With my days in the OR and long cases that require me to stand for five or six hours at a time, I decided to change up some of my movement practices. If I’ll be standing a lot, then I should train the physical act of standing, right? So once or twice a week, I’ll head to the barbell, load it up quite heavy, and then just stand underneath the load, taking ten breaths per set.
If I want the heavy things that I pick up on a daily basis to feel lighter, then I need to pick up even heavier things on a regular basis to change my set-point for what feels heavy. With this strategy in mind, I rack 275# and take my deep breaths. A few years ago, I would’ve been squatting this weight, but now it is far beyond my scope of strength to consider.
With this shift towards heavy lifting, I have been noticing that my body will tell me quite clearly what type of movement it needs. Or perhaps more accurately, what it does not need.
The strength training and high intensity workouts are necessary in small doses. My body has been responding well to this stimulus. When I leave the minimal effective dose and begin to overdo the weights, I feel a lethargy as my body tells me to avoid the gym for the day. Perhaps I’ll miss that zest to lift something heavy. Maybe I’ll just feel a funk.
As I’ve begun to listen to these messages from my meat-suit, I’ve divided my movement into two broad categories: structured and unstructured. I need both to feel like I’m inhabiting my body and practicing skills and movement that I love. Yoga and slacklining. Back squats and long walks with Honey. Archery and morning dance sessions. Crossfit and playing with a soccer ball.
The structured movements allow me to feel like there is some steady progression or at least objective proof that I’m not declining. If I can squat the same weight once a week, there’s some evidence that I’m maintaining my strength. The structure is lovely and essential, but I can lose so much movement by staying in that structure.
The unstructured movement fills in those gaps. For instance, take twenty minutes of kicking a ball around: I can attempt to juggle, boot it as far as I can, and bump it into the air as high as I can. This allows me to play. The play allows me to practice random movements and some of them are very practical movements. Cutting, twisting, and jumping. There’s no real goal other than having fun. When I stop having fun, I try something else.
When that doesn’t keep the play flowing, then I call it a day. There’s a time to challenge myself and dig through discomfort. There’s also a time to enjoy the movement and revel in my meat-suit’s ability to perform.
Perhaps it is a simple work/play balance within my meat-suit. Working pushes the boundaries and keeps the structure strong. Play fills in the gaps, opens up the soft tissues, and gives me a reason to smile while sweating.
Especially after a long day in the OR, it is easy to push my meat-suit like an obedient but aged dog. As long as I prod it enough, the body will muster the energy for me to lift a heavy barbell or struggle through a tough workout. At some point in the future, after enough days of grinding away, there will come a breaking point.
I used to love grappling. I still do. But I haven’t rolled on the mat in months. The wear-and-tear brings me too close to that breaking point. Maybe after this surgery rotation, I’ll feel enough slack in my movement to bring me back.
Or maybe I won’t.
I just know that right now, I need to be kind to this loyal friend. My meat-suit doesn’t ask much of me. It works and serves me well. In return, I must play and find joy in movement.
Long Form Sundays
- On the pull of the OR (or consideration of a life in surgery)
- On brain surgery
- On Death revisited, again