Recently we had a lovely dinner with our fitness friends. Think lean, no body hair whatsoever, and lots of talk of training and RunKeeper. I casually said to the husband, “I could never do a triathlon.” His response, “I could never write a book.” This quieted me. I had never considered what I was doing as anything comparable to the titanic training involved in these high-powered workouts. I sit on a chair for hours at a time! I can devour bags of Twizzler bites and daydream out my window while my resting heart rate does just that!
Then I turned forty-three. If someone had to pin me down with the exact moment when I realized that my twenty-something body was going to catch up to her age, it would be forty-three. Without going into too much detail, things have shifted, dropped, drooped and begun to fit snugger than before. Most of my friends know that I do not love to exercise. Though I respect and appreciate the need to keep one’s heart healthy, I was never one to relish the magnificent high—the euphoric boost—from exercising. For me, I was just happy to cross it off my list for the day.
My workouts have typically included walks around the Aventura golf course, the occasional gravity class, and a series of elliptical/treadmill programs. Anything else either intimidates or covers me in hives. So when I noticed the wiggle that wasn’t there at forty-two, I decided it was time to amp it up a bit. I began with a mile uphill walk by our home in North Carolina. It came at the perfect time because I was dealing with writer’s block on the new novel. The fresh mountain air always cleared my brain, and I was considering my new, rounder butt.
As I strained forward on the path up the mountain, I was challenged by muscles that had laid dormant for years and a stamina tucked away in my former self. It was reminiscent of my afternoon at the computer attempting to create likeable characters and an engaging sentence. In both cases, I wanted to give up. Instead, I pushed through. Though our techniques are different, anyone with a goal is required to use muscle. It’s not the kind that lift weights, runs miles, or crafts a story. It’s the power of the mind.
We may not all aspire to run marathons or write books, but we have one thing in common and that’s sheer will. The more I wrote, the more I needed to write; the higher I climbed, the hungrier I became (in the literal and figurative sense). We speak of nourishing one’s soul, and there is no better mind/body connection than that of strengthening and shaping the deeper core. So I climbed that mountain a few more times and a wonderful thing happened: the music I listened to began to inspire characters and feelings; the joy of finding just the right word became no different than the drops of sweat dripping down my back; reaching the apex became the equivalent of shaping the perfect story arc. The two were interchangeable. And though your trainer can spot you, your editor can tweak and tighten, ultimately, it is up to you to first believe that it can be done.
The same will and discipline that carries my triathlon friends through the finish line lives within each of us. Your mind is your most important muscle. Use it, strengthen it, condition, love it, trust it, and you, too, will tackle mountains.