I tried my first kettlebell swing workout tonight. My body gently aches from the back of my neck, across my shoulders and arms, down to my thighs and calves. Not two hours after I did the set, I found myself standing straighter, taller.
Maybe I really am 6’7”, and I’ve just been slouching.
But how did it feel? When I think back on my first, unimpressively weak (20 pound weight), slightly awkward experience with the kettlebell, what washes over me?
It felt like a feast.
Not just a buffet, or a coincidentally large meal. A feast, full of foods I really wanted, foods I only taste a few times a year. It felt like Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner.
Exercise has hardly ever felt like this before. Usually it’s drudgery in progress and pain and soreness following. But this felt like a feast. I’m beginning to understand people who love exercise.
Even putting aside sex totally, our bodies are meant to feel pleasure. Our bodies are meant to desire it.
But it seems like in my sedentary postmodern life, that sense is somewhat lost. Too much is buried in the screens: the gray of the office computer, the distracting static of the television, the infinite insignificance of the web, all exacerbated by long commutes and short nights.
The very technology and modernity that allows so many of us to live so comfortably, when in the past we might have died in the cradle, stands between us and the experience of joy.
We develop a disconnect with our bodies. We no longer stop and feel the rain, as we did in our youth. We no longer run for the joy of running, as we did as children. We no longer stop to let the wind rush over us.
Our pleasures are limited to our sex lives, the manufactured adrenaline of our media, and our food. And too often, that gets us into trouble. Because just as the media we consume is manipulated and processed to provide the fastest bang, the most addictive return on investment, so is our food.
And sometimes, this artificial intensity even spills over into our sex lives, in various forms of objectification. But that’s a topic for a different post.
Our bodies are meant to desire pleasure. Not manufactured, processed, white-sugar-buzz pleasure, with its dizzy intensity, inevitable crash, and empty hunger for more.
We are meant for spontaneous, genuine delight, like a child chasing leaves in an autumn wind. Like a young man running to meet the train that brings his beloved back to him. Like the sheer joy of feeling your body push its limits just far enough that it doesn’t verge into pain and damage.
It’s strange that a simple kettlebell swing reminded me of this. And stranger still that I went to a computer screen to share it. But such is the age we live in.
Time doesn’t run backward. Turning back the clock just breaks your hands. But who we are hasn’t changed, and the genuine joy we need is still available. Just look beyond the static.