essay, fitness

A Return to Fundamentals

ATB kickboxing

When you’ve been doing something for a long time, you naturally get used to it. It functions as repetition, day to day. Sometimes you switch to autopilot because it’s so familiar.

I feel that way about my workouts from time to time, which is why I make it a point to learn new moves to keep my body and mind sharp. That sharpness is a form of focus, and focus is a form of presence–of being present to what you are doing in the moment.

Just a few days ago, I caught myself on autopilot during workouts. Here’s the thing about autopilot: If you’re just going through the motions, you’ll lose the joy of the activity because you’ve lost your focus, or the quality of your attention.

I’ve started to tune into the basics again: the basics of heart beat and breath.

I notice when my heart is beating faster, and I welcome that. I can hear my heart beat when I wear my earbuds, and I appreciate that my heart is pumping. I recognize that it is my life force.

I notice my breath. I breathe in deeply and exhale fully, setting a rhythm and savoring the air as I inhale. I appreciate the air entering my lungs and supporting my muscles as they move. I recognize that the breath sustains me.

In returning my attention to my heartbeat and my breath, I start to notice other things, too. My body intelligence increases with new insights into the mechanics of a particular movement and how certain movements are naturally connected. My mind and body make new associations in the physics of movement. All of this leads to refinement of skills and, ultimately, body consciousness, which supports the way you move in the world, not just physically but also mentally.

So, if you find yourself on autopilot, a return to the appreciation of the basics might be in order: Feel you heart beat and breathe deeply. That awareness can awaken you, not just during a workout but in any given moment.

As my heart beats and I breathe deeply and rhythmically, I am conscious of my body under strain. I am holding the strain. In this way, I teach myself how to endure and practice maintaining composure under strain. I try to teach myself this power and grace, again and again. The lesson will never get old.

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