The less I do something, the less I miss it.
Paddling out for a surf on a winter’s day. The water is dark blue and cold. I’m warm in my car sipping some coffee. I fight the urge to drive away. Only after the first duck dive and feeling the salt water hit my face do I miss the feeling of being in the water
Waking up early for a morning run. The first few minutes out in the wild are the hardest. I’m talking myself into turning around and heading home. Then something magical happens after the first mile. I started to look forward and forget about what’s behind me. My body loosens up and I start to smell the morning.
Yoga first thing in the morning. I’d rather be sleeping or getting a jump start on the day. My body resists the first stretch and the inner dialogue comes up with reasons why I should rather cut it short, shower and check my phone. Only after the first three stretches do I get into the groove and am grateful that I overcame the initial inertia.
Leaving my phone at home when I go for a hike. Initially I have phantom phone syndrome. Even though I don’t have my phone I can still feel it vibrating in my pocket. Only once I’m far away from the roads and deep in the trails do I disconnect and am reminded of how good it feels to be free from the likes, hearts, pings, retweets and favorites.
The ego is crafty and will seduce you into the path of least resistance. Feelings fade the longer you are away from something. Overcome the inertia and all resistance crumbles.
A couple of years back I was running every morning. I had a set route through San Francisco with a loop through the Presidio and a final climb up the Lyon Street stairs. The stairs connect Green Street to Broadway and are steep and tough on knees. After each run I’d get intermittent knee pain, and over time it got worse and worse. It eventually got to the point where my knee would swell and tighten up after every run. In spite of the discomfort I loved the endorphin kick of the run so I kept doing it anyway. It finally got to the point where I decided to see an doctor. It turned out to be a very quick appointment. Here’s how the conversation went:
Me: My knee hurts.
Doc: When does it hurt?
Me: After I run.
Doc: Where do you run?
Me: Through the Presidio and up some steep stairs.
Doc: Hmmm, does your job require you to run?
Me: No, I do it for my own enjoyment.
Doc: Okay, your knee is fixed. Here’s the deal…stop running up stairs and do some other type of exercise like yoga, or swimming. Your knee will be as good as gold.
Doc: Anything else?
My knee has been fine ever since. In today’s age of elective surgery, I’m constantly talking to people who are having shoulder operations, hip surgeries or knee surgeries because they refuse to stop a sport they love even though it’s grinding down their body.
Be flexible and kind to your body. You only get one per lifetime. There are lots of gentler ways to stay fit.
I love it when practices like Yoga, Aikido, Kung-fu, surfing, running, writing are described as nobel pursuits. It implies that the nobelness is not about achieving mastery, but more so achieved through the persuit of mastery. The answer is in the dirt of the day to day practice.