I have begun a new exercise program that includes a set of DVDs to use for home workouts. On the DVD, a very ripped instructor and several good looking people are doing exercises that, frankly,re challenging even for a person who has worked out most of her life–me. Now, I have ridden a bike over 60 miles at a time and have a routine of doing the elliptical machine at the club for over 55 minutes. And not just on the easy settings but on the hill climb setting. I also work out with the Fitlinx machines to lift weight using upper and lower body machines. So I figured I could follow the instructor pretty well and didn’t have to use the alternative methods modeled by the one woman who, frankly, looks like she hasn’t worked out a day in her life. Right? Who wants to follow the out of shape woman. That would really be a hit to my ego. I was sure that, even though I was about two decades older than any of the people in the video, I could keep up with the best of them.
Man, was I wrong. I knew I was choosing to do this because I needed to feel in shape even though I had not done a routine like this for a long time. I had moved to the Elliptical because of knee issues. The DVD workout had lots of squats and others knee and bun pounding moves in it. Weights were used in other exercises and still included bending and squatting. I didn’t want to give in and say I was out of shape by having to follow the “fat” woman. That was what I was aware I had labelled her in my mind. I was consciously being stupid. I knew my motivation for choosing to follow the athletic looking people was all ego and not based in reality of my limitations, yet I did it anyway. Competition drove me to push myself regardless of the warnings on the DVD and the fact that no one was seeing me workout. Who was I trying to impress?
How many times are we aware that the choices we are making are not in our best interest but we do them anyway? We look for something to stroke our ego rather than making the right choice for our situation and limitations. We compete against others real or imagined rather than focus on our gifts and talents. We know that overeating is going to lead to weight gain that will make us feel bad about ourselves but we binge out on sweets because we are feeling depressed. We know we need 8 hours of sleep to be at our best but we stay up late to watch a movie or read a book. We know that spending time in meditation or prayer is good for our spiritual life but we pick up the computer first thing in the morning, check Facebook and an hour is gone before we know it.
Being conscious and self aware is good and a first step to changing our behavior to move towards a happier, more fulfilled life. But we need to take the next step and make choices that will lead to self care and growth. I am dealing with the resulting sore muscles now in ways that help, such as massage and heat/ice, stretching more and most importantly, following the modified version of the exercises. I hope to be able to work up to doing it the harder way if I can. For now, I know that I am taking better care of myself and won’t hurt myself along the way. I encourage all of us to use our awareness to make good choices. This means pausing before moving from awareness to the choice, acknowledge the emotion that is driving us to choose inappropriately, and making the choice that is in our best long term interest. Not easy but each day presents us with many opportunities to practice. We will make mistakes but we can greet those as opportunities to learn and improve our ability to make a better choice next time. Above all, we need to treat ourselves with kindness and gentleness. This will increase the chances of making the appropriate choice the next time.