The woman I’ve been training with is an artist of pain. Her sunny, low-key disposition is at odds with the creatively hellish maneuvers she puts me through, many involving nothing more than my own body weight and a timer. “Are you feeling that?” she often asks as I’m partway through a set, and I always gasp-laugh in response. Am I feeling this? “In your core,” she smiles. My core, sure. I mean, it’s hard to tell because I’m spiraling into a dark tunnel and all my dead relatives are awaiting my arrival, but yeah. Core, spleen, eyelashes, mitochondria: I am feeling it.
What I think about later is how that feeling stays with me for hours. I don’t mean the pleasant ache of taxed muscles (although yes, that’s there too, a gentle tugging anchor to the now), I mean the aliveness of it. The brief journey into exclamation marks and primary colors that cuts through the muffle, pushes aside the cotton batting of my day.
I come home and it’s back to the deadlines, errands, laundry, cleaning, pickups and dropoffs. My tiny world spinning away, with the exact same scenery always looming into view. It’s been far too easy to succumb to centripetal force, pressing ever inward. Am I here? I can’t tell. The space for me has almost disappeared.
Maybe that’s what I am trying to do with exercise these days, along with the vain things and the healthy things and the I-remember-how-good-this-used-to-be-for-me-why-did-I-backslide-so-much things. When I push myself past my limits, I change my scope. I take up more room. I feel present in a way I haven’t felt for a long time.