One of my most prized graduation gifts was an acoustic guitar. It came from an old cowboy with whom I used to do long rides, as well as sit around a campfire and hear him play guitar after a long day in the saddle. Around one of those fires, I mentioned that when I was done with school, I wanted to learn to play. He remembered this, and years later, gave me one of his own guitars at graduation. It has taken me awhile to pick it up and make time for it, but I finally have. My goal is to one-day play a song along with him.
It also took me awhile to be consistent practicing because I sounded so awful in the beginning. It was hard to listen to myself play notes that were incorrect, and my fingers hurt from the pressure of the strings. But I persisted, and in less time than I thought, I can now attempt a simple song. I still stumble on certain notes, and need more practice, but it surprised me how little time it actually took. It just required consistent practice.
I have recently had the same thoughts about exercise. Medical school took its toll on my physical health (and occasionally mental as well). I started prioritizing sleep over exercise. That thinking persisted through my residency also. So here I find myself, wanting to be more fit and return to previous activities, but feeling daunted at the thought of being out of shape. I’m not sure if it will be my lungs or my legs that will give out first. The research shows that exercise reduces stress, helps you sleep better, and prevents everything from cancer to cardiovascular disease and diabetes. And I ask my patients to find a way to incorporate it all the time so now it is my turn.
So I have finally begun again. And just like with the guitar, it was hard to do at first. My body felt out of sorts, would hurt at the end, and this made it hard to want to continue. Especially knowing what good shape I used to be in and how little effort the same exercise used to take. But in a very short period of time, it has begun feeling better. The exercise feels more fluid, my body resists less when I push it, and now it feels a little more musical. So on those days that I struggle to motivate, I remind myself of what it felt like first learning the guitar, and that eventually it became less challenging and more rewarding.
Now I am even experimenting with some new forms of exercise. And to make sure I keep it as a consistent habit, I am vowing to exercise everyday for 30 days. I want to make it a habit that I have time for and can find a way to do. Even if it’s as simple as walking my neighborhood at the end of a busy day, I will persist. So it begins. Maybe I will be able to push past some previous milestones even, like running a half marathon this fall! So stay connected this month on facebook for my exercise adventures, as well as some nutritional types to help with exercise and muscle building!