I’m writing this paragraph facing a vending machine. “I wanna focus on this. I’m feeling a little stressed out.” This vending machine has two things I’d enjoy snacking on right now, cream sandwich cookies and strawberry wafers, with some others I might like as well. My body feels tense. I am aching, craving these sweets as an efficient muscle relaxant. I’m tense, the writing doesn’t feel natural, and I don’t have enough time to row.
Fitness has taught me mental endurance. If it’s a dull, external pain, like some heavy rain, that’s different than some sharp, internal pain, like some back pang. Those dull pains will usually be fine when you push through them, with regret being the only pain point, whereas sharper pain should always be respected and addressed. When I learned to tell the difference, it made enduring cold rain for a set more worthwhile than staying home.
The natural inclination when you’re out and about is to eat luxuriously. The day I wrote this rowing machine column update was the first day I ate any pizza at all in over eighteen months. I ordered it mostly by mistake, as I thought the chicken alfredo flatbread was a spaghetti pasta with flatbread rather than the pizza I received. I went with it anyways. Would I have ordered or eaten it under normal circumstances?
Let’s say you’ve set up a decent home gym with everything you might want or need. If you’re an avid indoor rower like me, it’s got your rowing machine, your maintenance tools, and creature comforts to make it easier for you. Then when you travel abroad, the question is: how you can schedule the rowing in during your day? Even if you just do 5-minute sets, scheduling can prevent you from achieving your goals… right?
Through accident or intention, I lead an interesting life. I still have the scar from when a board with a nail nearly impaled my sternum (near my Xiphoid process) at the minimum wage furniture moving gig. That excitement can be exhilarating or overwhelming. What happens when life in the fast lane goes… too fast? How does a thrill-seeker slow down? Can we? My stress management process includes a twice-daily active meditation on the rowing machine.
Fitness is a scholarly activity. You don’t start off your career with a senior-level title, the ability to effectively convey emotion or information, or the psychological wherewithal to cut issues “off at the pass” before they become bigger in any career. Why, then, do we assume we can magically become fit? Maybe it’s because we assume studying for months and years is only for college and careers? What if we, similarly, studied our physical health?
“I would love it if the worst headache of my life lasted only 45 minutes. Or the best headache for that matter.” Starting on Monday, I’ve been working through some terrible headaches, ranging from the left side of my head, then a little on the right, pressure all around, with some spinal and neck aches all around. Saturday night’s headache was overwhelming and nearly unbearable. It’s not that this was sudden, I just wasn’t observant enough.
I wonder if I became so overweight because of the amount of food I ate? I don’t think my weight loss was entirely due to my fitness. It helps. There’s a sense of self-control that comes from remembering you’re going to be exercising later, and after you’ve exercised, my body instinctively wants better foods. The problem might have been consuming too much food because even eating too much good food can be bad for you.
The anxiety shot through my back and up the left side of my neck like I’d tweaked a vital vertebra. My heart rate increased. Thoughts narrowed. Not this again! Why? It’s a feeling you never want, but once you’ve experienced it, it’s easy to reign the control back. That near-panic attack is just like overexerting yourself in rigorous physical fitness: the more you push yourself through your hardships, the more you can handle other hardships.
It’s taken 520 days now of constantly applied effort to start seeing my fitness goals realized. Would it feel as rewarding if that were significantly easier? If so, I’d probably take my fitness, physique, and general health for granted! Since I fought so fiercely to burn off 35 pounds so far, I can cherish the little results, like tightened ab muscles. Without that or the positive reinforcement, I can easily return to obesity in few than 520 days.