. When your body is strong and tenacious, your mind becomes clearer. When your mind is sober, the Holy Spirit naturally aligns itself in you, free from distraction. I in You and You in me.
That which doesn’t kill me
Recently I’ve added high intensity interval training (HITT), tabata, and TRX to my routine. It is hard and it hurts and sometimes I cannot lift my arms for a couple days. Ice, epsom salt, and I have weekly date nights.
On Friday mornings, the girls from work and I do yoga. Each time it gets harder and harder. Sara has the yoga mat burns on her elbows to prove it. Our instructor gets us to do difficult poses without any sort of barter or reward after. Proof that we must love it.
I’ve tried to be a true yogi for years. In my mind I’m Seane Corn, complete with golden ringlets flowing like Medusa’s snakes from my head. In reality I’m more comparable to Chris Farley doing the Chippendale routine from SNL.
Through the years I’ve tried different studios and instructors. What keeps me coming back is the monotonous reminder each instructor quotes: “Remember that it’s your practice. The more you practice, the better you get.”
The words “life” and “practice” are interchangeable. If we look at our lifetime as our time of practice we’d be kinder to ourselves. We would understand that we are in a constant state of learning. That sometimes we get it right and sometimes we don’t. But we must show up. As the teacher Ram Dass says, “It is important to expect nothing, to take every experience, including the negative ones, as merely steps on the path, and to proceed.”
During the metamorphosis period while living back home, I practiced yoga with a beautiful soul named Jackie. She was a tall woman, in her seventies, and she was missing a toe on her right foot. I thought this would be a distraction, particularly in triangle pose. Turns out my balance was the bigger interference. Her studio was built for her by her husband before he passed. It sat quietly in the woods, overlooking a pond and surrounded by Carolina conifers and our native, infectious kudzu. The walls were five foot windows. Sometimes it rained, making the outside greenery even more saturated. She provided blankets and sand bag covers for your eyes. A few naps were taken there at the end of class.
Jackie didn’t charge a sign-up fee or make you sign a contract. You paid whatever you felt like giving; otherwise each class was five dollars. I’ll admit it: One of my character flaws is that I’m cheap- or “thrifty”, as we prefer to be called. I may have borrowed a class or two. Don’t give me an inch.
I do not tell you how great working out is to make you feel bad about yourself or to convince you to come to a class with me (although I’d love that). I do not tell you because I’m addicted to the euphoria of endorphins. Or the pride I feel after seeing my figure toning up.
I tell you because your body is a blessing to you and the ones you love. Be kind to it.