Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Put Away Your Phone

It is 806 days since my 2014 New Years Resolution to work out every day I am not on the road, and I've now accomplished 600 workouts. How? I learned to put away the phone.

Put away the phone? You've got to be kidding! We just LIVE on our phones -- texting and calling and tweeting and blogging and otherwise connecting from dawn til way past dusk. And yet... I did.

You see, something happened almost five years after giving birth to my Bella: Her "baby fat" went away but mine didn't. I told myself I hadn't lost my pregnancy weight because we were on the road doing my Campaign Boot Camps -- and that was partially true. I told myself I could multitask -- exercise and conference call at the same time -- but that wasn't working either. It was time to admit that unlike my mom, Nancy Pelosi, I can't get slim on power walks and chocolate ice cream for breakfast. I needed to join a program and stick to it.

There were gyms -- I tried a few -- but there we were, the elliptical, my phone, and me, and the phone was winning. So I set off for SoulCycle (good friends swore by it) but I'm claustrophobic and it's dark in those rooms so that wasn't going to happen. Finally I found the spot for me. A clean, well-lit, open space for Pilates.

The first day I put away -- locked up(!) -- my phone for class it was like cutting the umbilical cord. "What if my daughter's pre-K calls?" "What if work needs me?" I got through the first class thinking "They can call my husband; Peter's on HIS phone," and "Work always needs me. They'll call back." Unsurprisingly to you (but not entirely to me) the world had not ended when I returned to my phone 60 minutes later.

And so I began the hard work of losing the baby fat, rediscovering muscles from decades ago, and finding some new ones we never learned about in biology class. The first 20 workouts were shaky: me away from my phone, away from my lifeline, vulnerable with TRX ropes and sliding machines and free weights that I often dropped with a thud while the more experienced classmates glided through the routines. But day after day, week after week, I came back and promised myself that just showing up, working out, and concentrating on myself for an hour wouldn't kill me and might actually enhance my life.

Twenty two months and 600 workouts later -- yes, that's 600 hours without my phone (!) -- here's what I've learned:

1. Put Away Your Phone.

You are not expendable and the world will go on without you. Trust your village -- your partner/husband/wife/spouse/bestie/parent/child -- to call the front desk if you are really needed. Six hundred classes later, NO ONE has called me at the studio.

2. Good working means good workouts.

It took me a while to believe that: I'm one of those rapid responders who thought of workouts as time away from working. It turns out the opposite is true. What I learned about self-care is this: If it seems extravagant to spend resources on an hour of daily "me time" think how expensive it is to make mistakes out of anger, poor health, or low stamina. Taking time away from the movement to prepare yourself to better serve the movement helps you, your family, and your compatriots.

3. Keep Your Abs Off Your Thighs.

Be honest, some of you probably sat up straighter after reading that. I know I did! Posture matters a great deal. In Pilates it's making sure you are present in your workout not begrudgingly or lazily letting the ropes and weights pull you. In work and home life, it's about centering your stance both physically and mentally to be prepared for challenged and to act from strength. I didn't really value the power pose until I flew off the TRX ropes one too many times and learned to control myself by standing still. I now use that pose when I make speeches. I hope my content is better, but I know my confidence sure is.

4. Make A Promise To The Person You Plan To Be.

My father-in-law Phil Kaufman has a beautiful expression:"Be a friend to the person you want to be in 10 years." Well if that person is going to be alive, healthy and active she better work out now! Being an older mom (I had Bella at 42) means I want to be there for her as long as I can with as much good energy as I can give her. On days that I'm dragging, thoughts of how good the workout will feel and the investments I'm making now for her future, are what get me to the studio and keep my abs off my thighs.

5. Just Stay.

Many times I am pained or tired or not feeling the lovely rush of endorphin energy. I'll think to the sign I saw posted at the Delancey Street Foundation: a simple hand-lettered card in the dining room of 500 ex-convicts and recovering drug addicts that said: JUST STAY. Recovery is hard; good health is hard; forcing yourself to grow strong is hard.

But if you "just stay" and think through the things you need to resolve that are percolating on the phone you put away, the self-care you know you need, the posture and stamina that improve your life, the promise you made to yourself, then you -- like me -- can "just stay." Six hundred times and then 600 more. Good luck!

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