“Life is not a hobby. It’s a precious gift. And you’re one of the lucky ones who get to experience everything it offers. Live it with a desire to that cannot be contained. Love it. Turn every day into a rewarding experience. Surround yourself with the best life has to offer – from people to places to passions. Rise up and push yourself for more. For your life and those in it. This is your time.” ~ Advertisement for the Lifetime Fitness Center
Yes, one life time. This is our time. You can do it all in your lifetime… start now.
What a great ad pitch for the new year as we consider the times just past and the changes we’d like to adopt. The ‘new’ ushers in another opportunity to get it right. To start fresh, with diligence and dedication for all the right reasons. This time we’re gonna get it right, because we’re worth it.
This is maximum effort time if you’re in the fitness industry. Folks flock to the gym with high hopes and new resolutions. Some stay. Most go. By March, things return pretty much to normal. Traffic dies down and you can get a spot in the exercise class or a seat on your favorite stationary bike.
But a few stick it out. I’m not sure what they find there. Perhaps a personal trainer, exercise companion, class. But these are all means to an end. Facilitators to the feeling that comes when you use your body in ways that are healthy and healing and … can I say holy? It’s different for everyone, but we — the ones who stay — arrive at the same place. We leave feeling different. Stronger. Lighter. Nimbler. Balanced. Better.
Better prepared for life.
Why do I call it a holy workout? Because the one thing I have on earth that I know I won’t have in heaven is my perishable body. It’s meant only for me to use here on this earth in this life. It is perfectly designed so that I can experience whatever my Maker intended for me in this lifetime.
To tune in with my ears. Focus my eyes. Soften my touch. Moisten my lips. Breathe in through my nose. Squeeze my muscles. Stretch my limbs. Activate my heart. All these were given to me to use well. Here and now. In response to the breath of God who spoke the earth into existence and me in it.
The middle-aged, middle eastern woman was on the elliptical machine before I started circling the track. I noticed her and smiled a greeting. She smiled back and continued stepping. We have seen each other at the gym, perhaps been in some classes together, but I don’t remember ever being introduced. The gym is this way; every woman for herself. Come in, exercise, shower and depart. (Well, except for the aerobics and body sculpting class ladies who visit for hours in the locker room after class.)
So we engage in our individual diligences, mine encircling hers. One time, as I approach her, her face is radiant. She is looking up from the machine screen but not at me. I just don’t normally have that effect on people. 🙂 Curious, as I pass her this time I glance back at the console in front of her, figuring she must be reading something that has tickled her funny bone. Nope. Nothing there.
I’m mystified. People don’t usually smile on the workout machines.
Later, I see this woman again in the locker room. She smiles and says hello. Acknowledges that we are some of the “old timers” – been coming here for quite some time. And so I ask, “Why were you smiling so?”
She was a bit startled. “Was I smiling?” Then out poured, “It feels so good. It really is the best medicine. Everything that is wrong vanishes, worries go away. I feel so light and healthy.” Then she added, “Why am I not more faithful?”
The woman was recounting a spiritual experience of a physical nature. What a good feeling it is to do what’s healthy and fulfilling and lifting. A peak experience that, all at once, seems to meet every need. When we come down from that mountaintop we look back up and wonder, that moment is there for the choosing. Why don’t I choose it more regularly?
“We’ve seen each other here before, haven’t we?” she said to me.
“Yes, we have,” I say. “I’m Wendy.”
“Keep smiling when you exercise, Sheila. It makes people wonder.” This is advice I have given before and something I try to remember myself. So many of us adopt such grim, death-march expressions when we exercise, no one in their right mind would consider joining us. But smiling, that makes ’em wonder.
And I wonder why, when it feels so good to do what’s good for my body, I don’t remember that feeling and let it draw me back again to the place at the base of the mountain. I guess it’s the uphill climb that’s a bit daunting.
I’m brought back to level ground as I leave the gym. There sits a young man I had also seen in my travels around the track. He was “working” with a personal trainer. The trainer was providing mostly entertainment while this poorly fit, quite overweight young man struggled to execute a few push ups. If you could call them that. Butt in the air, elbows barely bending, as he descended a few inches. Probably all he could muster. He stood and hunched his shoulders, obviously unfamiliar with the feeling. The trainer gave up trying to motivate the kid to do them correctly, and they chatted about the Caps win last night.
But it’s a start, I remind myself, attempting to cast aside judgment. At least he’s here, attending to the issue.
Slinging gym bag and purse over one shoulder, I head out through the gym lobby. There’s the young man with the push up problem. He sits in one of the poppy-colored, overstuffed seats in the “waiting and cell phone” area with his Starbucks Venti Caramel Macchiato, thick as an ice cream sundae, double cupped so none of the whip would escape. He sips and sits and chats on his phone. Probably figures, ‘I deserve this, I just went for personal training.’ It will be no surprise when “all this effort” is for naught and he gives up the expensive attempt to fix the challenge he has. Maybe he’ll even add his voice to the millions who say “exercise alone” just didn’t solve my problem.
Nope. Exercise – alone – won’t do it. We need something more to compel us, something that draws us up and then makes us smile. We probably won’t even realize the radiance on our face, but others will see it and wonder. It’s compelling.
I skipped the Starbucks entirely.
I’m seated on the hamstring curl machine at the gym. I get all the adjustments made for leg length and seat height and resistance. I place both feet in position to squeeze the padded bar that pulls the lever toward me. And I do. Evenly. Right and left executing the same force.
I think perhaps I am mistaken. Ever since my hamstring injury and repair a year and a half ago, the left hamstring has worked – it’s connected and it does what it’s supposed to – but not like it used to. It lets the right lead and it follows along. But not now. I try again, just to be sure. Extend. Activate. Flex. Sure enough. Both legs…together. Evenly.
The resistance actually feels light now, distributed between both legs. I stare in amazement and, as I flex I say, “Thank you.” As I extend I say, “God.” I repeat this over and over again. With eyes closed. And there was praise and there was worship, right there on the workout floor.
I don’t know how many reps I completed. I didn’t count. But when I was finished, I opened my eyes and looked around, part of me wondering whether people would be staring. They weren’t. But mostly looking around to see if anything else was different, because I was. Nope. Everybody just continued on about their business.
Amazing how two limbs working together to do something so simple could be, well, worship.
Thank you – God – Thank you – God.