We are not physical beings having a spiritual experience, but spiritual beings having a physical experience ~Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
I’ve been so body-bound, but body-ignorant, all my life. I’ve tended to approach life in the way de Chardin denies — I’ve been a physical being having an occasional spiritual experience….not that I’ve chosen that in a mindful way, and not that this is the way I’d most like to be in the world. Now and then I’d get focused on weight loss; I’ve lost 50 pounds so many times I could create a small army of people — or maybe an army of small people. So when I get it together, I know how to lose weight, but obviously that’s only a first step.
My 26-year old daughter came to visit this past weekend, and we talked a lot about life and how to live it, as we always do. I admire her so much, as I always have, and learn so much from her in ways she doesn’t even know. Part of one of our conversations was about our bodies, and her deep embracing of being a strong woman, and that the embodiment of that is so much more than physical strength and a groovy metaphor. She knows that she is a strong woman; she and her husband have a regular strength-training practice of weightlifting. Listening to her talk about it really inspired me, and it landed at just the right moment in my life. She’d tried in the past to encourage me to do strength training, because she was concerned about my aging bones and she knew how good it would be for me, in a whole-self way. The timing must not have been right then, because this time BAM I got it. Before she got here, I’d been thinking very hard about how much I wanted to approach my life and body differently.
One cool thing she told me that clicked is the idea that strength training is always hard; it’s maintained at a hard level. So for one thing, it doesn’t get harder! But the other thing is that you can do more and more, it takes more work to keep it hard. Right now, holding the plank pose for 6 seconds, 3 reps, is HARD, man. I quiver, and on the 3rd one, I’m a little sweaty. And I’m right proud of being able to hold it for 6 seconds! But one of these days, to keep it at the same level of hard, I’ll be holding it for a minute.
I’ve only done the training workout two days, Sunday and Monday, and I’m very keenly aware of my stomach muscles, the muscles that wrap around my sides, my butt muscles and leg muscles, my arm muscles, my upper back muscles. Keenly aware. I woke up this morning thinking about this, and looking forward to the next time I do it — tomorrow, because today I’m doing yoga. I look forward to seeing if next time I can hold plank for 7 seconds. If next time I can replace one set of modified squats with regular squats. It’s maybe to plank, and probably not yet to squats, but it’s just a matter of time. If you put in the time and don’t cheat yourself while you’re doing it, muscles get stronger. Period. And stronger muscles go with stronger bones, and a more stable body that can take me through the next few decades.
I have done things at the backwards times of life; I started college when I was 36, for example. So starting the process of getting fit at 52 years old feels like another instance of that pattern. But check this out: here’s a story about a 91-year old track star, who started even later than I did. When my motivation flags, I just look at the top photo in the story, and I get up off the damn couch.