by Sarah Prowitt
As I’m spinning along with the other ten participants in an afternoon spinning class at the Student Rec, my mind begins to wander. It’s a fault of mine, the unintended meditation. I think a lot about my happiness, my health, my goals, and my state of mind. So as we’re all spinning I begin to think: Why am I doing this? I’m here sitting on an imaginary bike, okay the bike is stationary, but the “hills” are imaginary. I’m thinking about what got me to bike to the gym, to stay in a room for an hour sweating and pedaling. The instructor yells out “Increase Your Resistance!” And then it hits me; this is why I’m here.
I typically run by myself when I need cardio. I don’t like struggling around others. I’m self-conscious about my cardio, “Am I pushing myself hard enough? Will other people notice if I skip an interval hit?” Don’t get me wrong, I consider myself in good physical shape. I workout to feel the endorphins, I push myself to achieve new goals. This past fall, I ran 13.1 miles in my first half marathon. It’s important to do these things. To find new goals, to seek out, to find the edge of discomfort: to increase our resistance. Routine is the banality of life. We walk the same way to class everyday, we eat the same foods, and we do the same things. It’s time to take charge, time to make a conscious decision to break out of routine. In yoga poses, the body often tries to go in the direction of least resistance. It is far easier to slouch than to sit up straight in good posture. So, instead, one must be mindful of his/her body and find the dynamic energy in the tension of the pose. Consider what it would be like to apply that mindfulness to our everyday actions.
There is a lot of tension at William & Mary. There always seems to be just slightly too much to do and not enough time for sleep and socializing. So we talk about it. And boy do we talk about it. It’s even stressful when we don’t have work; we’re convincing others around us that we’re working hard too, under mutual shared stress. So here is my challenge to you: when thoughts of stress arise, don’t vocalize them. Write it down, and then write down what you are going to do about it. Seriously, jotting down your goals makes them more concrete and, in turn, more likely you will achieve them. I’m not saying don’t go talk to someone if you’re concerned. Trust me. Sometimes we need to vent or seek out help, and that is OK. But sometimes we settle into a banal routine of voicing our tension. We say we are stressed and then we get more stressed. It is a self-perpetuating cycle. But you have the key to break free.
It’s always difficult to work out in the winter, there are so many convenient excuses—it’s too cold to bike to the Rec, I have too much work and, my personal favorite, I’ll just work out over break. But ask yourself, is it worth it? Is the hour you spend studying instead of taking a break and enjoying a workout really going to make or break your semester? If your answer is yes, consider this, in ten years would you rather say I fell in love with a healthy lifestyle and began the best commitment to myself, or I got straight As? Your actions determine your priorities, if you put your health and well being first, other things will fall into place. And it’s scary to try something new, or to choose to be a beginner in a fitness class. But it’s important to consider that every participant, every teacher and every expert was once a beginner too.
Increase the resistance in your reasoning. Ask yourself, for what end am I choosing this option. Does it make me feel good about myself? Do I feel more productive? Does it give me peace of mind? If your workout isn’t doing these things than you should increase your resistance to the reasons that have brought you to your workout. Let go of feelings of obligation, you should only do what you decide to do, not feel compelled to do. And focus on what really matters. Nobody will remember (or care) what you looked like when you’re 50; they’ll recall the things you did.
So I leave you with these thoughts, choose the path of internal resistance. Step outside your comfort zone for the sake of dropping routine. We are young, decisive, and no one is going to tell us: you cannot. You determine your actions, your motivation, and ultimately your lifestyle. Pick something that is hard for you, for the sake of trying it. New experiences can only improve you, you learn from every single one. Don’t let the hard things in life feel like they are too much to handle. Instead, choose your hard: being stressed out is hard and trying something new is hard, but I guarantee on is more rewarding than the other.