Exercise and It’s Discontents

I crossed the finish line. My time wasn’t great, but I completed the 12 kilometer San Francisco Bay to Breakers race. In 1986, I was young, slim, and reasonably fit. From what people said, it sounded like fun, so I did it.

And how did I feel? Honestly, I felt neither exhausted nor euphoric. I felt nothing, really, except the pain in my knees the following day. It was a task I set out to do, and I completed it. I had no doubt that I would. And I had no expectation that I’d get the “runner’s high.”

Twio X | Parkour Leipzig
I’m still waiting for the day when exercise releases endorphins into my brain, giving me that euphoric feeling after a strenuous physical workout. When is it supposed to start happening?  Please tell me, because I really want to know. I’ve been waiting 4 decades for it.

Frankly, exercise leaves me with only one, simple feeling: tired. That seems normal, doesn’t it?  I’ve put out effort, I’ve burned all my calories. What else should I be expecting?

Euphoria, apparently.

That’s not to say I don’t have my exercise routines, because I do. I make a point of walking for 20 to 30 minutes each day, outdoors. And I lift weights on a regular basis.  If I’m being really good, I ride my bike once in a while. But these all have side benefits independent of any expected euphoria. Walking and biking get me outdoors. The weights allow me to avoid being embarrassingly unmanly when I have to lift something.

They are not, however, driven by any passion or expectation of euphoria. My exercise is a necessary evil, a means to an end, not an end itself. It is like sex in a passionless marriage, or the routine of a dull job. I do it because I’m supposed to, and I pretend to like it.

I could really use a dose of that alleged euphoria I hear so much about, though. It might make a difference.

All of Life is a Performance

All of life is a performance.

When you get up in the morning, you enter the stage and you don’t exit the stage until you go to bed at night. All day long, you are in front of the audience, both your admirers and critics. And just to keep things interesting, it is always improvisation. There is no director, no stage manager, no script. We each must seek our motivations and speak in character.mic3

As with all performance, you will have some “on” days and you will have some days when you are really off, days when you’ll want to hide backstage and not re-emerge until the next show. You will sustain injury and heartbreak. You will experience an entire change of cast. But the show must go on.

If you act out of character, or refuse to appear, you may be boo’d or deserted by your fans. Critics will wonder aloud what happened to your mojo.

When the performance is over, when the show finally closes, your obituary is your review. The friends and the critics will finally weigh in on what they thought of you. Sadly, you will not get to read these reviews. In fact, while the performance is running, you may never know for sure what anybody thinks. But you must perform anyway.

Because all of life is a performance.

[With a tip of the hat to Erving Goffman. I’ve not read The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, and can only say that this piece was born of my own experience. But I did read Asylums in college and was deeply impressed.]