In my 35 life lessons I’ve learned in 35 years post, written back in February, I talk about the importance of looking after your body as well as your mind, when looking at your personal development and growth. In other posts I’ve touched on the subject of exercise by referencing my days as a runner but until now, I’ve never written a whole post about what exercise means to me.
I came late to exercise, I was the kid at school, always last to be picked for team sports and if there was a way I could get out of Physical Education classes, then I would. Sport felt showy to me and I was far too self-conscious for all that competition. Also, if I’m honest, I lacked the skill and when it comes to hand-eye co-ordination skills, fairly essential for many sports, well the truth is mine were pretty poor. So it’s no surprise that once compulsory exercise was no longer a part of my life, I happily threw out my gym kit, developed several unhealthy habits and didn’t give exercise or sport a second thought.
All of that changed seven years ago when I ran my first ever race, the 5k Race for Life to raise funds for Cancer Research. I had no idea at the time that participating in that event would spark in me a love affair with running that would take me to the finishing line of the London Marathon three years later.
Running suited me, it’s a solitary sport and it allowed me plenty of time for thinking and day-dreaming. Perfect for someone who is in my head most of the time. The only problem was I got injured, my body refused to heal and so I thought that my running days were over. I didn’t run again for another three years.
My first proper run, in that it lasted for more than 5 minutes, happened here in Asia. My body, grateful that I am no longer reducing it to 8 hours a day sat at a desk and four hours a day sat on a train, has finally begun to heal and in response it is allowing me to run again, very short distances but running all the same. I couldn’t be happier.
For a long time, I thought running was all I could ever need to keep my body fit and healthy. At the peak of my running days, I was two stone lighter than I am today, I was suitably toned and I even had small but perfectly formed muscles. Despite this, I’ve recently realised that running cannot meet all that my body needs.
I get told, more often than I’d like to admit, that I think too much. Friends, family, professionals, healers and psychics have all, in one way or another, told me this and it makes me bristle with irritation every time. What’s wrong with thinking?! (I mutter to myself). Well whether I like to admit it or not, it’s clear that when we are always thinking, we are not tuned in to how we are really feeling, so irritation aside I can see how important it is to be able to quiet the mind and tune into the body.
That’s where yoga comes into it. I’ve always been fascinated by yoga. Last summer I did a yoga retreat in Italy and more recently, I did a three-day course in Bali but I have never started or maintained a regular practice. That is about to change. I love yoga and as a holistic approach to looking after all of you, I can’t think of anything better. Not only will it improve my fitness, but it will improve my flexibility and my posture, it will influence my diet and it will also enhance my ability for stillness. I learnt recently that yoga was in fact created so that the body would be ready and able to sit for long stretches of time, in order that we might meditate.
So my 30-day challenge for August is to do some exercise every single day for 30 days. I know that my body needs recovery and rest time after exercise so I am breaking it down into the following: running, yoga classes, yoga practice and stretching. My plan is try to attend three to four yoga classes a week, run once or twice a week and on any days left over to simply practice a few gentle stretching asanas (yoga poses) at home.
This is going to be quite a challenge for me and I know, only too well, the importance of listening to my body when embarking on any physical endeavour. With that in mind, if my body tells me I need to stop or take a day off then I will take it and simply use that day to do some stretching. I will also use this challenge as the perfect excuse to go get me some massages. I certainly won’t be pushing myself to breaking point to meet this challenge because this is not about endurance for me, it’s about getting back in touch with my body and starting and maintaining a daily yoga practice.
If any of you fitness fanatics or yogis out there have any advice for me, I would be happy to hear it. Or if you, like me, have got out of the habit of looking after your body and want to join me in August to start creating a new habit of exercise then let me know. If you liked this post please don’t forget to share it by hitting one of the buttons below.