If you are new to exercise, haven’t exercised for years, or recently started exercising and are struggling to stick with it, then please continue reading…….
There are so many different reasons for getting involved in exercise, but today I am going to focus on one major benefit and that is ‘becoming more aware of your body’.
Quite often I hear comments such as “I gave up running because it hurt my knees”, “I tried running but I panic when I get out of breath”, “I don’t do weights because I’ve got a bad shoulder” or “I don’t do yoga because it hurts my lower back”.
The problem here is not the exercise! If you are injured then obviously don’t do anything that is going to make it worse. However, people too often quit exercising due to pains and discomforts as it feels alien to them. The easy option is to revert to a sedentary lifestyle and avoid the work needed to overcome problems with the body.
What many people fail to realise is that it’s often the sedentary lifestyle that actually causes the problems felt when exercising. We sit for several hours with bad posture, we tense up due to stress (try relaxing your shoulders for a minute or so and then consciously note how many times throughout the day they become tense and hunched up again), we shallow breathe from the chest instead of the belly, and fill ourselves with all sorts of dodgy food and drink. Over weeks, months, years, our bodies adapt to our lifestyle with muscles becoming tight and weak, bones becoming less dense and the heart and lungs becoming less efficient.
People then suddenly decide to take up exercise but are shocked that the body struggles to cope!
The more you exercise the more you become accustomed to it. A sensible, gradual training programme will allow the body and mind to adapt to recognise the feelings that come with the different types of exercise. You will learn to cope with being out of breath and learn to cope with muscular fatigue. You will start to get an idea of which muscles are tight or weak and find ways to rectify the problems. You will then learn to apply better movement to everyday activities, making general tasks far easier and more comfortable to perform.
You will start to feel the massive benefits of exercise and how they easily outweigh the discomforts felt when making the effort.
However, this unfortunately takes time and there are no quick fixes. Prepare yourself for hard work, persevere and seek professional help for problems you encounter. If running causes bad knees but you enjoy running, consult a physiotherapist to rectify the problem rather than give up. If yoga gives you lower back pain, get an experienced instructor to check your alignments in the different postures. If you want a better body shape but are worried about lifting weights, invest in a personal trainer! There will nearly always be a solution, it’s just a matter of making the effort to find out what it is.
On a personal note I have always exercised regularly and kept my fitness to a relatively decent level. However, until recently I failed to recognise how tight my muscles had become and how I had developed kyphosis (rounded upper back). My wife encouraged me to try yoga, something I had never done before. I really struggled for the first few weeks because I was rubbish at it, felt really uncomfortable and got frustrated by my lack of progress. However, I persevered and through regular and consistent practise I noticed significant progress (admittedly I was helped by my wife buying a yoga DVD of a former supermodel). I started to realise the importance of good movement, posture and breathing. This has had a massive impact on other areas of exercise and general daily activities, making my movements more efficient, comfortable and effective.
I could have easily given up at the start but I stuck with it and ‘became more aware of my body’.
Exercise therefore is not just about losing weight or gaining muscle. It’s also about learning how the body works and how our lifestyle can make things easier or harder for ourselves, depending on how we choose to live. So choose health, choose exercise and learn how much better your body can become!