Ctrl, Alt, Del
There have been times in my life when I have made large decisions, seemingly at the spur of the moment. Often though, these spur of the moment decisions came after a great deal of internal contemplation, sometimes months or years in the making. When such a decision is finally made, it’s like a guillotine chop putting an end to a conflict in my head. This usually involves separation of some kind – business decisions, relationships, or vices.
There is that critical moment when I know, when I just know, that something in my life is about to change, or has to change. I then accept that the change in question can only take place at my will. I liken this to dealing with a frustrating computer problem and finally just pressing Ctrl, Alt, Del to restart, regardless of the consequences. I made such a decision today.
Ready, Fire, Aim!
Nearly every day for 13 years I have risen before the sun and prior to my shower, my first cup of coffee, and scarcely prior to my first coherent thought, I have engaged in at least 30 minutes of a rigorous cardiovascular activity. Nearly 5,000 times I have raised my head from my pillow with a sense of urgency similar to that of a father in search of a kidnapped child, and I think to myself,
“Give me back my cardio!”
…and out of bed I have bolted, and onto the machine I have climbed.
Most often through the years, the altar of this morning ritual has been my stair-stepper. I have also taken said sacrament on my treadmill, my road bike, or on the road – with sneakers. Most recently, it has been my stationary bike. Whichever altar I have chosen on a given morning, I have always pushed hard. I have left sweat as my sacrifice, and offered a down payment of atonement for whatever ills I might commit during the remainder of the day.
Through rain, shine, or tonsillitis, this ritual has been a daily calling to order of my senses, my body, and psyche. My early morning exercise has been the launching pad for nearly 5,000 of my days, and tens of thousands of my thoughts, ideas, and plans. From early in 2004, deep into 2005, I engaged in a streak of 427 consecutive early morning cardio sessions, each before sunrise, without missing a single day.
Despite my early morning cardio ritual, I have often taken a second session during the day to sooth a growing rage, the onset of a depression, frustration, or all of the above. I once wrote that my stair-stepper has saved more lives than The US Coast Guard and The American Red Cross combined, for its ability to thwart the puppets in my head perpetrating lesser thoughts directed toward those around me.
Morning Dance: A Change Of Tunes
Lately, my morning cardio hasn’t been so inspired, or so important. Despite that I’m accomplishing more in 30 minutes on my stationary bike than ever before, it’s just not serving the purpose it once did. It has become increasingly harsh and unattractive. The gravity of another altar now draws me into its field, one I am much more comfortable in.
My desk, on a chilly morning, is more like a cozy cockpit. My cup of coffee, my space heater, the glow of my laptop, and Stroodle at my feet, converge to create an unseen force which lures me towards them. In the vaguely luminous predawn of my body and of my day, this is the essence of calm.
I’ll sip coffee and divide time between correspondence, Facebook, writing essays, or writing in my personal journal. I’ll also take inventory, via the internet, of the events of the day prior. I listen to some music, sip some coffee, and toggle back and forth between technologies. There is a peace to this which fosters a different kind of awakening than physical exercise. Beginning my day through my fingertips, rather than through my feet, has become my new normal.
Fitting Square Legs Into A Square Hole
No, I haven’t abandoned my cardio. I have though, relocated it later into the day – to a time when I’m actually awake and high functioning. I’m as committed to the idea of sprinting, cycling, or trail running as I have ever been. So long as my legs can move, I will move them daily. My runs on Monserate Hill are better than ever. I’ve been crushing sessions on my stationary bike. I have even taken a few short mid-day runs through town and come to enjoy them again. These are a part of who I am. They are just no longer how I start my day.
The Best Time
As a fitness trainer, I have often preached the value of early morning exercise for its ability to set one up for a better day, and minimize opportunities for distractions which might thwart exercise to be done later. My workdays begin early though, and exercise in the dark no longer works for me. Early morning exercise, I have come to learn, is a good idea but not a requirement.
I’m lucky, I spend all day in my little gym, and I get to live here too. If I get a break mid-morning, I can sneak my cardio in then. If I work a solid day, it’s still there for me at the end of the day. Waking up early and coming to life more slowly has brought a new peace to my mornings which sets up for a better start to my day than exercise has more recently. It is age which has created this change, and I’m good with that.
Ever the contrarian, as a trainer I have often said this relative to my appreciation for early morning exercise: The best time to exercise is the time when you most enjoy it. I’m now doing that for the first time in years. Be well. rc