Living a simple life: E is for Exercise

E is for… Exercise

This post is part of the 2017 A-Z Challenge. Woot! 

As a kid, I hated PE. I was the daydreamer in the corner, constantly buried in a book. By the time I was in secondary school, I used to truant from PE to play Dungeons & Dragons.

As a small kid, of course, I used to play – running around participating in some made-up game with rules that made sense back then but wouldn’t now.

These days, exercise is something I do more for my mental health than my physical health (although it is fun to feel yourself getting stronger).

In both periods of depression, it was yoga that got me moving, and that then provided a stepping stone to more energetic form of exercise. That more energetic form of exercise helped boost me – a tiny bit each time – giving me enough energy to start thinking again and then to start living again.

The exercise I enjoy includes:

  • This came up when I searched for ‘yoga drawing’ and I have no idea what it has to do with yoga. But I LOVE IT.

    Yoga. The base of my routine, and something I try and do every day, if only for five minutes. I will write more about this later (spoiler alert: probably for the letter Y).

  • Bodyweight/dumbbell strength-training. I am not a strong person, I tend towards being skinny which is great from a weight point-of-view but makes it hard to build muscle. Still, I am trying to regularly do push-ups, squats, dumbbell rows and the like. It’s hard. My body aches right now from the workout I did yesterday.
  • Pilates. A recent addition, I started doing pilates after work with a colleague. My core strength is pretty terrible.
  • Running. I am not a runner, but I started to use Zombie Run and for a while I enjoyed it. Then my shins started to ache, I realised my shoes were very old and I quit. I keep meaning to buy new shoes, but… see my previous entry about not buying anything in April.
  • Dance workouts aka Zumba and similar. I do these to YouTube videos, and they usually make me happy.
  • Walking. I have a fitbit. I enjoy long hikes in the outside world. My walking buddy and I are training for a ‘someday’ dream of walking to Machu Pichu.

The thing with exercise is I rarely want to do it, but I am always glad to have done it. Pushing through my ‘lazy’ barrier each time is hard… but I am getting better at it. These days I am managing to exercise in the morning, which is a fairly major shift. I have never been a morning person.

They say that exercise is a ‘keystone habit’ – a habit that supports other good habits. When I exercise, I feel inspired to eat more healthily, I feel more energetic, I feel better able to tackle other challenges. I am far, far less likely to spend the day vegging out in front of the TV.

F is for… fitness

The letter FThis post is part of the A-Z Blog Challenge.

First: some history. When I was a foolish teenager I hated sports. PE (physical education) remains the only class I ever truanted from (to go and play Dungeons & Dragons – what can I say, I was your typical rebel). I always walked a lot, so stayed relatively fit by walking to work etc but sport, running, getting fit… these were all things I had no interest in.

Then I went from walking to work to walking to a bus stop a few feet from my house. At the same time, I started getting tired, lethargic and depressed. It wasn’t just the lack of exercise that did it, but that certainly didn’t help.

Over the next couple of years I dabbled with different things, but it wasn’t until two years ago that I discovered how much impact regular exercise really had. I started a weekly yoga class, and found myself so upbeat and energetic after the class that I began to love going. After a couple of months I added a weekly karate class… then a weekly zumba class… then upped my karate to three times a week, and started cycling to get there. I had never felt better, although the cost made me wince a little.

I started looking for things I could do at home, and discovered youtube videos, bodyweight exercises and ‘fitspiration’. All of a sudden I was hooked.

When I moved to Oxford in January last year I left all my classes behind, but I joined a gym and even paid for a personal trainer. I started doing pull-ups, running 5k, and discovered that the rowing machine was actually… kind of fun.

Keeping things varied definitely helps. Having some outside pressure helps too – classes are great because people expect you to turn up, and comment if you don’t! The particular gym I went to was great, because they give you a free workout plan and every time you go in one of the trainers signs the session off. Motivation!

My life has been a bit chaotic recently, but I’m trying to get back on track next week. Now that I’m back in Towcester (long story!) I’m looking forward to getting back into my old routine which looks like this!

  •  Monday: Rest
  • Tuesday: Zumba
  • Wednesday: Hatha Yoga
  • Thursday: Zumba
  • Friday: Karate
  • Saturday: Karate
  • Sunday: Walk

I also wanted to share some great workout/fitness websites that I visit regularly:

  • Zuzka Light’s video channel: Zuzanna posts a workout every week (ZWOW), each one a tough 15 minute or so bodyweight/weights challenge. There are loads of backdated ones, or you can work out each week and become part of the community.
  • Nerdfitness: Motivational blog, plus free exercise videos and workouts. I tend to disregard the food advice (I love bread too much to ever go Paleo) but the emphasis on fresh whole foods is definitely better than many alternatives.
  • The Fitnessista: Regular recipes and workout suggestions, monthly challenges, and a friendly attitude that keeps me coming back for more.

What are your favourite exercises? Are you a gym rat or a long distance runner? Do you prefer to work out alone or with people? And what stops you from exercising?