I’ve been back at the gym once or twice a week for the last few weeks. Not enough for me to feel like I’m working out regularly (or enough), but often enough that it feels like part of our routine these days. Before I became pregnant with Anna I was running regularly; I trained for the Charlottesville ten-miler and for several years running was my main form of exercise. But during my pregnancy that began to take a back seat to swimming.

These days my favorite forms of exercise are swimming and yoga. I was thinking about the similarities between the two the other day while I was making my way back and forth across the pool, and I realized what it is about both that I enjoy so much:

I can’t multitask.

I can’t watch TV while I’m swimming like I can on the treadmill. The only music in yoga is what the instructor plays in the background. I’m not listening to music or an audiobook while I work on the weight machines. The only thing I’m doing is swimming laps. The only thing I’m doing is trying to balance. Now that it’s warmer out and lighter out in the evenings I can run outside again, and the only thing I’ll be doing is putting one foot in front of the other.

I finally succumbed to the iPhone last winter and just as I suspected, it quickly attached itself to me like another appendage. It’s ridiculous. I know I need to do some kind of harsh, cold-turkey unplugging challenge eventually, but right now I am mostly observing myself — what’s going on when I feel the need to check my email or open instagram, why I feel like I need to carry my phone in my pocket all the time and why I feel so weird when I don’t. Spending an hour in the pool or the yoga studio forces me to unplug and I appreciate that. I feel like I am rapidly losing my ability to just sit and just be without any external stimulation, and letting my mind wander is at risk of becoming something I only do in the thirty seconds between turning off the light and falling asleep. So as a counterbalance, I find myself drawn to exercise that won’t allow me to do anything but that.

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Seen on one of the few outdoor runs I’ve done since Anna was born.

Right now I don’t have any expectations for my swimming apart from being able to take shorter breaks at the end of each lap, and I don’t want to. Once I’m running again, I just want to breathe the fresh air. In yoga I only want access to that sweet spot where discomfort melts into power. I want to use that time to strengthen not just my physical potential, but my mind’s eye as well.

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