The fittest I’ve ever been in my life was when I got divorced. My physical transformation actually started before the break up. I guess I knew a change was coming, and I subconsciously tried to get ahead of the pain and stress that was right around the corner.
My mom had given me an old treadmill a couple of years before, and I decided it was time to run — well, walk at first, and then eventually run, like I really could leave it all behind if I just ran hard enough.
I’m sure all those endorphins helped. They’re a great substitute for anti-depressants. But what I was really after wasn’t pain killers, it was transformation. After two kids, my body had grown unfamiliar to me. I felt like I had lost control over so many things, but just maybe, I could get a handle on this one.
If I could physically be who I wanted, I reasoned, perhaps the rest of me would follow…and so it did.
I started out slowly – just walking the treadmill for 30 minutes after the kids went to bed. Then it was 45 minutes; then an hour. Before I knew it, I was walking and running for 90 minutes and trying to see if I could push it to two hours.
I did the treadmill workout three to four nights a week, and calisthenics or yoga on the alternating days. I was obsessed and extremely focused. I put one foot in front of the other – get the kids dressed, go to work, pick them up again, make dinner…just keep going.
I looked forward to the moment I could step on the treadmill again, and pound all my frustrations out on the revolving belt.
Exercise as a Catalyst
It wasn’t the first time I’d used exercise to focus my mind, and calm my nerves. When I was in high school I made it to state in feature writing (yes, they actually have state level competitions in journalism, just like in sports). We spent the night before at a motel, and I woke up the next morning a bundle of nerves.
I didn’t know what to do with all the excess energy my brain was producing. I felt sure I was going to crash and burn, because I was too anxious to concentrate. How could I siphon off some of this electricity and compress the rest into contained, consistent flow?
Fortunately, I’d brought a bathing suit, and the motel had a pool. I swam laps in a peanut shaped pond constructed for lounging. I couldn’t go far without turning around, but I didn’t care. I just kept swimming and swimming and swimming, until I couldn’t anymore.
And, yes, I won – both times.
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