Exhausted, legs shaking, face beat red, hair wet from sweat, and I see I still have FOUR more leg lifts left to this workout. I feel like I can't walk, let alone muster up the strength to finish the plan. I take another sip of my BCAAs, look at a picture of one of my "fit-sperations", and take a deep breath. Those last four exercises might have taken me 20 minutes longer than the first five combined, but I finally finished. And, upon completion of the last dreaded unilateral leg extension, I felt so accomplished, knowing full well I would be sore for days to come.
The next morning when I woke up, I bent my knees and as I pulled my heels in, I winced. I was already feeling the burn. Yet, the following day was the WORST! This is what we call DOMS: delayed onset muscle soreness. I had to use the hand rails to walk up and down stairs; I had to flop down into my seats, the bed, the toilet; I sat down to put my pants and shoes on, and cringed if I dropped something to the floor. By the third day, I could walk more normally, the stairs were getting easier, and I could sit much more gracefully.
Much like the tearing down of muscles in order to rebuild them — to make them grow and become what I want them to be — so it goes for our personal character as well. Oftentimes in my life, I am humbled before rising to a greater success, so I can learn but also so I can appreciate the next phase. Being in a tough phase — whether physical, financial, mental, or all of the above — we are given the opportunity to choose to work through it, find the good and excel, or let it overwhelm us. No matter the phase you're in, it can always be improved with exercise. For me, the best exercise to beat the blues the quickest is lifting weights! But, how do we keep going if we're too sore to even walk? What if you're plum near broke? Or, what if you are so emotionally distraught you're not sure you can leave the house, or face people?
When you're sore, your body is aching, you're tired, exhausted, and/or sleep deprived, it's okay to rest, but it's also okay to make yourself go for morel. Listen to your body. There are so many different muscle groups and types of exercises that there is almost always another option. And, if you're having a particularly difficult life phase, if you can muster up the gumption to work out, you are bound to leave feeling better than you started! (Did you know that physical exercise gets your endorphins moving? I call them my happy makers!)
So, I can imagine some of you asking, "Okay, that's all good and well, but I'm broke. How do you expect me to go to the gym?" If you are not in an area where there are gyms for a reasonable monthly fee, then bring the gym to you, or tag along with a friend who has unlimited memberships. And, if you feel so down and out that you can't leave the house, do a DVD or other in-home workout. See, the thing I'm learning is that our finances do not have to dictate our health. We can rise above our situation and still do the building we need to do. Just think of those days where you can't go to the gym as a carpenter who readjusts the floor plans. Applying ourselves diligently means no wasted days. Push-ups, crunches, squats, wall-sits, and pull-ups are always free and accessible!
Speaking of which, after a gnarly shoulder injury that took me from doing unassisted pull-ups and pull-downs of my own body weight, to only being able to do pull-ups with a band and nearly half of my body weight, I am now in full tear down mode of my shoulders. My new schedule is shoulders twice a week, going HARD. I will tear them down with zeal, and rebuild them gracefully by replenishing my body in the best ways possible on my budget, but indefinitely with BCAAs and protein shakes. In order to build, we must first tear down. The greatest structures involve extensive planning, but inevitably mistakes will be made, and things will have to be redone. It may hurt, it will seem unattainable, too expensive, and impossible, but maybe if we take on the mindset that we are architects of our own body, then we may realize our work is never done and nothing is impossible.