Embracing the Dark Side

Pushing your body through a difficult exercise session is as much mental as it is physical.  When your head isn’t in the game, it’s hard to get the extra edge necessary to give the effort that ends up making the most difference.  When your body is tired and ready to give up, the only chance you have to eke out more work is if your mind can rally those fatigued muscles and sore joints into giving it absolutely everything they have, which is where many trainers will tell you that real body change happens.  A lot of the time, positive energy can push you through the wall: thinking of all the work you’ve already done, how many calories you’ve already burned, the jeans you want to fit into, the outfit you want to wear for The Big Party.  You can encourage yourself through positive thinking, and can even help a flagging partner through it, telling yourself and them that “You can do it!” or “You got this!”  Positive energy is great and awesome.

But sometimes, it isn’t enough.

Meet Tiffany.  She’s perky and happy, always positive and optimistic.  She teaches aerobics, loves leg warmers and ponytails, and still keeps her favorite stuffed animal from her childhood on her always-made bed.  She’s the Light Side of your brain, the one that sends those encouraging thoughts that push you through.  She’s the side that wants to help you and others get through it, because she knows that “you’ll live a longer, healthier, happier life” (as Bob puts it).  She loves you and him and her and unicorns and rainbows and hugs.  She’s great.

Some days, you just want to give Tiffany the finger and tell her where she can stuff her unicorns and hugs and happiness.

Those are the days where you’re surly, when it’s raining outside for the umpteenth-straight day, the weather has turned from way-ass-hot to way-ass-cold without taking a pleasant stop in between, you’re up too early or too late, and you just want to either go to bed for a week or demolish a case of beer.  Every positive thought comes across as a personal insult, every smile looks like it should be met with a fist, and distant blind rage hangs like a thunderstorm on the horizon.  Anger, fear, revenge.

The Dark Side.

When the Dark Side comes, you have two choices.  Fight it with every bit of positivity you have in you.  Think of snuggling bunnies, dancing free in a meadow wearing cotton (something that commercials seem to feel is important for proper meadow-dancing), turning frowns upside down.  Resist the Dark Side with everything you have, saying all the positive things you can until that fixed smile becomes real and Tiffany burst forth in your mind once again.

Or, embrace it.

Make the Dark Side yours.  Feel that anger, that rage, that wellspring of invective and bile within you.  Let it consume you.  Use that hatred to push through whatever puny walls your body builds up.  “Oh, what’s the matter arms?  You think you’re all done with those curls?  NOT UNTIL I SAY SO.  I am in charge here, not lactic acid.  MOVE.”  Hurl epithets at the DVD player when whoever is on it is trying to Tiffany you into doing more.  Oh yeah?  Eff you.  Eff you.  Eff you.

Properly done, and the embracing will fill you with black energy that you can burn through exercise.  You’ll be too pissed to go back to bed.  Even better, all that negative energy will get burned out of you, once you are fatigued and gasping and stretching.  A lightness fills your limbs, and Tiffany will sheepishly peer around the corner of your mind to make sure it’s safe to come out, and your mental cheerleader will be ecstatic and ready to get you through your day all over again.

One important caution: when Embracing the Dark Side, be careful NOT to direct that invective at actual living people, like your workout partner or the instructor in a live class.  They tend not to be too understanding when you try to explain that what you just said about their mother was meant only to help you get another rep or two out.

So, yeah, this morning it wasn’t Lady Aravan f-bombing the TV.  Whatever works.

About Alan Edwards

Former cancer caregiver. Husband of the most magical and amazing person who ever lived.

Posted on October 5, 2010, in Kerfluffle and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. YES! Dark side! We embrace it regularly in our workouts. Just last night I was sucking big time to Inside Out: Strength when I was startled by angry shouts of, “Come on!” It works though. Your mind will talk back to positive reinforcement, “You can do it! I know you can!”

    “…No I can’t. Too tired.”

    But when you hear an angry shout it’s like a snap kick to your mental state of awareness. Suddenly you’re back in fight or flight mode and that shout gave you the tiny hormonal boost you were looking for.

    Unleashing your own dark side is great as well. Anytime I’ve had stress at work or school just seething inside me waiting to get out I’ve taken it to my work outs and been extremely rewarded.

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