Every time you work out, you invest time in yourself for change. As your muscles engage, they incite change on the cellular level: burning energy and resources to help you move. As they tire, they willingly admit defeat in exchange for future strength: change for the better. As you gasp for breath, your lungs become more efficient at absorbing oxygen, and your blood betters in its capacity to carry it. As your heart beats, it too learns how to squeeze a little harder: uncomfortable but devoted to its mission of powering your body. Finally, your heart and soul change a little bit, too: finding joy and peace amidst all this change in the vessel that is fully, completely, and nothing but you.
Change is an integral part of exercise. In fact, that’s why many people enjoy it. In other areas of your life, however, change can be utterly terrifying. Transitioning into senior year has brought this truth to light in more ways than I ever imagined. Even if you’re not a senior, you’re likely still facing the reality of an incredibly dynamic, transitory life in college. External change, the kind that makes you feel powerless, is present in the grades that don’t measure up to your dedication, in the Spring semesters spent scrambling for internships, and in the dear relationships that must come to a close alongside the closure of this life chapter. How daunting it feels at times, knowing that even the best-laid plans can go awry. How, then, can we cope?
A close friend of mine recently gave me this advice: when life feels like it has no constants, you need to find the constants in yourself. For me and for many of you, one of these essential constants might be exercise. And if not, your reasons for identifying your constant are likely very similar to mine. The best constants make you feel at home in yourself, no matter what might be changing around you. They inspire you to become a better version of yourself, but they do so without inciting fear of judgement or failure. Some days, they probably give you the highest high, but more importantly, they offer a constant presence, like your own heartbeat, of true fulfillment. They ask almost nothing of you, and yet you would happily give so much. They might be your parents, your dogs or your religion. They might include the books on your shelf or the feeling of moving into your favorite yoga pose. And for me, they definitely include that breathless, heart-thumping satisfaction of a completed WOD.
If you want more of that constant, home-in-yourself feeling, but don’t know where to start, exercise is an amazing place to look. Because as soon as you realize that change can in fact be the essence of your constant, you can reclaim some of that power. And after that, embracing the change around you becomes just a little bit easier.