It seems counterintuitive that lifting heavy things recreationally would help me manage the metaphorical heaviness of life, but it can be highly effective. Since life is full of heavy burdens, strength training has become a metaphor for the way I approach my problems.
I pick up the load, raise it, set it down when it becomes too heavy, then I approach it again with determination. Sometimes the burden is awkwardly shaped, or it shifts unexpectedly. I use these opportunities to build my core strength. I adjust my posture and stand tall. I check my footing to ensure a strong foundation. I inhale the fresh air to prepare myself. I do these things to become strong, so I can take care of myself.
One of the most important aspects of strength training is keeping your core tight and finding your balance. After dedicating so much time to my exercise routine, I’ve learned that finding this type of balance isn’t just a physical skill set. For me, exercising is about helping balance the energy in my life. Stress can come from too much “input,” so I’ve worked to find a corresponding “output.” Think of a covered pot that boils over from intense heat below. Removing the lid allows the pressure to escape. Strength training provides me with an outlet for that build-up of nervous energy, and it allows me to regain my balance.
What happened before doesn’t matter as much when I am counting reps in the squat rack or watching the miles whiz by on the treadmill. Exercising requires my time and my attention. It allows me to divert my attention away from my worries and the past. It helps me concentrate on future growth opportunities. If I did this many reps today, how many could I do tomorrow? If I take care of myself today, what will my future hold?
This type of exercise also forces me to take time for myself, another important component of self-care. My time exercising is time devoted just for me, and it requires me to focus on my goals. Investing time in myself has become a way I recognize and acknowledge my own value. The rest of the hours of my day revolve around kids, clients, bosses, my family, and other people’s expectations, but, as with self-care, this one small thing is for me.
Not only does strength training allow me to focus on myself and let go of my worries, but it also gets me moving. When I don’t move, I get stuck. Movement is important because it can be so medicinal. It’s good for the heart and reminds me that I am still alive. It gets the blood pumping, the heart racing, and the endorphins flowing. It’s hard for me to get stuck in the past when my feet are grounded in the present and my gaze is on the future. The same is true for exercise. It’s about showing up today and building on what I’ve done in the past to make way for a better, healthier future. I keep moving, and I find that I keep moving forward.
The relaxation and stretch component at the end of a big workout helps take my mind off of tomorrow’s worries. This is my emancipation from the glorification of busy. There is a great deal of power and liberty in surrendering to the peace of just existing. There is a different kind of strength in giving myself permission to just breathe. It can be a bit unsettling, but rest is part of the program.
This is why exercising — and strength training in particular — functions as a form of self-care for me. It prepares me mentally and physically for life’s heavy loads and long journeys. It allows me to approach problems with determination and clarity. It gives me the chance to regain my balance, to stand tall, and to build a solid foundation. I deserve to take the time to invest in myself, and I’m doing what I can to become strong: both mentally and physically.
Our 5th Annual Run For It 5k is happening April 15! Sign up for the local race (Satellite Beach, FL) or as a virtual runner. What will you run for?