Sometimes it feels as though the world is split into two types of people. Those who enjoy exercise and those who don’t. It’s never a “I don’t mind” kind of situation. People workout for many different reasons, for health, to feel comfortable in their body, to relieve stress etc. I myself, have always shunned away from physical activity. At fourteen the mere thought of junior basketball practice made me want to lay on my bed for an hour and cry. Taking the dog for a walk was a worse punishment than no internet for a week. I dreaded PE class more than the Irish essay tests that our teacher randomly sprung on us from week to week.
In short, I hated exercise. I hated the idea of exercise. If I had been asked to play word association and ‘exercise’ was listed, I would have responded ‘torture’. And torture was exactly what it felt like when I unwillingly moved my muscles faster than my signature slouching, heels-dragging stroll. I resented my mother for forcing the painful, monotonous exercise on me when all I wanted was to read a book.
However my truth wasn’t as simple as a natural, since-birth hatred for exercise.. The truth was that the only exercise I knew of – team sports, walking or running – were the most painstakingly dull exercises a person could dream up. I wanted to go rock climbing, sailing, rowing, horse racing, I wanted excitement and and adventure, a journey and a destination. I didn’t want to jog around a circular track for half an hour and then take a shower. I didn’t even want to compete competitively. I wanted to be alone and to exercise alone.
Everyone works out differently. I can’t tell you what’s the best method for you and you shouldn’t let anyone else either. Maybe you need competition to keep you motivated in the long run. Maybe you can compete against yourself, trying to beat your own personal best. Whatever way you decide, it’s okay not to stick with this. If there’s anything I’ve learned it’s that variety is the mother of perseverance. Like my fourteen year old self, you’ll get sick of the same constant basketball drills if you don’t change it up every week. Instead of focusing on running faster, being stronger, you’ll start to wonder my you’re running in meaningless circles for hours. Is it a metaphor for your life? What’s even the point of it all?
Not only does variety keep you on your toes, both literally and figuratively, but it’s also better all round for your body. Imagine if you’re only exercise is running on flat ground. You’re exercising your leg muscles and you’re raising your heart beat (all great things) but the rest of your body is being neglected. Not to mention regular rigorous running has been linked to knee injury and other bone damage. Too much of anything really is bad.
A mix of several different activities is by far the healthiest way to go. Try drawing up a timetable allocating a different activity for every day of the week. This kind of structure is particularly useful when you’re just starting off. Remember that it’s essential to schedule a less intense activity the day after a trying workout. This allows your muscles to heal and rebuild themselves stronger than before. Try yoga, a long walk or a swim the day after a hard workout session. Basically all I mean here is that you shouldn’t do an energetic mountain hike three days in a row.
You need to learn what kind of activity you enjoy because truly, that is the only kind of exercise that you will stick with. It’s not about the workout that burns the most carbs or the best routine for building muscle. It’s about finding out what works for you, what makes you feel happy. I can’t feel like work – it has to bring you pleasure. Exercise should be a pasttime, not a chore.
Now that you’ve been thoroughly encouraged and motivated go forth and climb a mountain, sprint up a hill, scale a tree or cycle to a friends house! What’s your favourite physical activity? Have you ever struggled to find the motivation to exercise when you’re just not in the mood? Talk to me in the comments and as ever let me know what topics you want me to cover next!
Until next time, stay fighting!