Exercise has always been a big part of my life, as an athlete, physical education student, and a health professional. But over the past few years, my exercise routine has radically changed, for many different reasons, and I want to share those with you today to hopefully challenge your own beliefs around exercise and what is ‘right’ for you.
Right now I have this gorgeous morning ritual, which involves a lovely walk on the beach, a dip in the ocean and sometimes a delicious tea, coffee or green juice afterwards 🙂 On top of that, each week I do a yoga class, a pilates class, hula hooping, lounge room dancing and stretches at home.
This movement ritual is so pleasurable to me.
I love having my shoes off, feet in the sand, and water splashing at my ankles, and my choices are made solely around how I feel at the time and what makes me feel good.
If I feel like running, I will.
If I feel like swinging my arms, dancing, or skipping, I will.
If I feel like sitting and contemplating the vast ocean, I will.
If I feel like running up and down the lookout stairs, I will.
If I feel like doing some yoga postures, I will.
If I feel like just being in the water, I will.
But a few years ago, my exercise routine looked very different.
You see I used to believe that to be healthy, I needed to flog myself. I needed to run long distances (even though I hated running), go to the gym and lift weights and sit on a stationary bike or treadmill (even though I didn’t really enjoy these things). I would flog myself in training after eating a not-so-healthy diet, or partying all weekend, as a punishment to myself. Credit & debit I used to joke to my friends.
I measured my success on my percent body fat, my 5km run time, and how much weight I could squat.
And then something happened that really challenged my beliefs around exercise.
About 6 years ago, I went to see my doctor because I had this breathing problem where I felt like I couldn’t take a deep breath into my lungs. I would get panicky, and was convinced something was wrong with my lungs, even though I was very fit! I also noticed that when I was relaxing, I was tense. I would catch myself unconsciously clenching my muscles .
The doctor said to me…
“Dear, there is nothing wrong with your lungs. That is stress”.
Whaaaaat??!!!! I was taken back, and in denial. I can’t have stress, I thought…I teach people about stress! I’m a health professional, I think I would know??! But I soon realised that this was the truth, and it was my body’s way of telling me something was out of balance.
Before this, I had never truly considered the concept of ‘listening to my body’. This realisation stirred something in me, and I felt inspired to make some changes. At the time, I was training for triathlons, running long distances, working out daily in the gym, and hardly ever resting. But this is what I had always done, what I thought was right, and so I didn’t think anything of it.
I began to research the relationships between stress, anxiety & exercise and discovered that high intensity exercise can actually promote the stress response in the human body, which can be counter-productive to someone who is always ‘on-the-go’….as I was at that time.
So I started slowing down. I enrolled in a beginners yoga course. I learn’t mediation. I started walking more and paying attention to my beautiful surroundings, instead of running all the time and focusing on it being over. I began to carve out more space in my day for rest and self-care, which included hot baths, reading books, sleeping more, and good movies. I went and saw a naturopath who helped me with some nutritional supplements to support my adrenal system, I made a few changes to my diet, and boy did I start to feel good!!
The breathing problem went away and I felt so much more energised!
This is my story, and what has worked for me, but that doesn’t necessarily mean this is what would work for you. I have a tendency to be a ‘on-the-go’ kinda gal, so the slower/ yin style of movement really suited my body type.
The message I really wanted to get across with this post, is that just like food, you need to find the type of exercise that works for you. Let go of any exercise that doesn’t serve you and your body, and search for ways to move that are pleasurable and leave you feeling good! Quit using exercise as a punishment, and instead focus on it being a pleasurable experience. This mindset shift alone, can have incredible positive consequences for your health, and your attitude & motivation towards moving.
The main thing is that you are MOVING EVERY DAY!!
“That which is measured is managed”
Go out and get yourself a little journal to begin keeping record of the exercise/movement you are doing each day, and how it makes you feel. Record what you did, duration, time of day etc. Notice changes in your body, your attitude before, your mood afterwards, and what things you look forward to doing again. Keeping a journal is a great first step to discovering your own exercise type.
*If you feel you need some guidance, then please contact me today to make an appointment. As an Exercise Physiologist I can help guide you to find the right type of exercise for you and your body type.
Love Ngaire xox