It was the runner, reader, and writer in me that made me pick up Haruki Murakami’s What I talk about when I talk about running. I connected with this book on a lot of levels as I found that many of Murakami’s mantras were mirror images of my own. But one line especially resonated with me:
“To deal with something unhealthy, a person needs to be as healthy as possible”.
One of the reasons I workout is to restore balance to my body. While this still isn’t ideal, it’s my way of making up for all the damage I do. Because college is an unhealthy pursuit: It’s pushing your body and mind to its breaking point to create the best work you can. It’s sleep deprivation, energy drinks, coffee, headaches, junk food, and exhaustion. It’s having a day of class, work, meetings, and by the time you sit down, eat, and exhale, you’re already well into the night and you haven’t begun to prepare for 9am class.
I could cut back on the extracurriculars; I could commit to finishing my homework as fast as possible and getting in bed by 11. And if you think the goal of undergrad is solely to walk out with your degree, you might think this is the most efficient and sensical thing to do. But to me, college isn’t just about efficiency. It’s about experience. And as much as I sound like a brochure from my liberal arts college: education is about finding your passions and immersing yourself in them.
I’m happiest when I’m miserably swamped; it’s the sadist in me.
College is, above all, a mental challenge. It’s a lot of coffee and desk sitting. And while I love all those things, I’d snap if I couldn’t break away from it now and again.
Exercise restores the equilibrium.
There’s nothing like hitting your exercise goal: to reach a number, or time, or distance and be able to say “look at what my body can do”.
Exercise makes me appreciate mundane things on a deeper level. It makes me devour my meals with as much vigor as gratitude. Because everything tastes better after burning a few 100 calories. Running makes me feel powerful; I never cease to be amazed at my body’s ability to carry me for miles. And while I’m still repulsed by my dad’s insistence that I touch the damp T-shirt he just ran in, I understand the pride of it. I love the feeling of sweat dripping off me as I chug water with legs that can barely hold me up anymore.
And the shower. There is nothing like earning your shower. To enter it reeking of your hard work and emerge brand new: exhausted and awake all at once.
Then there’s yoga. I do this in the morning, before a workout, after a workout, or just when I feel the need to stretch. Yoga is all comfort and awareness. It’s feeling every ligament and breathing with intention. It’s practice, improving a bit more each day. Yoga is my body repairing itself.
Working out is my ultimate self-esteem booster and source of positive vibes. Because when all else fails you can look yourself in the mirror and say, “hey, at least I worked out today”. In his book Murakami states, “No matter how long you stand there examining yourself naked before a mirror, you’ll never see reflected what’s inside”. I love this quote because, at the end of the day, working out isn’t about looking good or becoming your ideal image of fit. It’s about taking care of yourself; doing something for you. It’s about empowerment. So that when you get back to your desk, your coffee, and your never ending to do list you can approach it with confidence and optimism. Because you’re strong enough to do this and–most importantly– you know it.