Today a close friend was talking to me about how he enjoyed the process of getting in better shape. He said he could look at his body as a “tool”. As he became fitter, he gained self-awareness about how hard he could push himself and how his body would respond. He developed confidence in his body—he was no longer so afraid to drive himself to the limit. Instead, he became fascinated with watching the numbers on the gadgets he attached to his body. He could watch his heart rate climb into the 190s and be reasonably sure that he wouldn’t die. He knew he had techniques of modifying what he was doing that would allow his heart rate to come down, without actually quitting his workout.
For my friend, having this detachment from his body allowed him to push himself harder. He got a kick out of watching the numbers his body could elicit on a heart rate monitor or a GPS unit. In a sense he was treating his body as another device, the “action component” that he could experiment upon with feedback from the “measuring components”.
As I listened to him describe his experience of training hard, I was struck by the realization that I’m happiest when my spirit and my body are one entity. When I’m running, I want to fully inhabit my body. My sensations are me. Today I was running on the Baden-Powell trail on Mount Seymour, between the Seymour Parkway and Indian Road. I had burned my quads nicely by starting my run with 13 minutes of crawling uphill to the Baden-Powell via the Old Buck trail. Now I was repeating the same short section of the Baden-Powell, because the footing is better there than on the neighbouring trails. Going downhill on the Baden-Powell was very easy—I had to run at a laughably slow pace to protect my injured knee. But when I turned around, I pushed as hard as I could, while running continuously uphill. For the first time in ages, my lungs were straining! I was breathing deeply, rapidly, noisily! I revelled in my body’s lightness. Hiking rough trails in the past few weeks has given me a new agility. I don’t hate obstacles like rocks and twisty turns and roots anymore. I like the way I need to be alert to notice every feature of the trail beneath me, so I can make instant decisions about the best place to put my foot, the exact distance to jump, the time to quickly speed up or put on the brakes. I love being an animal within the misty forest.