Sunday, June 16, 2013

La Dolce Vita Remixed

“The golden opportunity you are seeking is in yourself.” –Orison Marden

A few weeks ago while making my five-minute lunch commute from studio s to Marburg Avenue, I turned on NPR radio just long enough to hear the sound of Roger Ebert’s voice on Fresh Air. Despite the short interval, the words I heard mysteriously continued to roll around in my head like a marble searching for a home. At first his voice startled me, as I was aware of his recent death. I quickly put together the pieces, that host Terry Gross was airing a previously aired interview to celebrate his life and his work. 
Here is the snip-it I heard, where he recalled a tradition he upheld once a decade: 

“I went to see ‘La Dolce Vita’ by Fellini, and that movie has been a touchstone for me, because when I saw it in 1960, there was this 30-year-old journalist in Rome leading this unbelievably glamorous life with all these celebrities and staying up all night and going to orgies and having all of his philosophical friends around him and his wives and his mistresses and miracles and stories to cover.

When I saw it again—and I’ve see it every 10 years—in 1970, it was somebody my age, only he was leading a more interesting life than I was, I thought. And when I saw it again in 1980, it was somebody ten years younger than I was, and he had a lot of problems that I had outgrown.

So, Marcello, the character in the movie, stays the same, and I can kind of measure…my thoughts about the character as time goes by.”
Every year, for the last eight years, I’ve reserved the first weekend in June to attend the World Spinning and Sports Conference (WSSC) in Miami, Florida. WSSC has become my ritualized La Dolce Vita--which coincidentally translates as “the good life”. Although a more succinct slice of time, it is a marker in my year that shows me how I’ve grown, where I stack up against my past self and where my future self is called. It slows me down enough to remind me of my purpose and my own power to create or, if needed, recreate myself in this fast-paced world. Each year, the setting and stimulus--like that of La Dolce Vita--essentially remain the same but I, thankfully, do not.

WSSC 2013
My first year in attendance, my eyes were opened to the professional world of fitness and the possibility that I could have a real life in this dimension. There have been years in Miami where all I wanted to do is look up at the instructor bike and have a chance to be a student again; others where I was determined to know nutrition, heart rate data, industry trends, business and technology inside and out; others where music, flow, rhythm and breath are the focus; and others still where I just need to be alone, refilled and reminded that I am unique, capable and have a gift to share.

The deeper I get into this tradition and my life as a fitness expert, the less I fight what once felt like disparate pieces of myself. For many years in Miami, and at home, the internal voice played tug-o-war. They would try to muscle each other, “You need to know everything—the best scientific, smart methods to teach and train by. Use data, tools, numbers," my brain would tell me. “No! You need to feel it out and trust what your body is telling you. Go by heart, immerse yourself in flow, feel the road and your place on it, experience it all.”

In his book, Eat & Run, champion ultra-runner Scott Jurek speaks of a similar internal battle and the desire "to blend intuition and technology.""Exercise is sim[ple] and ... complicated. We need to move. But should training be an intuitive, free-form affair or a structured science? I try to let science steer my training while staying open to the animal joy of running. I take days off when I feel I need them, even if my training plan doesn't call for it. Ultrarunners need to bring all the knowledge we can bear to our training, but we can't afford to be rigid." It was reading his words that finally helped me neutralize my need to know which side was right.

I am not simply a thinking mind or a feeling body. I am both. We all are both. It has become my personal mission, as well as my professional one, to acknowledge, engage and elevate the whole self. The self who...
-wants to see heart rate numbers, measure watts and calculate calories burned.
-wants to run in the woods and forget it’s even exercising. 
-wants to have energy and longevity to do everything on a bucket list.
-wants to quantify improvements in muscle mass and body fat.
-can close it’s eyes on a Spinning bike and get lost in the beat of the music.
-can do one more pull-up, hold a handstand and or endure a 50-mile run. 
-listens to intuition more than others’ opinions.
-wants progress. And, the self who is completely happy as is.

Training/enjoying at Hueston Woods State Park.
It is with my whole self that I will head to Leadville, CO in two weeks. I will "race" a marathon up a mountain but I won't be "racing" at all. I will be living. I will be taking my life, my daily practice of running and playing in Cincinnati to see what it yields in the oxygen-deprived air of Leadville. For me these events, these so-called "races" are not about a test of my fitness or a measure against the clock. In my recent personal evolution, they are simply a way of life--the good life, la dolce vita. Yes, I train. Yes, I calculate how I will get there. Yes, I'm aware that at some hour they will pull me off the mountain if I haven't completed the time cut-offs. But, this event is long from over when I fly home. It will be more than a medal, or a time or the 26.2 miles. It will be a journey within that develops who I am. It will be me.