I'm Almost Always Wrong About This, How About You?

I woke up groggy, sluggish, NOT in the mood to do anything except sit and maybe read Chicken Soup for the Soul. 

My mind is telling me that I super, really, definitely won’t get anything from working out. It will not help. 

The very feelings of sluggishness from a night of sleep that was a little-too-good…are the same feelings floating up to my thinking and giving me a very compelling case of why I’m just not in the mood to workout today. 

Despite all of this, I drag myself into the car…and go to the gym. Every moment I am convinced I’m wasting my time and I’ll leave the gym more depleted than I started. 

And almost every time (about 90% of the time) I’m completely, utterly, wrong. This wasn’t always the case. I used to leave the gym as a mixed bag: on the one hand, it helped me wake up, but on the other hand, it left me with lingering tensions I had to unravel out of my singing…lingering nagging pains that made it hard to get comfortable enough to fall asleep at night. 

The other 10% of the time, I’ve gathered really helpful info: for instance, when I’m on the way to getting sick, I’ll do a workout and feel..nothing. Even a little worse than before. Yet had I not pushed through, I wouldn’t have gotten the handy warning sign. 

Over the last 15 years researching movement, my workouts changed. I left feeling more open, free, energized, inspired.. I began to sense my limits, to feel the edge, without going too far. I began to sense what it was like to make working out so incredibly enjoyable, that I had to keep myself from my workouts going on too long…which wasn’t a problem for my body, just for my schedule (which sadly includes working on taxes…yes I’d rather be exploring movement for sure). 

I found this part of me, this little kid who used to jump around in his room with a song playing, following the impulse to move. That parts of me feels fully online. 

Yet when I wake up some mornings, I have forgotten all about that. It is a humbling experience to re-learn, again and again, when to move against what I feel…

your body is not tired, rather  it is not fully awake, you’ve barely moved, but fatigue and sleepiness can feel exactly the same. You are feeling the need to move, represented as resistance towards moving. 

And when to move WITH what I’m feeling…

You’re pressing weight, but it doesn’t feel right. Your feeling the first whispers of your body saying “nope, find another way to do this”. You slow down, you listen. You remember that in order  to exercise for a lifetime, you’ll need to develop a two way conversation with your body: not just what you want your body to do, but what your body has to teach you about how it is feeling as it moves. 

These two essential life skills will show up in almost every facet of your life, forever. You’ll need the skill of following your feelings…and the skill of not following your feelings. 

It’s an ongoing practice. 

It was music that opened this door. With working out, you can develop a great physique, look good on the outside…all the while hating the process. 

I remember watching an interview with a top-tier bodybuilder…how he spoke of being in so much pain every day that he couldn’t sleep at night without 8 pillows hoisting him up. His awards and recognition were of no comfort when every day was painful misery. The antidepressant effects of exercise were no match for driving himself to pain and corresponding depression. 

In music, I couldn’t ignore how I felt. It was part and parcel of the process. The tension in my playing or singing would come through. 

So when I don’t feel like working out, playing piano, singing, or watering plants…essentially when I don’t feel like doing the things I know I love because I’m influenced by whatever state I’m currently in that has nothing to do with the activity I’m considering…I don’t just give up. 

But I also don’t force myself to go through with all of it all the time. 

Instead, I do one simple thing: I connect. 

If it’s piano, I walk over and just touch the keys. I’ll often notice, almost instantly, this “YES!” feeling…like “oh! I actually love this, let’s do this!”. 

If it’s working out, I go the gym and do something small, like calf-raising. 

If it’s singing, I sing a single note. 

The things in your life that bring you joy, do not bring you joy before you connect with them. They are like a best friend that lives far away. You will not remember how connected you are with this person, until you reach out and call them and hear their voice (texting doesn’t do it for me quite enough). 

If you’re a student of mine, and, assuming you’re trying to get into practicing more (which I actually don’t always recommend, but that’s a different article)...then instead of burdening yourself with some homework-like rigid schedule, just make the commitment to yourself, that you will touch and connect with the part of you that wants to sing, or play. 

Every day, touch the keyboard. Once. Notice how you feel. Remember what you love. 

Every day, sing a single note. Only needs to be once. Notice how you feel. 

I’m not interested in how much I’m working out, as a sole metric of how I’m doing. I’m interested in how I’m caring for my relationship with my body. With music. With singing. With the piano. With a close friend who lives far away, who I enjoy talking to. 

The students who experience a life-transformation are those who put the effort into their relationship with playing and singing and moving and feeling. Improve the relationship and you cannot go wrong. 


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