My name is Anna and I have a confession to make.
I’m not always in love with the idea of exercise. Exercise seems like too much effort, too much pressure, too much of a commitment. As a Mum, there is usually something else that I can prioritise higher than exercise. As somebody who struggles with low mood, there are days when even the start line seems out of reach.
I like to move my body. When I move my body, I feel good!
I have a few tricks up my sleeve, and they have mostly involved a shift in mindset about what exercise is. I know to some folk some of these may seem a bit flaky, or not intense enough. But, there is a thin end to every wedge…! Move a little and I guarantee you will feel inspired to move even more. Maybe even… shhhh…. exercise!!
1. I’ve already touched on this, but I think of it as moving my body! Doing what my body was built for. Exercise maybe reminds you of school cross country, or is something that other people do. On the telly. And are so brilliant at it they make living from it and what’s the point of you ever trying because right now walking up the stairs makes you a bit puffed? But we can all walk, stretch, breathe deeply. Start small and congratulate yourself for not doing nothing.
2. I like to imagine the muscles flexing and the heart and lungs adjusting without my saying so. I like to marvel at the physiology of me. This might not work for everybody – if you are not a physiology geek, for example. But give it a go. Get on the internet (or ask the nearest school-age child!) and learn a bit of basic biology about your body, and start to appreciate what an amazing bit of basic kit you have been blessed with – imperfections and all.
3. When I’m tired, I move my body while lying down. On a yoga mat. With a pillow. I hug my knees to my chest, I rock, I stretch my body out long on the mat. It’s nothing fancy. You couldn’t even classify it as yoga or pilates. If its the evening, I might even be in my pyjamas and have a glass of wine on the go. But I get up from the mat with a psychological advantage, that I did something to honour my body. It was a treat. I was good to myself. After stretching and moving little, I might find I can do a bit more, or go for a walk.
4. Leave your bag at home. When you step out of the door for a walk, just take the essentials. Head in the opposite direction of shops and cafes, and towards the trees and fields instead. Imagine you are on holiday and you are off for an explore or the local area. I have discovered some lovely spots very close to home that I never knew about until I began walking instead of cycling or driving. The walk becomes not about exercise, but about visiting those places, going to have a look and see what has changed or grown.
5. Don’t limit yourself. I used to think that if I had had a busy / active morning, I wasn’t allowed to do anything else the same night – I had to save it for another day. I know. Weird eh? But ask yourself if there are quirky ways that you might be limiting yourself too. Challenge yourself to THINK differently about movement. Think differently about your body.
… and, (sorry folks) – there’s more to a perfect derrière than Pilates. Pippa Middleton’s Pilates teacher is releasing a new DVD on Boxing day entitled ‘The Perfect Pilates Bum’. I’m sure Pilates teachers worldwide are grateful for Pippa’s fiscally stimulating tushy, but come now! There’s so much more to this than bums!!
This week I attended a brilliant class with Rachel Potter – she’s my original teacher – the woman who sorted out my hip pain, and inspired me to become an instructor myself. After the last few months of taking over and morphing Littlewolf Physio into Base Physio, I’ve spent hours at the computer, which is not my natural habitat. My shoulders and thoracic spine have been really playing up, and my breathing was all out of sync. The class was gentle – I was not sweating or begging for mercy – but by the end, my breath was calm and deep, and my shoulders were like butter.
Which brings me onto the next point. I love butter and all the delicacies it weaves it magic through, especially crumpets. I don’t gorge myself on it, but nor do I starve myself of it, which is why I don’t have a huge bottom. Yes, that’s right – I don’t hate my bottom. It’s just right for me and performs all its necessary functions (sitting, walking, running etc.) without showing me up too much. Yes, sometimes I wish it was a bit smaller because the cut of the skirt is ridiculous, but I’m more likely to blame the manufacturer of the skirt than myself. I’ve also got good genes. As has Pippa – have you seen her mother?
What Pilates does is make you stronger, it makes you stand taller and it makes you FEEL great and that my friends, is a very alluring combination whether your rump is bony or bumptious. Go on… give it a squeeze!
Hurrah! I love summer, but despite the long hazy days, I have always felt the arrival of Autumn heralds more new possibilities than the new year. Do you remember the feeling of crisp new school uniform, a new pencil case filled with long, sharp pencils? The smell of wet muddy grass as you started the new school PE term with cross country? All right, maybe not that last one – running was never my forte. But new beginnings smell sweeter in Autumn, after the long hot-box of high summer has passed, but before the long dark icy nights have really taken hold.
So the new Pilates term is upon us, and I have spent the summer immersing myself in Mindfulness and meditation practices, and exploring movement. On holidays, I’ve hiked and biked and conquered Scafell – Yay! At home, as well as Pilates, I have been practicing some meditative, restorative yoga too, and currently I am on week two of the NHS Couch to 5k running program (muddy ankles after all – huzzah!) The yoga and Pilates has been interesting – Joseph Pilates himself studied Yoga (alongside zen meditation, and Greek and Roman exercise regimes) so it’s interesting to see how the two complement each other and where they differ. In my Pilates learning I am drawn increasingly towards slower, more mindful, exploratative practitioners as my influences. So classes this term will be encouraging you to feel and experience your own wonderful, amazing body. And then go out there and climb a mountain. Or the stairs. Or off the sofa! It doesn’t matter which – just move. Be alive.