Thursday, September 18, 2014

How Many Reps Left?

Do you exercise? It's been a part of my life for so long I don't know how NOT to exercise. I'm one of those sick people who misses it when I don't get that workout in. What about you? What's your workout of choice? Do you have one? Do you want one? Exercise connects my mind, spirit and body like nothing else and gives me clarity.

I enjoy exercise. Think I've mentioned that before. It's not a tag-line or something I say and don't do. No, I've honestly been following some sort of work out regime since the Jane Fonda aerobics routine came out circa ... well awhile ago.  

If I think back about it ... It began when my aunt gave me a couple workout outfits and legwarmers (yes, I was a FlashDance girl!)  and I began taking aerobics while my father played racketball. It continued throughout high school and into college, where I actually taught aerobics in one of Albion's gathering spaces, and was enhanced as I neared 29 and a friend told me how things started shifting. Well, damned if I was going to "shift." So I set out to find a way to keep all aspects of me in the places I wanted them to be. 

Vanity, thy name is Jenni.

I've explored quite a few exercise programs and discovered that I don't actually need to go to a gym to stay fit. With my TV, an extensive collection of DVDs and an on-line membership via my Computer, along with some hand-held weights, I was all set. I hear it said the hardest thing to do for home workouts is press "play." But that was never a problem for me. I had a goal to stay in shape. I liked how I looked and felt after working out. That was enough of an incentive for me. 

For many years, I did various routines using The Firm Workout. Then there was the Jillian Michaels craze (a little intense even for me). And now I've discovered the merits of a blend of Barre3 and Yoga at The Yoga Shelter, along with some interval programs, working out 5-6 days every week.

Not everyone enjoys exercise. But the Dopamine rush I feel after a yoga practice, a swim, a Barre3 routine or even a brisk walk tells me that I'm doing something good for my mind and body.

But there is another aspect that I believe we can all relate to -- a common denominator we can all appreciate when it comes to exercise. This morning, as I did my routine, I was doing a certain number of repetitions. That's how you tone muscle and get rid of fat, right? Through repetitions of a specific movement. That's how you make the body better ... repeat a specific behavior and get the results you want. That's the formula.

So there I am in full workout mode and feeling the burn. Whether you are in a class or working out on your own -- and no matter the rush you receive by working out -- there is something you look forward to: The End.  The question in your mind at various moments during an exercise regime becomes:  How many more reps? How much longer? When will this discomfort end? 30 reps? 2 miles? 20 more minutes? How long must I endure? How long do I hold this pose? How long till I can move?

Exercise time parallels life. There are movements ... and moments ... where everything is smooth. You feel good and you're enjoying that Yoga pose. Or you're in rhythm on a run. Whatever it is ... it's flowing smoothly. You are lost in the breath or the stride.

But, as the repetitions continue and the tension in your muscles grows, you begin to long for an end. A resolution. A dopamine pay-off when you can stop and celebrate completion and results. In yoga, there are poses you like and poses you struggle with. For me, I LOVE Triangle pose or any twisting pose. Balancing poses like Majorette and Airplane challenge but entice me too. But send me to Chair Pose or Yoga Curtsy and my muscles start to shake like crazy. Ask me to hold too long in Reverse Half Moon and I am a quaking mess.

But I know as I hold those poses or as I do those repetitions that I don't have to hold on or repeat forever. There is an end in sight. I really appreciate the instructor giving me that countdown ... even if I know I have 30 more reps and that's a lot, I also know there is an end in sight. That things will get better ... that I will move differently ... that I won't struggle forever.

In Yoga, no matter how challenged you feel in a particular pose, you KNOW that it will eventually change and end. That you will move into something different, perhaps easier or more personally satisfying. Same for other forms of exercise. Runners know that route has a cool down point where they slow down and stop. Swimmers know their distance or number of laps required. If you do aerobics or Barre3 or lift-weights, you know how long the workout will be and the number of reps.

But when life gets uncertain and dark clouds come your way, you don't know how long it will last. When rejection and disappointment cast shadows on your path and leave you feeling lonely and alone, you don't know if anyone or anything will come along to brighten the broken cobblestones before you. When friends disappear or changes take place or sickness hits, you don't know when the prognosis will improve.

All you have is the hope that eventually, you will change your pose. That eventually an instructor will help you discover that you can push through, no matter how many reps you have left. And you hope for the hint of something new to come. If you've been working out for awhile, perhaps you have some stamina to call upon. Some hidden strength to cling to in those moments when your body is shaking and requesting help from someplace deeper inside you. You just have to trust yourself and know that you can and will find it.

You can ask the Universe ... how many reps are left? But don't expect an answer. Just know it will be Enough to get your mind or your body or your soul or your heart -- or perhaps all of the above -- to a new place. It's all part of the process of Self-Surrender, a kind of significant sacrifice or behavior modification that eventually leads to transformation of the personality ... of the spirit ... of the mind ... of the body ... of the heart.

"How many reps left?" I ask panting and sweating and struggling. 

"When does it get easier?" I wonder as I shake during that difficult pose.

"When will I catch a break and win the day?" I wonder after the audition or the interview or the meeting.

"When will I understand?" I wonder after that phone call.

The Universe is silent. All I can do is keep moving and trust in the process. In life, we don't know how many repetitions remain. But we do know that eventually and just like in yoga ... in its time ... the pose will change. 
                                                                                                                 -- Jenni