“Distance: 3 miles. Time: 46 minutes, thirty-five seconds. Pace: 15 minutes, 30 seconds.”
We are always connected — notifications, alarms, heart-rate monitors, GPS, calories, fitness tracking apps — we are obsessed with knowing, “how am I doing?” When I first started working out I didn’t really know about tracking apps; all I knew was it was time to do something to change my current physical condition.
I weighed in at over 230 pounds. My diet consisted pretty much of specialty coffee drinks (sometimes two and three a day), pastries, and fast-food. Sure I would eat a home-cooked meal once in awhile, but even then it was heavy red meat and lots of starch. I was so out of shape that when I played golf I would have to lean on my putter to catch my breath after walking up a slight incline to the green. Any kind of physical activity left me breathless.
Working in hospice and palliative care and watching people die everyday, also began taking it’s toll on me. Cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, liver failure, congestive heart failure…the list went on and on. My days were filled with sickness and disease, death and dying, and grief and sorrow.
I started wondering if not choosing a healthy lifestyle, while I could, was hastening my own death.
I began seeing myself in the face of every dying patient. Of course the people I visited didn’t choose to be where they were, did they? I began to wonder if not choosing to live a healthy lifestyle, while I could, was actually hastening my own death?
One thing I’ve learned for sure by being around death and dying is that there is nothing stronger than the human will. I’ve watched both young and old hang on for one last relative to visit, one more city to travel to, one more painting to paint, or one more, “I’m sorry,” to say or hear. I’ve watched death stand at bay while a person reconciled their heart and soul.
I began to think about my wife and children, and my own life, a lot! I began to think about what I was doing to my body and how I was, in essence, hastening my own death by living my unhealthy lifestyle. Even then, I would only be motivated for a moment, and then find myself still driving to my favorite coffee house every morning, sipping my mocha latte, and enjoying my favorite pastry.
One morning, while driving to the coffee shop, I saw a man running up the same hill I was driving. He had to be in his late sixties. To top it all off, he had a clubbed foot. His right foot was turned in causing him to almost stumble with every step.
Get this. A sixty-year old man running with a clubbed foot up the same hill I was driving. Something was wrong, drastically wrong, with this picture.
My life would never be the same after that day. The very next morning my body got out of bed at 5:00 am. My sweats and running shoes went on, and before I knew it, I was out the door on my very first walk. My route? You guessed it, over the hill to my favorite coffee shop. I wish I could tell you I know what happened, but to this day I still don’t. All I know was suddenly the will to live took over.
At first, fitness was a way for me to take out my aggression on something other than the ones I loved. At the time, I wasn’t very happy with my life. It was also a release from all of the stress and pressure of a very demanding job. But soon after, fitness became my saving grace. I found myself again in the workout.
I developed a new appetite for everything. Sweets were replaced with good carbs and protein. Oatmeal with fresh fruit became my morning obsession. I added high impact interval training (HIIT) to my workout regimen, and then core strengthening and CrossFit training. I even threw in a yoga class or two to balance things out. Blood, sweat, and tears — the harder I fought through the outside pain, the more free I became from the inside pain.
At the end of three years, nine months, and one day, I took my life back! I lost over 70 pounds, overcame fear, depression, self-doubt and major panic attacks. No diet. No pills. No doctors. The pure will to live took over.
But soon another obsession took over. BodyPump on Monday. Cardio Circuit on Tuesday. BodyCombat on Wednesday. Rest on Thursday. BodyPump on Friday. Free running Saturday. Hiking on Sunday. “Distance…Time…Pace…”
I used every app I could get my hands on. I counted calories, water intake, and heart-rate. I tracked sleep, steps, and target zones. I set timers to remind me to move. I became obsessed with knowing how I was doing.
Then, just like that early morning three years prior, everything changed for me again. Suddenly distance, time and pace faded into the background. That morning, another obsession took over — running naked. Free from wires, technology, and cadence. Free from drive and ambition. I no longer cared how I was doing; I was just content in doing it.
I walked if I felt like walking. I ran if I felt like running. I climbed, hiked, and lifted weights — all of the things I did before, but this time, I did them “naked.” No cadence. No counter. No timer. No little voice cheering me on in my ear when I reached another milestone.
Sometimes you need to stop counting. You need to stop measuring. Sometimes you need to turn off all the notifications. Sometimes the only reward you need is doing it.
What are you striving to get better at? For what?
When we live for measurement all the time we can lose the joy of simply living. Sure it’s good every once in awhile to see how we measure up. But measuring up to who? Or to what? The only thing that matters is that you are doing something that brings you great joy and fulfillment, and that, in the end of the day, is unmeasurable.
When we live for measurement all the time we can lose the joy of simply living.
If you are entangled in wires and charts, cords and cadence, or if you’ve become obsessed with tracking how you are doing, it may be time for you to take it all off and just go for it.
When is the last time you did what you love to do just for the fun of it?
Free yourself from the obsession of knowing. Run naked, sing naked, write naked, live naked. Free from measurement. Free from comparison. Free from tracking. Free from conclusion. Free from striving. Simply free to be.
Sometimes you just need to take it all off and go for it!
Originally published at writingcooperative.com on April 20, 2017.
Originally published at medium.com