On Being an Extremophile

We went to visit some friends on the central coast last weekend and had a lovely time going to the pumpkin patch and fall activities, enjoying the beautiful weather, hitting up the beach, and catching up.

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I even got to meet in person with one of my blog idols and friends, Carrie from Carrie on Vegan. If you haven’t checked out her blog, go now! You won’t want to miss out on the plethora of delicious, healthful recipes she shares on her blog.

In addition to all of this fun, Alex and I were intending to get a nice, easy run in since we didn’t go last week per my training schedule because I was tired on Friday morning and prioritized sleep and coffee instead. On Saturday morning when I went to grab our shoes, I realized I’d forgotten to pack them; I had flats, Alex had flip flops. A run wasn’t in the cards for us. I thought of my training plan and how I’d told myself I would only treat myself to a reward if I hit 100% of my workouts, and this was going to mess that all up. I half heartedly suggested we go to the gym after our 4 hour drive home, but unsurprisingly, this didn’t happen. I resolved to add another easy run to this week’s schedule.

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Then yesterday in biology, we learned about extremophiles, organisms that live in extreme environments, like extreme heat or super low pH. Scientists used to think that these organisms lived only in these environments but it turns out they can and do thrive anywhere.

A week or two ago, I posted this article about going to extremes in CrossFit and ending up in the hospital. Turns out, it happens to P90xers, too. Diane at The Everything Yoga Blog also posted this week about how yogis are not exempt from pushing themselves too far. They may not end up in the hospital, but injury happens on the mat just like it happens at the gym. Last night at yoga, the focus was about listening and respecting what you learn. Even the description of a Scandal episode we were watching the other night talked about characters “going to extremes” to protect themselves.

Why am I talking about biology and TV and random fitness articles on a food/exercise/healthy living/categories-are-meaningless blog? Because it seems like the notion of going to extremes has been popping up everywhere in my life, including in class, and when that happens I like to pay attention. Especially when the lesson is punctuated by a beautiful sunset.

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I can take a hint, universe.

All these clues made me think about my commitment to my workout schedule and training plan, and only rewarding myself and celebrating if I met 100% of the prescribed workouts. I thought about whether adding another easy run was necessary or would be helpful, or if perhaps it was my ego and not my body telling me I had to do it. And I wondered about my all or nothing approach to the idea of a reward. Perhaps some wiggle room would be helpful.

My workouts aren’t intense enough to cause rhabdomyolysis, and even on the yoga mat I’m relatively conservative when it comes to trying new things for fear of injury. I don’t do CrossFit specifically because I think I’d push myself too hard. But in the rest of my life, I’m constantly battling the urge to constantly push forward – add more challenges, have a cleaner house, play with the cats more, eat more superfoods, blog more, make the blog prettier, network more, relax more, keep up with pop culture, disconnect more, understand more foreign and economic policy, reflect more, help everyone more, be kind to myself more, make more money, want less money, more more more more.

Without even touching on the fact that many of these urges are contradictory, there is also something to be said for comfort and balance and being okay with dust on my shelves because I’d rather be having coffee with a friend than cleaning. Just as in yoga, one pose has to be counter balanced with another, and I’m still figuring out how to do that off the mat. I’m still figuring out where to fight and where to let things go. Some of this urge to be constantly doing is no doubt an internal drive – something in my emotional and mental history and make up that believes this is the best way. But there is also a sense of this in the external world – we should always be moving towards the next thing. The question is, I think, which things to move towards and which to let go.

Friends, how do you figure out when to push forward and when to pull back? Also, what fun fall activities are you up to this month?

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One thought on “On Being an Extremophile

  1. If I’m happy, I know I’m doing it right. If I’m unhappy, I pull back and do something that makes me happy outside of my routine. If I’m not sure how to feel I assume I’m unhappy and do something that makes me feel happy. I live a pretty charmed life though, I can take breaks from work and school and have little consequence other than knowing I’ll have a little more to do down the line, but so far it’s worked and I don’t usually stretch myself so thin that I can’t take the necessary break here and there.

    As for you, you’re the busiest person I know but you always take time to see me. THANKS!!!

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