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Work it, baby! How I came to love exercise and how you can too

Posted Dec 11 2009 4:43am
Hi all,

Today I wanted to talk a little bit about exercise. Are you groaning? There is no need to, trust me. This post is going to be a light hearted, hopefully helpful and informative post about the types of movement you may want to include in your days, and how you could look forward to it! It's a long one but hopefully you will find it worthwhile. Grab a juice, tea or smoothie and settle in for the read.

We all know exercise is great for us but unfortunately most people have been led down the "I must workout like a crazy person to keep slim" garden path. You know what that mentality has led to? A whole lot of disordered thinking and exercise patterns, never mind the disordered eating that tends to go along with it! I'm not sure exactly where it all went wrong in our history, but I'm pretty sure the ol' "calories in, calories out" equation might have had something to do with it. We have been led to believe that in order to maintain a slim figure we need to exercise and exercise some more, and then fuel ourselves with processed foods in liquid, powder or bar form that are excessively high in damaging sources of protein. Is it just me, and I'm not one to spend the time, energy or effort being cynical, but does it seem like these beliefs could possibly have been shaped by profiteering industries with agendas outside of our best interests in mind? Something you can consider if you wish to anyway. You can also just think of the range of different body image, eating, and emotional disorders that include exercise as a way of trying to undo what may have been perceived as "wrong" or not in line with the physical shape a person desires.

Exercise can be the purge or restrict element of a binge/purge or binge/restrict cycle. It can even be a way of letting out emotion around stresses in life and emotional traumas. This can be a good thing, up until a certain level. When it becomes severe overexercising as a crutch to cope with pain within, it becomes just as unhealthy as any other imbalanced use of food, cigarettes, drugs, caffeine, etc - although of course to varying degrees. At the same time, exercise is extremely beneficial to us. It is in fact essential to having a body that is truly healthy and well rounded (the balanced kind, not the apple shaped kind!), but its purpose and value seems to have been lost amongst the diet messages and muscle bound images barraging us today. I'm here to (hopefully) shed some light on how wonderful and pleasurable exercise can be and to help you see it in a way which feels a lot less scary, less intense and less like a chore. I know because in my time I have had periods of loving exercise and thinking of it as a wonderful thing, and other periods of having an unhealthy relationship with it where I saw it as a necessary evil, compelled to continue with types of exercise I didn't really enjoy as a way of trying to desperately keep my weight down and to give myself an outlet to deal with emotional pain. Exercise can be incredibly beneficial as a release and outlet, but I was not using it in a healthy way.

It took changing not only my view of my body and my health to be very positive and supportive, but also shifting how I look at exercise for me to start loving it day in and day out, without seeing it as a chore, a "have-to-do" on my to-do list, and as a way of trying to keep my body at an average weight. Even though I enjoyed exercise a lot, even though I even LOVED it at times, even though I looked forward to how it made me feel and it did get me some physical results, I still had this overarching feeling that I was doing it because I had to. Hey, hang on, who was holding the gun to my head? Me!! For more years than not, it felt like a chore because it was just another thing I was doing to try to keep an average sized body. Sign of a bigger issue, non?

So the shift for me came, for exercise at least, when I changed how I looked at it. You know when even saying the word exercise means your voice changes to a strangled, depressed, flat tone? Sound familiar? I used to have that! On and off mind you, usually influenced by the weather, my stress levels, emotional state, schedule, location, body image, weight and shape, and time of my life. That's a lot of factors so it's no surprise that so many times I thought that exercise was just a dull and not very rewarding pain in the backside.

I am so glad that is far behind me, although it taught me many lessons about myself. Now I aim to include movement into my life, not exercise, and what a change that has brought with it! My whole outlook at "having" to exercise has changed. Now I choose to move because it makes my body feel supple, energised, loose, warm and used (in the good way, haha), relieves stress, calms, centres and balances me and makes me feel HAPPY! This is especially useful to keep in mind over the holidays as things are busier, crazier and emotions are at an all time high. While keeping your exercise/movement routine (along with your daily juicing, fresh fruits and vegetables routine) is a brilliant way of keeping your body, mind and soul as happy and centred as possible over a fun but stressful time, don't feel you need to do six hours at the gym every week or hard cardio routines. If that's what makes you feel wonderful and motivation and time are not an issue, then go for it, but if not, try changing your focus to movement rather than dreading burdensome exercise routines and see how it changes things for you. Just 15 to 30 minutes of movement you enjoy is WAY better than nothing at all, and will help provide the benefits you need over the holidays, and for life. See, doesn't moving and shimmying and shaking and stretching and extending and strengthening, sound so much more appealing than the associations many of us have with "have to do it" exercise? With the change of the word and it's have-to meaning for me, plus seeing it as just moving because my body, mind and soul loves it, it lost its intimidating, zealous, desperate quality and the no pain, no gain association I had with the word. Plus, it changed to doing movement I truly love, rather than feeling I needed to exercise or work out with activity I didn't really enjoy in an environment I didn't really like just because I (yes, let's hear it again) "had to". The great thing is, I now move more than ever because it feels wonderful and I look forward to it.

While your movement doesn't have to be taxing or strenuous, you ideally do want to break a sweat, as much for the cleansing purposes as for the knowledge that your body has been moving and generating internal heat. Movement and flow is health, people! Stagnation is sickness and (gulp!) death! I know a lot about this personally too, as over the years (make that decades) of severe eczema I had many times where for months on end I couldn't exercise. I couldn't break a sweat because it darn well hurt! In fact, it was excruciating. The sweat sitting on my broken itchy skin was pure agony and felt like acid burning through my skin, let alone the fact that during the periods when my skin was that bad, I didn't have the energy or health to do something like exercise, barely any movement at all even. Combine that with the unsightly look of my skin and the fact that I didn't want to bare any of it to strangers while exercising anyway, even if I could have without pain or had the energy to! During those times I just rested, with the occasional walk outside in sunshine to help lift my spirits, while covered in long clothing to try to hide the appearance of my skin as I was so embarrassed. Now I feel like knocking my old self over the head with a bat and saying "get on with it lady, there's more to life and after a quick stare or ten, people get over it!" Hah, not that easy and I totally understand if health challenges are holding you back from exercise. That makes my coming suggestions even more relevant to you....it's about MOVING, not necessarily exercising (in the one hour at the public gym on the "deathtrap" kind of way).

Knowing that movement is the focus, not exercise, also allows more people of all shapes, sizes, health, confidence and ability to know that they can do the best by their body without having to do an athlete-worthy workout in a gym or stay coordinated at the front of a fast paced aerobics class. Again, I'm not pushing these things aside as not being fantastic ways to exercise. I'm just saying they aren't the be all and end all, and are not necessary for you to experience health, energy and vitality. I think I've made my point clear, so now, let's get on with what movement you might like to do.

As we are all well aware, there are so many different ways of moving our bodies, it's just a matter of finding what works for you with your personal schedule/routine, commitments, location, work, lifestyle, health, time, money and so on. I am going to give mention to my personal favourites to not only share what I find works wonderfully for me, but also as they are all great examples of movement that really support a cleansing lifestyle.

Walking
It's free, it's easy, you can do it almost anytime, and certainly from anywhere. What could be a better way to get your movement in? I love walking. I loved living in London and travelling the world for all the walking alone. You really see and experience a place by walking its streets and you walk for hours on end. I also love walking along the ocean in my home city Perth. I am so blessed to live less than five minutes from the ocean and many times each week, I will walk down to the water, take my thongs off and walk along the water's edge. I sometimes alternate jogging and walking, sometimes I stroll, other times I walk fast, feet deep in the softer sand. All get my body moving and my heart pumping (except maybe the stroll!), plus I am surrounded by some of the most beautiful beaches you'll ever see. Not to mention the fact that I am breathing the freshest of air, feeling the sunshine on my body and I'm surrounded by all those alkalising negative ions. Talk about a movement and stress relief double whammy! Some days I may go out for 20 minutes or half an hour. Usually it's an hour, but it can be whatever works for you and your schedule. Don't let big city living put you off either. A city park can be just as magical.

I will often meet a friend for a walk too. It's a great way to catch up without distraction (other than the gorgeous scenery), get your body moving and feel refreshed. I also don't really like wearing foot wear, unless it's thongs (yes, I know, what an Aussie) or some comfortable but cute "girly" shoes, so walking on sand where I don't need to worry about the right running shoes suits me perfectly! Oh, and did I mention how grounding it is to put your feet directly into the earth's soil and sand? Instant relaxation. Try it for yourself.

Yoga


I've always dabbled in yoga, although I would never claim to be good at it. At first I wanted to be a yogi because, well, have you seen most long-term yogis bodies? Then it was a chance to do sweaty exercise. Hello, Bikram yoga. Then it was stress relief for my 12 hour days in marketing management and the corporate world. Then it was gentle yoga meditation and very little movement while my skin was excruciating and I was trying to heal naturally. Now, it's love. Sound over the top? Trust me, I'm serious! I love, love, love yoga! My favourite yoga is ashtanga vinyasa because I love how meditative it is while building that internal heat that purifies and cleanses you. I also love that you are moving so frequently and how quickly my body responds by building strength and patience. It also is a great yoga for me to practice at home if I'm pushed to get to the studio as once you have learned the sequence, you can practice anywhere (and I do, often outside on the back patio). Yoga is not an easy option, as some may think. It takes discipline, commitment and a true joy for the practice. At least regular practice seems to require that. However, that doesn't mean you can't just derive benefit from some weekly stretches or an irregular yoga class. It also doesn't mean you need to spend hours on the yoga mat every week. If you do not have the time or desire to commit to lengthy classes each week, you can always do a five to ten minute series of poses or stretches at home a few times per week, or even one class per week. You could even use the short 20 minute yoga practices at Yoga Download . The variety of yoga types also means you can explore this wonderful world until you find what feels great to you. I think for me, the type of yoga I have enjoyed over the years and the practice I've kept has changed and evolved with my interests, beliefs and personal life experiences. Other than the fact that I get to use every part of my body until it is gloriously warm, strong and agile (and yes, I sweat too), I love yoga because it not only allows this personal evolution and growth, but promotes it. I don't know about you, but I'm starting to see a theme here for my preferred ways to move...they have multiple benefits!

Jumping

Oh, mini trampoline, how I love you! What a fabulous invention. The inventor must have thought to him/herself, let's combine buoyancy, exercise, support cleansing through the lymphatic system, make it extra easy on the body and joints, affordable, transportable, make it ideal for the home, convenient, AND fun. Aha, I have it! The rebounder! It was born, it took off, now every cleanser and many others have one in their home. Talk about super easy movement. I use my rebounder/mini-tramp at least three times per week, often more. It's rarely for more than 20 minutes as it's usually my solution on days when I have little to no extra time but of course want to get my body moving. I typically put my trampoline on my back patio and jump to music. Honestly, I feel like I'm high on life and feel so young and carefree. Something about the buoyancy is just beautiful. Did I mention rebounding is ideal to get the lymphatic system pumping all those toxins out, so they can be released via your elimination organs?


Running
I used to be big into running. I was training for a marathon at one point but had an ankle injury so didn't go through with it. Even still, running was a few times weekly activity for me for many years with some breaks of a few months (or six) in between. Some days I loved it, others I thought "what the hell am I doing?". Now, I love light jogging, but it's only when the mood takes me and typically on the beach, again with my feet directly on the sand and splashing through a few inches of water. Running is an awesome activity, however for the sake of your body's health, it's best to keep your running to shorter sessions so you don't acidify your body and then have to compensate with an even healthier diet and lifestyle. A lot of people make the mistake in thinking that a competitive runner or athlete is healthy because they exercise so much. In actuality, if someone is over-exercising and really pushing their body past its limits (and not listening to its signals for rest and recovery), they need to be compensating by being even more healthy and dousing themselves with even more alkalinity than the person who exercises within their body's capacity. This is of course different for everyone, so bare in mind that if you intend to become an athlete or spend hours training and training, you want to be even more consicous of your health, not thinking that you can now get away with an extra cheeseburger because you are burning it off. Important side note: the residue form the toxicity of these foods is not "burnt off" but stays stuck in your intestines contributing to poor health in later years!!

Pilates
I am currently working with a pilates instructor once each week. I love it for the lengthening and strengthening of my muscles, core and otherwise, and it feels so fantastic to focus on the internal muscles just as much as the external. I have a LONG way to go but I definitely recommend this sort of movement to anyone seeking a graceful and strong body that will carry you elegantly and with confidence. And yep, you're still moving!

Dance
I'd like to preface this by saying I am not a skilled dancer, and yes, I love Dirty Dancing. Have you seen Patrick Swayze in this film? Uh, hello! OK moving on...let me change that to I'm not even a good dancer. So when I say I like to dance for movement, I mean shake, rattle, and yes, even roll on occasion. Anyone else find those words fitting to their (lack of) dance style? Dancing is such an amazing release for me and I know for many others. Nobody puts me in the corner. I've done a range of classes starting with ballet and jazz as a child, and then bellydancing, salsa and pole dancing as an adult. Great fun and a great, very freeing form of movement. However, for me, nothing beats a shimmy and a shake on the dancefloor with friends or strangers. I'm not attached to who...whichever happens. I spent six months travelling Europe on my own in 2003 and boy did I perfect the "I'm dancing alone and OK with that routine". It was so much fun and to this day I still adore a good dancing session. You will often find me dancing around the house, jumping leaps across my front drive or in front of my partner while he watches a film, or doing spins while juicing. For me, dance is just fun. It's also movement, it shakes up my chi like crazy and I feel like a big ball of buzzing energy. Dancing can be done in spare moments in your home (MJ do it for anyone else?), outside (heck, why not?!), or at clubs, parties or wherever else you can find your groove. There's nothing like a good sweaty dance session. Oh, and I won't hold it against you if you don't say hi next time you see me convulsing in strange movements alone on a dance floor.


Bike riding
Fresh air, outdoors, speed, height, movement. Nuff said!


Swimming

Nothing like a dip in the ocean (or a lake or pool) to perk you up and get your body moving. I love pretty much anything that involves clear, blue ocean/sea water and swimming is no exception. I don't swim for exercise, but to feel my body move and surge through stunning waters and fight through fun waves. I swim for refreshment, for fun and and to completely melt my stress away. When I swim I feel more connected to nature and the earth than ever before. It's pure pleasure! Now that the warmer weather is here, I am swimming a couple of times per week, usually after a beach walk or run. The combination of hot sweaty skin and hot sun with the crystal clear, cool water is heavenly.

Did you notice a theme among my favourite forms of movement? While I mentioned movement in all of them, the focus was on so many other aspects of the pleasures and benefits each activity provides. That's because I view them as extremely pleasurable activities, not as exercise! I'm a Libran and a true pleasure-seeker. These activities give me a ton of it and so the fact that I get exercise or movement from them is truly just a huge big bonus, as I would do them even if they only brought me pleasure and no physical benefit. You know what the other theme is? Most of these activities that I love so much either are done in nature, or connect me with my authentic self and deepen my life experience. How's that for reason to get your move on?

Now it's your turn. What makes you giddy with glee and provides time and pleasure for yourself, while allowing your body to move, and be strong and glow? When you pick your exercise, pick it for these reasons and you will love and treasure the opportunities you have to move your body.

Love,
Casey
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