What’s the best way to begin a new exercise routine? That’s a question on many minds as the lazy, sun-tanned summer cools into crisp fall days. As nature begins to tuck herself in for a wintery rest, I feel like I’m waking up; imagining possibilities and making plans. Fall has always been like this for me, bringing a surge of zest to infuse me with can-do spirit and inspiration. I dust off notepads; the quadrille ones are my favorite. Their grids of uniform squares help my whirlwind of ideas fly in formation as I outline topics and sub-topics. I love to plan. I especially love to craft new exercise plans. I’ve filled pages with charts and timelines detailing new regimen; months broken down into weeks, weeks broken down into days, days broken down into hours.
Unfortunately, I’ve often loved the planning more than the exercising. My schedules looked stellar on paper, but follow-through in the gym wasn’t nearly as pretty. I might have stuck to my schedule for a week or two, but then it all got too much; too much effort, too much list-checking, too much expectation. I would let my routine slide — workout by workout — until I gave up; my spirit slumped at the base of this mountainous goal I had built for myself. My mind became littered with guilt, disappointment, and resentment, like the oxygen containers scattered along abandoned routes to the top of Mount Everest. All my hopes for reaching my peak, perching at the top of my self-esteem, and admiring the vast landscape of my accomplishments, they would dissolve, sometimes into tears, like clouds that hit Everest and have no choice but to weep at its towering wall. I would never bag that peak.
With my history of stopping all that I’ve started, I’m more than a little curious about Osho’s admonishment to begin – anywhere – but just begin. He describes growth like a bicycle wheel, with its array of spokes poking out from the center and connecting at various points along the rim. Any of these points are a valid place to start because they all lead to the center. So, any point is guaranteed to reach the goal. In Osho’s world, it’s the starting that’s most important, more than the goal, even more than how I get to the goal. That’s great news for me! I’m a professional starter!
But how can this work? Just starting – just moving – doesn’t seem like enough. After all, I’ve given a lot of exercise routines a lot of effort. I’ve collected all the smart ideas from the best magazines, poured over best-selling books, consulted with Certified Personal Trainers and college professors, and combined all that information with results from the latest health research. Then, I mustered as much mind muscle as I could to power these plans into action. I was like an Irish farmer whipping a bullock through rocky clods to plant a row of blighted potatoes. It still wasn’t enough.
It’s obvious to me that I have trouble sticking with a program, but forsaking all my best ideas for Osho’s bicycle wheel? That seems impossible.
My plans may have resembled the lock-step march of a precise military procession, but I missed the whole parade. I never gave myself a chance to discover one, crucial lesson: I can trust my body. I was so busy pushing that I overlooked my body’s quiet, humble reaction to movement. This time, I’ve stuck with my 100 Pounds In 1 Year commitment long enough to notice that, when my body meets a challenge, it responds with strength to do more. Muscles start to urge, lets go harder. Lungs whisper, lets do one more. My heart teases, lets go faster. When I let go and trust my body to respond, it always asks for more. Maybe that’s what Osho means when he insists that any point on the wheel can reach the goal.
As far as structure and control, I’m learning why less is more. In my last post, “What’s the Best Exercise?” I came to the conclusion that the best exercise is the one I’ll keep doing. It may not be the one that burns the most calories or meets expert guidelines, but it’s the one that keeps me asking for more, too. When I allow myself to start from anywhere, I always finish feeling strong and new. Permission to simply move always ends me on a high. I bagged that peak after all.
Today, I want to discover this new world of fitness without a map or GPS, without tracking the exact coordinates of where I am on the cardio cartograph . I want to ditch the notepads and spend time with my body. I want to honor its pleas for rest. I want to feel its pent-up craving for another challenge. I want to let go and feel it stride out like an unbridled horse sprinting for freedom. To be this linked with my body, I need to let my workouts evolve as I evolve. No more charts and graphs. I don’t want to miss out on another moment of bliss, unknowing and discovering all at once, starting from anywhere and knowing exactly where I’m headed.