Often, when we think about fitness, we tend to have an image in our head (well, mine at least) of an easy runner, someone lifting weights and then being able to bend easily to stretch.
Those images can often form a picture of what we are trying to aim for – and this is usually because these are the “pinnacles” of fitness, the “gold standard” – but fitness comes in many shapes and sizes, many methods, and outcomes, and being able to view the whole rainbow of fitness is to be brave and positive in who you are.
As someone who was a naturally sporty child, active, light, who’s only subject in school she excelled at was sport, teaching fitness was probably something I was always going to do (yes, this is me in the 1990's!). However, as I have got older, faced some medical issues, the goal posts have changed, even though my aim is to still walk with ease, lift weights and to bend easily.
Covid has been another event that has severely affected many people’s fitness, from everyday inconvenience of not having a gym, to long term chronic fatigue that drags you down. Lockdown also gave time to change, and I have loved the space to learn that filled the void of my missed 8 classes a week - and part of this was to look at how can we use what is around us to help us. This has led to an increasing interest on my behalf to what is know as the “Restorative Environment” and has sparked an interest into how we can improve our health and wellbeing by considering how and where we exercise, alongside the normal fitness protocols. What is fascinating, is that location makes a difference, as does our own intention or interaction with the workout. It also makes me think about Joseph Pilates in a new way as he was an advocator of many of the principles, but then again, so was Plato, so maybe it is nothing new at all! If, however, you think that this works for you, have a listen to some of the research and see how you too can work to boost your fitness with small tweaks.
The key element for fitness is all about the application of the principles in a regular manner. This tends to be one of the major stumbling blocks for many – life is busy, we don’t have “time” and then there is a host of “mood states” that influence our environment that we need for change:
Anxiety can often deter use from exercise, where we project, ahead of the workout, that we are not “good enough”, or maybe how we don’t “want to look stupid” or that we will “show ourselves up”. I hear this on a regular basis when I people first come to class -they initially voice their fears, of “I don’t think I will be any good” before they have even tried the session. And to be honest, why would I expect you to be brilliant immediately the first time that you try Pilates? I am happy that you have managed to organise your time to come, given yourself an hour dedicated to your health, and offered an opportunity to have some much-needed time out. You get a big tick from me for turning up x
Often, after we have been exercising for around 6 -weeks we can lose the impetus to train and feel depressed that we did not reach the “goal” we set ourselves. I think that we are so used to seeing “perfection” on social media, or hearing about how people can change quickly, that we often get frustrated when we don’t see changes in fitness immediately. But I think we do – but these are inside. Each time you do a class, you will feel better immediately, you will be more relaxed, physically tired (as opposed to emotionally), feel good about nurturing your health and gives you a break from your daily life stress. Depression can be helped with regular exercise, and aim to “just do it” rather than wait for inspiration – and understand, that our enthusiasm does wane, so make some little changes to your routine to help deal with this. We are human after all.
This can be directed inwardly for not sticking to a programme, or externally where you “blame” the trainer for not getting you to your goal etc. I get it. We want to do well, we want to be better, we want to create change – but anger can also be a driver if we can direct it to the workout and not to ourselves. Have a look at your training, can you improve the environment you are working in? Maybe a change of scene? Maybe some new training shoes, different running path, ditching the fitness tracker. Take a deep breath, see what is annoying you and confront it.
Not to be confused with tiredness, but a general all-over malaise where you have “no energy” to exercise. To me, this is something I see more since Covid. If you have lost your mojo, I am going to suggest just getting outside. The evidence to support a natural environment for healing is overwhelming. Even if this means just sitting outside. Daily sunshine or light is key – and it is super effective in the morning. Try to get up and walk outside for 10 mins at the start of your day. Leave your desk at lunchtime and watch the sunset too. Set up an easy seating area outside your house if you can, with a table and chair to eat meals, read, or even work. If that is not possible, move your table to the window, get as many plants as you can around the light, let the air come through at least twice a day and have a mirror near by to reflect the light around you. It all helps.
This can be about losing your way with exercise, not sure if you are doing the right training or not doing the exercise correctly etc. I have spent more time recently looking at a more “workshop” style of Pilates as I have found that confidence in doing an exercise effectively leads to working at it for longer. So, get the info, find the exercises, read, get a good trainer, and start to work on the “performance” element of fitness. This may be slow to begin with, but it soon influences your workouts in a fast and positive way. Create the environment that leads to learning by setting aside a short amount of time to listen to podcasts or watch a video, read a book, or check out the research. Being curious about life will bring clarity.
Mood states are of course only one element of looking at a restorative environment, but acknowledging your own influence on the environment that you are working in will help your confidence and making getting fitter much easier.
There is more to come on this subject, and you can see that I have not blogged so much of late, and that is in part due to
the fatigue I felt following having Covid. Chronic long-term fatigue affects both your physical and mental health, and I will be writing about this next week too. Take care everyone, keep building the life you want, not running away from the life you have x