I’m at the gym – TV screens in front of me all showing different things, music playing from the speakers and I’m having to focus a bit more on staying present with my walking. And I’m wondering why there are so many distractions at the gym? Is it deliberate, and if so, why?
I imagine that some would say that it helps them having something to focus on and that it makes the workout easier – that is, having music playing and a TV show to watch. But in what state does that leave our precious body? If the body would have a say, I reckon it would probably also be wanting to join the show. Not the show on the television in this case, but wanting to be present in and with the workout.
My experience is that if we are focusing too much on something else, like a TV show or the music from the speakers, then the focus on the body is left out of the equation, when the whole purpose of exercising is to get healthy, alert and present in the body, is it not?
It’s a bit like driving a car – we need to be present with the driving otherwise we will have a car crash, even though many these days do focus on other things, such as looking at their phone, or messaging or whatever we might be up to in these modern vehicles of ours. My point is that preferably we would be focusing on the driving and, if we relate this to exercising and working out, my question would be how present are we when we work out?
Are we deliberately checking out while we are ‘driving’ our body and where does that leave it? When we drive a car and look away for a split second, we can easily drive off the road or have a front on collision. For some reason we seem to be blessed from that happening too much considering how many of us are doing other things while driving, but we are still bound to keep a certain amount of focus, otherwise we will eventually end up having an accident.
But how about the body and not being present while exercising? Does that not have an effect on the body? Surely it has to. But maybe it takes longer for the body to manifest an ‘accident’.
When I say ‘accident’, I’m referring to the body giving us clear signals that something is not quite right and this can be experienced as an injury or some other physical ailment. In other words, the body says no more of that please. But do we correlate the two? Do we consider that not being present in and with our body can lead to the body having a breakdown?
One thing we do need to consider here is what actually happens when we are not present with our bodies. What happens is that we are not fully attentive to what our body is communicating to us, and in that state, it’s easy to push beyond how the body would otherwise perform the exercise. If we have music pumping, we can easily push ourselves more than we would without the music, as most of us can attest to, but is that really healthy? I would claim that it’s not. Eventually our body will have to show us whether what we are doing with it is healthy or not and if we find ourselves having accidents, injuries and feel overly tired, then we know that something is not quite right.
Something I’ve discovered over the years is that the more present and in tune with my body I get, the more aware I become of how much more present and in tune with my body I can actually be, like there’s no real end, just a continual deepening.
With that in mind, we could easily suspect that many of us do not have a very strong connection with our bodies and all the so called entertainment, in the forms of music and TV screens in the gym, make it even harder to establish one. But why so, if being present is important?
I would say, and I’m sticking my neck out here, that if we were to get more connected with our bodies, we would feel a lot more of what is truly going on, both in our bodies, but also in our lives and that is often too terrifying so we keep on doing the same old same old, until of course our body has to take itself “off the road to get a repair.”
But it doesn’t have to be that way. I’m not going to give a lecture from this experience I had this morning, but I will say this; it’s well worth looking after ourselves and our bodies and pushing ourselves, as we do right now, with a lot of help from the entertainment squad at the gym, is not helping our bodies to get truly healthy – quite the opposite. Hard facts but it needs to be said.
Fact is that our body is super tender and is not made to be roughed up and pushed beyond boundaries, even though we think we have to ‘push through’ to make it perform. It will perform if we give it the proper space to do so, but that might look a bit different from the image we currently hold of how the workout is to look like.
Let’s face it, our bodies are the temples in which we live and we have to look after them as best as we can… only not from an image of how we think they should look, but from what the body says is right and true for it. But it’s quite hard to listen when we have a myriad of distractions all around us and this is not just at the gym, but everywhere. So why is it like this? That is for us all to contemplate – meanwhile I will stick to being as present as I can with myself because I know it feels way better in my body and it also makes me not want to crave too many sweet things, because I get energised just by being present with the way that I move around in my body, which is actually a science in itself.
By Matts Josefsson, Student of Behavioural Science, Stockholm, Sweden