I work out. Nothing extreme, mostly the stationary bike and resistance bands. I try to meet with a personal trainer once per week and then repeat our workout once more on my own. My trainer is expecting his first baby this summer and I can’t help but feel old now when I meet with him. My youngest is 18, my oldest, 24. There is even a 22-year-old in the middle. How can that be? Now, my trainer is expecting and sharing all kinds of apps and 2019 baby jargon that is, although, current, foreign to me. I keep pedaling. I keep squatting. I keep in motion against time and the span of years between my trainer’s current experience of a firstborn and my dated one.
But I am not alone in this gym. Very often there is another woman: an 80 year-old woman with her hair pinned high in a tight silver bun. She has a bouncy walk and a steady gaze. Most days she is about done with her workout when I arrive to endure mine. No doubt she’s an early riser. I’m lucky if I arrive on time for my work out at 10:30am and I live less than half a mile away. Instead of a neat bun, I wear a ratty hat over bed head.
This spry, starry-haired athlete has her routine. She is steady and focused. Ready and engaged. I respect this. I might even envy this. She never seems rushed. She doesn’t appear motivated by the idea of, “You will feel so great once it is over!” Rather, she is present for her workout, as if there is nothing else she needs to do but attend to her attention.
One morning, I was at the hip (flex?) machine. She started walking towards the exit just beyond me. Her pace was slow. Alarmingly slow. So slow, that I stopped my reps and approached her. Not wanting to insult her by bringing attention to how slowly she was moving but at the same time wanting to make sure she was OK, I engaged her in idle chit chat and asked how her work-out was going.
In so many words, she said, “This is hard and awkward but necessary. You never know when you will need to walk slow”. Walking slowly was a part of her work out! She was deliberately walking slowly. So slowly, in fact, that someone watching, like me, might think she needed assistance. Might think that she was struggling. Nope. Not so. Slowing down was her workout. She could definitely out slow me.
When do we need to walk slow? Why would we even want to walk slow? What value could this possibly provide?
I found my answer at the beach.
It was low tide. Sunny and warm. My daughter was a few yards behind me seeing the day through the lens of her camera. She was walking slow. Taking things in. Tiny things. Like wind patterns on dry sand. I was about to give her a holler to catch up! when I remembered my gym twin; You never know when you will need to walk slow.
This was one of those times. I didn’t holler. I didn’t rush. I turned around and I walked. Heel to toe, one foot at a time. Because I knew I was thinking about it too much, I added some “weight” to my workout and closed my eyes.
At first, I counted 25 steps, then opened my eyes. Then 35 steps and opened only one eye. Was I heading towards the water? So much came up for me. Not only was I slowing down even more, I was noticing even more. Air temperature, yes. Sand texture, sure. But, largely, on this walk, I was noticing FEAR. Fear that I would trip, get my sandals wet, maybe bump into another person. And that’s when it hit me: The after-burn of the slowing down workout; an awareness of why it might be that I was moving so fast in the first place. For me, it was fear.
I’m still going to enjoy my cardio and my rushing of chores I would rather not do but I am going to complement this hustle with the work of slowing down. My trainer may be having a baby in 2019 and my first child may have been born in 1995, but I’m going to feel and not fear the passing of time between two such important milestones. I can squat and spin as much as I want, but unless I slow down, the muscle that is awareness will atrophy and I wouldn’t know what I was missing.