I wanted to share my experience. Over my three attempts to lose weight in the last ten years, I’ve lost over 126lbs – a small person. It’s a shame it wasn’t all at once and I gained in between.
The causes of being overweight are complicated, but the mechanics are simple – how much we eat and how active we are. Both of these are affected psychologically, and weight loss is usually more of a mental battle than anything else.
This week I’ve been thinking about activity. By nature I am not a sedentary person – I don’t like lying in bed, I enjoy being outside and have always loved playing games and sporting activities – I’ll try anything once. Laziness doesn’t appeal to me. Unless I’m reading a book. That doesn’t count, of course.
As a young child I played netball (which I didn’t enjoy all that much) and loved to run, which led to athletics as a teenager. At secondary school I played hockey and volleyball, both of which I was pretty good at. As an adult, I still enjoy running and recently have taken more pleasure in the daily chore of dog-walking.
If you are planning on leading a healthier lifestyle and maintaining a sensible weight for ever, you have to accept that exercise needs to be part of your routine, just like brushing your teeth. This fills some with dread. I know many, many people who are adverse to exercise simply because they hated gym class at school and are not ‘sporty’.
I want to dispel this image of exercise being ‘sporty’ pumped-up, greasy men lifting weights and teeny-tiny women clad in lycra spending every spare minute training and drinking kale smoothies. Exercise is for everyone.
The rules are simple:
1) Do it regularly to build a habit.
2) Always set yourself new goals to help with motivation and improve fitness.
3) If you hate it, stop. Try something else.
That’s it. No ‘sportiness’ required. Exercise takes many shapes and forms. You don’t need to spend hours in the gym every day to keep yourself fit. Walking, swimming, running, archery, curling, whatever. The key is finding something that you enjoy, nay, love. It also needs to be realistic. But try. EVERYTHING. Age, free time and ability may dictate what you can and can’t do, but one of the joys of exercise is finding something, sticking with it and seeing progress. You see and feel yourself getting fitter. You feel better. You are motivated to push further. Starting off with a low-impact form of exercise often leads on to other things.
I’ve tried lots of stuff, and it helped me realize what I do and don’t like when it comes to exercise. I tend to lean towards hard, more aggressive forms of exercise (which I will contradict later, but never mind.) as it’s more satisfying for me. I feel kind of cheated if I’m not sweating buckets by the end and I don’t get that warrior/superhero feeling. But everyone is different.
I remember trying a body combat class once. I was relatively fit at the time, and bored with running. I thought, ‘I’ve got this, it will be cool.’ – wrong. I felt like a pudgy show pony being paraded round a ring. I’ve never been so uncomfortable and self-conscious in my life, and I didn’t find it physically satisfying. It’s nuts considering I’m happy to run out in public (at any size or weight), but it was just the way it made me feel.
Oddly, despite being more of a run/spin class kind of exerciser, I’ve found something different. A while ago, it was suggested that I take up yoga or pilates to strengthen my ‘bad’ knee and improve my core strength, which helps with running. I laughed a bit, the mental image of suffocating on my own boobs in some contorted position springing to mind. I did give it a go (I’ll try anything once, remember?) and I love it.
I wasn’t sure what sort of benefits I’d see, but it’s been amazing. I did an online beginners’ 30-day challenge – I didn’t ‘yoga’ every day, but slotted it in when I didn’t feel like running or the running conditions were poor, so it’s taken me 10 weeks to get through it. After two weeks, bending to pick things off the floor was noticeably less effort. Now, my knee and calves are not stiff when I get out of bed in the morning, even after a hard run the previous day. I bent over to brush under the shoe rack the other day and realised when I was down there that I was folded in half. Cool!
It has helped my mental health too. It’s hard work, no kidding, but it’s a different kind of hard. When I’m in Savasana (translates as ‘corpse pose’ – everyone’s favourite part!) at the end of a session, the sense of inner calm and peace is awesome. It actually quiets my brain. I didn’t think that was possible.
Even for a 10+ years runner, I’m still trying new and different forms of exercise and finding benefits. If you try, you can say you don’t like it for sure, and hopefully you find something you love, too. Yoga is definitely here to stay.