Yoga and hiking are the only two forms of exercise I enjoy that also help me stay present. Yoga naturally encourages you to be present with your sensations as you adjust your pose to maximize the lengthening and stretching. When I’m hiking the beauty of the outdoors reminds me to get out of my own head and observe what’s happening around me. These subtle reminders allow me to develop my practice and get some exercise.
I think it’s important to maintain my physical health so in the past I would find ways to trick myself into getting a daily workout. I could rarely motivate myself visit the gym but I always enjoyed a nice competitive game. I could get wrapped up in a game of basketball, soccer, ultimate frisbee, or tennis and leave the court knowing I filled my exercise quota. What I’ve noticed is my mind was far from present when competing. I was trained with the, “Do whatever it takes to win,” mentality so my mind was usually calculating strategies to be victorious. Getting lost in the competition and having my mind aways in the future was great because it distracted me from receiving my dose of exercise.
Now competition doesn’t feel right. Always being stuck in the future goes against my practice. The goals of exercising to look good have become less important. Without the motivations that worked in the past I’m getting much less exercise and that’s a problem so I want to reevaluate how I play sports. Is there a way to compete without getting lost in the future?
Athletes often talk about “the zone” where everything is going right. The world is moving in slow motion and you can’t miss. While I’m no Michael Jordan, I’ve experienced this a few times on the basketball court. In those few moments I felt more present than on other days. My mind was locked in and I wasn’t worried about anything outside of that game. I still wanted to win but I knew that focussing my effort on the present was all I could do.
Can I learn from this? Instead of intentionally getting lost in the competition to disconnect from my body so I can get my exercise could I use sports to develop mental presence? Instead of getting lost in the end goal can I bring my attention to the process? This all seems counterintuitive to my thoughts on exercise but my body is screaming for better care so I need to listen.