Expose Yourself

Last weekend, I did something I never, ever, in my entire life, expected that I would do.

I went to Myrtle Beach to rent a house, drink beer, and play golf.  My twin brother’s getting married in August, and we had three days of deep divots, bad-ass BBQ, and Big Dave’s shitty beer.

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I never expected to find Busch Light surprisingly refreshing, nor to fly golf clubs anywhere.  Caddying through high school and college, I picked up the game of golf.  When I started to spoil those long walks, I put the game down. The only sporting equipment I expected to fly anywhere was my bike.  Considering the hesitations I had about golfing all weekend, it was an absolute blast.

Somewhere between the driving range and my first 9 holes, I thought, “Hey this is actually quite fun.”  I last thought that 4.5 years ago, about 6 months before I faded away from the game.

To be fair, we used a four-ball scramble format, so it was more of a team sport than anything else.  It’s also nice to think about the beautiful out from the woods, and 45-foot downhill birdie putt, rather than the chunked 7 iron that lead to the farthest thrown club I’ve ever seen.  That was certainly an out-of-body experience.  I digress…

Playing golf was fun.  In some ways, it was a reminder of what I used to do.  In many more ways, it was a completely new, first-timer experience.  That semblance of first time exposure built on other recent experiences I’ve had.

My girlfriend Katie and I have spent the last month loving rock climbing at The Cliffs in Long Island City, what started as a birthday surprise is our new hobby.

The first few routes we practiced climbing were relatively easy for me, and I could muscle up most everything.  Then the hand holds got smaller, and I couldn’t hang on.  Strength in the absence of skill isn’t very useful.

It’s the same issue I ran into playing golf for the first time in years – the skill just wasn’t there.  That feeling is a double-edge sword.  We either love it and use it as fuel to get better, or we hate it and use it as an excuse to not do something.

How often do you hear someone convey the message, “I can’t do this?”  That may be your belief right now, but it’s far more fruitful to think, “I haven’t done this yet.”  Applying a growth mindset to it can open us up to a vast array of experiences.  We can’t have those experiences without exposure, however.

Expose yourself.

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Damnit, Michael, not like that!  Expose yourself to new activities. Those experiences can be fruitful for your momentary enjoyment, and also for the long-term enrichment of your life.

I’m fortunate enough to live and work in a community where most of my peers are physically active.  For the habitually active, I believe that experiencing novel activities is a great place to practice the fitness we’ve created.

For those of us with more formalized fitness plans, this means exploring other activities outside of the gym.  Maybe you find that your fitness makes finding new activities to enjoy easier than expected. New activities like this one:

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Can you feel the strength and power from your fitness activities during your other physical adventures? How does that kettlebell swing help how you drive a golf ball? How does that lateral lunge help how you corner while mountain biking? How does throwing a medicine ball help you control how you transfer weight on the rock climbing wall?

And what if you aren’t yet physically active? For those with a more sedentary lifestyle, experimenting with new activities can be the exposure to find something that “clicks,” that we’re keen on practicing regularly.

Do we really think the exact breakdown of how we’re exercising really matters?

As intellectualized and formulaic as exercise can be, let’s not forget our evolutionary intelligence.  Our bodies don’t know if we lift twice per week or three times per week.  They don’t know if we throw a ball or kick a ball.  We simply know if we’re moving or not.

Let’s exposure ourselves to the movement that feels the best for us. That exposure that truly matters.

Last weekend I was exposed to golf after such a long hiatus that it felt new again.  I remembered enough to play some great lucky shots, and I’m looking forward to hitting balls with my brother again soon.  That experience, exercise and all, was well worth what my incorrect expectations.  Thanks, Will.

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