This post is inspired by today's ThinkKit prompt "How do you unwind?"
Too often we sacrifice our bodies to get ahead. I've come to think of my body as a bank where I need to keep a positive balance. If I dip into the negative- too little sleep, no exercise, bad food, too much caffeine or alcohol- then I have to take steps to get back in the positive. Recently I judged a Startup Weekend contest where the runner up had a great idea for an app that would help you know when you dipped into the negative. I thought it was a great idea and I hope they go forward with it.
For years I neglected my body, almost willfully. I stopped participating in sports around the age of 13 and ran with a crowd in college that almost prided themselves on their lack of athletic ability, or physical activity of any sort. Exercise was limited to carrying guitar amps in and out of clubs or walking around Bloomington since almost no-one had cars. As I came into my 30s (I'm 41) I found that the wheels were starting to come off. Stress no longer disappeared with a beer, back pain became a constant and my stomach was rarely at peace. Something had to change.
Almost exactly 3 years ago, just before Christmas, I began a regular exercise routine. I started with a Yoga DVD and have been adding and improvising on it ever since. A personal trainer worked with me to add some anaerobic strength building reps. The routine- I began calling it my "Man-tine" about a year or so ago- starts with restful breathing on my back and builds through stretches, stomach crunches, etc, with conscious breathing throughout and wraps up with 20-30 minutes on an elliptical machine. I get made fun of by my wife and friends calling it a man-tine. My buddy Dan Ripley once told me- "yeah, I wouldn't tell anybody else you call it that." He thought it was pretty hilarious. I think "branding" my workout routine gives me a greater sense of ownership.
I have never felt comfortable in a gym. This goes back to when I was young and my parents would drag me out of bed and take me to the YMCA for a morning workout before school. I appreciated the intent but not the experience. So I was excited when we moved into our "new" house 4 years ago and were able to set up an elliptical machine in our bedroom and still have room for a yoga mat. I think exercise should be something of a spiritual experience and having a private space to practice has proved critical for my commitment to it.
Like most people, stress is something of a constant in my life. Although there are many effective ways to unwind, I have found that my man-tine is the most effective de-stresser. Also, as I unwind and relax my body I am always surprised by how many interesting ideas float into my mind, how many problems begin to untangle and how clarity is achieved across many areas of my life. It reminds me of something Richard Branson said when he was asked how to be more productive- "work out". I've found this to be true in my own life. If you take the time away from the activity of your life to take care of your body you will find you are also taking care of your mind.
What do you do to unwind?