We know why we’re supposed to exercise.
The old saws: heart health, muscle and bone density, longevity, et alia.
And it’s all true of course. Exercise is wonderful for your body and can be something like that mythical fountain of de Leon’s imagining.
But let’s put all of that aside for a moment and talk about the morning.
We all get mornings, and with them the chance to begin again. The onset of a new day can feel like dawn breaking over opportunity. The sun is golden and the story is as yet unwritten.
Then again, it can also feel like a pit you’ve somehow tumbled into, sodden with problems and unsolvables.
Or…perhaps somewhere in between. Perhaps not the way you’d like it to feel.
There aren’t any magic bullets, of course. Like many of us, I’ve done some time in very dark mental places. (It feels alternately liberating and frightening to say this, by the way.) Some things have helped–therapy, medication, people–and others have not. It remains a daily course to chart, and it begins again every morning.
What I do know is this: for me, and many others, exercise is a choice I’m able to make that gives my brain a puncher’s chance every day. Here again, some things work better than others for me: squats, hard bike rides, hikes in nature, kettlebell swings in my garage, and sometimes just a few sets of barbell cleans. I try not to examine each modality too closely, lest they lose a little bit of their magic for me. I know they work, and I pursue them as best I can.
Because when I don’t, it generally follows that I’m the unhappiest, least productive version of myself. Little things become giant rabbit holes. I am beset by small issues that present themselves as monstrous stumbling blocks. I cannot concentrate because I have the attention span of a hummingbird set loose in pondwater at a truckstop. I worry what every single person thinks of me instead of just going about my day and doing the next right thing. I lose sight of the big pictures I’ve set my cap upon: being a good person, husband, father, running a good, profitable business, and being of service in the ways that feel most natural to me. I flop around like a dumb, worried wind sock.
But when I make the choice to move, a good batch of exercise feels like nothing less than a kind of powerwash for my brain. It feels like a reset, almost like some giant hand has pulled me back a few steps and granted me immeasurably better sight lines. I see big pictures. I have more patience. I can say “not now, this isn’t urgent,” and keep moving. I probably smile more but we’re all wearing masks so, you know…you’ll have to just take my word for it. It just feels a lot better. Things just feel a lot more navigable, and this is how I want my brain to feel every day.
So…there’s that. I try not to forget that this choice is a relative privilege, and one I’m lucky to make every morning. I still care about how much I can lift or how hard I can pedal but it’s all part of a bigger picture for me:
Move this body to feed this brain. And then do it again the next day.