If you haven’t noticed already, we do an awful lot of sitting in our twenty-first century lifestyles! Core exercises help to train the muscles in our lower back, hips, pelvis and abdomen to work in synchronized harmony. When strengthened, we enjoy improved balance and stability. As kids and young adults we took this for granted but as we age and those ever changing hormones come and go one more time, we see and feel the changes in how easily or not we accomplish our daily routines. Instead of making beautiful music, our bodies go out of tune and become discordant.
As we age, the likelihood of a fall resulting in a broken hip bone and wheelchair-bound existence increases dramatically. When you can’t easily carry the weight of your own body anymore, you topple over, plain and simple.
Sarah Tobin, one of the owners of CrossFit Chilliwack, also recommended that I include comments in my WOD journal where I can reflect on how I feel about my weekly work outs. When she said that, a light bulb came on in my head.
“Aha, let’s draw a speech bubble next to each tortuous WOD “prescription”and gauge the intensity of pain from 1 to 10.” (Frankly, right now they’re all darn close to ten depending on the length of time and repeats to complete each circuit.)
Like a kid, I got inspired and have already pulled out my box of pencil crayons and magic markers to make this book reflect the “labor of love” I’m subjecting myself to on a tri-weekly basis.
For anyone who’s followed a physical fitness program, we know there are days where, just like the jogger experiencing runner’s high, we almost bubble over with exuberant euphoria. For me, the adrenalin kicks in when I hit 1000 meters on the rowing machine. Once past the half way point of 500 meters, I go into overdrive, clamp down on the “oars”, and just do it.
But there are also those days when we wonder where our sense of empowerment has disappeared to. We find it’s hard to do more than ten sit ups let alone row to China on that wretched machine. Those are the days when “the shadow” looms over like an ominous cloud and threatens to rain on our fitness parade.
Just when I feel ready to throw in the towel and dash over to Starbucks for some consolation in the form of a fudge brownie with a side of mocha latte for good measure, I remember that funky covered blank note book I just purchased at the Dollar Store. I whip that thing out, turn the cover to the first fresh white page awaiting some insightful contribution, and I begin to write.
In the nick of time, I’ve elected to connect emotional release to pen and paper rather than to a regrettable measure of carbohydrates which will stick around to haunt me for an entire week contributing to my “muffin top”.
The writer Christina Baldwin talks about how “ritual calls us out of the ordinary into the extraordinary, it wakes us from the stupor of usual activities, imbuing them with meaning. In so doing, it offers us another form of guidance.”
Whether we know it or not, most of us have incorporated ritual into our lives. The simple pleasure of taking a bath, for instance, will slow down those anxiety-ridden brain waves. We light the candles, add fragrant oils, pour our favorite beverage, turn on some soft music and let the brain waves enter into a calmer state. We lay out the pretty night gown, have fresh sheets in the bed, and enjoy setting up each key component to this special bathing ritual. We become more centered and connected to The Person residing on the inside. This is The Person we used to spend more time with in the sandbox, swimming in the lake or engrossed in some other activity that totally absorbed our attention.
Ritual provides an opportunity to dissipate frustration, anxiety or any of those other energy consuming feelings that the archetypes (those Other People) who live in the same place, want to rob us of. Ritual helps us to celebrate our successes no matter how small or insignificant they may seem to the rest of the world. Each well earned accomplishment should not be taken for granted. They are important and need to be acknowledged.
The journal provides an ongoing archive to re-read, re-call and refresh.
Gyms typically have mirrors where you can monitor your technique and form as you perform your workout. Imagine then a mirror that runs parallel to your spiritual path that you’re following in your life. This mirror reflects your feelings, beliefs, thoughts and attitude about what’s happening to you.
Imagine that a part of you is the Watcher. Just like you watch yourself running on a gym treadmill, visualize that you’re intently observing and probing this reflective self who’s helping you to feel wonderment about your experience. All too often we don’t give ourselves the pat on the back that we’re craving. It feels good to do it and believe it or not, it makes a difference to how you’ll feel about yourself at the end of the day. I got encouragement from the coach and girls I lifted weights with today, but I needed to do this for myself as well. We know intuitively that if we stick with it, we will eventually reach our goals.It’s very important to reinforce the accomplishment so that one’s sense of self worth is also acknowledged. We need to take ownership of what we earned.
What makes the process of goal reaching interesting is studying how the game itself is played. Think of any ball game like basketball, football or hockey. Fans pay a lot of money to watch the strategies used to get the ball into the opponent’s side of the court or field.
The same metaphor holds true for observing ourselves. We have different players residing within each of us. Each one plays the game from a different position out on the hypothetical playing field. Players strive to become more expert in their game; so too, we progress through our different players or archetypes where each one in turn helps us to evolve and grow into more mature and introspective human beings. When doing so we can appreciate our evolution along this hierarchic journey.
Journal writing is like keeping a travelogue of our mind. It maps our journey of the internal dialogue we’re conducting with our archetypes and our self. I like to think of it as a sea chart since I’ve always enjoyed sailing. A good sea chart will include up-to-date navigational aids to keep the sailor away from such unpleasant hazards such as shoals, sand bars, wrecks and a myriad of other obstacles that can sink your boat fast and put you in a bad mood.
Just like sports players have a playbook sailors have sea charts and logs. So, as part of my ritual I created not only a WOD journal but I’ve also started a second book for charting a course to an exotic, geographic destination. The idea is to put myself back into the sailing mindset while creating my route for a desirable destination. But this will be explained in another blog post.
Not content to look at plain white pages, I’ve started to make a kind of vision board in this journal as well where I’ve included messages that inspire cut out from magazines. This satisfies my urge to decorate as well as add a graphic dimension that carries empowering messages. By doing so I’m adding my personal signature to these WODs while inspiring myself to scale them up the next time I do them. From three rounds I would next move to four and from ten reps move it to twelve for example.
It’s almost midnight and the places on my body where I stretched, pulled and lifted are sending out messages of soreness. The wind is blowing down from the mountains that line the Fraser River Valley with great gusto. This year there’s a twist on the expression: “March comes in like a lion”. This year, it’s “going out like a lion” as well.
I almost got blown off my bike several times after cycling home from CrossFit tonight. Holding onto the handlebars with one hand and my cap with the other, I realized how much the WODs are helping me test myself in my daily cycling, whatever the weather may be. I did a lot of moaning and groaning in the process, but needed to hear the struggle I guess. So far, so good!
I included in my journal my feelings about lifting a forty-five pound bar today. It’s the first time I’ve ever done a shoulder press with such a heavy weight. While raising this round metal pole the neurotransmitters in my brain were busier than usual sending messages out to the many parts of my body occupied with helping me execute the lifts. Signals to hold the pole more to the left, and oh yeah, tuck in the tush, and then push harder to get that bar all the way up, oops, forgot about the tush now.
I kept getting a mental visual about a commercial jet taking off. I visualized the space age looking dashboard in the cockpit with its array of blinking lights monitoring the aircraft’s ascent. The computers are kept busy making sure the aircraft keeps near perfect stability in spite of any unequal weight distribution on board. For a magical moment, passengers seated by the portholes get to witness their departure from the world below as it recedes to nothingness. It’s a kind of spiritual euphoria where we’ve also left behind the noise and stress that preoccupy our daily lives. Here, in the rarefied atmosphere of the stratosphere, we can settle back with our Watcher, collect our thoughts, and simply slow down and “be”. Essentially, the aircraft is in the flow, and we can choose to go there too. In sailing terms, it’s the point of sail where the vessel seems to move effortlessly along at her most steady and optimum speed and as long as the wind doesn’t shift, she can do this for days on end.
Journal writing can become a ritual that helps us transcend the ordinariness of daily living and, like the jet plane and sailboat, take us to a timeless place where we simply open up to the moment, put pen to paper, and let that original Self come forth and talk. This is a spiritual journey that parallels the physical one and can prove to be the most fascinating one of all.
“The most courageous act is still to think for yourself. Aloud.”
― Coco Chanel