I have always been athletic. I took horseback riding lessons and ballet as a kid, and gymnastics as a teenager. In my twenties I became an avid gym-goer, and now in my thirties I still work out on a regular basis. I also like to swim, hike, and attempt to play tennis, albeit very badly. All of this, I suppose, has made staying fit easier. I don’t have to push myself to go outside, because I already want to. I know this isn’t true for everyone. And even if you are a sporty type of girl, everyone has days where the sofa just feels better than a tennis court or a gym. I am never consistently motivated to wake up in the morning and go for a run, but I always do something, whether it’s yoga at home or a jog around the neighborhood. I do it because I know that it will make me feel good. I want to look good, yes, but I want to feel even better. So I confess that I am one of those women , however obnoxious it may sound, who exercise a lot. By a lot, I mean five days a week. I did it when I was married, and I definitely do now that I’m single.
Treating Exercise as a Medicine and Finding Balance
Exercise, no matter how you choose to approach it, is medicine. It prevents many chronic diseases like heart disease, and like a drug, you can have too much or too little. Not enough, and lethargy and weight gain can set in. Too much, and muscle injuries and fatigue can wear you down. When I turned thirty, I went through a phase where I overextended myself with my workouts. I was doing intense interval training sessions six days a week, and after a few months, I was so burnt out I could barely make it through easier routines. I assumed I just wasn’t pushing myself hard enough, and feared I had actually gotten weaker instead of stronger. I pushed myself so hard because I wanted so badly to reach a goal in my mind of looking the way I wanted to, but also achieving a level of fitness that would make me feel confident in my health and my abilities. But I overextended myself, and ended up having to take a long break. My body finally told me I was asking too much.
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Sometimes it’s hard to know when to push, and when to back off. Exercise is a lot like relationships in that way. I learned the hard way in both cases. After years of trying to salvage my crumbling marriage, I finally had to admit that I was pushing too hard to save something that may not be salvageable. When one marriage counselor didn’t help, we tried another. We tried moving, and moving again. We even tried just ignoring our problems in hopes that all would resolve itself in time, with patience. I had always heard from my favorite fitness instructor, that stress is the only way to create change. By putting positive stress on the body through difficult exercises, the body will change for the better. It will get stronger. It’s a simple matter of science and physics. But I also learned from her that too much stress on the body will create the reverse effect, and that’s why it’s a good practice to break up harder routines with easier ones, and allow for rest in between. It took time for me to put that lesson into practice, but when I finally did, I realized the same advice applied to my relationship. There is a time to push, and a time to give it a rest. In my case, at least when it came to my marriage, a permanent rest was in order.
Energy Never Dies, It Simply Changes Forms
Like an injured athlete, my divorce left me in a state of stasis for a while. Recovery is every bit as important for the mind as it is for the body, so I took all the time I needed to nurse my emotional wounds. I also gave my body a break from the more difficult workouts. I went on long walks, and looked at the clouds. I stretched. I swam in the lake near my house. Slowly, I eased back into more challenging things, and eventually returned to my advanced Pilates class. During one session, I remember my instructor kneeling beside me for a moment as I attempted a difficult move. “You’re getting stronger,” she whispered. For the first time, I knew she was right.
It may take time to find the right balance. No one knows at all times what is best for them, and we can’t expect others to know for us. Life is a constant balancing act, with motion and stillness, action and recovery. There are seemingly impossible challenges and easy walks in the park. The important thing is to keep moving at your own pace, and remember that energy never dies, it just changes forms.