10 May 2003

Little Things

May 10, 2003

I’ve been getting the message all my life it seems.  The daily bombardment of fitness commercials, advise from my doctor, articles in magazine and newspapers touting the benefits of working out on some sort of schedule.  The two problems have always been, I don’t take being told what to do well and, I’ve never been a person who could keep  a consistent schedule.

In January I had a revelation.  I play in a fantasy role-playing group and once a month or so we get together and pretend that our characters are running around a fantastic Victorian England in 1870.  One day after we had finished playing and were cleaning up and putting the house back in order I realized that my character was leading a very disciplined life in the midst of the chaos of her adventures.  She got up early every morning and worked out, then after breakfast she would spend time studying a foreign language with other characters from the group. 

Now those folks who know me in real life know that I only need my fingers (and not my toes) to count the number of sunrises I have witnessed in my life time.  They also know that if I can get out the door on the third try it is a minor miracle.  So it wasn’t too surprising that I would give my alter ego some of the attributes I wished to have.  What was surprising was when I looked back over the characters I have had over the past ten years I found that they had several things in common.  The two most obvious were that they were physically fit, the other was an almost universal ability to learn new languages.  

I was already taking steps to learn the only language I have ever felt an affinity for so I decided to look more closely at how physical fitness, or lack thereof, played out in my daily life.

In the fall I had been diagnosed with one of the many conditions that can improve if the patient loses weight.  In the past few months, as a result of a friend who was considering weight loss surgery, I learned a lot about body mass index and other measures for determining the impact weight might be having on my life.  I decided not to focus on losing weight because that seemed to be something that was outside of my control.  Also I had spent many years learning to be okay with the shape I was, and really what I wanted to change was my ability to do things, not my ability to fit into certain clothes or be a certain shape.  

My goals were simple.  I wanted to be able to fold myself in half and touch the floor with the palms of my hands, in short I wanted to be more flexible.  I also wanted to be retain my ability to lift and carry my son when I felt like it, even as he grew longer and heavier, I wanted to be stronger.

I started with fifteen minutes of beginning yoga each day.  I already had a book and a mat from a previous failed attempt at this very thing.  This time something strange happened, I stuck to it.  I am now into my fifth month of yoga and still going along.  I visited my doctor for a follow-up visit to see how my condition was doing and she noticed that I had lost weight in the six months since she last saw me.  That was nicely encouraging.  What was even better was the first time I was able to lift my legs up over my head without overly relying on momentum to get them up their.

While I was waiting in the doctor’s office, I noticed that one of the brochures lying about was a very simple weight lifting program for folks who wanted to improve there strength.  It was about a third generation photocopy but I picked it up and took it home.  All the exercises in it seemed simple and straightforward and I had a set of small hand weights that Exercise Santa had brought our household a few years ago.  So, once again, I had everything I needed to get started without having to leave the house.  

I’ve stuck with that routine now for the past two months and have already noticed some benefits even at the very low weights that I am using.

Will I continue along this path?  Your guess is as good as mine.  But the benefits that I have derived from it are tangible and the motivation to start came not from someone telling me that it was the right thing to do (which I already knew) but from letting my fantasy world come to visit my daily life, instead of making it a one way trip each time.

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