Being physically active can improve your overall health in so many ways. Yet it’s a health benefit that many of us discount. So why ARE the majority of the population not taking part in regular physical activity? One reason is because it’s been programmed into our brains that exercise = discomfort. It can be completely overwhelming for the beginner.
The thought of gyms and weights and beastmode and HIIT can be intimidating to someone who does not take part in regular physical activity or someone who has not been active for some years.
So where do you begin?
At the beginning.
Write down a form of exercise that scares you the most (let’s say weight training for example here) then think of 4 other forms of exercise and list then from the least scariest to the scariest. Your list could look something like this:
5. Weight training.
Start with the thing that scares you the least and keep on doing that until you feel ready to move on to the next.
By doing this, you will also build up some experience in the type of exercise you enjoy or don’t enjoy. For continued health improvements, exercise SHOULD become challenging over time so it’s important that you find a form of movement that you enjoy. Working through a list will help you find what works for you and what doesn’t.
Try to keep your focus on how being active makes you FEEL rather than how you look, or weight loss. Look back over the weeks; has your breathing gotten easier? Does your chest feel less tighter? Are you sleeping better? Has your mood improved? Do you feel better after exercise? Have you made any new friends through being active?
We all started somewhere and it was usually at the beginning. Don’t be afraid to start there.
Not everyone exercises for weight loss or to change their body image.
Sure, it often starts as your one and only goal. Up until the last few years, weight loss was my ONLY goal. Until I changed my focus and instead looked at what my body could DO, beyond what it looked like.
It wasn’t just about what my body could do either. When I took body image out of the equation, I realised that exercise benefited me on so many other levels.
Exercise has helped ease my symptoms of IBS and period pain. You would think exercising whilst bloated would not be the best choice, however, over time I realised it actually relieved the stomach cramps and bloating.
Exercise helps me deal with my emotions. If I’m angry, stressed, feeling low, training helps me feel refreshed or calm or helps me find clarity depending upon how I’m feeling.
Exercise helps me to manage my anxiety. When I’ve had an anxiety attack or can’t shake one off, training provides a distraction, a focus and helps me to burn off the adrenalin.
Exercise has helped me learn more about my body. I’m more in tune with it. I know when it needs to rest. I know when it needs more food, or less. I know when I need to give it an extra push. I have become attuned to what my body needs and what my body wants.
Exercise has helped me become assertive. From my kickboxing training; intense punishing workouts, learning to take punches to the face and kicks to the head, to my powerlifting; failing beneath the bar, learning to get back under, pulling more than my body weight, moving weights I never thought possible, standing on a platform in front of a crowd, it makes you even more badass and less likely to take any shit off anyone.
Exercise has taught me the habit of consistency. It has taught me not to rely on motivation, but rather to create healthier habits. Through exercise I have become mindful, self aware.
And yes, exercise has helped improved my body image in the fact that I have become more positive towards my body. I no longer try to shrink my body into submission by punishing it. I celebrate my body for everything it does for me and all that it can do.
The pressure on my chest felt like an elephant had taken up residence there. My lungs restricted. The space taken up. Not enough space to breathe. Surely I will suffocate!
The searing pain in my head, as though someone had been drilling holes into my skull.
The dizziness. Like being on the waltzers but there was no end to this ride.
Ice cold chest. Panic rising in my throat. Arresting me in its icy urgent grip. The sense of wanting to run, far and fast and escape everything. Panic coming in waves now. Lulling me one minute, leaving me bereft the next.
The walls closing in. The darkness cloying. Sweaty hands holding onto the chair for dear life. Can people see me? Can they tell I want to run away from it all? Trying hard to focus, to listen, to pay attention, whilst all the time I’m fighting the urge to scream and run.
The fear is a constant. It’s always there. Reminding me of everything that could go wrong.
My heart beat races. Can people see my chest pumping? Like my heart is trying to escape? Does it want to take me with it?
Slowly, slowly I have become accustomed to these feelings.
I no longer fight them. I know I will survive them. I know they don’t mean to cause me any harm. They just want me to listen.
So listen I will. But stay still I won’t.
You anxiety, are the key to the next chapter and I refuse to stay stuck on this page.
Stay strong. Stay present. Don’t give up.
(yes, the typo was on purpose)
I don’t buy into the “no excuses” mindset. I used to and I suffered the consequences for that. I wasn’t home when I should have been. I sometimes put training before the needs of my family. I trained when ill. I trained when injured. I took the “no excuses” quite literally. I took on the shame dealt out by that mantra. If I didn’t train, then I was weak. And I’m NOT weak; so I trained. And paid the price of no life balance.
You see, there ARE excuses why you can’t train. Maybe ‘reasons’ are a better word? You don’t NEED an excuse. Maybe you truly don’t have anyone to watch your children. Maybe you have such a busy life, that when you get an hour to yourself, the last thing you want to do is train. Maybe being physical is just not a priority for you right now. Maybe you are in pain, maybe you are injured, maybe you are depressed or socially anxious, maybe you just HATE exercise; there are a multitude of reasons why you may feel like you just don’t want to train.
So don’t. Don’t train.
Just move your body consistently for at least 20 minutes. Maybe start at 2 times per week and work from there. It could be just a brisk walk to the nearest shop. It could be a you tube yoga session in your living room. A power walk around the park with your pram or your dog. Maybe a Zumba session at your local school or a circuit class at your local gym. Or maybe you rekindle your love affair for running. Who knows! It’s up to you how you “train”. It doesn’t have to be gruelling gym sessions that leave you dead for days. You don’t have to go beastmode. You don’t have to go hard or go home. You just have to begin. Start slow. There is NO shame in that.
Movement of our bodies through physical activity has an whole host of benefits that are far more worthwhile than attaining a 6 pack. It helps relieve stress, it helps to improve symptoms of anxiety. It improves your mood. It clears your mind. It helps you focus. It gives you some ‘me’ time. If you do suffer from depression, regular exercise can help you keep your symptoms at bay. Movement makes you feel good both mentally and physically. Physical activity can improve your appetite, your sleep. The benefits are endless. And yes, you can achieve those feelings from simply walking; consistently.
And once you start, maybe you will work up to a gym membership. Maybe you won’t. That won’t matter. All that matters is that you start somewhere, wherever your somewhere is.
I created so much personal freedom for myself when I found peace with my body. I spent a long time rediscovering my self worth and falling in love with myself was one of the post powerful things to happen to me as yet. Here are a few steps that helped me along the way:
1. Become mindful of your voice and the voices of those around you. Do you speak negatively of yourself, even when alone? Do you brush it off when someone pays you a compliment? Do the people around you speak negatively of their body or anyone else’s? We seem to be a society fixated on body image. Make a pledge to yourself not to speak negatively of yours or anyone else’s body. Don’t participate in negative talk aimed at someone’s body. I like this quote “not your body, not your business”.
2. Create a positive affirmation. It may not be possible for you to love yourself straight away, so instead, choose peace. Choose not to engage in negative self talk. My affirmation was “I accept myself unconditionally right now” I heard it on a film “the power of love – hungry for change” if I’m honest, I don’t remember anything about that film other than that quote. It resonated within me, so I wrote it down on a post it note, stuck it to my mirror and repeated it daily.
3. Look at yourself in the mirror. All of you. That’s your home. Get to know it. Get to appreciate it. If you find yourself having negative thoughts, replace them with something positive, maybe something that you CAN do, rather than what your body looks like. I have big thighs. I used to want them to shrink. These days they are bigger than ever. When the negative comments come to surface, I immediately remind myself of what my legs are capable of, how strong they are. How well they serve me! Fall in love with your body and thank it for all that it does for you.
4. Celebrate all that your body can do. Every day it serves you well. And our bodies really love to move. Exercise also helps improve our mood, boost our self confidence and energy levels and helps us to focus on how our bodies feel. How do you love to move? Do you love running or lifting or Zumba or swimming. Whatever you love, make a small goal to stick to at least 3 consistent sessions per week. Not exercised for a while and feel overwhelmed? Walk. Just walk. The movement and fresh air will soon get all of the feel good vibes flowing.
5. Do something nice for yourself that has nothing to do with food or exercise. Take a relaxing bubble bath, get a massage, do your make up, wear your favourite item of clothing, take a picnic outdoors, meditate, go for lunch with a friend. Make time for yourself. You are worth it.
I can highly recommend a book called ‘As Is’ written by Erin Brown “a 21 day practise for finding a home and peace in your skin” Erin is an expert in body image and her posts and blogs helped me to find my peace.
There is something that’s been going around in my head for a while now. I’ve posted a few status’s on Facebook about it. But it’s still something I’m trying to internalise.
To dye or not to dye.
My hair that is. Not me. Ha!
That would be die. And I don’t want to do that just yet.
Ok so I’m 36. I first started noticing grey hairs in my late 20’s early 30’s. It was only a few though and back then and I felt that my appearance needed “fixing” anyway, so I was quite happy to dye away the grey. Back in those days, I required the validation of others for self approval. And that meant hiding parts of myself that could be seen as a flaw by others.
Now, that is no longer the case. I’m at peace with my appearance. I don’t dislike the grey. I don’t require anyone’s validation in order to feel good about myself. I always feel good about myself. And if I’m not showering myself with love, then I bathe myself in peace until loves comes again.
So why do I have this ongoing debate with myself about whether or not I should dye my hair?
I believe it’s because of those deeply ingrained conditions that have been instilled in us from such an early age. Maybe it’s the remains of my old values. That we have to be what society deems “beautiful” in order to be attractive. That as a female, grey hair is something to be covered up unless you are an old age pensioner. Do we dye our hair to look/feel younger? To be more attractive? To fit the norm? I believe that’s why I WAS dying my hair. And now those reasons go against all of my values.
Maybe I will dye my hair again one day. When I’m dying it for colour and expression rather than to hide or cover up an ever maturing part of myself.
Until I’ve reached that thought process, I’m holding on to my strands of glitter 💋
We often start our relationship with the gym full of motivation and good intentions.
Most likely, you decide to completely overhaul your diet too. You tell yourself you WILL train 5 times per week, at least an hour per session. You will mostly do cardio. You eliminate bread, rice or pasta and “treats” and you will drink 3 litres of water.
You make it to day 5 and you are exhausted, hungry and fed up. The motivation that got you started ran away after day 3 on the treadmill. And if you drink anymore water, you feel you may drown.
So what happened?
You tried to change too much, too soon.
Instead, try a gentler approach.
Change one thing at a time. And once you become consistent at that, then add another goal in. Let’s start with the gym. Don’t try to go from zero to hero in 60 seconds flat. Instead, think about your daily schedule. How much time can you realistically dedicate to exercise and commit to? Let’s say you can definitely fit in 3 sessions for 45 minutes. Start there. Make that your first habit to conquer. Commit to 3 sessions per week for 45 minutes for at least a month. Incorporate 2 sessions of strength training and 1 session cardio. This targets full body fitness and keeps your workouts varied. Once you have become consistent in this habit, then decide which goal is most important to you next and work on that one.
Real, long lasting changes take time and patience and require consistency.
You need to remain consistent and it’s hard to achieve that if you are trying to change too many things all at one.
Take it slow. Keep it simple.
Shorts have been the topic of my social media feed this week.
I dared to bare.
I started wearing my shorts as the weather got hotter and hotter (in comparison it has now been raining for 2 days straight!)
I decided to become mindful about the conversations people were having about wearing less in the heat.
A few ladies complimented me, but declared they would never be brave enough to wear their shorts in public. A few ladies commented the same type of thing on my social media posts.
This both saddens me and angers me. And believe me, my anger is not directed at those ladies, it’s directed at the messages that convinced these women they should somehow feel ashamed to wear what the fuck they want!!!!
I went a step further and bought some 3″ shorts for the gym. 1. We are going to be competing in singlets and I didn’t want the first time I bared my wonder thighs to be on the platform. I want to feel confident on the platform and confidence requires action. 2. It was hot and I sweat. A lot. 3. I want to wear what the fuck I want!
I was scared to wear them so that made me even more determined to wear them.
So I did.
And guess what happened?
That’s right. Nothing. No one died. No one stared at me in horror. Well if they did, I was so busy being fabulous, that I didn’t notice. The world didn’t come to an end. It survived me and my wonder thighs. My big powerful, dimply, wobbly wonderful thighs.
Wear the damn shorts ladies.
YOU have a right to wear what you want.
So yesterday I climbed a mountain.
Well, not quite climbed. But I did walk up a mountain. That kind of signifies exactly how my life has felt for the last few years.
I’ve had many mountains to climb. Yet I know I’m yet to reach a summit. It’s a long hard slog but every step has been worth it. Even the stumbles. Even when it felt like I lost my footing and slipped off the edge (I didn’t really, this is still just the analogy of my life ha!) the climb is teaching me so many things about myself that I wasn’t aware of before the ascent began.
Ok, so back to the REAL mountain climb now.
The Opium Gym squad did a sponsored walk up Mount Snowdon yesterday for Veterans In Action – PTSD.
I myself have been suffering from anxiety and depression so it felt fitting to do something on behalf of a charity that helps with mental health issues.
It was an absolutely amazing day. The views were breathtaking. And being on a mountain reminded you just how big the world is. I felt in awe of Mother Nature. The energy up there was powerful. The silence was serene. The mountain air was fresh and pure and exhilarating.
We stopped for regular breaks and that allowed me the opportunity to absorb the enormity of it all. We often stopped just to turn out faces to the refreshing breeze. We were blessed with clear skies which meant the views were stunning for the entire journey.
And step by step we did it.
It was one of the best experiences of my life. And a great reminder that your fears become nothing once you face them and crush them.
One step at a time 💋