Eau de Work
I love to sweat.
Let me explain. My body does not do this on its own–I have to work for it. And, as of late, I have taken up running. This is not something I was particularly fond of doing until about three months ago, but over time I got used to it. I even started to like it. I get my shorts, shoes and iPod sleeve on and I feel powerful. I start going and before long my heart gets into its rhythm and somehow my movement becomes a dance of the id.
I tend to run at night, more because I leave for work at 6:20am and waking up any earlier might as well be suicide. So come nine, I’m out there with my tunes and I’m pounding the pavement around my block. For the next twenty minutes, it’s just me and the road.
And while I like the running part, my favorite part of the run is finishing it. I walk into my apartment and before I even take off of my shoes I collapse on to the floor, arms and legs every which way as if I’m about to make a carpet-angel. The music is still singing in my ears and I close my eyes and just listen. I listen to the music, yes, but more than that I listen to my body. My heart is pounding, my legs are aching happily, and my head is still running. I feel most accomplished in this position.
There used to be a time when this feeling–the heart-pounding and the leg-aching–wasn’t as much an accomplishment as a means to accomplishment. While I work at my office every day, I can’t even remember the time when Austin was more cattle ranchers than aspiring musicians. In many parts of the world, life is still like this–even in the United States. But we’ve taken this idea of physical labor and we’ve pushed it down to something less than. It’s not a celebrity occupation. It’s dirty. It’s hard.
Mike Rowe offers one of the best defenses of physical labor that I’ve found. It’s the experience of his grandfather, and the lessons from those experiences, that inspired Rowe to create “Dirty Jobs,” and in turn form the career that builds awareness on the blue-collar job.
Before I started running, I didn’t really understand the purpose. Though I hadn’t run for pleasure, sometimes I’d run out of necessity, and I really didn’t understand how someone would enjoy running. I hadn’t yet understood the purpose of exercise.
Over the past few months I’ve garnered a deep passion for nutrition and healthy-living. Not at all coincidentally, this passion aligned itself quite nicely to my running, and to my increasing love for cooking (I’m sure this will show up in another post). These things have begun to soothe me, and I feel a little less stress as I think about my kitchen on the way home from work. (I will have to post some of the particularly yummy recipes). And, while I don’t always feel like running at the end of the day, once I get out there I feel like things will go my way.
When I first started, my one goal in mind was measurements. I wanted to lose this much weight and drop this many sizes. But I’ve found, and I believe this to be a theory about lifestyle in general, that the goal changes. Within a few weeks, I had completely forgotten about my waist and dress sizes, and I was just focused on living a whole and healthy lifestyle. I wanted wellness.
One of my go-to essays is Dorothy Sayers’ Why Work?. It’s a wonderful piece, and while it is more focused on reconciling the secular occupation with the Christian faith, I believe that her standing thesis, the work serves God, the worker serves the work can be applied to my running as it can to my job. It is not my duty to serve my body: making it thinner, healthier, etc. It is my duty to serve the run: to push myself a little further each day and to respond to the curves in the road and the music in my ears and the pavement under my feet. It is the duty of the run to serve God: the run helps me to live a healthier life, and this fulfills, at the very least, one element of the Cultural Mandate. I think we forget sometimes that, as much as we are creators, we are also Creation.
This may be a bit deep for exercise, but it’s no less important. In fact, it’s almost to our detriment that we regard some parts of life as more thought-worthy than others. What we think affects what we do, which in turn affects how we live. And, ultimately, the way we live influences the way others around us think, do, and live.