Today, I went for a trial visit to a local health and fitness centre. I haven’t been to the gym in about a year and it shows. Lately I’ve been feeling more slob than swish and as I’m not getting any younger (who knew!), I’m aiming to get fitter and healthier. (I’ve been here before!)
When it comes to gyms, I have special requirements: I am a social ‘exerciser’ so I need somewhere that offers classes. I’m also keen on relaxation so a pool/sauna/steam room is perfect for me. I got a free pass into Nuffield Health Club so I dusted off my gym wear and off I went. Once I’d been shown around, I was left to my own devices to try out the gym’s equipment.
Understandably, I am a bit rusty in terms of exercise, so I stuck with what I knew and started with the treadmill. I set myself a time of 10 minutes and slowly worked my way to a reasonable speed and incline. The speed at which I went and how tired I felt at the end confirmed just how unfit I am! Undeterred, I made my way to the rowing machine, and again, struggled through what seemed like the longest ten minutes of my life. Motivated by the anticipation of time spent in the steam room, I persevered. I should say at this point, most of the patrons in the gym at the time all appeared to be a lot older than myself, which may have contributed to my extra determination to keep going!
For the final 10 minutes of my thirty minute target, I chose the stationary bike (is that the technical name for it?) and mounted one next to an elderly gentleman and behind an even more elderly woman. By this time, I am dripping in sweat, my legs feel heavier, heart rate faster, but determined to not throw in the towel. Inspired my my elderly gym colleague, I start cycling and it soon becomes obvious that this last segment was going to be a tough one. With a burst of fresh determination I cycled faster with my eyes closed and in my mind, for about five minutes. So imagine my surprise and disappointment when, upon opening my eyes, I realised that I had been cycling for less than a minute!
As I watched the second slowly slip by and felt my legs move at rapid speed, something occurred to me: moving quicker has no bearing on how quickly time goes – time is its own boss and moves at its own pace. I thought about phrases like “busy yourself”, “not enough time in a day” and “too little time, so many things” and wondered why it is we think we can change, beat, outrun, time? We move at alarming rates, busying ourselves with this, that, and the other, and wind up in exhausted heaps at the end of the day, sometimes with our lists unfinished, and with feelings of dissatisfaction and lack of accomplishment.
What if we slowed ourselves down? What if we stopped trying to outdo time? What if we realised that time exists to make us more productive, not make us feel unaccomplished. Maybe the reason we “run out of time” is because we are trying to fill time with more than can be done within that ‘time’? Just like me thinking that by pedalling faster the time would go quicker, we have disillusioned ourselves into thinking that the best way to use time wisely is to fill it with ‘stuff’, to cram every nook and cranny of time with every imaginable task or function that we can. We have turned busyness into something to aspire to, to be proud of, to be lauded. And in doing so, we look down on those who appear to be moving too slowly; at those who seem to be wasting time because they are not busy enough.
So here’s my tip (for what it’s worth): slow down. Twenty four hours will still be that whether or not you have a list of 10 or 5. And guess what? Tomorrow you get another twenty four hours! Can you believe that? Pause for a while. Sit with that thing that’s bugging you, that is causing you anxiety at the thought of ‘getting it done’. Ask yourself, what will happen if I move to a slower rhythm? What are the risks involved in doing less? What are the personal costs to me if I take some time to ‘smell the roses’? And equally, what could I gain from taking time to breathe, take in my surroundings, sit with my ‘stuff’? Go on, see what you discover ….