Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Exercise, another four-letter word that isn't!

In the past year I’ve had a lot to celebrate. More of my dreams have come true in the short span of twelve months than I’ve ever thought possible. You would think I would be relaxed, right? After all, I’m doing what I love best in the world—writing—and making a living at it for once. And, trust me, most mornings when I wake up, I am in heaven, thinking of the day ahead. Even when the plot isn’t working or the character won’t be manhandled into whatever slot I want him to fit into, whatever the challenges are, they’re all food for my soul. I love the knots, I really do. So I’m definitely where I need to be, and it’s a great feeling. It’s aces, but guess what? It’s still stressful. Personally, I don’t think stress knows the difference between good news/bad news, or to be more accurate, I don’t think the human body knows the difference. It responds to changes in the status quo, good or bad, with the same uptight reaction. Stepping into new circumstances, even when they are desired, increases the pressure, regardless of the circumstances.

I prop my Kindle on the center column and read or listen to music when I ride.
It was when I had a couple of teenagers running around, while working a full-time office job, that I realized I need some tools to deal with the stress, so I bought a bike and started riding it every day after work around the neighborhood. Sometimes my kids would ride, too, but it didn’t matter. I would go, regardless, except in rainy and/or cold weather. But then when we’d get a spell of bad weather, and days would go by, and I couldn’t ride, I began to notice how my mood would fall. So I bought a stationary bike. At my sons’ urging, I added a free weight workout, too. And I meditate. When I worked outside jobs, I’d come home, walk in the backdoor, hand held up traffic cop style, and say one thing: “Give me forty-five minutes, please,” and I’d disappear to do my exercise routine and my quiet mental decompressing. The habit took; I’ve maintained it for years, and last week I was reminded just how vital it is to me.

Here I am, days away from seeing a dream I’ve held for years come full circle, and I’m ecstatic, but I’m also apprehensive. I think it’s only natural. It’s been so long in the making and so many have worked so hard now, not just me, but an entire team of publishing professionals to whom and for whom I am indebted beyond measure. So, yeah, I’m a tish nervous. Riding my stationary bike is one way I deal with those feelings, but imagine my distress when I got on it last week and it had no resistance. I rode it anyway. Of course I couldn’t do it again and began a search to find someone who could repair it. Meanwhile, amazingly, without the antidote of exercise, my mind, which was already more than ordinarily stressed, wasted no time seizing the opportunity to begin producing every single nightmarish scenario it could come up with.

As the week without the bike progressed, I got more snappish and teary and anxious. I shared my anxiety with friends and that’s something I strive never to do. It’s just not my usual demeanor. I wondered at myself, and it did cross my brain that maybe it was the lack of exercise, even though I continued the free weight workouts and meditation. But it didn’t really come home to me just how much of an impact riding the bike makes on my life until the use of it was restored. Getting back on it again after a six-day hiatus made a night and day difference in my anxiety level. Within the space of one forty-five minute, push it to the limit ride I was back to feeling my old optimism. It’s weird how quickly it was restored.

Now I look back on the years since I started doing this, and I can’t say how it happened, that this strong habit of regular exercise, in particular aerobic exercise, where heart and breathing rates are elevated, became a priority, but I’m glad for it nonetheless. I still suffer from a certain amount of anxiety. I’m still apprehensive about EVIDENCE OF LIFE and its national debut on Tuesday. But the quality of the apprehension since I’ve had access to my daily bike ride is much different. It’s not detrimental, if that makes sense. It’s more positive and upbeat. My sense of the difference is so strong that if I hadn’t been getting regular aerobic exercise before, I certainly would be now. Whether it’s good stress or bad stress, I think exercise is what a body needs, maybe even craves, and I know it does a mind, at least my mind, so much good. I recommend it!

No comments:

Post a Comment