I haven’t spent hours, weeks, days, or months on our couch. I have spent years lying there, wasting away into nothing until I was but a shadow of my former self. Sure, one could argue that I have a reason because of my (at times) debilitating back pain, but I feel that would be lying to myself, like settling when I know I could get so much more, be so much more, at least what I used to be, hopefully more. It goes without saying that a physical ailment such as this, an ailment that limits one’s life to this degree has its effect not only on the physique, but the psyche as well.
This experience of some five years has taught me a few things, but I feel the most important is this: inactivity is like a psychological cancer that eventually starts to erode your body as well. It grabs hold of you and if you don’t shake it off immediately, it latches on and starts growing, breeding inside you at an unprecedented pace, and it’s fucking scary.
If you’re a neat freak, this metaphor will probably fly over your head (or, rather, crawl between your legs), but it’s the best one I have in mind: the messier of us often make decisions to keep our homes clean. We’ve spent hours tidying up and decide ”never again, from now on I will be a neat freak, I will put everything where it belongs after I’ve used it.” But then one day you realize that your apartment is a mess. Again. How did this happen? Messiness creeps up on you like a ghost.
Inactivity works in much the same way: once it has a solid hold on you, before you know it, you’ve been diagnosed with depression or adjustment disorder or whatever, and you’re stuck in your bed, couch, or wherever it is that you glue your ass when you’ve had it for the day. The problem with inactivity is that the longer you’ve let it hold sway in your mind and body, the harder it is to shake it off, get off your cute, little ass and do something, anything.
Well, here’s a little secret tip: that feeling of an insurmountable challenge you experience after a long spell on inactivity is an illusion. Imagine spearheading an army against your enemy’s fortress. You’re rumbling down the field and towards the castle walls, screaming at the top of your lungs, about to smash the battering ram at the sturdy gates. And then you burst through to the other side. The gates were made of paper. That’s how solid the mighty wall of inactivity is.
I know it’s fucking hard sometimes, trust me, especially at first, but it is doable. All it takes is that first step. That’s it. After that first action, it’s as if the shackles pinning you down shatter, and you’re free again. All you need is that one battering ram to punch through the debilitating mirage.
What’s my battering ram, my secret? Push-ups. I’ve tried the guitar, studying, even dry-fire drills with my pistol (though sitting down, more comfy that way for a lazy bastard like myself), but they don’t work as well as something purely physical, something that forces your body to crash through those paper battlements. If I had a pull-up bar, I’d do those too.
Try it out. I dare you. I double-hare dare you (had to use hares, they’re just so damn awesome in all their fluffy cuteness). Get up and squeeze out as many push-ups as you can. Find out how many you managed and let me know in the comment section below.
The first time I did this after years of inactivity, I managed only 20 (I used to be able to do 4-5 sets of 45). My body was in shock, my heart was bursting through my rib cage, and I was breathless… but I felt good! It was as if my muse had emerged from her own dimension into my reality and blown a breath of energy and inspiration, a breath of life into not only my body, but my mind as well. It was almost like a dense fog was lifted; I saw the world clearly again.
Nowadays I do push-ups, bicep curls, the ab wheel, the horse stance, and the plank several times a day, every day. Sometimes I forget a set here and there, but I try to do one set every time I get up, be it to go to the fridge or to take a leak or whatever. Nothing fancy, just a set of push-ups. The next time you get up, a set on the ab wheel and so on and so forth. Now I can do 4-5 sets of 20 push-ups a day, 1-2 sets of 15-20 reps on the ab wheel, 1-2 sets of 75 seconds in the plank (single position, longer if I do my sides too), 3-4 sets of 6-9 curls per hand with 12,5-15 kg per hand, and a set of one minute in the horse stance. I know, it’s not much, a far cry from what I could do before, but it’s a start. Since I don’t do the sets one after another, I don’t even get sweaty: I do a set, then return to what I was doing before, so I don’t need to take ten showers a day.
I know this comes off as a fairly brutish routine since it has nothing to do with spirituality or positive thinking or anything fancy like that, but who cares as long as it works? Since I started doing this, I’ve been more inspired to write, practice the guitar, study for exams, in essence, get my shit together.
I just participated in a sci-fi short story competition with my wife at www.writingforums.org (we both submitted our own shorts, which was a fun experiment, but that was it for us as far as solo writing goes: to us, it’s just double the fun to write together), I signed up to take part in an IPSC competition, I’ve recorded with my band and guitar trio, and I’m studying for the year’s last exams. And it feels amazing. My life is finally moving forward, I am moving forward, out of that perpetual limbo, no longer trapped in that couch-shaped cage that was my prison for so long.
And all of this started with one set of push-ups. That simple exercise we all know, love, and hate. It’s so simple one might even think it couldn’t possibly work, but it does. Try it out. Then again, what works for me, might not work for you, but try different things: go for a walk or a run, go swimming, do yoga, dance. Hell, fuck or masturbate, do whatever it takes to drag your body and mind out of that fog that envelops us when we succumb to inactivity.
So, get your heart pumping and your testicles or tits quaking, tear down the castle of inactivity, and find that spark again, bring yourself back to life. Like Geoff Thompson says; find happiness through action. I did.