Let Exercise Be Your Medicine

Being active is an integral part of my life and, despite this I intermittently experience mixed feelings toward exercise. There are periods when the relationship is more one of duty than pleasure, and others when it is my life line.

Exercise is an activity that we know is good for us but there are times when it is difficult to just get up and do it. The road blocks are varied and may range from practical time restraints, to a lack of energy or motivation issues, but mostly we know that if we can get past these limiting factors we feel so much better for having participated.

Movement is not only my business it is my language and my medicine. How, when and why I move is a direct reflection of where I am in my life. When working with clients I also observe where they are in their own lives and look at how movement can best support them and their specific needs. I believe exercise feels good when it meets us where we are at. There are times when we need to slow down and be kind to ourselves and yoga can offer beautiful options that allow us to work and move the body whilst staying mindful and careful. At other times, when I am too much in my head I find I need to move to get back into my body. I am fortunate to have a creek and nature trails at my doorstep so going for a long walk or run outside amongst the greenery calms my mind. There are other times when life moves quickly and grounding is the antidote and this is when a strength training session or a strong, dynamic yoga session can be helpful in stabilising foundations.

As I have gotten older I have come to know my body and mind more intimately and I am thus able to listen better and adapt my exercise regimen accordingly. These are lessons I have learnt through trial and error and I continue to adjust and experiment with my own exercise routine. As a young dancer I would push myself hard whilst providing inadequate amounts of fuel and support to my body. In the early days of teaching group exercise classes in commercial gyms I was trying to make a living teaching too many weekly classes whilst expecting myself to find reserves of energy and enthusiasm where there was none. More recently my challenge is one of balancing my ego’s desire for accomplishment with by body’s more immediate need for controlled rehabilitation work.

Part of the challenge in reaching optimal wellness is recognising what our needs are, what is not working, and then ultimately pursuing that which brings balance back into our lives. Perhaps your exercise session needs to provide some alone time, or a social opportunity. For some team bonding and competition can help with stress relief whilst for others something rhythmic and repetitive can provide calm.

Exercise should leave you feeling great. It is a proven mood enhancer and an important factor in our overall health however if you do not have a positive experience it may be that your needs are not being listened to and/or met. In the same way that we need to change and adapt our diet according to age, lifestyle, season, etc. so too we must factor in our individual needs when exercising. Listening and being mindful is an integral part of a positive outcome.

Self-Care Practices

Making time to give to ourselves is such an important part of our overall wellbeing. The intention and commitment to self-care can be as nourishing as the actions themselves. For most of us this time of year sees an abundance of giving. It brings so much joy to shower our friends and loved ones with uninterrupted time, pressies, meals, etc. and it is often the self-gifting (my term) that gets side lined to prioritise others. I know for me to feel at my best and most vibrant some practices are a must.
Here are 3 suggestions from my current list that I invite you to join me in practicing:
1. Mindfulness – my preference is to sit with my eyes closed for 20mins before conversing out loud but school holidays can mean that the day gets under way before I have time. On these days I make a point of acting mindfully at some time during the day i.e. attempting to keep my full attention on an activity that I am engaged in such as hanging washing, eating a meal or having a conversation.
2. Exercising every day – I love walking in nature to get my visual dose of greens. I am blessed to be near creeks and parklands but just being out in the wider world can do the trick.
3. Experimenting with new meals – Food is an essential ingredient when it comes to feeling great and you know what they say, a change is as good as a holiday. I am head chef in our family, not necessarily by choice, although I do love nurturing and supporting my family’s health and wellbeing through our food, and I consider myself lucky that my efforts are welcomed and appreciated. Having the time and space to get creative with new ingredients and recipes at this time of year reinvigorates our meal times with excitement and surprise. (It also means that when life steps back into full swing the reperoire has been refreshed and extended. I find it easier to prepare a well rehearsed meal at the end of a tiring day than find the energy to get creative).
These are my self-gifts. Perhaps they inspire you to find time for your own self-gifting. I would love to hear what is working for you at the moment and I too will keep you posted.