How To Exercise While Staying Healthy In Body And Mind
There are some people who just love to exercise. They just love it. They get an incredible mental buzz from all the physical exertion they undergo. They’ll talk your ears off about how fast they’ve run, how far, how long, the new cardio they’ve been trying and be generally enthusiastic about it all the time.
But there are some of us for whom running down a street where people might actually see us is a horrific idea. Going to the gym where we are sure everyone would laugh at and murmur about us behind their treadmills would be in our Room 101. And we certainly cannot understand those scientific studies that point out just how many endorphins are released during exercise, because we always feel less attractive and less confident about ourselves whenever we get out of breath.
We’ve been told that exercise is good for our bodies, and we don’t dispute that. But it hasn’t been good for our minds. For a long time, I struggled with starting to exercise because I felt I had to prioritise my mental health over my physical health. When you’re struggling with issues of body image and shame, maintaining a healthy mindset should always take precedence. Because here’s the thing: exercise takes confidence. So I’m not going to give you six tips to get thin or six tips to exercise efficiently. Instead, I’m going to give you six tips to get started; six tips to infuse yourself with enough confidence and self-belief to start exercising, enjoy exercising, and keep exercising.
1) Start alone. Exercising is about you, and no one else. If you get used to exercising on your own, in a room with the door closed, you will slowly build the confidence to move out of the room. Of course, there are limits to what you can do on your bedroom floor. Start with simple aerobic exercises, designed to tone your muscles. YouTube has countless five-minute workout tutorials you can learn exercises from. Which brings me on to tip two.
2) Don’t watch YouTube videos or exercise DVDs while you work out. What is more off-putting than watching an incredibly attractive girl with a ‘perfect’ body do the exercises with ease while you struggle? You’re exercising, not looking for thinspiration, and you’ll stop the second you start to feel inadequate. Watch them beforehand, learn the exercises, write them down, and do them by yourself. Exercise is about you, and no one else.
3) Joining a gym. For me, this was a necessary step, but it might not be for you. Gyms are often expensive and full of the exercise uber-enthusiasts I mentioned in my introduction. I joined a gym early on because I felt ready to move out of my bedroom but not quite ready to run on the street. If you’re a student or work irregular hours, you’ll be able to go to the gym at irregular times when it’s almost empty. A lot of gyms have Ladies Only rooms too. Many gyms offer one free personal trainer session when you sign up, which you may or may not be ready for, but remember that these people are trained to work with clients of all shapes and sizes. During my session, I was open and honest with my trainer about my anxieties. He was understanding and supportive, focusing on my form and giving me specific advice, emphasizing to me that exercise is about me, and no one else.
4) Start slow. Don’t think that just because you’ve joined the gym or started running or started doing sit-ups that you have to work out until your body breaks. Particularly at the beginning, it’s important that you don’t push yourself too hard. Ignore anyone that says “you only worked out for twenty minutes?! I do it for two hours every day.” Exercise is about you, and no one else. If you go too hard at the beginning, you wont’ enjoy it, you’ll feel horrible afterwards and you won’t do it again. Push yourself, yes. But leave yourself feeling that you are entirely capable of achieving even more the next time you work out.
5) STAY AWAY FROM ‘FITSPIRATION’. These are images of people who have somehow obtained bodies that you wistfully wish you had. Using someone else, anyone else, as medium through which you vicariously achieve your goals is not something you should be wasting your time with. Exercise is about you, and no one else.
6) This is the hardest one because it involves the greatest change in mindset. It’s something that might not happen until you’ve been gaining in confidence for a while, but it’s something that has helped me to no end. Try to move away from the idea that you’re exercising because you want to lose weight, tone up, or any similar outward ideal. Try to think of exercising as something you do for your insides. Your body is an instrument, a biological miracle, and you are so fantastically lucky to inhabit something that is capable of so much. Try to think of exercise as a tuner for this instrument, as a way of expanding its abilities.
Written by Abbey Lewis
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