As much as we like to second guess the Government’s next moves I think we are in a much different position now than what we were in March. Adjusting to this new ‘normal’ has left us taking up a different lifestyle to before. Whether it be working from home for the foreseeable future or not having the same social interaction as before, it can be difficult to settle into a new routine. Particularly as we’re now heading into the crux of winter, exercise can and is a struggle for many of us. Unfortunately what we don’t have so much of now is each other to spur us on and make us feel accountable so that we turn up each week to the gym class or the run session. I thought it might be reassuring to hear that not much willpower is needed to stay active, without any added cost or time. Here’s a gentle reminder of how exercise can still be weaved into your day without you realising it.
It’s sometimes a shame to see how many people struggle to find enough hours in the day to dedicate to their own health. It could be much simpler and less daunting than what you may think. What if we don’t actually need to pay for an expensive gym membership that we didn’t really want in the first place? Instead we can make the most of what we do in the day to incorporate some movement that will still reap the same rewards. Take the rituals of a working day. The travel to work, the lunch break, picking the kids up from school or dropping them off at their activities perhaps. All of which are pockets of time where, essentially, you can kill two birds with one stone.
Why not use the journeys you take in a day, the drive to work ,for example, to instead walk or park half way and then walk. Using the stairs instead of the escalator if you use public transport. Taking a 20min walk in your lunch break if you have an office or home-based job. Or even something as frivolous as parking at the back of the car park at the supermarket to make you walk a little further. Any way which maximises the time spent on your feet. Sometimes it’s about being a little creative than perhaps the motivation to do it. Not to sound pessimistic but unless you’re a particularly self-motivated person, dragging yourself to the gym every week will use up precious willpower. And somewhere down the line you’ll skip a few sessions and then it fizzles out. It makes more sense to start with small, simple changes which you are able to follow through. Therefore it becomes a habit. Once habits are formed you can then see a difference over a period of time.
For me, luckily, it comes naturally as I enjoy sport and getting a sweat on whilst I appreciate that not everyone does. I like playing squash, whilst competitive matches aren’t feasible at the minute, under ordinary circumstances it would be my main stake activity – I’m sure there’s restrictions on team sports too. So instead, I’ve had to supplement this for going to the gym and the occasional run if I feel up to it. Although admittedly procrastination does get the better of me, particularly when it comes to running, which is why it could be best to make it part of your working day to lessen the guilt if you aren’t able to do it on the weekend.
We’re all aware of the physical benefits that you can gain from exercise but a couple aspects that are possibly not elaborated on too much is the emotional and affective responses we have during and after. I find it can help us feel more refreshed, how many times has the thought of a ‘lazy’ day appealed to us when actually it can make you feel more groggy and lethargic. Our mood patterns shift pre-exercise and post, suddenly the workload or stressful situation becomes much more manageable. It can be a good way to get some alone time and clear our heads from the busyness of the day just gone.
An interesting take on the mental aspect is from Sandy Macaskill, co-founder of Barry’s Bootcamp UK, who states “Even more than your body, your brain needs this workout right now. It’s the most important ‘muscle’ – take care of it.” After exercise there’s a feeling of catharsis and clarity which helps bring unwanted thoughts throughout the day to rest.
On reflection we can all give ourselves a pat on the back for the hardships we’ve put up with over the past six months, the uncertainty is undeniably frightening. What does bring peace of mind is controlling the controllables. Sticking to a newfound routine brings comfort and reassurance. It’s an opportunity to build new, sustainable habits that don’t have to be arduous or all-encompassing. Taking twenty, thirty minutes a day for yourself is a worthwhile investment.
I wouldn’t call it cutting corners or trying to find a quick fix, it’s just a smarter way of managing your time. It’s worth thinking about a more efficient way in which we can use the hours within the day to prioritise ourselves.