Exercise Anxiety: I’m still learning about balance.

Can I tell you a secret that’s not really a secret? Sometimes, I get overly anxious about my exercise. Sometimes I tune out from what my body really wants and needs and I can’t stop myself from thinking ‘you should be out there running, you should be at the gym, how many times have I exercised this week, how many calories have I burned, what is my target again, have I hit that, maybe I should increase it because I’m sitting down all day at work…’ and it goes on and on.

I lie in bed awake in the middle of the night panicking that I will miss my alarm and I won’t be able to fit in my run before work. I worry that I have stayed up too late to really get out there. I worry that the temperature will be too cold and my asthma will decrease the quality of my run when it clenches my airways shut mid-stride. I worry that I won’t make time for exercise after work. I worry that the years that it took me to become a runner and be comfortable with my body and learn how to maintain a healthy weight will be wasted because I haven’t made enough time to exercise.

Sweaty and smiley

Sweaty and smiley

My exercise story started late, and when I finally understood the way my body responds to exercise and how to teach it to love running, I took off with vigour and passion. I became a runner. I became a woman who knew what it took to balance my food and my exercise to control my weight. For the first time in my life I was in control.

But learning doesn’t have an endpoint. True and valuable learning continues over our lifetime.

But there are two sides to this story. Two sides to the truth.

One side of the truth is: I feel best when I have a high amount of exercise.

The other side of the truth is: I feel even better when that high amount of exercise is complimented with an appropriate amount of rest.

And the third side of the truth is that I am still learning how to achieve this balance. Last week I ran my heart out – four days in all. I cycled too, and yoga-ed, and walked, and ice-skated – and I felt great. But on Monday morning I knew that I couldn’t subject my tired and sore legs to their normal six miles at sunrise, and on Thursday I didn’t have time, didn’t have energy – I needed to sleep and rest. My body was asking for something, and this time I listened.

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The anxiety was still there, is still there, but I’m tempering its drive with some solid, self-loving reason. I am not going to put on twenty kilos overnight because I missed one run. I am “allowed” to have two rest days in a week. I have all weekend to go for a lovely long run and a lovely long walk, and next week I will plan a little better. After a heavy week, a light week should follow: an ebb and flow like the tide.

The aim of my exercise, the learning objective if you will, is to create a practice that I can sustain over a lifetime. Ritual and routine is important, but so is flexibility and freshness.

So I am learning that while running will always be at the core of my exercise practice, other forms of movement can be just as nourishing, and challenging. Yoga was an awakening: my balance is poor and someone came along and replaced all my stretchy bits with concrete it seems. Ice-skating was another awakening: how long had it been since I had really scared myself, really challenged myself, to learn a new way to move my body? Too long.

Cold and snuggly on the ice.

Cold and snuggly on the ice.

Both of these reminded me why I fell in love with exercise in the first place: it connects me to the physical, reminds me to live fully and truly in this body, to be grateful to my body for carrying me over this earth, holding me here, giving me capacity to love and help. Exercise isn’t always about burning calories or training hard for a goal. Sometimes, in our increasingly cerebral and digital world, it is what connects us back to the vessels that we take for granted – we feel our breath, hear it move in and out of our body, we listen to our heartbeats rise in our ears, our muscles burn, they learn and grow, and we remember that this space, the inner/outer of a body is truly where and how we live our lives.

So while anxiety will always be my partner in exercise, as it is in so many other aspects of my life, its voice is no longer the only one I hear. I hear the voice of reason and self-love telling me to rest for a day. I hear the voice of a tired body saying, have a nap. I hear the voice of an overfilled mind, just go for a walk and tune out the world. I hear a chorus drowning out the guilt and the worry and reminding me that a truly nourished life is about balance in all things.

Tell me, dear reader, how do you find balance between exercise and rest? Do you get anxious about not fitting in enough activity, or are you at peace with your practice? Do you have a favourite way to exercise? Are you a routine or by-the-pants person?

Autumn Approaches

The roses are throwing out their end-of-summer blooms; the sun sinks below the horizon earlier; the air carries a crisper note of leaves on the turn, ripe pears and apples, and cooler nights to come.
Autumn has always been my favourite season of the year. It starts with an unfair advantage because my birthday is at the start, but the appeal goes beyond that. Autumn is the time when the universe changes its paint palette and sweeps a swathe of golds, amber, and scarlet over the dark wet green of late summer. The earth’s bounty is most plentiful in autumn. In this part of the world summer fruits are harvested well into march and mild temperatures mean a wide array of produce throughout the season. Autumn is best for running: not too cold, nor too hot, and the falling leaves crunch so satisfactorily under foot.

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Memories from last Autumn

Cooking:

Roasted Eggplant Salad with Smoked Almonds & Goat Cheese (source)

Roasted Eggplant Salad with Smoked Almonds & Goat Cheese (source)

Things to do:

  • To keep my hands warm on long autumn walks (and bike rides!) these are so cute!
  • Things to make my winter garden sing! Beetroot, carrots, and beans would fit in my kitchen garden. Perhaps some sunflowers too.
  • Boots to keep my toes warm this winter – maybe these?
  • A pretty autumn picnic amongst the trees.

Moving:

  • I don’t know what we’ve gotten ourselves into, but this should come in handy when Chris and I line up at Tough Mudder in August…
  • Training for the Gold Coast Half Marathon and taking it s-l-o-w-l-y as I work through this asthma thing
  • I did my first Blogilates workout on Monday, and I loved it! Can’t wait to integrate this into my training regime on a more regular basis.

Thinking:

I know, I seem to love lists, but I promise you all tomorrow I will return with a delightful Gluten-free Spiced Carrot Loaf (perfect for a weekend breakfast), and on Saturday a warming dinner for these cooler nights and a rally to gather your family around the table.

Tell me dear readers, anything on your Autumn To Do List? Anything you’ve been reading or listening to lately?

Remember to Play!

I am not the most serious of people, however, I can be quite…sombre sometimes. I tend to get a little lost in the lanes and byways of my mind and end up picking apart situations, and opportunities into a million little pieces. I get caught in a web of my own thinking and spiral down more rabbit holes than Alice ever did. When these times come, and come along they always will, I need to remember one thing: to go out and play!

No better cure exists for serious grown up thoughts, and self examination, than a good old childish play. Sometimes I need to just listen to my eight year old self and leave worries behind. Romp, race, rejoice in the moment, and revel in the sheer pleasure of being alive and in the world.

Today, when I was lost in some thoughts that I needed to leave alone for a little while, I popped my iPod in my ears, slipped my feet into my runners and took off for a walk. When I happened across a pile of leaves on my path I remembered what I needed to do in order to forget my troubles and, wait for it, come on and get happy!

I needed to kick up the leaves. I needed to pick up big handfuls and toss them in the air and let them rain down on me in their brilliant winter kaleidoscope. I just needed to play. When I got back home I decided to write myself a list of all the childish things I can do when I feel the need to cheer myself up.

Then I decided to share it with you just in case you need to remember to play, here are some of the things that make me revert back to eight year old Amy.

  • Piles of leaves (well, obviously) – just ready to throw into the air
  • Wearing flowers in my hair
  • Dancing in thunderstorms – living in the semi-tropics is great in summer
  • Singing along to every Disney movie ever made
  • Freckle lollies (you have to sandwich them together though)
  • Playing Twister
  • Running in and out of the waves at the beach
  • Cartoons on a Saturday morning (oh, how I am glad we don’t have pay TV in our house)
  • Walking barefoot through the grass on a warm spring afternoon
  • Playing dress-ups (in my own wardrobe now)
  • Face paints (this one is for special occasions only…)
Now, dear readers, what do you do to play?
What brings out your eight year old self?

 

Good Things: Early to Rise

Moments where the stillness of the world, and the fogginess of the dawn, reflect into your own heart, and calm the tides of your thoughts, are rare in this world. I believe when we get the chance to welcome peace and quiet into our hearts that we should embrace it with open arms. I seek peaceful moments in my life and at the moment, although I spend a lot of time alone and lost in my thoughts, I need them, I crave them. If only to still me for a little while. To allow me to escape the loops and whirls of the million thoughts carousing in my brain.

Early Thursday morning I set out to follow Mum and Molly on their usual walk to the dog park. Every morning, summer and winter, Mum gets up before dawn and takes our three-legged lady for a stroll (well, she’s a malamute so it’s never really a stroll). Sometimes, I wake early to accompany them for the first mile of my run. Yesterday the day dawned foggy. So foggy that it was like walking into the set of a real life Brigadoon. Through the mists we strode, four rugged up human feet and three dancing, prancing puppy paws. The pastel streaks of a winter sunrise bloomed across the sky and our breaths came out in small steam train puffs as we crunched through the dew-tipped grass.

I left Mama and Molly in the company of their furry friends, and companion humans, and continued on my way. I started by telling myself that I would just walk; just saturate myself in the quiet of the morning and the expanse that one senses in the hours before most of the world awakens – my favourite time of the day. However, inside me there was the need to run, to chase the fleeting dawn, and to arrive breathless, sweating, and warm back at home where I could revive with a nice sweet cup of tea. So I did. I ran up hill and over dale, and felt the chilled air slicing into my lungs as I sucked deep breathes greedily in after climbing the hill. I ran, and found freedom just in the movement, and stillness despite the racing of my heart.

The rest of the suburb came to life around me, and busy people made their way to work, and school, and onto the other things, the bigger things that consume our thoughts. Here I was though, with that hour and a bit of quiet, of recalibration, of stillness in movement. A place, a sweaty memory, that I could retreat back to when I needed to calm myself in the crush of bodies, and other people’s minds and thoughts, that makes up our daily life. I am lucky. These are the good things in my life. The good moments of just being. Not expecting anything of myself other than to keep putting one foot in front of the other; not expecting any more of the world than the new light of day, and a path beneath my feet.

So dear reader, where do you find your stillness? Are you a dawn chaser like me, or a night owl?

Movement Monday

Today a new hot yoga studio opened up in my neighbourhood.

Today I decided it was time for a new challenge.

I have found that the best way for me to grow, and discover all the hidden parts of my person, is to find a cliff edge, walk right up, and jump off.

In this way, I have found a way to do more than just exist.

I am a runner. For the next couple of weeks I will take the challenge of yoga.

Who knows what I might find. A new way to be thoroughly nourished? A new way to express myself? A new community of healthy minded people?

A new movement.