Tell me if this was you
You were the girl who was scared of the ball.
Childhood memories of sport involve getting hit in the head with the basketball, the feeling of stinging hands from actually catching the basketball and intense fear and anxiety whenever you thought the basketball was coming your way.
Well-known for being uncoordinated, your peers would know to ‘move in’ whenever you were up to bat, and despite not being unpopular, you were one of the last few left when ‘picking teams’.
The same goes for high school, although by then you, like many girls your age, had worked out how to avoid mandatory physical education lessons. These involved falsified letters from mothers’ describing illness that would render us unable to participate that day, or forgetting our sports uniform, or my favorite; severe period pain.
Fitness wasn’t much of a thing in your family either, so the concept of exercise was not prioritized for you as a child, and you have not prioritized it as an adult. Sound familiar?
Your relationship with exercise
It’s these early memories associated with ‘sport’ or ‘physical education’ that shape our view of exercise well into our adult lives — to the detriment, or benefit of our health.
It is such a shame that (in my school years anyway), sport or physical exercise was more about skill, rather than simply learning to enjoy moving your body.
The truth about exercise
For most people, exercise is the beast that we love and hate with equal venom. Why does it appear such a drag when we will ourselves to just do it, yet make us feel so AMAZING afterwards?
We all know of its benefits. We know it is a necessity to help prevent the myriad of non-communicable diseases like cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer that threaten thousands of lives each year.
We know we should do at least 60 minutes of physical activity per day to prevent these diseases and prolong our lives, and make us feel happy and positive in general.
And yet we resist.
The loathing 20s
For the most part of my early twenties I completely ignored exercise and any talk of it, scoffing at those that would dominate conversations with talk of the gym or ‘running 10k’ along with any mention of the word ‘diet’.
I dabbled with it but I was afraid of it. I associated fitness with coming last at sports carnivals and just generally being ‘not athletic’. But, I’ve learnt that this association — of being skilled or good at something has absolutely nothing to do with fitness.
This mental shift has been key to accepting exercise as a part of life.
The road to fitness
It’s been a long and gradual journey to now where I can now say I exercise ‘regularly’ (3-4 times per week). Still the health experts will tell me I should do more, and I probably should. Still it is a daily struggle to put on my workout clothes but now I’m hooked to the endorphins…
What helped me change my relationship with the beast?
• Make the mental shift from exercise being ‘sport and skill’ to it being about ‘health and wellbeing’. I’ve accepted that I’ll never be a ball sports person or win any sprints. Ever. But it doesn’t matter.
• It’s about mental strength not physical strength. Pushing through and being fit comes from your mind, not so much your bodily ability.
• Make time for it. No excuses. Carve it into your daily schedule.
• Exercise with friends and work colleagues. It is so true — with others, fitness is fun and you are far more likely to succeed with an exercise buddy and routine.
• Learn from your friends. I’ve gained fitness knowledge (like the basic ‘how to breathe when running’) and confidence from housemates, work colleagues and friends.
• Make it fun. Varying your activity and using your imagination when it comes to fitness is key. Group fitness classes did wonders for me.
• Realize you are not evincible — yes that sedentary desk job and birthday cake morning tea will catch up with EVERYONE.
• Remember — a little is better than none.
So, when that little voice whispers in your ear — I’ve had a big day and I’m too tired, or let’s just watch TV, or you’re no good at running so why bother?
Kick it in the butt and just freaking do it.