When I Was A Lot Younger… In My twenties, And Even Into My thirties, I Didn’t Exercise For Fun… I Did It To Lose Weight.
The cycle would start like this: I’d put on the weight. Then I’d go on a diet. Then I’d exercise to get rid of the weight.
Once I’d returned back to my natural weight, well then, of course, the diet would stop. The exercise would fall off gradually over the months (even with my very best intentions, it would STILL fall by the wayside!). I invariably had something better planned for myself. Life presented me with More Important Stuff To Do. Or so I told myself. And so the exercise would eventually take a back burner. Again. The gym membership that I’d paid for so enthusiastically a few months before would now equate to about a days’ wages per session, for all the use I got out of it.
Until the next time it was needed…
Then the gym gear would get pulled out from the back of the cupboard, stuffed into a bag, thrown in the car and off I would trot down to the gym to throw myself into as much cardio as I could handle to get those fat cells burned off again! This would obviously mean that it had to happen in the shortest amount of time possible. My muscles and organs complaining from a lack of use, I would push through the pain barrier, force myself to keep going like the brave soldier that I was and get on top of my fitness levels again. This would take some time, of course, but I wasn’t exercising for my body’s health…I was exercising to be THIN, and I had a deadline to meet!
There Is A Bit Of A Myth Going Around At The Moment That Exercise Doesn’t Help You Lose Weight.
Well, yes it does. It absolutely does. It burns calories, increases muscle tone and aerates your organs. As long as you team it with a fat-reducing way of eating of one kind or another. It WILL lose the weight for you. It is a guaranteed physical equation. There are pitfalls in doing too much of course, as it can raise your appetite to roaring cravings and ultimately put you out of action from injury or complete muscle fatigue if push your body beyond its comfort barriers, but done within a reasonable framework, it’s will tip the scales from losing a couple of pounds to really feeling the weight fall off over the weeks.
The trouble is? Well, just like a good old-fashioned ‘diet’ it has a beginning, middle, and a guaranteed end. So what then? We just go right back to the habits we had pre-exercise and healthy eating…unfortunately. That’s a given state of affairs. Because as far as our brain is concerned we’ve now achieved the goal we set out to do. It wasn’t meant to be a long-term vision, but merely a quick-fix reaction to a particular problem. This kind of mental attitude to exercise means that all those lovely physical feelings of buzzing with health and feeling energised and strong, begin to fizzle into the past amongst the latest couch-fest weekend session and family sized Dairy Milk downed in minutes. It’s a done deal because you’ve finished with all of that now. You can relax. Right??
It Took Me A Very Long Time To Understand That Exercise Was Its’ Own Reward.
Not until I was in my early forties did I really begin to see this. I turned to exercise for a different reason then. My body was getting older, and I wanted it to feel as good as it could do for the job of taking me through life. My parent’s health was suffering, and I worked with older people on a regular basis. To be honest, I began to see the effects in others of what happens when we don’t look after ourselves and we team that with eating a poor diet…and it wasn’t always a pretty sight.
I learned something very important in my early forties, and it was this: We don’t necessarily die from poor health habits, we are far more likely to face an absolutely miserable old age coping with chronic, painful, disabling physical health problems that just don’t go away!
So I went back to yoga…
It stopped being a ‘toning’ exercise, and over time became something much deeper and more meaningful…it became a way to feel wonderfully supple, strong and aware of my own posture. I loved how it made me feel, and not just immediately afterwards, but days afterwards. I started noticing that I was able to reach more easily for things that were out of the way, my balance improved, and so did my stamina levels. And this was by no means through hours and hours of yoga sessions, but just half an hour or so, regularly done when I had some time in the middle of the day.
I began to jump on my bicycle for early morning bike rides, just for the thrill and exhilaration of it…I quickly realised that riding my bike was my therapy. It was my chance to go out and play, just like when I was a kid. And all this before the demands of the day got to me. I cycled for longer and further as the months and years went by. Now, I will go out for hours on a warm summer’s day, when I want to feel carefree and putting myself first. This will usually involve skiving off from the laptop!
What was the consequence of changing my reasons for exercise?
Well, because I was exercising for the fun of it, and because it felt nice, I carried on. And on. And on.
I love to climb really big hills too. Why? To get to the top of course! To catch the view. To feel the blood coursing through my veins and the sense of achievement of getting to the top. There’s something that happens to you when you climb a big hill, or ride up a steep incline, or go a little deeper into a yoga posture, and it’s this….you go from a feeling of resistance in your muscles to a feeling that you could do it forever!
Your muscles, organs and every single body’s system buzzes with the joy and appreciation of being used, of being put into action, of being given the chance to release the serotonin that races through your body as the elixir of happiness. This feeling lasts for hours and hours, and the effects compound themselves over time. I became addicted to having a happy body.
Exercising For The Fun Of It Has Given Me This: A Healthy, Happy, Relatively Youthful, Strong And Agile Body.
And something else. It’s more subtle but much more powerful. It has taken the stress away from me of being on this miserably endless yo-yo cycle of exercising for weight loss. Combined with some insightful eating habits these days, my weight has maintained for the past 8 years and will carry on doing so into my old age. Because I’m not on a diet anymore. I’ve changed my lifestyle, The best word I can reach for to describe how all of this feels is relief.
And that is the only reason that will give you the motivation to carry on exercising, past the moment when the scales say “Done”. Just for the sheer love of it! So find what you love to do, and do nothing less than that. Give yourself time to develop a really deep love affair with it. Don’t worry about what that exercise is for you either…you’ll get exactly the same buzz from walking your dog in the warm spring sunshine as you will climbing a mountain if you love to do it. Just give yourself chance to really enjoy that feedback from your happy body, and you’ll be hooked forever!
Love Bridgette x
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