Re-thinking my exercise right resolution
One of my resolutions for this month’s ‘Energise’ theme of my happiness project is Exercise Right. Over the past few weeks a couple of things I’ve been doing have made me really consider the impact of those two words. What we, as individuals, think of when we hear ‘Exercise Right’ says a lot about our society and its fitness industry. And about the way we’re taught to think about our bodies and our relationship to them.
What does exercise right mean for you?
Does it conjure images of muscled, sweaty, men grunting under the weight of the pressure of the fitness industry to look a certain way, perform certain physical feats? Does it make you think of lycra-clad women with lots of tight bits and not many wobbly bits jogging around the park hardly breaking a sweat? Or does it make you think of what exercise right means for your body?
The thing is we’re all so different. For some people running is not the thing for them, but cycling is better. Others prefer swimming. Some people need to go for a brisk walk instead of a jog. Whatever. There is too much emphasis on looks in the fitness industry when it should all be about how it feels for you, on the inside.
No pain no gain is just wrong
The two things that have made me think more deeply about my ‘Exercise Right’ resolution are Yoga With Adriene’s 31 day Yoga Revolution and some research I’ve been doing for a theatre project I’m working on. The Yoga Revolution is a 31 day programme, Adriene does a new one of these every January. It fits in with people’s new year aims to get fitter but, with the Yoga With Adriene ‘Find What Feels Good Motto’, is (in my opinion) a much nicer way to work on this. Yoga is always about tuning in and listening to your body and its needs. Sure, we may push our limits, but in a way that we know is safe and healthy for us. Most importantly, in a way that remains fun!
The theatre project I’m working on is about the obesity crisis in the UK. I’m co-directing and recently went to a Rabble event with my fellow director, who is also obese. Rabble was founded by Charlotte Roach, an ex-professional athlete who was fed up of the “no pain no gain” aesthetics obsessed fitness industry. It’s a group where people exercise together by playing games in parks. I asked Charlotte what she thought about this exercise right thing and she said this”
“The fitness industry on the whole is a very negative industry, it promotes itself using perfect people, who created their look through disordered eating and disordered extreme exercise regimes. There is no voice of health, happiness or balance, I suppose that’s a boring voice. But it’s one of the most difficult things to achieve, to eat a little bit of everything but not too much, and to exercise regularly but not too much.”
I may need to think more deeply about this resolution
In the first week of January I looked at my resolution to Exercise Right and decided it meant I’d go jogging twice a week. Why? Because I feel like I need to do some cardio alongside my daily yoga. I think it might help me sleep better, and therefore give me more energy. In short I think it’ll help boost my happiness, which is the aim of this whole happiness project.
These reasons seem sound, but why did I jump to jogging as the simple answer to this? This month has been the first time I’ve jogged with a smile on my face. But jogging has never been a thing I’ve loved. I do enjoy dancing. This is something I used to do every week as a teenager, so why not try and pick that up again?
There is no one size fits all ‘exercise right’
It’s really interesting to me that I didn’t consider this resolution more deeply. Even though in yoga I’m learning to be very conscious of my body’s needs and limits, I still jump to the image of what I think exercising right should mean rather than what it does mean to me.
If this is the way I’m thinking then I can’t be alone. And if this is the case I think the way we think about exercising and health and fitness needs a major overhaul. Because, as I see it, exercising should make us happier and not be something to force ourselves through a few times a week.
What does exercise right mean to you?
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this, and find out if you’ve found what exercise right means for you. Let me know in the comments below and let’s start a conversation about a happier exercise routine.