Meditating on Pushups
Exercise has been likened to meditation. (Is this an American phenomena?) Personally, I’ve never seen the similarity. I find the endorphins flooding my brain tend to send my thoughts pingponging around in exciting and mysterious new directions. Martial arts has the ability to wonderfully concentrate the mind on the present moment, but mostly in the midst of sparring. Distraction breeds bruises. Exercise in general, not so much.
However, meditation has helped my exercise. Specifically, meditation has helped me stop hating push ups. (Well, hate less, but we’re workin’ on it!)
Basically, I’m your standard skinny gal (a little less skinny than I was a decade ago, admittedly) with arms like chicken wings. Six weeks ago I couldn’t do a push up to save my life. Thanks to the ongoing support of First Lieutenant Christopher Mohr of the California National Guard and Ensign Aroon Seeda, chaplain candidate with the U.S. Navy, that is slowly starting to change. But it hasn’t been easy!
The exercise regime is strict, tough, and comprehensive, but it always starts with push ups. Push ups, curls, sit ups, squats, wide-arm push ups, bicycle sit ups, and leg lifts. For the boys, it also includes the iron cross and pull ups, which I’m still working up to. We do three rounds, the middle set being twice as hard. With push ups, I started out on my knees doing ‘girly’ push ups, if you’ll pardon the sexism.
I HATED push ups. I HATED the never-to-be-sufficiently-damned things. I HATED push ups even more than I initially HATED meditation.
So guess what? I started using meditation to stop hating push ups. Ironic, no?
You know those first few initial moments of meditation, when you set about stilling your mind and focusing on the breath and for those precious seconds the mind is actually still and focused on the breath before it goes galloping off again? Yeah, I do that every time I prepare to do push ups. I do that instead of thinking to myself how much I hate push ups and how I really don’t want to do push ups and why the hell did the military decide to use push ups to test physical fitness and damn it I’m already tired and who the fuck invented these damned things anyw… Yeah, I do meditation instead of that.
And it works. I do my pre-push up stretches and loosening up, then I sit down on the floor, kneeling style, hold my hands in my lap, stare at the wall, and concentrate my mind for a few precious breaths. Then I lean forward, plant my hands on the ground, and do push ups. And I don’t hate them (much). When I finish, I push myself back into my kneeling seat, fold my hands in my lap, and concentrate my mind for a few precious breaths. Then I get up and continue with the workout. And I’m not pissed off about push ups.
I can now do just about five real push ups (I don’t always go down quite all the way) and five wide-arm push ups. I have to work up to doing thirteen push ups in two minutes for my age and gender as well as forty-four sit ups, a mile and a half run in sixteen minutes, and a five-hundred yard swim in fourteen minutes. I have a lot of work ahead of me, but two great workout buddhies (pun that, MW!) to help me out. May we all continue not to hate push ups!