When you hear the word ‘exercise’ what picture, feeling or thought does is create? Depending on your age, experience, ability (physical and mental), overall health and enthusiasm, it’s probably going to be a different internal representation for each of us.
I’ll be honest, the initial picture I have is of sweating in tight-fitting lycra, in a hot, crowded, noisy, internal environment and while I have done some of that over the years, along with various sports and other vigorous exercise when I was younger, it’s just not that appealing any more.
When I think about it, one of the major reasons is that I don’t like sweating. Yes, I know that sounds ridiculous and sweating is healthy for humans but there are various stages in life when it’s just embarrassing and I’m sure that has had an impact. Two standouts for me have been in adolescence when our bodies are changing and doing all sorts of unexpected things and again (for some women anyway) when you reach menopause when your internal thermostat is dodgy and unpredictable at best; freezing one minute and overheating the next like an unreliable fridge! These days I’m likely to break into sweat unexpectedly and look like I’ve just done a hi-intensity workout, with no activity and dread humid weather.
I realise how important looking after ourselves is in every way and exercise is a key part of staying fit and healthy throughout our life. What I found was that when I chose to reframe my thinking and called it activity rather than exercise, the pressure and discomfort dropped away and the appeal grew. I now prefer to choose my daily activity (not exercise) based on my energy levels, how my body feels and what it indicates would be beneficial at that time. One day that might some gentle stretching, another a walk on the beach, another more vigorous walking and another targeted strengthening and toning with light weights. In other words, variety and doing things that feel appropriate and supportive.
I know my energy is normally higher in the morning so if I get up early and decide what my morning activity will be, I’m more likely to get into it. I’ve got a pretty good focus when I choose to and I have all of the simple equipment I need at home plus a calm, quiet environment; recently I’ve been enjoying some online activity courses (for the brain and the body) from Daily Om mainly because there is a great variety and I am sent a daily email reminder which works well for me. I can do them when I feel like it and in a way that works well for me.
Life gets busy and modern times and conveniences may result in us being more inactive overall so it can be easy to overlook our fitness and well-being and not prioritise them. So while you may not agree with my approach, I invite you to find a regime that works for you, honouring what your mind and body are telling you, including some gentle rest and restorative time, without letting yourself off the hook entirely!
So …exercise or activity?