How do you keep your head above water? When you’re shoulder-deep in the stresses of life, do you just paddle along and hope to reach shore? Do you reach out to the first available source of help? Rarely are we just suddenly thrown into the murky stress waters that can consume us. We can usually see it coming. The sooner we identify that we’re about to hit those waters, the faster we can get out.
Meal portions are too large. It takes a certain discipline to have a meal, like this 5-star chicken alfredo, decide to only eat half, and commit to that. Especially when the second half won’t be as good: the chicken too cold, the spaghetti too burned, the atmosphere too dull. Yet, practicing the discipline to say, “no, I’m good” to overindulgence is probably the third greatest feeling in life. This delaying gratification becomes easier with practice.
I operate with a hot/cold approach to doing work. While I’m overheating my brain by writing, my body should be cooling itself off in a relaxed state. When I’ve completed my writing for that part of the day, my mind is thoroughly emptied, so then I can dispell some of that physical energy into a rowing set or doing some other physically laborious activity. When I’m both mentally and physically tired, I sleep almost instantaneously!
“Rowers always have strong arms!” My boss’s boss then grabbed my wimpy bicep, covered the awkwardness with a quick platitude, and we changed topics during our lunch meeting last year. Only last week did that sink in: I have weak arms. My leg-focused rowing form made my leg muscles solid, especially my calves, it’s just I’ve been under-utilizing my arms. I’m seeing an increase in my meter counts now that I’m building my arm muscles.
I face my fears during every rowing set. Sometimes, it’s nothing dramatic; just investing time into moving my limbs around. Usually, I’ll focus subconsciously on some internal turmoil along with routes through that. If it was one awkward conversation, I might ruminate about how much I care about future similar awkwardnesses. If it’s addressing some lingering stress, I’ll gather up the courage to face it down. We should often practice these sorts of fear staredowns.
I am not in fitness for the crossfit, gym bro, “get buff” mentality. I’m in it for me, my general health, and increasing writing potential. I don’t want to give in to fatigue while writing, miss “the shot,” or not complete a task because I didn’t have the physical or mental fortitude. I view fitness, then, like sharpening a tool to a point that’s good enough rather than spending hours trying to make it perfect.
I strive for independence from external validation. As nice as it is to read positive comments, ruminate on constructive criticism, and receive compensation, I honestly believe all of those vindications mean nothing if you are not content with yourself and what you’re doing. Fitness helps me practice internal validation. When I row with my best effort, it doesn’t matter when the results aren’t great compared to yesterday or your stats, because I’m practicing my independence.