Tuesday, August 17, 2010


On July 1st, I started the P90X exercise program. I didn't start it because I'm an athlete; I'm not. I didn't start it because I wanted to be an athlete; I don't. I started it because I want to be strong. I wanted to regain strength I felt I had lost over the years. I wanted to build and rebuild muscle. I wanted to look and feel capable. Less than 30 days into the program, I found myself waiting at the emergency room for a family member who had had a stroke, desperately searching for strength and capability.

There is a moment during Stretch X, where you are performing some sort of complicated maneuver that is stretching your gluts and Tony Horton talks about discomfort. It is a longish, rambling quote spoken by a man who is feeling the discomfort that he describes: I don't think I can quote it directly, but I can paraphrase it. Horton says that he feels discomfort and asks "so what do I do? I don't think about it. I breathe." He explains that every time you breath out a muscle releases slightly which, of course, would remove some of the discomfort, but that you can't breathe out unless you breathe in . . ... "So breathe."

So that's what I did. That advice got me through the day and I realized even if Tony Horton had created a mini catalyst in my brain, it had been advice I had already been using before I had ever heard it. I had done that in the dentist's office when a cleaning seemed too long or too uncomfortable. I had used it when heavy traffic suddenly felt like a parking lot and I wanted to throw open my car door, scream and run off into the distance.

Anytime I had felt pressured and too fragile not to break, I had used it.

There will be times where you feel such physical or emotional pain that it is as if half of you has been crushed and you don't know if you want to die or crawl away from the part of yourself that is gone. Breathe.

There will be times when the fear and discomfort is so real and strong you will think you would willingly chew your own arm off just to get away from the trap that you've found yourself in. Breathe.

I can't promise it will make you a better person. I can't promise it won't happen again or again or again. I can't promise it will be easy the next time. But I can remind you of the Nietzsche quote we have all surely heard by now . ..

"That which does not kill us makes us stronger."

The key to being stronger is surviving what is in front of you.

Just breathe.

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