(Photo courtesy of the Cleveland Clinic.)
It’s impossible to ignore certain aspects of one’s physical condition. The gut is in plain view. All the time. So are the arms. And legs. And if you can’t lift a bucket of water, or walk up stairs without panting, you know it.
This reality is good for the fitness club business. Many people want to look buff. Or at least not look too unbuff.
At this point in my life, my goals are different. Buff is out of the question. But good posture isn’t. My main goal is to age without standing and walking like an old, feeble person.
That requires muscle tone. So I work out. Lift weights. And endeavor not to allow my body to get too far ahead of my brain — in the aging process, that is.
But I realize that the muscles in my arms, legs, and back aren’t the most important ones. No, it’s the one I can’t see that matters most: the heart.
I’m not an expert on muscles or conditioning, but it’s obvious based on what happens with the visible muscles that it takes use and stress to achieve and maintain conditioning. Hence, the weight-lifting.
The same goes for the heart. Hence, the walking, cycling, and weight-lifting. And avoidance of elevators and escalators when stairs are handy.
Now none of this is news to anyone. We all know the heart is key. Yet we’re also confronted with this aspect of human nature: out of sight, out of mind.
I have some dear friends and relatives who have to be careful with their hearts. They have afib. Their hearts aren’t out of their minds. Ever. But they’re the exception. For the rest of us, the heart is easy to forget. It does its thing on its own, without any volition on our part. It will always be there for us. Until it isn’t.
We don’t even check in with our hearts. If I did, I know what I’d hear: Lose some weight, idiot! (I’m sure my knees would say the same thing.)
I’d tell my heart that I’ve been trying. And I’m sure it would say, “Not hard enough!” The heart is right: not hard enough.
Perhaps willpower is like a muscle. Perhaps you have to stress it to grow it.
I’m going to continue to try to exercise my heart. I know it needs exercise. What I need, however, is to become a better listener. To hear — and heed — what my heart is telling me.
What’s your heart telling you?