Growing up, I thought that exercise meant running, playing sport, competing and being really sweaty. I have never been an athletic person and would rarely looked forward to my compulsory PE classes.
Exercise, as I perceived it, was something I was never good at. I had a couple of sports I did well at in class. One year we did soccer and I was chosen to be striker just because I could kick the ball really hard and often times it went in the goals #fluke; and another time I did really well at bat tennis but I think that was because I made really nice handmade certificates for everyone in the class and my teacher appreciated my effort even though I couldn’t hit the ball. I dropped sport at the first opportunity.
What I didn’t realise during high school was that all the dancing I was doing was exercise too, just in a different form. A form I really enjoyed. Looking back, I am disappointed that I classified myself as “really unfit” when really my stamina was great for dancing but not for running.
When I left school and was no longer dancing I pretty much stopping physical movement all together. I was stressed with uni and was eating a lot. Mum and I decided to join the gym together to trim down for a wedding we were going to. It started off really fun. We would go a few times a week and on a Tuesday night we would do a Zumba class together (by far the more fun option).
I could never really find motivation in the gym alone so I started trying out more classes. My friend Giulia joined up at the gym at this time as well so we would go together. No word of a lie, we must have been attending about seven classes a week. They would range from body pump (weights), body attack (running and aerobics), body balance (tai chi, yoga and pilates), resistance classes and by far my favourite, step. Step for me was like dancing… with a prop. It definitely required the most concentration and coordination but it was always fun.
All the classes were at about 9:15am which was perfect for me because most of my study could be done from home. It also meant I got to see so many of the same people throughout the week, many of whom I am still friends with today. Having friends there made me want to go and the fact that someone else was taking the class meant that I didn’t need to come up with a workout by myself.
I am not going to go into the whole overexercising thing I did from 20 – 22, if you want to read that then I will link my story here. In short, I did go through a phase after enjoying all my classes of getting far too obsessed with being “healthy.” I would push myself to the limit every single time I went to the gym because I felt like I needed to earn my food. My body was malnourished and stressed. I lost my period and was in the worst mental state I have ever been in. I knew from there that something had to change so I stopped the classes all together. I began doing gentler exercises to relax my body and regain my health.
When I was equipped to start going a bit harder at the gym I did so in a group setting. It was the kind of class that you could choose how hard you were going to train that day. Some days I would push it to the limit and others I would take it easy. I really thrive training in a group session. There was a guy in my class who would really give me a run for my money. I loved being paired with him because it would be a challenge. Unfortunately, I had to stop doing those classes about a year ago because, being honest, it was really expensive and my uni timetable changed.
My boyfriend encouraged me to go into the gym by myself to train. I was really sceptical about this. I thought “what on earth am I going to do?” I thought that I would just end up wondering around aimlessly. Fortunately, I retained a lot of routines and exercises from all the classes I attended that I could use when devising my own routines.
I have to say, I really enjoy my exercise routine now. I am not slugging it out for an hour seven days a week, that is not sustainable. I go to the gym five days a week for just 30 minutes. I don’t really take rests when I am training because it is such a short timeframe. I go in, do what I have to do and go home. On the weekends I go for walks by myself (podcast time) or with my family. I mix up the workouts I do during the week and really listen to my body. I won’t go pushing myself with hard-core cardio if I know my period is coming and I am bloated (apologies if that is TMI). If it is a beautiful day and I don’t want to go to the gym I will go for a walk. Your body will tell you if it wants to move or rest, the key is being able to decipher whether you’re not motivated or you genuinely need a rest.
My sister works in hospitality in a busy café. She came with me for a walk the other day and said “I used to exercise but now I just don’t.” I think like me, she didn’t recognise any form of movement as “exercise.” She works an eight hour shift about four days a week. When she is at work she doesn’t stop moving. Running from one table to another… that is exercise too. For me, my life is quite sedentary so I need to make time to move because I notice my back gets more sore and I am less energetic if I haven’t moved. We need to be kind to ourselves. Movement, no matter what that is for you, can be exercise. Get really into the vacuuming, do a little dance while you’re cooking dinner, park a little further from the supermarket. These are little things we can do every day to move more.
Yesterday I attended a step class for the first time in ages. I honestly felt like I was 19 again. I spent most of it laughing. I was facing the wrong way, using the wrong foot but I was having a ball. The instructor even recognised me from all those years ago when I attended all his classes. Exercise should be something that brings us joy. I believe that our bodies were made to move and it is our responsibility every day to take the time to do that. If you don’t do any movement at all, start off slow and build from there. It is not a competition; it is not a race. This is you doing something for your body and you don’t have to justify what you do for anyone!
Dancing in 2011 - spent more time eating in the dressing room than on stage hehe
My friend Giulia and I, always celebrating post gym with brunch or smoothies
Today walking to get coffee with my mum and my sister