Tuesday, March 13, 2012

One of the Keys to Happiness

Exercise. That's right I said it. Exercise. I did it again; one more time now: Exercise. I'm sure this is not what you expected but you are not surprised either. I'm not going to preach to you on the obvious health benefits; you are already aware. I'm not going to attempt to guilt you into feeling like you should go out and exercise. No. There will be none of that. One of the great things about being an individual human being is choice and we all have it. I'm just going to share my recent experiences since I began my own exercise program. If it inspires you to start your own exercise regime, I will not be offended.

So the first thing you should know is that I am a smoker; 16 years officially. When I was young, I was a very athletic person in that I loved participating in all sports and even enjoyed exercise. I had no idea how exercise benefited me beyond the physical. The second thing you should know about me is that outside of my addiction, I have weighed a consistent 135lbs, give or take 5lbs (usually take), since I was 15 years old. I have an extremely high metabolism and regardless of diet or smoking it is very difficult for me to hold weight (although I am sure this will not last forever).

Fast forward 16 years to 2012 and I am now 31. I haven't exercised in over a decade. Recently I began to realize that despite all the positives of following a strictly logical, rational and analytical left-brain ideology that it did not provide a moral or personal balance. There were many occasions where I came across as "cold" and soon I even began noticing it myself. You see, I have always been a hyper-emotional individual (doubly so since my experience as an addict) and that I was interpreted the way I was made me question why. The why has made me realize that my left-brain thinking was only one half to a whole. So armed with this knowledge I have begun exercising the use of my right-brain, creative and spiritual to help establish a balance I lack. The reason I am sharing this is twofold: the first is that it leads to why I resumed exercising and the second is that I will be sharing this journey and self-discovery in later posts.

It started two weeks ago when my body was aching. I decided to stretch my sore limbs. I'm not sure why they were sore because they weren't getting much work. As I was standing there in my room I had a brief moment of panic: how do I stretch? Sounds silly I know but for a moment, I couldn't remember. Then it came back to me and I just want to thank my physical education teachers from elementary: George Doucette and Fernand Comeau. All those exercises were permanently engraved into my brain and I thank you. So, I started doing some stretches and when I was done I had managed to touch my toes without bending my knees (go try it, right now! Not so easy if you don't exercise.). 

This one moment turned into another small session of stretching exercises before bed. Then again first thing the next morning. It has now culminated into a twice to three time daily routine of stretching exercises. It gets better. Newly inspired I wanted to do more than stretching exercises. Being a smoker I wanted to do something that is going to really work my lungs and give me some solid motivation to finally quit (please no preaching. Quitting smoking is an individual affair and the individual alone can decide when the time is right. My time is near.). I decided to run. So this past Friday, as I crawled into my bed I made myself a promise that I would get up first thing the next morning and go for a jog (after my morning stretching exercises).

I ran just over 1.2km Saturday morning at 9:30am when I awoke. I had to walk the last leg of it; my lungs felt like they were collapsing. Two things happened after I got home: one is that despite being completely physically exhausted I do not remember a time when I was so self-aware of each and every part of my body, from the aches and pains, and the second is that I didn't smoke until just after twelve (a huge accomplishment for someone who less than a week ago had a cigarette as soon as I woke up.). This morning I got up at 6:30am, did my stretching exercises and ran it again. Oh, and for the record, yeah, I took a shower after. Not going to get into my exercise plan but needless to say it is going to continue to evolve.

So now that you know where I am coming from with exercising, I want to share with you the changes I'm going through since I began. Let us start with some of the physical effects. I still cannot touch my toes the first time I try, even after stretching my body, but I am a lot closer than I was before. My muscles are no longer stiff or sore. I feel more rested when I wake up in the morning. I have a better appetite AND an appetite for healthy foods. My lung capacity has not changed any but my breathing has become more regulated. As you can see the physical is progressing a slow pace but progress is progress and it can only improve.

Let's talk about the mental/emotional/spiritual side of it now. I am happier; I mean really and not just that fake happy we all put out there. I mean I am much happier with who I am regardless of my failures or shortcomings. My emotions have become much easier to process and understand. I am much less quick to anger or frustration. I am more consistently aware of myself and my thoughts. There is a new found sense of balance to my life never previously felt. My ability to think clearly has improved as well as a growing sense of motivation towards accomplishing tasks.

So that is my testimony on exercising, so to speak. They told me when I was a child, pre-teen and teenager how important exercise was and I did not heed their words. This is why I have not tried to persuade or convince you to exercise. I have provided you with an example of someone who is obviously out of shape (despite my small stature), who has not exercised in years and has an unhealthy and deadly habit who started small and is working his way back up. I have also shared with you the changes in my person since I began and they only continue to improve as I continue to exercise.

I will take this last moment to encourage you to consider taking up exercising yourself. It takes little or no time as it can be as little as stretching exercises or you can go further if you wish. How you approach it is up to you but the benefits I have been and continue experiencing are beyond measure. You will find immediately that the focus of just doing simple stretching exercises will help clear your mind of stress and worry. When you're done, those things haven't changed but your body and mind are both ready to handle it. So again, the choice is entirely up to you and the best part is you are never too young or old to start and its free. You can do it in your own home. You can do it in your own room. You can do it. You can. Exercise.