The Wayward Body

[What I had for breakfast today: rice. Egg. Beet greens. Kamal had the same thing!

But this past Tuesday, Kamal asked me to make him pancakes, and I made these, almost exactly according to the recipe. I used six ounces of whole-wheat flour and four ounces of white, as opposed to the ten ounces of white flour called for in the recipe; and instead of buttermilk and sour cream I used the kefir and yogurt Adam has been culturing at home. Kamal had two with butter and homemade jam. I had two, also, but they sandwiched an egg scrambled with salami and cheddar cheese. It was delicious.] 

As far as I know, which is not very far, the point of having a body is to experience everything beautiful the world has to offer it. And that is a lot. One of those countless beautiful things is the euphoria of exertion--the hard and fast heartbeat, the fierce ache in the muscles, the pores opening and letting go sweat and salt.  There is nothing else like it. Just like there is nothing else like pistachio ice cream or sleeping in on soft clean sheets or taking in a sunlit field of mustard flowers. It would be silly to deny your body any of these pleasures. 

Sometimes my body doesn't want to exert itself. Sometimes, despite my best intentions, my body goes all wayward and self-sabotage-y on me, and wants to lie down and eat french fries. (This is a completely justifiable desire, but this post is about exercise.) I love running, but I don't always love every second of running, or riding my bike, or even my brief daily yoga practice. But in those moments when I don't love all the panting and sweating and aching, I remember how I feel when I don't exercise at all, which is: crappy. When I feel crappy, I act like someone who feels crappy: grumpy, uninspired, unfun. Which is, let's face it, not fair to Kamal or to Adam, not fair to my patients or my friends, but mostly, so not fair to me. 

So, now I'm talking to you. Please exercise. You don't have to run, you don't have to bike. You don't have to wear spandex or belong to a gym. You can do it with other people or all alone. You can do it with music or you can do it with silence. You do have to find a thing you like doing, and the way I always suggest finding that thing is to think about the thing you most liked to do on the playground at recess. 

Remember that thing? Remember how you would just run around screaming, out of the sheer joy of being set free from the classroom? Remember how you'd always win at foursquare or tetherball? Remember hopscotch? Jump rope? Or what about the long, rambling bike rides with your friends after school, all the things you'd discover that you'd never have seen in a car? Did you ever once in your entire childhood turn down the chance to go for a swim? Did you and your friends choreograph busy, giggly numbers to Whitney Houston and M.C. Hammer? 

All of that also counts as grown-up exercise. All of that will make you sweaty and euphoric. And I want all of it for you, not because it's good for you, not because it's my job to recommend it to you--but because you deserve it. You deserve to feel strong and happy and at ease in your body. You deserve to let your body bring you every kind of pleasure, every joy. You deserve every benefit exercise brings--greater ease in your everyday movements, whether climbing stairs or carrying groceries; a more positive outlook, leading to better relationships and a happier home; and maybe even a longer life , which you're going to really want once you realize how beautiful and delicious every day in your body can be.