Thursday, January 28, 2021

The Body in the Mind

Exercise is always a good idea. Hunter-gatherers walked an average of 12 miles a day and human beings until recently have always exercised daily through something called “work.” Tilling the fields, weeding the garden, building the stone wall, stacking the hay, mopping the floor, pounding the grain, hammering the nail, the whole range of vigorous motions that gets the heart pumping and the muscles working and the hand growing its intelligence. 


But as civilization moved to the sedentary work in the chair, reducing the wide range of motions to pushing buttons or tapping keys, the body suffered and something called “exercise” was invented. From jogging to the gym, the whole arsenal of work motions reproduced artificially and more and more, with machines monitoring distances and calories and heart-rates so that the whole pleasure of simply moving through the forest or working in the field becomes a numbers game.


But that’s what we have to work with and I will sheepishly admit that after enjoying my daily walk through my beloved city, I check on my phone to see if it was close to the 5 miles I arbitrarily decided I need each day. I used to have something for my bike that got stolen and I never replaced it, so I’m off of the numbers alert when I decide to ride instead of walk. Still though, I have a sense of how many miles some routes are and want to make sure I fulfill some quota. 


Yesterday it rained and for perhaps the second time in 6 months, I literally never stepped foot out the door. And today at lunchtime, it is raining still. So naturally part of me thinks, “How can I survive having missed my walk or ride? I’m falling behind!” And yet, I became fully engrossed in my new jigsaw puzzle, in piano playing, in writing a new piece, in solving a Crostic puzzle and lo and behold, I felt fine. Yes, the numbers and calories burned and heart rates and muscles used do make a difference, but you can also get energy from whole immersion in a challenging and engaging task. It somehow seeps into the muscles and invigorates you as much as that vigorous walk or energetic bike ride. I don’t know the science behind it, but it feels right. At least up to a point.


Still, I’m ready to go out, rain or not.

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