Balance. In all things, but especially exercise.

Ahhh, "balance."  It means different things to different people, but most of you would probably say you're continually striving to achieve it, right?  That its state is an ever-elusive destination?  It is for me. I know it when I feel it, but I don't feel as regularly as I'd like.

I've been thinking about balance this week 'cause it's been a crazy week for me, and yesterday I woke up feeling overwhelmed.  When I'm feeling like that, I try my best to tune in and listen to what I might need to perk me up and chill me out, and yesterday it was to skip working out in the gym and to enjoy the great weather a little bit instead.  So I decided to work in the yard for a while after I did the camp drop-off.

Now, this was not easy for me.  Know this about me, I can get a little bit compulsive about things - you may have guessed this just reading the few entries I've posted already.  I'm regimented, dedicated and driven in most things I take on - exercise being one of my biggies.  And when I say "exercise," I don't mean a stroll around the block, I mean a heart-pumping, muscle-engaging, sweat-producing ass-kicking workout.  But in the last few months I've finally learned that balance in matters related to exercise can be better for me, overall, than killing it every day.

I got here the hard way - again.  I've had a series of relatively minor over-use injuries over the years, but since January, I have been dealing with a stubborn case of plantar fasciitis in my left foot, and until recently, I was unable to do any exercise at all that involved my feet.  I had to quit going to my fabulous trainer, who I'd been seeing twice a week.  The arm bike (yawn) was my friend, and even my daily activities had to be very circumscribed.  I was panicked.  I was sure that this would lead me to balloon to proportions I'd never before witnessed.  And you know what?  It didn't.  I did gain a little weight, and I did spread out a bit from lack of weight training, but I could still wear my clothes . . . albeit with a few extra handles in places they hadn't been. 

And after doing some soul-searching, what I finally have admitted to myself is that my compulsive exercise ways, although commendable, routinely get me in trouble, and that really what I was doing was abusing my body instead of improving it.  So, in honor of turning 40 recently, I've made a resolution.  To take it easier on myself.  To take better care not to pound on my body every single day - each week to incorporate one day of yoga, at least one day of water exercise (have you tried aqua jogging?  It's a killer workout and zero impact), a little more biking, a little less running.  So I'll still watch the weight and not allow myself to gain, as I have for the last 18 years, but I'm going to try to stop worrying about the exercise component so much and instead, learn from the experience and move forward in a more gentle way.

I've read it before, and I'm reminded of it here again - Pema Chodron has said:

"People get into a heavy-duty sin and guilt trip, feeling that if things are going wrong, that means that they did something bad and they are being punished. That's not the idea at all . . . you continually get the teachings that you need to open your heart. To the degree that you didn't understand in the past how to stop protecting your soft spot, how to stop armoring your heart, you're given this gift of teachings in the form of your life, to give you everything you need to open further."

Think about it - what freaks you out, what's going on in your life, and what can it teach you for the future?  Maybe you need to be gentler with yourself, too.