Exercising My Demons

Calm Exterior by Carisa Miller

Don’t let my calm exterior fool you. (It won’t. I don’t have one.) I am tightly wound.

It has never registered before now, that I NEED exercise. Oh, I’ve always known regular exercise is good for me and I've complied from time to time, mostly in spurts. But this is different. I have reached a place in my life where I must either exercise or have myself committed.

I was hardcore into ballet  growing up. But that was just dancing. I started running after college, but that was just so I would quit smoking. When I took up yoga in my solo living, single twenties, I was just lonely and seeking a mind/body balance seemed like the reason I needed, to leave my apartment.

When I started having babies, exercise ceased to exist in my world. First it was because one of the little buggers strained my pelvis while she was gestating. Then it was because I was too busy kissing on them/trying to survive them to bother.

Now my youngest is almost two. Coming out of the baby coma I’ve been in for five years, I’ve lately turned myself to the task of re-sharpening my mind beyond that which is required to entertain children who eat crayons. But while my brainpower has been increasing, I have all but left my body to rot.

The other day I was in the shower, reached down to scrub my calves and thought, “Hey, these are my legs!” Like I hadn’t noticed them before. Upon recognition of said body,  my physical host revolted. I started experiencing physical manifestations of anxiety, exacerbated by lack of physical fitness. (A pretty fancy sounding diagnosis, that I made up.)

I thought maybe I was dying. When I am anxious the worst thing I can do is speculate I have something physically wrong with me.  Even if I’m able to talk myself back down into believing I only have anxiety, my anxiety will convince me that having anxiety causes cancer. Not cool.

Usual signs of anxiety for me include the awakening of the self-loathing, life-fearing voices that slumber in the recesses of my mind. Those jerks make me feel nervous and insecure by telling me I suck, that I should be scared of nothing, and panic about everything.

My latest symptoms included: my heart trying to beat itself through my chest and a tightness in my body as though my bones were clenched. For days I experienced an unrelenting excitement and nervousness similar to that of my wedding day mixed with the kind of adrenaline I could use to successfully outrun a bionic cougar.  

Sedentary is no longer an option. I need to move my body. Now.

I took off so fast on my first run it was like my kids were screaming and crying from the front porch because I was leaving them. (They were.)  I had to get quickly out of earshot or the pleading of my babies and the struggle of my husband trying to calm them would make me cave and go back inside the house where I would explode.

That first run was incredible. The relief was instant.  

You know those experts who always say things about exercise increasing levels of chemicals in the body that help improve your mood and alleviate stress? That exercise increases your ability to focus, makes your brain work better, helps you relax ,and that I’m a perfect moron? I believe them now!

Now that my body is moving again, I am...

more joyful

less cranky

more playful

less lump in a pair of sweatpants

more productive

less overwhelmed and can’t pick a direction so I’m just gonna freak out instead  

more annoying advocate for a healthful life,

less "Why do I feel like crap?"

So now you can see, I didn’t screw up the title. Exorcising my demons has proven impossible. They never vacate, only linger on the stoop, waiting for full moons and menstrual cycles, to bust through the door with unrelenting ferocity.

New plan: I’m going to wear my demons out with exercise, so they’ll be too tired to mess with me.