For most of my life I have participated in physical activity of some kind. As a young girl I exercised socially because everyone else did. I played tennis, squash, netball ad basketball at various times throughout my younger years because it was what we all did. It was fun. Then as I got older I began exercising as a way to lose weight. As with all things though it became about so much more than that and now while my weight and health are important I exercise for many reasons.
I often joke that I run to stay sane. It’s only half a joke though. I remember as a kid my mum used to go for ‘sanity walks’. Now as a mother myself I understand it. I need time to myself to put my thoughts in order. To focus on something other than schedules, cooking and cleaning. To be creative and let those thoughts take shape without the constant interruption of life.
I love to run (or more appropriately jog) solo to calm my mind. I work in an interesting but sometimes intense job and have a busy life outside work so running offers me time to reflect and be alone with my thoughts while also looking after my health. Nothing like killing two birds with one stone! I have also recently taken up bike riding which offers me similar rewards but I have also noticed without the distraction of my phone during a ride I practice a lot of mindfulness. This time can often be the only time alone I may have during a busy week so I cherish it.
As I am getting older and more confident in myself I have come to enjoy the gym experience. What can be a daunting place for some has been a place of challenge and reward for me. As someone who wouldn’t consider themselves naturally athletic I love the sense of satisfaction I get when I finish a workout, increase my weights or try a different machine in the gym. I have found that in the gym my only competition is myself, no one else pays you any attention as they are all too busy focusing on their own workouts. I love the flexibility of a 24 hour gym too and that I can work it into my schedule not the other way around.
That is not to say that I don’t like a structured group workout. While I have stopped participating in team sports-for various reasons they just weren’t for me- I regularly attend a local bootcamp. For me it is a chance to mix with people I may not mix with otherwise, to get to know people outside my social circle and make new connections. The bonus of making connections while working out is that endorphins are flowing so we are usually laughing by the end even if we are exhausted.
I used to let a lot of things stop me from exercising in public. I was fearful of being judged. I thought people would notice that I am not a great runner, that my belly jiggles when I slam a battlerope, that I sweat A LOT! What I have found though is that people just notice that I am doing something! They notice that I went for a run, that I am often out being active and that I do this in spite of my busy lifestyle. People often make comparisons to their own lack of activity but that’s not what I am about. I am not here to shame anyone who hasn’t found a way to fit more activity into their already busy lives. I just want people to know that there are ways to do it should they want to.
My weekly activity levels are less now than they were 2 years ago as I now work full time but I still try to fit in exercise 4-5 days a week. Currently I do 2 x bootcamp sessions a week, at least 1 x 5km run a week and often a 10km bike ride and 1-2 gym sessions. As I have two young children though I will sometimes make up a workout that I can do at home or follow a youtube workout from my bootcamp trainer or a yoga clip. I just try and make it work.
For me, I just know what the rewards are and that outweighs many of my fears. There are still things I am yet to try as I overcome old anxieties, I am working on those. It also takes the support of a lot of other people to be able to fit it in. My parents often get my children dumped at their door for an hour while I go to the gym, my in-laws feed my family on a Monday night so I can go to bootcamp an dmy husband often wakes up to me saying ‘what are you doing today? I am going for a walk/run for an hour before you leave?’ I sometimes have a child in tow at classes, I often get home late at night after fitting it all in and we don’t have a perfect nighttime routine in my house but the rewards we all get from me being active make it worth it.
My body may not look like the typical fit image we see everywhere today but I am strong and getting stronger. I can do things now I couldn’t in my younger years. I don’t work out for other people now either. My exercise is for myself. If I miss sessions I don’t beat myself up about but I try to get back on track when I can.
If there is one message I could share for ‘This Girl Can Week’ it would be to find what works for you. It is your body, your life and your choice. Don’t let others tell you what to do and don’t let fear of what others think get in your way. Do it for you and do it your way.