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Quote of the Day: Bodies Have Minds

In Which I Share the Inspiration for a Fitness Quote I Made Up, Part One.

Photo via Tumblr

"Go as far as your body will allow, always leaving it thinking that it could do more. Don't leave it thinking that it can't be overexerting yourself, or you'll just give up altogether." 

I actually thought up of snippets for this quote last week on one of my runs, and only just decided to put it all together with revisions. It's probably not the most original saying ever, as you've all likely heard variants of this from all kinds of athletes, fitness fanatics, and pep talkers. 

At least I tried giving my take on the idea, right? It also pretty much speaks for itself, but knowing me, I'll be expanding another philosophical rainbow yet again to keep you reading. No harm in absorbing some insightful wordplay, don't you think?

Jokes aside, the main reason I want to share this quote with my readers is because it's something that comes directly from my experiences with sporting pursuits, and trying to stay active. It reflects the realization I've come to when taking into account what is right for my body, as well as which activities truly interest me, and where my skills lie. So my hope is that perhaps others will find my little backstory, and thoughts on athleticism, relatable, or at least discussable in some way. Maybe there is some learning to be had! Who knows?

Now, a quick disclaimer before I continue. I am not a kinesiologist, and as such, I won't attempt to provide any sort of dietary or exercise advice in this post. Rather, with what knowledge I have on the subject, I'll be talking solely about what my approach is to physical activity in general based on what I find works for me.

I was an energetic child; growing up, I had taken a shot at a multitude of sports and disciplines, including tennis, skiing, track, weightlifting, basketball, soccer, and yoga. Here, though, I'll be focussing on the following three: track, weightlifting, and yoga, because they fall in line with the meaning behind my quote. 

I'm obsessed with swimming as well, but if it weren't for my skin wrinkling up every time, and the fact that I can't breathe underwater, I'd remain there forever. Thus, there would be no limits for me when it comes to that.

I became involved in cross country, and track and field in grade eight after receiving praise from some of my classmates for my performance during school events. I had actually tried out for cross country the year before, but didn't make the cut, for I had no sense of pacing or conditioning. 

It was around that time that I officially began working out, with my father as my chief mentor. I trained as often as possible, so that I could qualify for the team in grade eight, but even though I succeeded, I was still the weakest runner on the team.

In retrospect, I think it had to do with me trying way too hard to emulate my experienced teammates, instead of taking my time to learn, and get used to the proper techniques for running. I was of the mindset that I wasn't good enough unless I was running as hard, and as fast as I could in order to keep up with the others, only to have it backfire. I wasn't taking into account my breathing, my posture, my speed, or movements to prevent pain, and situations like early fatigue, and breathlessness. 

I got slightly better at it by the time I entered high school, but I'd still face disappointment. And I'd always give up for long periods of time before starting up again. Due to a lack of commitment, as well as overall discouragement, I was never able to maintain a consistently active lifestyle, at least in terms of my cardiovascular system.

Probably the peak of my athletic career was when I took a semester-long fitness class in grade ten, and even that was short-lived. I regret not keeping up with the methods I learned there. I recall my favourite exercises being aerobics, air-biking, lat pull downs, rowing machine exercises, anything involving medicine balls, and it was the leg press machine that made me embrace leg day. My excuse then was that I didn't like going to the gym. I also didn't want to get too buff by exercising on machines.

Looking back, I believe those reasons still hold up to a degree, but I admit that it ultimately had to do with me trying to tackle too many activities in a short period of time. Instead of invigorating you, it all gets exhausting and demotivating very quickly. It's always better to start with one or two workouts that you could switch between several times a week (which is what I do with running and weightlifting now), and then maybe add or replace a workout with a periodic pastime(s) to switch up the routine, and avoid mundanity. This all needs to be done in steps to give the illusion that you're continuously a work in progress, and so that you're not constantly worn out for other hobbies (or even life, for that matter).

Since high school, I've been running on and off, but it was between grades seven and ten, when I was serious about exercising outside of class, particularly lifting weights and doing yoga. There was a point in grade nine when I was doing pilates-infused yoga, and I'd never felt more empowered by any other workout in my life. 

It made running so much easier, as it expanded my range of motion, and improved my flexibility. However, I would feel recurring frustration whenever I wasn't able to stretch far and for long enough in certain poses. Needless to say, I didn't stick with yoga either.

Aside from my other setbacks mentioned, one of the biggest problems I tend to have when working out is lack of patience. I used to be quite competitive in my early to mid-teens, striving to get as strong, fast, agile, and flexible as possible, but for the wrong reasons. 

I wanted to impress my peers, to prove that I wasn't so clumsy, fragile, and defensive (even though that still kind of holds true), instead of playing sports and exercising for the enjoyment of it as well as the company of others. 

As a result, I would try to 'make up for lost time' by literally sweating my behind off to catch up with all the aspiring athletes in terms of fitness level. I surprisingly didn't have serious insecurities about my body image, but there were times when I wasn't sure if I wanted to be more muscular or to have a leaner, feminine look. I'd sometimes get worried about either looking too frail or too robust, although that has mostly to do with my thin yet heavy-boned frame.

This all practically demonstrates my uncertainties in what I wanted out of active living, as well as clearly not having my priorities straight. By the latter, I mean that I was taking up activities, even the ones I personally enjoyed, so that I could live up to my family's reputation of being predominantly athletic, and to be able to compete with the athletes of my generation. 

Additionally, I wasn't even completely invested in what I was doing at any given time, as I wanted to achieve 'jack of all trades' status by dabbling in as many forms of physical recreation as I had the means for. I had no clear focus, wasn't improving much, and above all, wasn't having fun.

I recently got into light weightlifting and running again, about three weeks ago, and I hope that I won't quit this time. I do both workouts three times a week on average, switching between the two, so that I'm on the move at all times, and I'm mixing it up. I usually put a number on my sets, repetitions, and kilometres, but I'll sometimes just keep going until I realize I'm slowing down, and starting to feel sore and/or tired, in which case I take rests, or call it a day. 

Breaks now and again are fine and dandy, but I definitely don't want to go on another hiatus ever again, or the complex cycle will just carry on, and my lazy self will have a hard time adjusting. I also don't want neither my vitality nor health to potentially fluctuate. If I'm challenged with doing a workout for consecutive days, then I test my endurance on the second day to determine whether to step it up a notch, or take it easy on the third day, and so forth in a pattern-like fashion.

These strategies leave me with the feeling that I've accomplished something, gave it my all, and still have enough willpower to resume my daily tasks, as opposed to wanting it to be over already, so that I could just sleep for the remainder of the day. I keep to myself now with regards to my fitness journey, by concentrating on building up my strength, speed, agility, and flexibility to make going through life easier. I'm also sculpting my body according to the shape that fits my frame, so that I can feel and function at my best. I have no interest in playing show pony; my only concern is my health.

My goal is to eventually add yoga back in to the mix, but for now, I just want physical activity to gradually become a feasible habit for my body again. I want to get it excited to occasionally perform a wide range of activities that I either miss doing, or have yet to partake in, such as archery, rollerblading, cycling, volleyball, and waterpolo. 

Nothing will make me happier than experiencing both adrenaline and cheer with my dear friends, with whom I plan to spend full days doing all of this and more. It's moments like these that forever stay in your memory, not your daily routine. That's what we work towards.

I'm glad that I share parts of my lifestyle with my readers. It's interesting to reminisce about the past, and see how your outlook has changed, or at least how it gives you the ability to rationalize certain aspects that contributed to who you are today. The important lesson to take from all this is having a purpose to what you're doing, and achieving your goals according to a plan that best suits your capabilities and needs. 

You want to look forward to what the next training day has to bring. You only have yourself to compare your progress to, and none of it should revolve around others' abilities and successes. It's totally okay to have a partner(s) (I never work out without my father), but it should be someone that brings out the potential in you. So instead of competing against you to try and surpass you, they challenge you to cross the line of your comfort zone to see just what you're capable of.

This is probably my most personal entry to date, and I look forward to sharing more in the near future!

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