You might recall an earlier entry I wrote about getting healthy. I'll save the specifics, but let's just say I faltered. I aimed too high and melted my feeble wings of wax. In truth, it's that I aimed too high too fast, was unable to withstand the breakneck speed, and all went black. Helpless, I fell, earthbound. When I awoke, I had fallen further than I was when I first started. I decided there had to be a better way, but I just had trouble finding it. After quite a bit of aimless wandering, I simply opted to take the opportunity of the upcoming year and use that as my springboard.
I decided to make 2009 the year. THE year for things to happen. I also secretly decided to make each year afterward even better than 2009, but I'm going to put one foot in front of the other before I hit an all-out run.
It took me a couple of weeks to really begin forcing a change on myself though. Before you mumble to yourself "laziness", I will admit to you an even more embarrassing reason; terror. It had been a few years since I really examined myself and of what I was (or was not) capable. These few years since then had forced me down a path that was both sedentary and without inner reflection and I was terrified to really see the toll it had taken on me, even if I could already feel it.
But I finally made my first step. A baby step for most but a long jump for me; a leap of faith. I signed up for the gym near my home and laid out the clay, ready to mold myself once more. I had become rigid, I had lost durability, was cracked - withered. I fell away under a touch and it would require skilled sculptor hands to peel away the clumps around me to reveal, ultimately, myself. The finished yet ever changing piece.
That terror I spoke of...it was on that first day that it had me so firmly in its grip. It pressing against my chest, suffocating me and tempting me to flee. I entered the building, a little wary but ready to go, and so I warmed up. Odd; I could not quite reach my toes when I stretched. Peculiar; my arms did not reach as far behind me as I remember them doing. Unusual; my torso did not twist in the ways it once did. And depressing; it was a bit tiring walking up the flight of steps to the treadmills.
With slightly labored breathing and weary knees, I hopped up, set the machine and began to run. The conveyor belt moved a lot faster than I remember one ever doing at such a low speed. The clock, which I had set for a mere 20 minutes, was broken; the seconds ticked away far more slowly than they should have. My knees failed me far faster than I ever recalled.
The rest of the night was much the same. Every pound felt like two. Every mile felt like many. Every leg press was like trying to move the earth beneath me. The 15 foot tall rock wall? Insurmountable.
I felt the fear that everyone who lets themselves fall into such decay must feel, thinking the work to correct such folly would be just too great. But I came back. Again and again I return, and while sometimes it feels like I am progressing backwards, I've come a long way in a short time.
I won't lie to you and say that my first few weeks ever using weights were a cake walk. If you had see me have to use my left arm to lift my right because it was too worn out to raise itself far enough to wash my hair without assistance, you would understand. Of if you had to witness me literally rolling out of bed because my muscles were to weary to lift my own body weight, you'd marvel at my progress.
I certainly cannot deny the change I feel. I sleep better, I eat less, and, not believing in weighing myself, I finally begin to see results in the mirror. Small, slow, yet amazingly significant.
Somewhere along the line, I went from dreading my 3-4 weekly workouts to looking forward to them and even feeling a little bit of withdrawal on days that I did not go. I decided I would add in something I've always wanted to do (with dedication); Yoga.
I found myself at the Yoga studio on a Tuesday with a couple of people from work. The room was sweltering, but peaceful. I unrolled my mat between two strangers, both deep in meditation and looking at peace. They even felt peaceful, already empty of all the worries of the world, shedding the weight like a second burdensome skin. Shed it like I hoped to do; to let the torrent of the world's problems roll off of me like water; to break against me as waves on the rocks.
I was excited; I knew from my few previous experiences with Yoga that it was not to be underestimated. Yoga has a subtle difficulty and it was a great challenge even when I was in good shape.
With the instructors soothing voice and words, I stretched myself out along the earth, feeling awareness in my limbs, along my spine, very aware of the ground below me. Over the next hour, I stretched, I bent, I folded, I might have wept silently to myself, I balanced and I nearly toppled (my balance isn't what it once was, either). My arms shook, my knees buckled and I literally dripped sweat in amounts that made my gym visits look like a light sprinkle to a typhoon. But I made it. And during my favorite part of Yoga, savasana, I finally found something I've been looking to find for years. Sleep. When I tell you I dreamed several dreams in those few minutes, you might not understand the significance. My sleep problem is such that I've only reached a level of sleep deep enough to hit REM, and thus dream, a mere handful of times in my entire life. And when I awkwardly jerked awake, initially being horrified after realizing I had fallen asleep, I was ecstatic when I realized the results. I have been back to Yoga a time or two every week since then and don't see myself stopping anytime soon.
The final step in my master plan has been a simple one, but the one that laid me low last time I tried; my eating habits. I reached too far before when I cut out all the junk from my diet and my hand was slapped before I could withdraw it. I am not meant to go from one end of the spectrum, to the opposite end that has me eating nothing but raw vegetable. I decided a more middle of the road approach would work better. I still drink a lot of water and have eliminated all sodas, but I will not shun a sandwich because of the bread, though I also won't eat one every day. Moderation, you know. My vegetables? Sometimes raw, but usually cooked. I don't eat sweets, but I did integrated my much loved peanut butter into my life a bit more, usually with bananas in a shake, or with an apple for a snack. But it's reduced fat and/or natural peanut butter. Once this is a success, I might slowly wean myself off of some of these other things, but I am taking it slowly thanks to a friend's advice, and so far it's been working for me better than anything else ever has.
I have always been a big believer in "your body is a temple". But like a person who gives fine advice, I do not always follow my principles. I will say also that I believe in karma and I am without a doubt sure that I've suffered the problems I have - sleep disorder, weak knees, etc - because of my failure to treat my body like I should. I once heard a woman's body referred to as a work of art and a man's as a Jeep. Rather accurate. I've admired the female body as I do beautiful works of art, happy to gaze on it for many hours. Likewise, I have treated my body like I treat my Jeep. I fly over speed bumps, don't change the oil often, and never rotate the tires when I should. And while I clean the outside, I put a lot of junk inside and never bother to clean it out.
As I wrote this out, I realized that these steps are likely small to others, but I've felt very accomplished even taking these baby steps. I for once don't feel like I'm going to stray at the first sign of trouble, and that is heartening.
The next step? More outdoor activities. I'm looking at you, hang gliding.