That is a question I have pondered all my life. After 15 years as a hockey player and 32 years as a triathlete, I can certainly say that an internal evolution has and is still occurring within me. In the beginning my motivation was to compete, to win, and to do battle, an outward focus. Then I had the dream of being super fit, to look good, to be able to say I can achieve this, again an outward focus. As the years go by I have noticed changes in my body, that slippage that Elton John calls the “years flowing through his blood”, my focus too has evolved, it has transformed into a more inward view.
Now with lots of miles under my belt, I sit here thinking about why I continue to love to move. And that, I feel, is the answer: to vibrate at a higher level, to ultimately connect with my inner energy. However each of us defines that feeling of life, that internal force we feel when our energy flows through us, I feel that exercise is simply a tool that increases that energy flow!
I have had some of my highest energy surges during and right after exercise. An exercise session makes me feel alive. You could say that it’s like being in a flow state or a state of heightened energy. Other means through which to experience flow are while engrossed in an activity you love, while meditating, or simply attuning to nature. There are many ways that vital energy is expressed through us on the material plane. Exercise is one terrific, healthy methodology to get in touch with this heightened inner experience.
Try it in your next workout. Once you have attended to all the practical matters of exercise (i.e. you have the gear and the time to workout, etc.) it’s time to create the flow state. We are after that flow state where you feel like you could go on forever. Our goal is to create that “zone” experience every time we go for an exercise session. First you need to start moving as slowly as possible in the exercise form you have chosen. If you’re going for a run, start with a very slow walk. Breathe through your nose slowly, relaxed, and rhythmically. This helps to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system and contributes to putting you in a very calm state.
Now comes the fun part. From this moment onward practice self listening; “let” your body take you where it wants. This step is hard for Westerners, myself included, whose controlling mentality buys into the mind over matter paradigm. Allow your workout to unfold: if you’re feeling great pick up the pace; if your knee is getting sore, slow down and allow the pain to subside. Follow your inner cues. First time out you may not experience that flow, that’s fine, you have started the process of listening.
The long-term benefit is that you will experience a heightened state of being as you exercise. I remember one particularly elating bike ride I experienced when I allowed myself to just experience the movement. Over time I was able to continually pick up my pace while maintaining a steady breathing rate of 12 breaths per minute (I have a resting rate of 18). My heart rate remained in the 130’s no matter how hard I kept pedaling. These physiological parameters remained calm; and I was in that flow state, watching from the outside as I zoomed along. I was experiencing the zone. It felt effortless and connected. It felt great!
Runners often talk about the high they experience when they run, and perhaps that’s the true essence of why they keep doing it, rather than the mere goal of the next race. It’s really about the deeper work of listening every time out that brings the greatest highs you will experience, and the greatest personal satisfaction.
This is the ultimate reason long-time exercisers keep going. Like the word “recreation” states, we re-create that vital energy of life every time out. We experience the power of life. It doesn’t matter at what age we are, we possess the wonderful gift of movement, and through using this force we all can become much more internally energized and connected.
So why do we exercise? To experience the life force! To come one-step closer to ourselves and that’s good for the body and the soul.