Monday, November 26, 2007

Weight Training in Body Mind Spirit Integration

One morning a few months later, Alexander and I were out walking, and I heard the Voice in the back of my mind again. This time it said, “Ask Gary to work out with you. Get a trainer.”

It was no surprise to me when Gary Archer, my old friend, said, “Great idea.” In a few weeks I joined the Downtown YMCA, and Gary and I had a trainer and a regular workout program. Our trainer, Mary Hodge, was a nationally ranked mountain biker. After a few months of working with her I dusted off my bicycle and started riding.

As I began to see pleasing changes in my body, that positive reinforcement led me to maintain an exercise regimen. My program has ebbed and flowed along with my weight, but I keep coming back to exercising my body.

Eventually I changed trainers and gyms. Alvin Reuben, my new trainer, is a massive, handsome black man and a former pro football player. I wanted the results I saw in his body and the clients he trained. He also worked carefully with my back injury, a chronic condition I had suffered with for years. Alvin’s method of training requires the mind to perform the exercise, slowly and carefully, and let the body build its strength naturally. Master the movement and you carefully build the body. With Alvin’s technique, weight lifting became a meditation. Every exercise began with my body relaxed. I would use light weights and attentive focus and breathing through each movement. Under Alvin’s firm gaze he would stop me if I lost control of the exercise, or if I sped up to use momentum rather than my strength. Using Alvin’s technique in the gym turned working out into a spiritual practice.

Through those years I lived with a compressed spinal disc in my back, a chronic pain that would sometimes flair up with excruciating spasms. For the most part I just lived with the discomfort, but after a long bout of chronic pain I took a few months off from the gym to nurse my back. Not surprisingly my weight began to rise without regular exercise.

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