On necessary atrophy (or 8 days to Step One)

I want to move. I want to spend the day outside with the glorious Florida spring soaking up the rays of sun before I leave for Pennsylvania. I want to lift the heavy things with my partner. I want to set up my slackline next to my hammock and casually move between the two as I watch the sun trace a path across the sky.

But I cannot. I should not. And sometimes, while trying to finish another difficult question block, that inner dialogue feels like scolding an earnest child or an excited puppy.

Over the past two weeks, I’ve caught a cold and stubbed my toe. The virus held me back from attending jiu-jitsu classes as well as highly encouraged me to sleep in and reduce my activity level in order to maintain my study-output. Then, a door beat my toe in a game of chicken. I limped for a couple days and this further removed me from activity due to inflammation and a microbiology-induced fear of infection. Without realizing it, I lived through a week without sweating from exertion.

The eight or nine hours a day required for simply a basic review of pathology, pharmacology, anatomy, and physiology demands a relatively stationary study location. Sure, I can wiggle around a bit, stretch my arms while watching a video, and complete a question block at a standing desk, but this still amounts to a generally sedentary profile.

Without the past two weeks of sickness and injury, I would still consider myself sedentary. An hour of even the most extreme exercise does not average out fifteen hours of barely moving around a computer. I look back on my activity level over the past few months and smile with envy. Long walks to campus, stretching once or twice a day, double jiu-jitsu classes: I limited myself by my ability to recover instead of a limited amount of time for movement.

There are times of plenty and times of scarcity. A steady, unending flow is unusual and usually unnatural. Seasons change and so does availability. Sometimes, you shouldn’t be able to eat guacamole because an avocado cannot grow on your side of the planet without more daylight.

I cannot expect to always move as much as I want, especially with the career that I have chosen. I have been enjoying my days as a student without realizing how few they are remaining. An afternoon spent slacklining in the sun is a luxury and should be treated like one, rather than a demand at my local Chipotle.

This atrophy is necessary. I cannot expect to get stronger or faster or fitter during this season of Step Prep. I can maintain. I can stay sane.

Sometimes, that is enough.



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