Thursday, March 24, 2011

The writing on The Wall

Pedaling through the foothills near Hanging Rock State Park, my buddy Mo and I began discussing the propensity people have to bail on exercise, may I say, before it kicks in. Upon realization that we were a few hours out with a few more to get back, we began to quietly question our own resolve, hence the discussion. Neither one of us tends to make much sense, but on this particular day we managed to channel our inner Lance/Buddha/Jesus (wait, that’s who Lance thinks he is!) and come up with some interesting commentary.

Main points included:

>Intensity forces us to make a choice, a commitment. Present day society is not all too inclined toward such things. There in lies the possibility of pain and anguish.

>The spoils of exercise are quite charming, yet the price can often place folks outside their comfort budget. Know someone who quit making payments on a car they just had to have? Ever  cut a 50-minute workout short because you convinced yourself you’d done enough? Us too.

>What about “Hitting the Wall”?: How many folks really know what they’re talking about when they’re talking about it? Our guess is they’re just guessing.

>“Where can we find a good porchetta panini around here?”
(blood sugar dropped and we got a little distracted)

What’s obvious: Intensity is relative. One man’s marathon is another man’s 5k. Strength is for the choosing, a gift of engaging life’s struggles. Not so much an award, for often awards go to the victor. In this context the gift is divine, to be valued and utilized throughout life’s endless challenges. Case in point is our fitness. We use it to do many things, from treating depression to improving memory, with the power to cure a host of problems while preventing even more.

If you believe fact is not reality, and that perception serves as truth, then exercise should be your ally. Exercise at vigorous levels increase the release of geeky stuff like neurotransmitters and endorphins. These little gems affect the reward centers of the brain that mimic those of highly addictive drugs like morphine. The problem for most folks is this process doesn’t really kick into your workout until you’re at the 30-minute mark. Unfortunately this lag time creates a sad reality: The discomfort of exercise is more immediately felt than its benefits. This creates a lapse in time between the pain and pleasure elements of exercise, sadly disappointing our need for immediate gratification.

“The Bottom Line”: The Wall (sorry Pink Floyd, no royalties here) is a sacred place where much can be learned. Great counsel can be found in the writings found on The Wall. Guidance you can’t read anywhere else. It’s kind of a Lord of the Rings thing, just a sweatier Gandalph clenching a kettle bell. Which brings to mind a quote by our Celtic little buddy: “Death is just another path, one that we all must take. The grey rain-curtain of this world rolls back, and all turns to silver glass, and then you see it.” Alright, a bit heavy on the imagery, but evidence that even J.R. Tolkien can relate to sort of privileged education exclusive to those who push beyond the limits our egos and society place upon us.

“What a caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls a butterfly.”

-Richard Bach

Often our lives, like exercise, pose opportunity disguised as hard work. We should keep in mind not to fear the reaper. Just keep pushing ourselves close enough to The Wall that we can read the fine print. And maybe, if we squint a enough, we’ll see the panini on the other side.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

THE Baxter Blog

Hear that noise? Sound familiar? It should. It's the sound of all those New Year's resolutions coming to a screeching halt. Kind of a post-Valentine's, pre-Tax Day annual occurrence, often falling on the day after St. Paddy's. All that collective ambition, no cumulative results. Why the heck can't we learn from our mistakes? Come on someone! Give a better way! Enter Baxter.

Even if you read my last blog," Each Day A Lifetime", you will hopefully allow me the opportunity to draw-off one more experience from our snowboard trip last February. 

The details:

It was zero degrees at the base of the mountain on a Monday morning. Lift lines were anemic with weekend vacationers gone, students in school, and most retirees hibernating from the stinging cold. Most I say, but not Baxter.

My buds and I were waiting for the high speed quad chair lift to take us up to the top of Big Burn run when an elderly, spry gent jumped into line and joined us for the ride. He was a tall, lean skier with modest equipment. He was wearing a combination of ol' school helmet, googles and bandana covering the remainder of his face like back in the wild west. We could faintly determine through his yellow lens that he had that old, weathered look to his skin. But his eyes, even through the fogged goggles, spoke of passionate youth and engaged interest.

"Where you from?" we asked. Odessa Texas, he replied in a deep, gravelly voice. "Been here since '75." We felt pretty safe in our assumption that Baxter was beyond retirement age, but hesitant to assume any more than that about this man. We continued our attentive inquiry. Baxter told us of how he was an oil rig repairman who started "his own deal" and now lives "a mile down the mountain". We were all taken back by the genuine nature of his demeanor, and held on to each word. After I finally mustered the courage to ask how old he was, he proudly admitted he was 77. I just had to ask what his secret was. "Well, if it's not too cold, I ski a little everyday." My first thought was, dang, it's zero freakin' degrees! Along with that it's ten in the morning and he's already got at least five runs under his belt on a very big mountain. Personally, I felt feebly boyish next to this man's man.

Baxt (get it?) to the moral of this story. The promise of fitness is an empty one for those who habitually fluctuate from trendy to apathy. Ownership of one's health and wellness is achieved through courageously treading the lines of fatigue and frivolity, weakness and regeneration, oblivion and awareness. The secret lie not in the"latest and greatest", but finding what you love to do and "earning that shower everyday". Those words are scripture at our Positive Stress Workout. 

Bottom line: Our blessings are our renewal. If we live through our blessings, we are renewed. If we live through obligation, we simply burn out. Baxter set the example by side stepping the trendy and abiding in the authentic.

"Consistency is the foundation of virtue."
                         -Francis Bacon

Moral character in today's world is a hard find. What better place is there for us to take example than an old timer with the courage and consistency to be steady when everything shakes?  A little everyday can take you a long way.