"I don't do exercise."
Updated: Jun 20, 2018
For years I’ve told myself “I don’t do exercise”, but last Christmas I decided this needed to change! After a simple party game on Christmas Day that involved me throwing paper balls over my shoulder for 2 mins, I woke up on Boxing Day with my shoulder and neck completely seized and suffice to say in a lot of pain. Pain medication wasn’t hitting the spot, so I turned to Prosecco, which funnily enough loosened my muscles and got me through the day, but lying still all night just repeated the pain cycle the next day. I spent two nights sleeping on my treatment chair, rotating between that and each end of the settee. One evening, the only comfortable place was the floor and this was when I decided, I needed “to do” exercise again.
So how was I going to do it?
I realised over the years that the messages and excuses I’d been giving my brain i.e. I don’t do exercise, hadn’t done me any favours and I also wondered how this happened. At school I absolutely loved netball and basketball and could run a mean 100 metres and was actually a good high jumper. How could I get this enthusiasm back when I’d programmed my brain over the years that exercise was not for me?
Well, with Mindfulness Meditation, I’ve learnt that our brains are powerful things. The messages we give it create our reality, so this is where I decided to start, firstly I joined the Gym. I went with a positive message “I’m going to do this”, four minutes into the cross trainer, my positivity started to wane, my wheezing chest protested and I seriously doubted my survival!! I really was unfit, but determined to make this work as my shoulders and neck needed it I came back again and have indeed made it work. Here are the ways that I use Mindfulness in the Gym, use these tips to help you:
Intention – I needed to make a firm commitment, so to do this I made space in my diary for two sessions per week. I knew this meant less clients, but a seized neck and back would mean zero clients!
Use mantra – As I exercise I constantly affirm “I am strong, fit and healthy”. This makes me believe that I can keep going. It gives me the mindset that I’m capable
Tiring – use mantra - As soon as my legs tire and start to get heavy I affirm “My legs feel light and full of energy”, this instantly lightens the load that I feel in my legs and I continue to power through
Eyes shut and visualise – on the machines where it’s safe to do so, definitely not the running machine, unless your goal is to face plant and give yourself an injury, I shut my eyes. I find that by shutting my eyes I’m more focused on my mantras and it also stops me clock watching. What’s the phrase ‘a watched kettle never boils’. I’m more in the moment too, I can feel and visualise the strength of my muscles working and the expansion and contraction of my chest with my breath. Athletes often visualise themselves achieving their best times and performance, so there’s no reason why we can’t do the same. I never thought I’d be able to up my time from 5 mins on that cross trainer the first day I did it. Now I’m managing 18 minutes and I’ve also increased the intensity, I break a sweat, but I definitely don’t wheeze!
Diversion - visualise – whilst exercising I take the opportunity to visualise something I want to achieve and I see myself having actually achieved it. For me at the moment, my thyroid function needs nurturing, I’m visualising my Thyroid gland working beautifully, I almost see if pulsing and then imagine all the benefits that an optimally functioning thyroid will offer me, one of them being lots of energy to exercise. I find that visualising whilst I’m exercising also diverts me from my unhelpful thoughts, about how much longer I can exercise for, about how much of a burn I’m feeling, so that I can actually exercise for longer and reach my goals
Mindful Awareness and Self Compassion - since I started exercising I've had weeks where I think I've been flying and week's where I've felt so under par. In these moments I've been mindful of my body and my energies. I've pushed myself when able and I've decreased my time in the gym when my body and mind has been calling for rest. It's so important to be aware of these signals and gradually build up your tolerance and stamina
So 6 months on, I’ve used the knowledge I had around mind-set to completely change the way I view exercise in my life. Most weeks I manage to get to the gym twice a week for an hour session and for someone who hadn’t exercised for years I’m happy with that and so are my neck and shoulders! Where in your life, personal or professional, could you start using mindfulness, mantras and visualisation to help you achieve your goals? Feel free to get in touch if you need some inspiration :-) x