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Treacle on Porridge

Movement is physical activity, physical activity is exercise.

Movement, physical activity and exercise is when we use our body with greater intensity than when we are resting.

The term exercise can be more structured. We can monitor, repeat, increase exercise in a formal way and with a set plan. Some humans like this. They like to see improvement so that the money and time that they are spending on their exercise is all worth it.

Movement, physical activity and exercise can improve our fitness. Fitness includes cardiovascular endurance, muscular strength, muscular endurance, flexibility and body composition. If we are a professional or amateur athlete, if we are running marathons, if we love competition or if we have a medical condition that needs tracking then monitoring fitness is essential and program design can be key.

We get told that our mental and physical health will improve if we do the above. So as humans we do it. The majority of us want to live as long as we can and feel as good as we can. An industry is built from it, a billion pound industry, which will apparently rise significantly over the next decade. We make profit from it. We build our careers from it. We could say that some areas of the fitness industry make profit by telling people that they must improve themselves to be accepted by society. Not simply their health but their size, shape, weight and body fat. They profit by telling people that they must get smaller, hence they exercise, in the hope that they get smaller. But it’s a little more complicated than that because research tells us that health is a mixture of biological, psychological and sociocultural factors. It often runs far deeper than exercise. So some don’t achieve their goals at the class or gym and the guilt kicks in, they feel bad and then they spend again, they battle under the surface and it continues. Did you know that if the fitness culture is negatively impacting on your mental health it is ok to change direction and move away?

Over the years the name for movement has changed and as our lives (generally) have got busier but more sedentary and we don’t (generally) do as much physical activity in our day (we are not cave men, we are not running from wild animals, we are not living off the land, we are sitting more - at desks, in cars, on chairs) I believe that the need for extra movement in our lives has increased (hello gyms, studios, jazzy exercise fads, personal trainers and hello profit on all these services) Alongside this is the need to be accountable to someone else or a watch or a tracker, has also increased because we are so busy in our day to day lives to take the time to stop, listen and work out what we actually feel like doing and what our body is telling us to do. Instead we’ll just let our watch, PT or tracker do it for us. They tell us when we have done enough steps, they count our press ups for us, they yell at us through an alarm when it is time to get up from our desk and walk because we haven’t possibly got the time to think about this ourselves. We are too busy.

But my question is do those who are not training for anything, who have no medical condition, who do not want to continue to push themselves to peak physical fitness (and by the way that is ok) but purely want to move because it feels good, they enjoy the company and they want to be able to continue with their lives. Do these people need to be spending time and money on the exercise and fitness industry? Do they need to travel in their cars to the gym? Do they need a PT? And am I part of that fitness culture? Do my sessions have a positive impact in my community? Does the health and wellbeing, both mentally and physically, of my clients improve?

I ran the Snowdonia marathon 6 years ago. I loved it. On the way round I decided I was never going to do another marathon again. It was a big part of my life, running in events, but I realised as I ran up another incline, I no longer needed runs or races to get through hard times. It had been a process and it was done. The End. Since then I have not followed a training plan, not run on the same day each week, I don’t time myself, I don’t clock my miles, I just run or walk because I need to think, I like being outside and I Know it is key for my mental health. I haven’t been to a gym for years, I have never owned scales. I don’t do Pilates every single day. I cannot get to any type of class and if I book in I cancel (I am a teachers nightmare) I run when I feel like it, I walk every day, I often lie on my mat or bedroom floor and do yoga mixed with Pilates moves for however long I need to feel calm, restored and aligned (normally 1 to 15 mins) and my job means that I rarely sit still. We were born to move and this is what I do. But it has taken me 20 years of exercising and being in the industry to get to this point.

I am a PT and Pilates teacher by trade but follow no exercise or movement plan myself. But something must be right because I feel better than I ever have done mentally, I have no aches and pains (apart from when I sit in the same position for too long) I can lift heavy objects in the garden, run upstairs without panting, run 5 miles ok, carry heavy shopping and can do all the things I want to in my life. But I do no formal, planned exercise?

Yes, but..

I move and am physically active when I feel like it. And if I don’t because life gets in the way that’s ok too.

I eat and drink when I am hungry and thirsty.

I have slowed down.

I move sometimes to a point where my heart rate is increased. I don’t always get sweaty. I run outside if I feel cross about something and it helps.

I am ok with being still and quiet. I realise that for me it is as important as movement. When I feel overwhelmed it helps.

I am aware of my sleep and go to bed early when I can.

I read and am really curious about my movement and mental health

When I question my trade but write the above I understand why I do what I do. I stepped away from the obvious parts of the industry that I felt uncomfortable with, the parts that didn’t align with what I believed in and instead I created a different environment.

I listen to your story and match the movement to this story. I understand and give you permission to feel absolutely ok when you cancel a session or when you don’t put sleep, food and movement at the top of your list. If you’re struggling to listen or follow what I’m saying it’s probably because you have a lot going on in your life and head, I understand. There are so many barriers people face when they want to move more, it is not as simple as just fitting it in, I understand. Getting in contact with me can be a really big thing, not because of me but of other things that have happened in your life, if it’s easier to text, I understand. You want to see a real face rather than do an online workout, I understand.

If you are suffering from mental health issues we read that exercise can boost our mood and this can be true. But for some with mental health issues it can feel really hard to get out of bed some days, to look someone in the eye, to talk, to smile, I know. Some exercise environments can cause more stress. Sometimes exercise can go hand in hand with an anxiety and certain types of exercise, physical activity and sport do not help, I know.

I plan the session but tweak when I hear what type of day you have had. I help you connect with your body and stop the chatter in your head through Pilates. Once we connect with our bodies, understand what’s going on and start to feel, lots of great things can happen. I encourage you to think about your space, to ground your feet, to lengthen your spine and bring your gaze up. I bring like minded people together in a community, I think carefully about who’s together in a group. I help people realise that exercise doesn’t have to be painful, there is no need to over achieve, you do not have to feel it the next day and you don’t have to clock miles, count squats or dread the time that you have committed to being physically active, to feel good in your body. I have a number of clients who had negative memories of PE at school, some are more introverted so rooms with lots of people, bright lights and noise is too overwhelming. Some who simply like the environment I work from (they like the smell of the wood walls, the absence of mirrors and clocks, the space only made for a maximum of 5 people) and some who come to be with friends.

I have a client who said to me on our first meeting “I don’t do running” but needed help because she did not know how to be physically active. I was kind and guided her though movement and exercise which helped give her confidence in her body. 3 years later she asked me if I would help her run a marathon (and I didn’t run it with her, she did it by herself) During this time she changed her life dramatically and now walks in to see me each week and tells me herself that she needs to run to process her thoughts. I am proud of her for running a marathon. I am also really proud that she listens to her body.

And this is what I do.

So if you want miles counted and plans formulated, weight lowered and body fat loss don’t come to me, I’m not very good at that. If you want to do the latest fitness and diet regime that you have seen on social media don’t come to me, I don’t know about that. If you want to be bikini ready for a holiday, you can come to me but I will tell you that you are ready right now, you are more than ok just as you are and I hope you like that.

But if you want to look at movement, physical activity and exercise in a different way, I may be able to help. You may simply like my space and the way I teach in the same way that you like to put treacle on porridge. Not everyone likes it and it’s not essential but it’s that extra something that might make it a little bit better. I hope that if the porridge were your mental and physical health then what I offer is simply the treacle. I hope I offer that extra something that simply helps it all feel a little bit better.

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