My heart is racing, and it feels like its pulsing through every pore of my skin. In split seconds I gasp huge gulps of air, lungs stretching and chest heaving. All I can hear is feet pounding hard on the pavement as I quicken my steps, burning hot muscles in my legs. Nothing else matters now, but those last few metres, my mind ablaze, euphoric. And just before I reach my front door, my whole body drives forward in one glorious final orchestral performance. That sprinting finish!
Calm radiates through my body as my pulse slowly drops, and I take a moment’s pause to look out at the world, the new dawning day. Slowly I return to that post-run blissful state, somewhere between alert and exhaustion, as I climb those final steps to my home.
It’s hard to properly describe that beautiful moment you feel as you draw on every last ounce of yourself, mind and body together, during a challenging run. Lots of us have felt it, and it’s incomparable. It’s true we experience great benefits from this kind of exercise, powerful endorphins released into the blood stream, surging into the brain to create that exhilarating state the runners high. And the benefits don’t stop there. We all feel better, work better, and have more energy by exerting positive changes, keeping active and eating healthy food. It keeps us driven, disciplined, and most importantly, happy.
Though having good habits in order to lead a healthy life are important, attaching yourself to body image or your weekly gym routine can be truly unwholesome. Think to yourself; how much anxiety or angst do you experience if a deadline gets in the way of that much anticipated workout. Does it impact your inner peace? And if so, how can that be healthy?
Keeping a high level of fitness is hard, and keeping enthusiastic when you notice a change or deterioration is even harder. Do we start to panic? Imagine ourselves ballooning out, and suddenly find ourselves headfirst into a family sized packet of crisps.
It saddens me to admit but on more than one occasion in my life I have fell into this trap. Looking in the mirror after eating half a bar of chocolate and projecting insane visions of myself, letting my thoughts run me into some very dark corners. Just how far can you go when you feel that all is lost? Open that Pandora’s Box, and the battle my friend is lost.
Let’s take it to the base level – the pain of impermanence; of losing the things that we hold dear. This could be a job, a house, a relationship, a routine, or that body you worked so hard for. Change is painful, leaving us vulnerable to anxiety and fear. So what does that perpetuate? That self-pity-cycle we sometimes find ourselves looping round.
Mr John Keats, the father of romantic poetry and an expert at all things fleeting; taught us how to appreciate that which exists now, that the basic truth of nature is change and that to be free from pain we must roll with it.
“And joy, whose hand is ever at his lips, bidding adieu; and aching pleasure nigh”
Let’s put that in a fitness platform. At the top of the scale, training for a specific event occupies most aspects of your life; vigorous physical training and rigorous mental willpower – a huge stress is placed on mind and body. As well, constant training adds direction, structure and excitement to one’s life.
So what happens when your body suddenly changes? You put on weight, lose weight, muscle tone, or even that you have a child and your body is turned upside down. Suddenly things aren’t the same anymore and you feel unable to change it. Or maybe you just don’t have the time to devote yourself to training anymore and those early morning runs are getting ever more painstaking. Whatever it is, intense highs often call for intense lows, such is the law of nature.
But can this rollercoaster be prevented? To a certain extent I believe the answer is yes, and all it takes is a slight shift in ones mind-set. Here are some strategic and tangible ways to beat those post-training blues:
Avoid going for absolute extremes
When you are in the middle of a period of hard training, ensure you schedule down time and a healthy balance between working hard and recuperating. See friends, loved ones, learn to enjoy rest and appreciate the variety. Likewise, when life isn’t such that you are training or able to make it the gym, avoid giving everything up. Steal that brisk walk to the station, or taking the stairs instead of the lift. Get outside and be as active as you can, rather than resigning yourself to sedation. A little goes a long way to keeping those endorphins flowing and returning the dial to neutral.
Set future goals
Though you aren’t active right now, some forward thinking can give you drive and help you ride through that time. From running next year’s marathon, or climbing your own Everest – find something that excites you and plan for it.
Take time to review your physical successes, and start to plan how you could improve this in the future. How can you train better, how can you lead a better life? Let your mind do the hard work, whilst your body rests.
And finally, celebrate!
If you are taking a break for whatever reason, then give yourself a pat on the back, because for however long it was you trained, and I hope you trained hard. Discipline isn’t easy, but you did it. One who has fallen off the horse can smile, because the horse is still there when you are ready to jump back on.
We are aware that our emotions; happiness, joy, pain, are all fleeting experiences. By really acknowledging this fact we can look at our thought patterns and see beyond the now to cultivate better long-term behaviours – “I’m not at my best now, but what can I do to make tomorrow better?”
Knowing that what is true today, may not be true tomorrow, and that we have real power to exert change to our path if needed, can we not be issued some assurances? Yes, we can, and we want to start now. I believe that in exercising this truth, when you next find yourself in uncertain times, you can relax and start to regain the control you thought that you had lost
So in very simple terms, don’t be so hard on yourself! Learn to enjoy the now whatever it may be, but don’t forget to keep those riding boots to hand, because the horse is waiting for you and its only round the next corner.