My Mum always used to say “Use it or lose it baby”, and the notion of that has stuck with me in terms of the way I use my brain as well as in my efforts to exercise healthy habits around exercise.
Especially as I get older and watch my dad, a spectacularly healthy 81 year old who regularly hops on his mountain bike, or goes for a hike, who still writes for the odd magazine and does speaking engagements, and who still often throws dinner parties for 10 or more people and does all the cooking himself from scratch, trying new recipes. He’ll be the one pulling up I-tunes on his I-pad or texting friends some TED talk or something.
I watch him in admiration and the lesson I take on board is that if you want to stay young, stay engaged. “Use it or Lose it” – thanks Mum and Dad.
Use your brain, your senses, your emotions, engage in relationships, in various activities and move your body!
And even if you’re not yet old enough to be worried about anti-ageing – still – MOVE your BODY! This is a high performance machine we live in – performance being the operative word.
What’s your relationship with Exercise?
We all know we’re supposed to exercise to stay healthy and lose weight, but often our relationship with exercise is not a terribly healthy one.
Some people have a really great relationship with exercise. They love being physical, enjoy the thrill of pushing the body, of sweating a bit and just getting out there. They don’t overdo it, and they’re not hating every moment.
But for many of us, exercise is something we decide we have to do because we don’t like our body, or because we ate too much or we want to eat more and feel good about it. Or we push ourselves really hard because we like feeling fit and strong and because that’s what healthy is, right? So we go to the gym every day, whether we feel like it or not, feel bad when we don’t, push harder, ignore aches, pound joints.
I’ve been there like many of you have, and I’ve suffered for it, like many of you have, and in my opinion it’s not healthy. As with anything there’s a line – exercise is good, over exercise is not.
Exercise for joy and for the love of moving your body, because pushing yourself beyond fun when you don’t feel well, ignoring the aches and pains that are your body’s voice trying to tell you something, is… well kinda mean.
I’m a huge fan of Oscar Wilde’s quote:
“Everything in moderation – including moderation!”
Your body wants to move; we all need to get up off our butts and find some pleasure in moving these bones; but it also needs you to listen, to it’s energy reserves, to injuries and pain; and to tiredness. Sometimes sure, we can go hard, sometimes maybe we could be gentle and sometimes, we should just jolly well rest.
Exercise healthy habits
We need to build a habit to exercise healthy habits around exercise.
- Look at your current habits, are they serving you?
- Do they serve your body, are they what you need right now?
- Do you need to pull back a little or push forward?
- What needs to happen for you to make room in your life for more exercise – or for more rest?
Maybe think of ‘movement’ rather than exercise
These days, as my youth slips quietly away and yet I discover that 50 something is actually not remotely ‘old’, I prefer to think of movement rather than exercise. Exercise to me is regimented, it’s something I do in the gym and there’s a ‘have to’ about it. I tend to rebel.
‘Movement’ I can do anywhere because I want to and it can be pretty much anything. Much as I like to eat a wide variety of foods so that I get a wide variety of nutrients, I like to do a wide variety of movements so that all my bits get toned and stretched, hopefully leaving nothing weak or tight.
When you sit for a bit, make time to stand up for a bit, move around. If you’ve been at your computer, lift your arms up above your head (we hardly ever do that these days), or pull them back, do circles, externally rotate your hands.
Put music on and just move to it, (I’d love to call it dancing but in my case, that would be offensive to dancing) however your body feels like moving today.
Just start – don’t try to be perfect
Sometimes the biggest hurdle is just getting started. The whole idea of exercise is more time and energy than we have most days. Going to the gym is a whole hour plus travel and shower, ugh how are we supposed to fit that in?
Give yourself permission to not be perfect, to not finish. Allow yourself to just get your shoes on, step one compete, yay. Then just grab the keys, leave the house, good work! Tell yourself “I’m just going to start with a gentle 10 minutes and if I still don’t feel great after that I’m coming home”.
10 minutes is more than nothing
9 times out of 10 if you do that you’ll start feeling good after the 10 minutes and you’ll keep going. And if you don’t, well you should probably be listening to that anyway and taking it easy. Pat yourself on the back and feel really good that even though you didn’t feel like it you did 10 minutes. Which is 10 minutes more than nothing.
Forget about what’s not possible – what IS possible?
Check in with your definition of exercise – is going to the gym the only thing you could do to move today? If you don’t have an hour do you have half an hour, quarter of an hour? If you don’t want to go to the gym what could you do?
- go for a walk,
- play with the kids,
- have a boogie at home
- call a friend and go do something – walk there
- get off the subway a stop early
- take the stairs
- park 2 blocks short
- sit still for a while, let the urge to move come out of stillness, it’ll come, your body wants this but your brain is too busy maybe.
Forget about what’s NOT possible anyway, and just look at what IS possible. Even just 5 minutes here and there adds up, and it might not be ideal, but it is something.
Be careful working out online
There are a ton of online yoga, pilates, and personal trainers out there with work out sites you can subscribe to – many have free trial periods so you can check them out.
Be careful of these though if you have injuries or impingements, or you’re just starting out on this whole exercise thing – we’re all different, we have different needs, goals and our bodies are tight in different places with differing strengths and weaknesses. Any program that is written for many, by necessity, is written for the everyman who has no issues or problems and who has a certain fitness level.
So find a well recommended site, start at the beginner programs and take it easy. (Join the Your Healthy Hustle Facebook community and ask which pages people recommend)
Don’t let your ego decide you can run before you can walk. Take it slow, many group programs will work great for some and not so well for others. Again, you are responsible for you, listen to your body, if it hurts stop, if it doesn’t feel great later, don’t do it again.
Get help to get you going
Seek professional help. Good grief we will spend money on our cars, our computers, we all love to have the latest I-gadget or a new pair of shoes but putting aside money to spend on our health is like nails on a chalk board for most of us. We do not like to do it.
But a little money spent in the right place now, could save you a fortune later and completely change the quality of your life. Find an expert you like and let them help you get started right, sort out the niggly bits and learn how to move well.
Find out where your problem areas are, weaknesses, strengths and tight spots. Learn to know the difference between tiredness/fatigue/aches/pain/inflammation and a muscle that got worked hard and is now healing and repairing and becoming stronger.
Baby steps add up
If you’re just starting out GO SLOW, you don’t need to climb the mountain in a day. No one EVER climbed a mountain in a day, it takes planning and preparation and friends and you go step by step, not mountain by mountain.
It’s the same with your road to fitness, energy and a fluid healthy body. Just start, I can’t stress this enough – if you overdo it you’ll just end up hating exercise and blaming if for aches and pains.
But if you allow yourself to just start, if you do what IS possible and what you CAN do, then I promise you, slowly and surely, bit by bit and quicker than you thought, you’ll be feeling more agile, stronger and fitter than you expected before you know it.
Don’t compare yourself to anybody, not the guy on the video, not your partner or brother or you when you could do this and it didn’t hurt.
So start, build a relationship with exercise that you move because you love to, because you hear how great you feel afterwards, where you don’t overdo it or pound your body into submission, but move for the sheer joy of it always listening to when you need rest. Build a HABIT with exercise, where it is just a part of your day, and build your definition of self to be ‘someone who loves moving because it feels good and it’s an important part of your day’.
Be kind, be gentle and patient
You are here. This is where you are at right now. Be kind, be gentle and patient and just start. I once heard about someone who began to lose weight just by clapping! That’s where they started, clapping. And then they found they could stand for longer periods, and then they could walk for a bit, and then…
We are all having our own journey. Wherever you are on your journey is totally ok. Remember that. But remember also to – Use it or Lose it baby!