Day 10 of my ‘self-love’ journey and today’s challenge requires me to consider how I view exercise. (If I’m honest, the words: exercise, schmexercise pop into my head here!)
As part of the diet program I’m on I’m required to exercise six days a week. I’ve written about my approach to exercise (on this program) a number of times. Given my starting level of fitness I haven’t been too ambitious in planning my exercise. While others do two gym classes a day and coast through the 500 calories/day we are supposed to burn; I congratulate myself on 30 minute exercise bike rides and 45 minute pilates classes. It’s hard not to compare my paltry efforts with others, but I HAVE to remember I’m running my own race and need to focus my attention ahead of me, not on how my fellow runners are going. And frankly (as of today), I’ve lost exactly 12kg in 6.5 weeks – so I can’t really berate myself too much.
Today’s blogging challenge asks us to consider why we exercise and the benefits we expect.
We cannot deny that part of loving ourselves fully comes with loving our bodies. We have already discussed the importance of appreciating what our bodies can do for us as well as avoiding the trap of idolizing them. How do all these thoughts and ideals play out in practice though? Exercise, if approached considerately, plays a significant role in helping us achieve self-love.
In my mind, exercise simply means movement of the body with a health benefit. So walking to and from work, dancing around your living room, chasing around your kids, strolling through a new city while sightseeing, hiking with friends, and so many other activities count as exercise.
We must also keep a few other things in mind when discussing exercise. Exercising is about our fitness, our health and the benefits it provides our bodies. Forget the smaller pants size and nicer arms. Exercise helps give you a better life to enjoy your body and all of its gifts!
As you can see, exercise has a lot of power to either strengthen us physically and mentally or wear us down in those ways as well. Our perspective and focus on exercise determine which happens to us. Do we take notice of all the fabulous things we do for our health physically? Can we appreciate them even if not in the traditional workout setting? Do we enjoy our fitness activities and goals? Do we refrain from losing focus on life as a whole in pursuit of those goals? Let exercise fulfill you, not control you.
Has exercise ever controlled your life or defined you in a negative way? What ways can/do you pursue fitness for health and a stronger sense of self?
I’ve written before about my obsessive nature and my once-anorexic behaviour, so I’ve definitely been in a place where exercise controlled my life. The diet that became anorexia was initially more about exercise than restricting my eating. I was challenged by a basketball coach to ‘train’ harder and become fitter. At the time I was 15 years of age and in a senior women’s representative team, but he was one of the first coaches to have confidence in me. He was big on fitness and I badly failed our first training session that required us to run a number of suicide runs (shuttle runs) within the timeframe set. But given my competitive and perfectionist nature I became incredibly obsessive about getting the sprints done in the set time. As a result I went to the local basketball courts EVERY DAY to practice them. I did more and more and became certain that IF I didn’t practise the runs every day I would fail at the formal training sessions. I also came to dread the training sessions. Paradoxically, as I became fitter (and better, given I was training a lot more) I started dreading training more and more. And… it was the start of my manupulative secretive dieting behaviour as I used to sneak out of school and miss lessons in order to go to the courts to run.
By the time I started seriously dieting I also started exercising in my bedroom. After each meal I would do a whole routine of exercises and then dance (to Madonna and Michael Jackson – it was the mid-late 1980s) every night. Although I gained weight from my low of just over 45kg, I was still doing hours and hours of exercise by the time I went to University over a year later.
And then I stopped. Everything. The idea of having to train properly was more than I could stand. My dread of the fitness side of training had overtaken any enjoyment I once found in the sport. I had a couple of false starts and played some basketball and netball for a while before quitting everything. I settled into a bit of a gym routine after a stint at Weight Watchers seven or eight years ago. But then I moved, or had an injury. Or something. There’s always something.
I’ve also posted here previously about Fat Camp and how horrendous I found the exercise there. It involved everything I hated: no gym workouts or aerobic classes; but trekking up hills, ranges and mountains. Urgh! While there we had to plan our exercise for our return to our lives ‘on the outside’. Others there – and the staff – believed that we would head home and be out running night after night on our arrival home. I cringed at the idea. I’ve never been a runner. I know that people ‘grow’ to love it, but frankly I can’t imagine it. Instead I decided to pursue exercise I knew I would enjoy. DANCE! My exercise regime was a mixed one, and involved some walking, twice weekly Body Jam (BJ) classes and twice-weekly pilates. And it was great. Until I injured my hip and wasn’t able to continue with my BJ classes. And then I stopped everything. Again. (See, I am a black/white, all/nothing person.)
I’m reminded now though, how much I loved those classes – the moves, the music and sense of achievement afterwards. I’d often burn 700 calories and would always leave red-faced. My hip is still problematic, but perhaps I need to try something a bit lower-impact. Perhaps Zumba. Devotee friends of mine LOVE it. And perhaps it will offer me the variety I need and be a change from the (BLOODY) exercise bike, pilates and walks!