What Do You Do on Sabbatical? Part 4 – Physical Health

What Do You Do on Sabbatical? Part 4 – Physical Health

Real quick, if this is the first of these posts about sabbatical that you’ve read, don’t even worry about it. They’re not required to be read in any particular order. The idea is that I had 10 weeks worth of time called sabbatical. Sabbatical is kind of a unique thing and folks are naturally curious about it. So, I thought I would talk about some of the things that I did. You can read about the previous three posts about vacation, cooking, and writing if you click on each of those words.

I set myself all kinds of goals in my proposal for sabbatical. I tried to organize them into broad categories of mind, body, and spirit. The mind bit was giving myself a break from sermon writing and focusing on academic research and writing on this book I’m working on. I’m resting from the normal mental activity and exercising with a different sort of mental activity. I also read a good amount of fantasy novels because I’m a nerd and I like it.

OK, so one of the things that I knew I needed to do was focus on my physical health, my body. One of the surest ways that I know I’m stressed out is by how my body feels. I feel sluggish or rundown or sore or heavy. I have no clue why I got so stressed around 2020-2021 (what could possibly have been going on…), but I sure was! I found myself just eating all the time. I’ve always kind of used food as a reward system for myself. Finish writing this term paper, Rory, and we’ll go have some chicken wings. But when we hit global shutdown and then trying to make our church fit that new mode, Rory wanted wings and cookies and crackers all the time forever and ever amen. That had the result you might expect. My pants were getting tighter, my suit coats were getting a little snug around the middle, and I gained pounds. I’m not so big on the whole number thing, but it really did a number when I started thinking about having to do something about coats that have fit me for the past 15 years. Shame started in and it only made it worse.

Sabbatical came at a really good time for me to be able to strike a change. And I did. I kicked off with vacation and didn’t have nearly as many snacks or sweets or other things as I might have had even a few months before. I ate a ton of fresh fish and fruit because we were on a tropical island! When we got back, I enacted the plan. The plan was to walk the dog every day. This dog.

a large white dog looking out the passenger seat of a car
95 pounds of goober.

When he was a puppy, I had to walk him twice a day or he was completely unmanageable. He’s now mostly manageable but he still loves a walk every day and for the most part I was doing this before sabbatical. But I committed to it.

The other thing that I committed to was going to the gym 3 days a week. OK, so here’s the thing about me and exercise. I don’t want to talk about it. Generally, I’m going to be a little surly about doing it in the first place, so the idea of having some lunk or trainer yelling at me or “encouraging” me makes me… not very Christlike. I like lifting weights more than I do any other kind of exercise, but I still don’t want a partner or a friend or anything else. I go to a gym, put in my earbuds, drink water, and do my thing. And I do not want to talk to anyone, chat about my form, or even have anyone next to me. I just want to suffer alone for an hour and leave without any acknowledgment other than maybe a sympathetic head nod on my way out.

The thing I like about weights is the feeling of accomplishment when I move up on an exercise. I had a real feeling of accomplishment when I went graduated to the big dumbbell rack for presses. I like the feeling of finally putting the 45 plates on the bar after working my way up to it. It feels good to just move on from a plateau and increase after a few weeks on one weight. Those little wins fire good jolts in my brain. I don’t want anyone else to know about them really. I don’t want to high-five the bro next to me or talk to a trainer about it. I just want to feel good for a minute and then go home and eat chicken.

The Incredible HUlk
What I feel like every time I grab a barbell over 50 pounds.

I did that for 8 weeks. I walked every day. I lifted weights three times a week. I made sure to get 8 hours of sleep. I was cooking good food and eating waaay less snacks. And it made a big difference. My pants aren’t tight anymore. My suits aren’t snug around the middle. They’re actually getting a little snug around the chest and shoulders which is a whole different feeling. I feel better. I feel stronger, which is my favorite part of it all.

I’m not able to go to the gym on Monday Wednesday Friday just before lunch anymore. But I’m keeping it up by going on the weekends and my off day because I like it. So, if you see me out there in my gym shorts and my earbuds, please don’t say anything. Just give me a nod and I’ll return it. And we can just suffer alone together for an hour.

Oh, and keep a neutral neck position! I lost a week of weight lifting at the end because I looked up doing a lat pulldown and my neck seized and cramped for like 3 days. Of course, that could have been the massage from the day before that messed me up, too. So yeah, neutral neck position and be careful with those massages.