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Exercise as a Form of Self Care

I made a decision around my last birthday that I wanted to get fitter. But this time I was serious. This wasn’t going to be like the times where I signed up to a new gym membership, joined an exciting fitness group on Meet Up, downloaded a new fitness app, followed another FitsSpo account on Insta or subscribed to a new fitness YouTube channel only to get complacent and lose interest plus motivation. It's not like I haven't tried; I’ve done home, park and gym workouts, I've done them done them before work, after work and crammed them into an extended lunch breaks. Want any tips on how to fit exercise into your daily routine? I’m your girl! There was just one problem. I never stuck with any of it. I would go hard for 4 months, may be 6 in a good year, but once life started to creep in in the form of stress, lack of time, boredom and so on, I fell soon off.

I’ve never, ever EVER enjoyed exercise and in my twenties I thought that I could get away with avoiding it as my body had kept up its side of the bargain and everything was still where it should be. Come 35/ 36 though I started to notice a slight wiggle here, a loss of tone there and a noticeable bulge in my mid-rift and I thought "oh, hell-to-the-no!" And so began my on-off relationship with fitness.

If I was to stick with it this time though, I had to concede that I needed help. As a proud, self-reliant woman, whose answer to most practical problems is Google, I had been in denial of the need for help. To me fitness was as simple as turning up and exercising. But that’s the issue, I wasn’t turning up consistently for myself when it came to my fitness. I had to get real honest with myself and admit that for some reason; whether it was teenage memories of always being in the bottom two in school races or the boredom I got from watching sports as a child and then spending my adult life saying (or some would say affirming…) that I am not sporty, something was blocking me from showing up for myself when it came to fitness. This is a major part of the reason I got into Nutrition in the first place. I accepted my fate that exercise wasn’t for me, so my alternative to fighting the bulge was to eat healthily! Problem solved! (er, not!). Ironically though, it was through my Nutrition studies that I really got to understand the importance of exercise not just to fight the bulge, but for our long term health. Studies on consistent and regular exercise have show that it can help in the prevention of heart disease, obesity, diabetes, some cancers, osteoporosis, premature ageing as well as helping to manage mental health issues including depression and anxiety.

This year I gave in and sought the help I needed through a personal trainer. I’d always been most consistent with exercise when I had a gym buddy, so that was some of the thinking behind it. It was also admitting that if I wasn’t going to show up for myself when it came to exercise, I’d make someone else show up for me!

What I have found as a result of this is that I have shown up for myself more than I ever had in my previous dalliances with fitness. I am being consistent. I am making the time. I am prioritising it. I am making it fun. Life is happening all around me and I continue to exercise. I am showing up! And I am doing it all for me! Because of the consistency in my routine, which has only reinforced my desired to get stronger and fitter and the consistent influence of a fitness professional via my PT, I have enrolled in new and different fitness activities which are fun, have a social element and help me develop new skills. In getting real with myself I found that these components are key to me actually finding the joy in getting my burn on; being sociable, there is a kind of power in saying to someone “see you next week!” and genuinely meaning it; having fun and learning – both of which force you to be in the present moment and the exercise being in a format that requires me to show up in a consistent manner i.e. a weekly PT sessions. I’ve now added weekly swimming lessons and dance classes into my sweat too.

The sense of achievement and pride that I feel when I finish another grueling PT session, or when I see myself in the studio mirror getting my Beyoncé on, or when I my swimming classmates congratulate me on my progress is second to none. I am buzzing for the 36 hours on endorphins and pride at once again showing up and doing something for me.

Fitness is also a great way to get me out of my head and into my body. I tend to observe how I am moving during my routines, how my movements feel in my body (as opposed to in my head which just says “Oww” or “when is it time for a break?”). I often talk to myself in new and supportive ways; I tell myself to breathe through the pain of a crunch, or that it'll be ok to push through my fear of drowning during a swimming lesson and afterwards I’m saying “go you!” to myself for doing me once again.

The act of getting out of my head and into my body and talking to myself from a higher place that is supportive, encouraging and loving can be a form of moving mediation. And for this very reason that exercise can truly foster a depended sense of mindfulness. The self-awareness and presence in the moment that exercise brings can only increase the mindfulness that we carry though our day.

Exercise has truly added to the ways that I already care for myself. The sheer act of taking care of myself in this way not only adds to the sense of pride I have for myself, but ultimately affects how much I love and appreciate me.

What are some of your barriers to a healthier lifestyle and what do you need to own up to in order to address and overcome them?


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