I’m dying. Not like “buried in the ground” dying, but definitely at the end of my rope. I am exhausted. My heart rate is just barely faster than a bunny rabbit’s, and I’m in the cool down. I can’t hold my leg up for a quad stretch because my arms are too weak. Everything feels heavy, and I am covered in so much sweat that I am my very own swimming pool. My friend, Heather Santo, shared Bob Harper’s new Daily Burn workout site on her Facebook page, and I thought to myself, If Heather thinks it’s great, it’s gotta be a ton of fun, right?
I should have known better. Did you see the picture on top of this blog? Does he look like he’s having a “ton of fun” to you? Yeah, he kicked my A$$.
I unceremoniously collapse to the floor, and as I stretch my back a little and close my eyes, I think, Bob Harper needs a cupcake. He’d be nicer if he had some sort of sugar fix.
If you don’t know who Bob Harper is, I won’t judge you (non-judgement site here): he was one of the most popular trainers in the NBC show The Biggest Loser, and he has four books that deal with developing good eating and workout habits.
If you do know Bob Harper, you know that not only would he be shocked and appalled at my very thought; he would probably order me to do ten more push ups, diamond-style for added effect. Cupcakes are to him what turnip greens are to me; repugnant. However, the fact that Bob is nowhere near me makes me very brave.
Plus, at this moment, I am simply too tired to care.
And I love it.
Sure, I just burned a serious amount of calories, and I will absolutely sleep like a dog later tonight. But I love this fatigue because right now, at this very moment, I am so tired that my brain is free. It is in its own zone, and thoughts simply do not matter at this moment. There is no to-do list nor a time limit. There are no problems that need solving, no agendas that need finishing, or emotions that need attention. My brain is simply releasing endorphins and other “feel good” chemicals into my body and emits a pleasant electrical pulse throughout my body as my breathing slows. It is here that I can reach my personal version of “no mind.”
For those of you who have no idea what I mean, the best movie scene I can think of is from The Last Samurai, with Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise’s character, Algren, is captured by the Samurai and stays as their guest/prisoner for two seasons. He learns their language and their style of fighting. However, the Sword Master Uijo detests him, and beats Algren every time Algren tries to train. At one point, all the other warriors are watching, and Algren’s host Nobutada comes up to him and tells Algren he has “too many mind.” He points out that Algren’s mind is thinking about the sword he is using, fighting his enemy/trainer, his gambling “audience” watching the fight, and even his own pride. Nobutada tells Algren that for Algren to win, he must have “no mind”: quit thinking so much about so many things. Find the one thing, the part inside that is true peace, and move from there. When Algren finally achieves this, he wins (OK, it’s technically a draw, but that’s beside the point).
This scene illustrates two things: 1) we constantly have multiple thoughts fighting for attention and demanding action in our minds, and 2) one must make a conscious decision to find her own “no mind,” which takes effort.
In the mornings, I find it easy to meditate (or pray) and find my state of “no mind,” but it is difficult for me to hold it all day; to be honest, I do not have the discipline. I tend to lose my quiet and peaceful mind as I go about my day and solve troublesome problems, make difficult decisions, interact with others who are not self-aware, and deal with stressful obligations such as deadlines. I get edgy and short-tempered when I have “too many minds” going on for too long. When my stress builds up, my body lets me know in multiple ways. I am tired, but I cannot sleep well. I have headaches. I cannot focus on one thing, because I feel restless or my mind reminds me of other, “more important” issues. All my ideas sound great until I put them on paper, then they fall apart. And the feeling that I am “failing” my task just amplifies all these sensations, which heightens my stress levels, and so the cycle repeats itself. Sometimes, when I try to meditate or slow my brain waves down, I am so hyper that my breathing technique does not help. Sometimes even listening to the original Silva Life System mp3 or one of the quick meditation tracks by Amish Shah and Dr. Puja Shah do not work, because I waited too late to “calm” my brain down.
At these times, workouts are my salvation. I am not talking about a gentle walk with my husband through our neighborhood or around the mall, or lifting a few pounds for five reps and taking a two-minute rest. I’m talking about all-out, gut-wrenching, want-to-scream or cry but too freaking tired to do either. Some of the Beachbody workouts do this, but I like to change things up (or, as in the case of Shaun T’s Insanity: the Asylum, I said “to heck with this” and quit after injuring my wrist halfway through the plan—don’t judge). I know. You think I’m crazy. I’m OK with that. Remember, I’m just giving you ideas on things you can try when other things do not “work” for you. That’s how much I love you, Cupcake.
If you’ll remember, a few weeks ago I blogged about my weight (here). When Heather shared Bob Harper’s site, and it offered a 30-day free trial, I jumped. I needed something to get me going. The first day, we started out with squats where you touched the ground with your fingers and reached up high, lunges, and toy soldiers. That was the warm up. I wanted to quit. I told myself to go for ten minutes, then I could stop.
The first five minutes, I listened to every voice that came at me.
You shouldn’t have gained so much weight. Your body wouldn’t be so hard to move.
You shouldn’t have stopped working out. You wouldn’t be breathing like a hippo in labor.
You’re really too tired to do this. How about choosing another workout or do this later?
You can’t keep up with those fitness models.
A relative saying that “Liz talks a big game, but—well, you know” when discussing my workouts with another relative in front of me.
Freaking Bob Harper yelling, “It doesn’t count if you don’t come all the way up. Make it to your lowest score. Come on, three seconds left!”
Are you kidding me? What the hell did Heather Santo get me into?
The worst part is not the physical weight I feel on my shoulders with each negative thought; the worst part is that when I try to banish the negativity, I become even more fatigued, because now I am paying attention to three things at once: negative thoughts, arguing with those negative thoughts, and moving my body. Take my word for it, it sucks. It’s like carrying a twenty-pound backpack around all the time, and I am not a Marine.
I was a successful athlete a million years ago. In high school, I was in the sports section of the local newspapers every week. In college, I ran the 100m in 11.85 seconds (back then, you had to run an 11.6 to qualify for Nationals). When I had back surgery several years ago, my main focus was to return to the tennis courts and compete. Less than a year after my surgery, I was almost undefeated in women’s singles (I lost one match–my team’s final match in our Regional tournament), and I was ranked third in the state (first in the Dallas-Fort Worth area). I know what it takes to succeed, and I know how to put in the work. The one thing I learned to find and practice during my high school days that moved to college and beyond? No Mind.
“No mind” happens when I get just a little past tired, and it usually takes about 12-15 minutes of hard work for me. Let me power through something, be it sprints or plyometrics or moving brand new heavy furniture into my study, and I can feel “no mind” start. My brain gets to the point where it doesn’t have the energy to focus on “too many mind,” because it now needs to concentrate on my body’s actions so I do not injure myself nor end up in the hospital. I focus inward, and this is how simple it becomes: breathe, do, breathe, do, breathe, do, STOP. Breathe.
In high school and college, it usually came during sprint workouts or repeated drills with very little rest. This may be what some people call “runner’s high,” but I can’t be sure because I never felt it when I went jogging. Some may think this is a “second wind.” I will not argue. Exercise stimulates the brain’s release of endorphins (natural pain killers), serotonin (which fights depression), and Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF, which also fights depression as well as helps with memory and brain health).
For me, all of this happens, but there is a stillness deep inside, a quiet yet powerful force, a calm radiant energy the glows while the chemical reactions eradicate any negativity from each cell in my body.
During the first Black Fire workout, I felt the miracle start to happen. I was breathing so loud and fast that I could barely hear Bob on the TV. My head was pounding so hard with all the blood flow that all I wanted to do was FINISH. My brain pattern switched as I decided I wasn’t going through a measly ten minutes of this workout to feel like I did at the beginning and have to fight more negative jibes later. I was going all the way to the end of the video.
The only sounds I hear are Bob’s “Go,” my rhythmic heavy breathing as I jump on a box or push myself completely off the floor, and Bob’s “Rest.” I do not care about phone calls, emails, or the fitness models behind Bob. My brain waves have changed. Instead of just one or two blocking the others, they are now all working together to help me finish in one piece. All I care about are the numbers in my head that I must obtain. “You are competing against yourself. Don’t drop below your lowest number.” I am going to keep the same number the whole time.
The first time I did this workout, I was just over ½ of what the twenty-something models did. Today was my fourth time to do this particular workout in two weeks. I managed to improve on everything except the damned burpees, which come at the end; but, as tired as I was, I did not go down in my original number of that hated exercise. I can be proud that I am only a few reps behind the little blonde in the back. I can claim that I actually tied G.I. Jane for 7 hand-release push ups the entire 8 rounds (yeah, baby, that’s 56 push ups done on my toes, all the way to the floor—boo-yah!). While I am intensely competitive, the irony here is that I did not realize I tied her until that round of exercise was finished and Bob was asking everyone for numbers.
“No mind” also means “more production.” If you look at the picture above, you will see two brains. The brain on the left is the brain of someone who sat “quietly” for twenty minutes. On the right is a student who went for a walk for twenty minutes. See how the right brain is all lit up like a Christmas tree? That’s a sign the chemicals I talked about earlier have been released. Can you guess which brain is more active with less effort? Here’s a hint: it is the one with more color. According to Forbes, a person in a positive brain state is 31% more productive, 40% more likely to get a promotion, and almost 10 times “more engaged at work, live longer, get better grades, and show less acute symptoms.” And look, just walking for twenty minutes changed the brain. You do not have to be intense or insane, or insanely intense. You just have to move in a way that makes you breathe harder than normal.
So, Cupcake, get outside! Go for a walk! Hate the outside? Use a treadmill, a stationary bike, an elliptical! Get your oxygen pumping and get those brain chemicals flowing freely. Think about how much better you will feel, and think, and live life. Your brain will thank you.
My brain is now “empty” of stress and negative ideas. As the released chemicals flow through my exhausted body, creative ideas caress my head and easily glide into my consciousness. I am once again grounded and happy, so I can go on with my day. So, I freely admit that my friend Heather did me a favor when she posted Bob’s picture on my Facebook page. Maybe she deserves a cupcake more than Bob needs one. And just so you know, I went to the Daily Burn Facebook page, and found this for Mr. Bob Harper! Maybe he wouldn’t make me do the extra push ups, after all.
So, my darling Cupcake, what do you do to stay grounded or change your negative frame of mind? What do you like to do to alleviate your stress? What activities do you enjoy that gets your oxygen and mind flowing freely? Remember to share if you can. You may be helping another reader, and that will be a karmic boomerang for you. Have a great day, and stay frosted!