Past experience has taught me, that feeling good on the outside has a lot to do with what’s going on on the inside. How healthy you are, how often you get an endorphin rush, how well your hormones are doing and how conscious you are off all of this functioning like a well-oiled machine. Of course if you’ve been following this blog for a while you’ll know that all of that was a big giant mess (read: unhealthy, lazy, lethargic and couldn’t give a damn what was going on inside), for a greater part of this year.
2012 can be majorly classified as one of the unhealthiest years of my life. I was unhappy; I cooked, baked and ate to compensate for my miserable job and everything else it was doing to me; and after several failed starts and stops, I fell into a neat little catch-22 as far as exercise goes. Between just finishing a regular day and getting home with enough time, physical and mental energy to cook myself dinner, read and crash in preparation for the next day, my 24 hours were up. Where was the time to exercise? More importantly, who had the energy? Often, when I felt like I was physically up for it, mentally I would feel listless and down and out. So basically I wouldn’t exercise because I didn’t feel energetic enough and I never felt energetic enough because I didn’t exercise. And if this is all sounding eerily similar to rehab gone wrong, you are right. I was an endorphin junkie, who had to suddenly stop, and lived for a good 10-12 months with chronic withdrawal symptoms including weight gain, loss of enthusiasm, immense lethargy and listlessness, a general feeling of impending doom and disinterest in life.
Since the sabbatical could very well be named Project-Feel-Good-About-Myself-Again, kick-starting a long-pending, much-needed exercise regime, was on the top of my list of things to do. I believed it was an essential part of coming out of a shitty black hole, seeing the light and feeling good again.
Somewhere in the midst of really beginning to suck at what I did, taking it so seriously and sliding deep into the abyss of diffidence and unhappiness, I forgot about turning to exercise to give me a regular dose of happy hormones. Work and related commitments had decimated a large percentage of that person in me. The person who made time to exercise. Who whole valued it as much as needed it. Who exercised to stay healthy, and not to be slim. But about a month ago, I made a beginning, yet again, so here’s my list of 10 random things. My thoughts on getting back on the road, if you will.
1) Hello, my name is Revati and I am an endorphinoholic
Everybody has their addictions. Habits, dependencies, vices that they feel the need to stay with in order to get through life. I think its safe to say I
was am an endorphin junkie. Through and through. For as long as I can remember, I have exercised because I loved to feel that burst of energy, a surge of endorphins and a rush of blood to my head. I loved the immediate sense of elation. I wasn’t so much into the exercise (okay, maybe I was), but more what it made me feel. Much like people who smoke don’t necessarily do it because they fancy the idea of clogging up their lungs with gunk, but because it makes them high. Light-headed, worry-free, and happy. And believe it or not, that is exactly what exercising always did for me.
Endorphins make you feel good. Endorphins have the power to make you happy. And if endorphins are your vice too, embrace them.
2) Timing is everything
This comeback has confirmed my belief that getting back to an exercise regime after a hiatus, is all about being in the right place at the right time. My mind was finally free from the burden of work. I had all the time I needed. And more importantly, I knew I needed to start. You have to mentally be in the zone to want to do it, and when you are, there is no looking back. In fact, in retrospect I think much of what happened over the last might have not affected as much, had I turned to some form of exercise to burn the stress, work out the negative energy and get over things faster, instead of letting myself dive into the hole that I did.
The truth is, timing is essential, and now is as good a time as any, to make that beginning. Or comeback, if you’re like me.
3) Good shoes go a long way
I bought my last pair of sneakers in 2006. And their life came to a semi-end in September last year, only to be rescued by the wonders of SuperGlue, which I didn’t really test because I spent the next 12 months in an office chair, feeling shitty about myself. And not really doing much about it. So one week into running again, they gave way. For good. And this time I had no choice byt to buy a new pair. A lighter, more aerodynamic pair. Made for swift movement. Made for feeling good.
Since the last 6 years has seen the price of sneakers go through the roof, I walked out of the Puma store convinced that if all else failed, the sheer price I spent on the shoes would guilt me into sticking with running this time.
4) Getting ahead of myself didn’t take me very far
With all my good intentions in place, channeling my inner Jillian Michaels, I fooled myself into believing I could spring right back to exactly the spot I left off, pick up and go, like nothing had changed. Except it had.
Before I moved to Goa, I was clocking close to 8.5-9 kms to the hour. Followed by a good amount of floor work. So on day 1, when I set off with a spring in my step, only to be stalled by heavy breathing, aching calves and hamstrings that refused to cooperate, I was beyond deflated. But also humbled. And decided to start slow again. No exercise for one year had taken its toll. So it was best to accept that I couldn’t possibly have the same stamina, endurance and energy.
Change doesn’t happen overnight. Starting slow is essential.
5) The numbers matter
Running, or for that matter exercising, alone can sometimes get demotivating. I’ve often reacted that point in time where it feels like moments are suspended in limbo, everything slows down, minutes stretch, and I lose track of how far I’ve come. Sometimes I have nothing to look forward to and it takes a Herculean effort to get going. But I’ve found a new running buddy. Now that I am armed with a iPhone, I got myself the Runkeeper app. This nifty app silently clocks you time, speed, distance and calories burned. And sometimes when you’re mid-way and you glance at it, it is quite the booster to find out you’ve crossed 4 km in 40 minutes! Its like having someone to work again, someone who’s keeping an eye on your every move. Someone to remind you that you have just 10 minutes to the hour, and you must turn home-ward and push through.
Numbers are encouraging. Because who am I kidding, when it comes to exercise, I am a Type A masochist, and longer and harder I can work out, the better I feel.
6) Running is not like making instant coffee
Much as I’d like to believe otherwise, the honest and bitter truth is that no matter how hard I run, it isn’t going to show in a couple of days. So I had to consciously stop myself from looking for visible results, and to get back to the grove of exercising for the fun of it. This was the hardest part: to zone out everything and just stick with the discipline of going out and getting that exercise 6 days a week. Even if it is an off day and I decided to turn around in half an hour, it was important to go and clock those 30 minutes, rather than chicken out and break the habit. And funnily, 4 weeks of sticking with it has made my pants feel like they’ve expanded.
Exercise is not like making instant coffee, but more like a well brewed scotch. The longer it takes, the better it tastes.
7) Working out should be like brushing your teeth
Habit, basically. Something you do for yourself, come what may. For the first two weeks, that’s all I focused on. Giving myself that 1 hour of well-deserved me-time. No matter what I would do through the day, at 5.30 I would change into my sweats, throw on my sneakers and get out, turn on my iPod, and tune into myself. Its funny how the nicest thoughts dawn on me when I am out running. Ideas for stories, blog posts, cooking, feelings of gratitude, watching the sunset.
Sometimes all it takes is to turn off the cacophony in your life and just be with yourself for an hour everyday. And if exercise can do that for you, why not?
8) No two days will ever be the same
Some days I feel like I can take on the world. I hit 6 kms with 2 minutes to spare and I feel like I can keep going. Some days my knees feel tight and won’t loosen up try as I may. Some days I am a little late and I have to stay on the light on the promenade, than hit the beach. A quick glance at my Runkeeper stats will show you how no two days are ever alike. In the last 3 weeks, every day has been different. Energy levels differ, sometimes I’m preoccupied, sometimes I am genuinely tired. And I’ve learned that its okay to slow down, maybe not reach that 6 km target. There was a day when I went out, and in 20 minutes I knew I wasn’t enjoying it. I stuck to a steady stroll and then spent some time just sitting at the beach. I watched the sun set and I came home. Still better than doing nothing at all.
No two days will ever be the same. Accept it, enjoy it, move on.
9) Music, baby
I don’t know about you but I think music totally helps me zone into exercise time. I have an iPod full of music, but I have found that invariably, I shuffle through more or less the same 20-odd tracks, over the 1 hour that I am out exercising. Find your beat, and get it on, because it will get you moving.
10) Get real
I began writing this post about 2 weeks ago, but never got down to finishing it, so I’ve consistently said “Running”. But here’s the thing, I’m not 24 anymore. My body is not what it used to be. Almost grudgingly, I’ve accepted that I can no longer spring back to exercise after 12 months of not moving a muscle, and hope to run like I used to. Also, running on the pavement blows. The tarmac is even worse. I never felt it before. Maybe I was more supple, my body more adaptable, my knees more cooperative. But something’s changed, and a few days into running, my knees began to hurt. I could have just pushed through and dealt with the pain, but I knew it was not a good kind of pain. It was my body telling me to slow down.
So now, I reserve the running for when I’m at the beach. But because we’re fast approaching winter, the sun has begun to set sooner. Which means I can only get a good run in, if I hit the beach in time, post which I have to move to the pavement and stay with a brisk walk. Initially, I wanted to fight the pain and go on, but I’m glad I decided to get real. Because speed and distance aside, I think the exercise has begun to make a difference. The scales might tell me how much, but I haven’t looked. And I’m not going to. Because I feel good. My skin feels clearer. My head feels lighter. My heart feels open. I feel happy. And that’s all that counts.