The Transformational Power of Exercise, part 1

by / Thursday, 19 December 2013 / Published in Health, Spiritual life

Bruce CryerI’ve become an exercise junkie.

In some ways that’s been true my whole life, but after surgery for cancer, treatment for staph infections, and the replacement of both hips, the thought of ever doing serious, energizing, life-affirming exercise again seemed a distant dream. I was hoping for a life where walking was no longer painful.

Then i got “religion” thanks to a series of fortunate events that helped me start a process that has me now — ten months later — feeling the best I’ve felt in 25 years. With all the biometric data to prove it.

Why I’m writing about this is that my latest exercise journey has had benefits beyond greater cardiovascular fitness, more strength, more flexibility, more energy, more stamina, and more vitality. And those are pretty big benefits on their own.

The most profound benefit has been deepening my passion for life itself. My joy to be alive. My will to move past obstacles and barriers, to dissolve the fears and anxieties that weaken my spirit and slow my growth. I now realize deeply that being fit, strong and flexible makes my heart sing 🙂

It has been a profoundly spiritual process for me, as I sweat and groan and pedal faster and lift heavier and stretch my muscles to regain lost flexibility. Issues in my life needing resolution get pondered and worked out. Old hurts or resentments get reviewed and the new energy I’m gaining gives perspective to let them go. It’s also been filled with laziness, sloth, inertia, lack of motivation, and all the other human weaknesses you can imagine. But the real story is the one about transformation…beyond my physical health.

It all started with a young woman I met during a Stanford workshop I was leading on stress and resilience. She had flown from her home in Mexico to the Bay Area, partly to attend my half-day course at Stanford. That day, and through correspondence over the next month or two, I learned that Coral was a serious exercise buff, with a major commitment to intense daily training and the diet to go along with it. As she was more than 30 years younger than I was, I remembered wistfully what it was like to have that kind of “go for it” energy when I was in my late 20s. While I was now feeling much better after my health crisis had subsided, I certainly didn’t have the energy of a 28 year old. And I was okay with that.

Well, not really.

Deep down I wondered what it would feel like to push myself to really exercise like she did every day, to pay as much attention to everything I put in my mouth as she did. I knew my own post-surgeries exercise regimen was adequate to maintain a certain level of health and fitness. But I knew i could do better. What i discovered was that I could do MUCH better, and the benefits would astound and gratify me, and also inspire others who hadn’t dealt with half the challenges I had.

Ashley, Pete and the Health Club

Step one was joining a health club nearby. Unfortunately living in the mountains meant the closest health club of any kind was a 35-minute drive each way. This was going to be a major commitment of time, let alone energy and money. When I entered the club, i was impressed with how much you could do there. It was a great facility. The lady who signed me up, a perky very fit young woman named Ashley, encouraged me to buy a package of five sessions with a personal trainer. I loved this idea as I was excited not only about exercising again, but doing it right. I told Ashley i knew I had been given a “second chance” in life, and I was determined to make the most of it. After explaining a little about my health history, she suggested Pete because he had a background with rehabbing from injury, as well as being an overall great trainer. I met Pete, Ashley was right, and my journey to youthful vitality, health and resilience had begun.

part two to come ……..