Exercise Isn't One-Size-Fits-All. I Found Out The Hard Way.
By Sophia Hatzis | Digital Content Producer at Wild Women On Top
Have you ever used exercise as a way to punish your body? Have you ever seen exercise as a way to ‘make up’ for the food you ate or as a way to get rid of that extra skin on your tummy?
For most of my teenage years, and into my adult life, I thought exercise was meant to be hard and uncomfortable, not something to look forward to.
When I went for a run, my goal wasn’t to feel a burst of endorphins and happy hormones, to make me feel amazing. Instead, the goal was to burn as many calories as possible and to ‘make up’ for what I had eaten.
When I went outside for a long walk, I wasn’t thinking about the passing flowers, the smell of the seabreeze, or the warm sun on my skin. I was thinking about whether or not I was losing weight.
When I went to the gym, I wasn’t concentrating on lifting weights or using the machines to improve my bone strength, my heart health, or my mobility. Instead, I was preoccupied with the numbers on the stepper or the treadmill.
I was panting, walking, running and lifting my way towards thinness, an ideal body. Not for my own fitness and wellbeing.
Moving my body wasn’t an enjoyable experience to look forward to. It was something that brought me suffering. It was something that made me sweat with no sparkle.
It’s taken dozens of hours of therapy, months of personal work, and some good old fashioned trial and error to finally accept the truth about exercise.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach.
We are all unique, with our own tastes and preferences, our own goals, our own schedules.
For some of us, waking up at the crack of dawn for a walk to watch the sunrise is heaven.
For some, the thought of waking up before the sun has kissed the horizon makes our stomach do backflips.
I feel like I’ve finally found my sweet spot.
I tried running. I tried sweaty yoga. I tried HIIT and spin classes. It just didn’t work. I found myself staring at my watch, longing for it to be over.
For me, the solution is a balance between light, gentle exercise, a little puffing, and lifting heavy things.
I love lifting heavy weights in the gym, not because I want big, bad-ass muscles, but because it makes me feel strong and capable. It gives me big, hairy, audacious goals to work towards. Plus, it’s great for my bone, muscle and heart health. So I can stay strong as I age. Lifting heavy things is super important for your health, it’s why this is one of our weekly challenges in Stayin’ Wild. But don’t left ‘lifting heavy things’ scare you off. Just some bodyweight pushups, squats, or sit-ups will do!
As much as my heavy weight sessions satisfy me, they don’t complete me. Another piece of my exercise puzzle is getting my ‘puff’ on.
I won’t lie, I don’t always relish the feeling of burning thighs and a racing heartrate. But when I’ve had a stressful day at work, or I’m feeling flat after sitting on the coach watching Netflix, I know that a good puff by walking up a steep hill – or up some stairs – is going to knock me out of that funk. I also know how good it is for my heart. So a little bit of puffing has become part of my routine.
The final, crucial part of my exercise routine involves long, gentle walks in nature.
I walk every single day. I love my walks so much, I’ve become quite militant about them.
I wake up at 6am every morning, pop a one-hour walk in my calendar, and say ‘no’ to other commitments, because I know if I don’t have my daily walk – I won’t be my usual, bubbly, sharp self. I realise how lucky I am to be able to do this. I don’t have children, a hubby, or a high-pressure job. But I do know that you can – and you should – make time for walking every day.
It’s why our Stayin’ Wild Challenge has a daily goal of 10,000 steps a day. Walking is not just magical for your physical health, in reducing risk of heart disease and certain cancers. It also does wonders for your mental health, such as improving cognition and reducing stress.
So, for me, a walk is non-negotiable in my exercise mix. It’s what I need to ground myself, to fill my soul, and to stay healthy and happy.
A few years ago, if you’d told me a gentle walk in nature would satisfy me as exercise, I would have laughed in your face.
‘That isn’t hard enough,’ I would have scoffed.
Now, I know I couldn’t have been more wrong.
I’ve found the balance and the movement I love, that works for me.
The best bit is - you can find it too.
If a 5am bootcamp isn’t for you, don’t sweat it. If hot yoga isn’t your cup of tea, don’t let it get you down. If you don’t want to run a goddamn marathon. Guess what? That’s okay!
Find what you love and exercise won’t be a chore again.
Trust me. It works.