By Christopher Cudworth
Having spent all of my life exercising my brains and guts out, running so far and so long that my body almost evaporated several times in the heat, it can be hard at times to pause and appreciate the benefits of slowing down.
I can honestly say that at some point in life I recognized something in myself akin to an exercise addiction. My self esteem was so wrapped up in running faster that I didn’t feel right or honest or true if I wasn’t on that perceived “road to success.”
Even when I took up cycling almost a decade ago there came some moments along the way where it wasn’t obvious what the training was about. Sometimes you get rolling on a bike and you finish the ride and can’t remember a single thing you saw along the way. You ride too hard too often, pounding away at the same pace, staring at the cyclometer with panicked eyes.
That’s not what one would call “being present in the moment.”
Instead you’re not really enjoying what you’re doing, or getting better at it as a result. You forget cadence or pacing, or varying your routine, training faster or slower for variability. It all matters though. Just paying attention to what you’re doing when you plan a ride or run, or while you’re doing it.
Carry that weight
A friend once told me that riding thoughtlessly is the direct result of needing to process other things along the way. And for sure, there were days and weeks and months over the last decade that required considerable focus. Over the last 8 years, managing treatments and bills and morale while my wife was going through ovarian cancer meant there were days when room for my own thoughts simply wasn’t there. Add in job changes, financial responsibilities and caregiving for my stroke-ridden father… and the Beatles song, “Carry That Weight” comes to mind.
Now it’s 2013. 8 years passed since 2005 when I lost my mom to cancer, took over caregiving for my father and dealt with the first phases and treatments of ovarian cancer with my wife.
“You’re gonna carry that weight, a long time…”
Gratitude and release
Over the past couple months, my mind has worked through the many things that happened along the way to make those burdens easier. So many people helped us in so many ways. My wife was brave and honest and resolute through her struggle with cancer. I am proud of her. Proud of my kids. Yet proud also that I have the will and hope to move on in life. I know that’s what she wanted. I could hear it in the way she always said my name, “Chris,” with her strong yet gentle nature.
In so many ways those events and her example are true inspirations, which are the antithesis of burden. So life beckons. The May rain falls. Flowers bloom. The road calls.
Of course it’s hard to keep up in some ways. It has been quite a busy time since she passed away on March 26, 2013. Just assuming the household management is a lot of new things to do in the daily schedule. The bills that need to be paid in intelligent ways when someone passes away have occupied considerable time and thought.
Just getting to work on time some mornings has been a scramble.
But its getting better. Getting better all the time.
Still a ways to go
That doesn’t mean I’m as physically fit as I’d like to be.
By this time most years I’m riding 50 milers at a pretty good pace. 18mph on my own. 20+ mph with a group. But not this year. And that’s okay.
I’m not fat by appearance, but the fitness test administered by XSport upon joining the club showed a BFI of 20%+. They want me down to 14%. The lowest I’ve ever been in 3%.
It’s all about perspective, you see.
Well okay, I admit it. The Holiday weight did not go away this year.
But you know what? You don’t have to be perfectly fit all the time. In fact, last year I overdid it again. The heat wave in Illinois wore me down with all the riding I was doing, and running too, to the point where I complained to a friend that I had no apparent zip and he told me something I hadn’t heard in at least 20 years. “Maybe you’re overtrained.”
Holy Crap, I thought. He’s right. I was en route to riding nearly 4000 miles. Not a ton by some cyclist’s standards but for me, that’s a lot.
We all need to understand that overtraining, just like being way undertrained, is the antithesis of fitness. It doesn’t do us any good to grind our bodies, or our minds, clear into the ground.
But I’m happy to say that the difficult times have indeed made me stronger. I’ve learned to have faith in certain things, and in uncertain things too. Trust is important both in relationships and in daily life. Trust yourself. But trust God too. Life can be an amazing process, and it’s best to enjoy it even when things don’t go perfectly well.
Be like Ike
But it might actually do us some good to lie down and roll around in the grass, like the dog in the photo at the top of this essay. His name is Ike. He’s fat. And he’s a zen dog.
His feet flip under when he runs in a trot that looks like his legs are disconnected from his body. But Ike knows how to dish out the love, baby. And he doesn’t seem to worry about too much. Hence the puka shells around his neck. Ike would look great on a surfboard. He’s like one of those big dudes on the beach with a wide round belly and a “F*** you” tan. At home in his prodigious skin.
So while I plan to lose about 8-10 lbs this summer at some point, down to about 168-170 at 6’1″ (XSport says 163…) I’m also going to pay attention to the example of Ike–who may be the antithesis of fitness–but he knows how to live, however long that may be.
Want proof that it’s okay not to be superfit all the time? This article on just appeared in the Wall Street Journal.