Hate exercise? I did

As I write to you, my legs feel like jelly. I have just finished a session with my personal trainer. It is the only way that works for me, to get the right kind of movement for me, at the right kind of level.

But there was a time when I wouldn’t even have done that. Because I simply didn’t want to move. At all.

It was when I read that book, that I realised that the many years of repeated dieting with the mistaken idea that I needed to exercise more and eat less to shed the extra pounds, had compounded things, and I had ended up with a body that didn’t want me to move.

Crash diets, counting calories – skimping on what were essential foods for my body and saving the calories for treats like Crunchie bars (fun sized ones, of course….except that I’d end up eating at least 6 of them) led to nutritional starvation.

And because of nutritional starvation, my body needed to conserve whatever nutrients I ate, to divert them to more essential bodily functions. In the context of things, movement wasn’t one of them, adding instead to the drain on the body’s already scarce resources.

When I realised the biochemistry of what was going on, I felt liberated. I could let go of all the “shoulds” I had been carrying around in relation to exercise! I could stop beating myself up and feeling bad about the fact that I didn’t particularly like moving. There was a reason for it, and what’s more, now I knew what to do. “All” I needed to focus on, was eating the right foods – nutrient-dense foods – that would allow my body to heal. And then, in time, my body would actually want to move! Of its own accord.

I can’t even begin to tell you how much of a relief that was. Perhaps if you’ve been doing the same thing, exercising more, eating less, and wondering why nothing seems to happen, other than that it takes more and more effort and willpower, and a lowering of your self-esteem, then you can relate.

Fast forward to two years later after having made changes to my nutrition, (that was how much I had damaged my metabolism through yo-yo dieting and not eating the right things), I actually found that I did want to move. I put on my shoes and walked down to the train station to meet Jeff. For the first time in countless years, I had just felt like a walk.

Now, I have to emphasise that between that book and my walk to the train station, I did do my best to move. I had taken part in 10,000 step a day challenges and I had engaged in movement regularly, but it was erratic, and it always needed an element of willpower. The walk to the station, however, was different. My body had wanted me to move. And so, I had wanted to move.

Since then, I have learnt that for women around the age of 50, exercise usually needs to take on a different profile than when we were in our 20s or 30s. Hormone fluctuations add physiological stress. Plus, the change in the mix of hormones means that we tend to gain weight around the middle. As if that isn’t enough to contend with, we also move into a different balance between “breaking down” and building up”, meaning that we lose muscle and bone, if we don’t take specific action to keep and/or build them.

What this means is that we want to balance of all those elements and include it as part of our activity, like the following:

  1. Moderate movement on a daily basis, such as walking
  2. Resistance or strength training, to help maintain and/or build muscle and bone strength and mass
  3. High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), twice, perhaps 3 times a week, for fat burning
  4. Restorative and relaxing exercise, such as stretching and yoga, to help your body relax and counter the additional effects of stress

Now, here’s the thing. There was a time when even reading a list like that felt like too much to take on – except for the restorative and relaxing exercise. I get it. If you find yourself in that boat, start by making sure that you eat well – real foods, nutrient-dense foods. Nourish your body. And then find one piece of movement that you enjoy, and do that. Perhaps with a friend, if that helps you show up. Just as my personal trainer does for me. ☺ And I’ll let you into a secret… even then, my favourite moment is when I’m all done and she lets me lie on my back on the mat for a few moments, just before stretching – in the savasana yoga pose.

Now over to you. Eat well, rest well and move some.

Make your next years your best years.