After stashing my purse in the corner of the indoor playground, I jump on the wide blue trampoline, rising higher and higher. The stress of the week leaves my upper back and neck regions. A bolt of freedom shoots from my entrails to the top of my head. I relish the sheer physicality of the moment, without a care in the world.
I have no idea where my kid is. I eventually find him heading down the steep curving slide, head first, with no thought toward the future. I guess we have both been “living in the moment.”
Normally I believe that living in the moment is a bullshit idea embraced by irresponsible people. I am concerned about the future, carefully planning for everything to go horribly wrong. I have disability insurance, a pension plan, and investments meant to cover my son’s university tuition fifteen years from now. In my experience, people who only do what makes them happy soon end up working at crappy jobs that cause them a lifetime of misery. They do not want to think too far ahead, in case their future involves nothing but a garbage bag full of dirty laundry. Actually living life to the fullest includes doing things we don’t want to do, while considering how best to help others and ourselves for decades to come.
All the same, we should live in the moment while at the gym. Training should happen in the here and now, with a focus on physical experience. This presence does not mean that we are not charting out goals, or trying to lift heavier each session. It means paying full attention to the activity and sensations of the present, without thinking about the past or future. Yoga anyone? In that sense, we are not working out in order to become something else but in order to more fully appreciate what we have now. We are not asking “when will I be massive and muscular, unlike my current self?” This kind of future thinking is not my problem, however. I tend to dwell on the past, remembering the body I used to have, the amount of weight I used to bench and squat. I have begun doing back squats again with Dr. Ironcore, methodically increasing the weight each week, but still nothing like what I did in the past. This weekend we worked back, doing six sets of 4-5 pull ups. Sounds good? Not in contrast to the ten sets of 7-10 reps during the good old days of lift and bitch. Yet it does me no good to recall the past since I in fact have a different body now; it is still quite strong, able to do many push ups and burpees, but it is older and burdened with injuries, the details of which are not worth discussing.
Perhaps even those who hate working out might enjoy the gym more if they embraced their physical sensations instead of imagining their workout as a price tag for something else, past or future. I recently read an article that claimed working out was indeed unpleasant for people who are incredibly unfit, in far worse shape than they might have imagined. For many people getting into half decent shape takes a long time, though no one really wants to talk about that. In those cases, simply pushing through the unpleasantness until the full-on intensity of exertion becomes pleasurable or at least intriguing might be the best plan. But my realization that I should live in the moment at the gym speaks more to people like me, people who are rather fit but who used to be fitter and who will probably never be that fit again. I need to recalibrate, and embrace the fact that heading to the gym is my escape, my spa time, just for me, even when I do a group ex class. Focusing on my movements, with heart pumping and back sweating, is a thrilling form of meditation and temporary escape.