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Why working in is just as important as working out.

June 24, 2012

An enlightened work buddy touched on something so elegantly straightforward yesterday, I wondered why it hadn’t popped into my minuscule noggin earlier. (Then I remembered, the most basic of principles usually escape me – arithmetic, dressing appropriately, oftentimes the alphamabet). No, this was genuine intelligence, distilled into one glistening gherkin, pickled in the sweet brine of simplicity.

Twas the notion of working in as opposed to working out. 

You see, we all know what it means to work out. To exert ourselves, lather up, perspire, put out, expend, unleash and burn energy. Igniting like a sparkler, gobbling through our fuel and gently expiring with a fzzzzzzzzz.

There’s more to the concept of ‘working out’ however, than meets the bicep. To exercise is to physically deplete yourself of energy. It’s a destructive force. It’s uncomfortable (exempting the pain-seeking sadists among us). It’s a stressor in varying degrees; so much so that your body is stimulated to rebuild and grow after each loco superset. Thus, exercise itself is not making us fitter nor more muscly, rather the process of repair and renewal that proceeds it is.

So. Working in? Surely in the glorious equilibrium of existence, the conservation of our energy stores, the cultivation of inner strength and peaceful introspection should share equal importance? Activities that stoke the internal fire, similarly to the concept in Chinese and energetic medicine of Qi, should also feature if we are to partake in a balanced continuance.

‘Slow down you move too fast’ by Kirra Jamison

We demand so much of ourselves; always pushing, peddling and pole-vaulting to new heights in the name of fitness. To stave off laziness and chase after an elusive physical perfection, whereby we have shimmied ourselves into a brand new, chiselled, hulking beast of a body. Working out. Expelling air like a squealing balloon.

To remain taut and plump and shiny however, deep inhalation is necessary (of the figurative kind!). Drawing in. Filling. Swelling. Fanning the coals that reside right in the pit of our buddha-like bellies.

Maybe you already take time to work on the self and are currently rolling your eyes and wondering how I got to be so behind. If so, legendary. Keep it up. But I’m willing to bet my last coconut that most of us don’t regularly take a moment to stack up the other side of the scale and wiggle our way inwards. For it is always a delicate balancing act, one involving spinning plates, juggling pins and perhaps a little unicycle.

How do we ensure that we are feeding the other side of the ying-yangese equation?

  • Participate in activities that build energy, generate internal fire and balance our super-charged chakras. Yoga, Qi Gong and slow, energizing movements (such as in a Paul Chek program, for instance) will all bestow energy, leaving you tingly and electric. Ready to combust. Flammable!
  • Long hot soaks in the tub are a personal favourite. Place 1-2 cups of epsom salts in your gigantic ceramic vessel, add a few drops of lavender, a spoonful of coconut oil, and you’ve got yourself a juicy, prune-filled afternoon.
  • Walking in nature. Or somewhere slightly green and aesthetically pleasing, at least. Walking is the preferred mode of locomotion for all modern neanderthals; it’s neither too taxing, nor sedentary, and the perfect pace for meditative mindful meandering.
  • Self massage with a foam roller, hands, or even a tennis ball. Many of us experience muscle aches (particularly in response to over training. Busted!) so this form of therapy is a great way to tenderise your hide, and show yourself some love. Here is a great article on how to employ the humble tennis ball (preferably not a shaggy and slobbery second-hand pet toy) and combined with a yoga mat, a patch of sunshine and your favourite tunes, you’re set for a therapeutic session of myofascial release.
  • Breathing. That undulating pulse that sustains us; we are incredibly flippant about such a crucial phenomenon, nay, the crux of all life. Yogis have very specific ways of generating energy and prana through the breath that I won’t attempt to do justice to, but as a layman hilbilly with no requisite yogic know-how, simply bringing awareness to the current of air flowing into and out of your gob is surprisingly powerful. When you think of it, focus on breathing right into the pit of your belly, expanding outwards rather than upwards, through the chest and throat. Fill the balloon, expand those flaccid lungs and feel immediately revitalised.
Image care of Lucy Engleman

Even though so much emphasis is given to busting our bollocks in the name of health and sweating through our fingernails, it will all be in vain if the body we are so intent on flogging is ailing. The ludicrously fit-sessed among us may periodically forget that the aim of the whole exercise endeavour is to cultivate health; health that cannot be sustained if there is not an equal and opposing injection of zennnnnnnnnn. Making ourselves sick and depleted, whipping our asses like a frightened and frothing race horse runs perpendicular to wellness. It intersects, slices it. Cuts the budding shoots we so painstakingly grew.

Do yourself a favour and include some working in this weekend! My prescription? A luxurious bath, a therapeutic tweak of the toes, a few deep breaths in a field full of daisies and one long, protracted ommmmmmmmmm.

Tell me, how do you work in?

3 Comments leave one →
  1. June 24, 2012 8:29 pm

    Amen! Two baths already this weekend, although I have a feeling I do a little too much working in at the expense of any real working out. Ah well, off to massage myself with a tennis ball! Hope you had a wonderfully zen weekend x

  2. kallie91 permalink
    June 25, 2012 3:38 pm

    I love this article of yours Catie Poops. I love my hot soaked baths, nature walks and can’t wait to get into yoga when my ankle has healed up beautifully. Keep up the awesome effort you shining star! Love Kallie poops x

  3. June 30, 2012 8:38 pm

    Great suggestions. I never had any notion of the importance of this until I met my partner. He is zen 24/7 (some are blessed) and likes/needs to remind me that slow time is goood. So, I schedule a Sunday of nothing and we do fun things together. We also regularly walk along the beach and I’m planning on taking up yoga (:

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