I haven’t worked out in weeks. I was hit with the flu and a few bad headaches, then the holidays happened and I went to NYC, and then my boyfriend got really sick. Yesterday morning was the first time that I’d gone to my Pilates class.
It was tough to go back. For days I contemplated going. Every morning I’d set my alarm. Then I’d inevitably ruminate about how excruciatingly hard each exercise will be since I was absent for so long. How exhausted I’ll be all day. How upset I’ll be getting into my already tighter workout gear.
And then yesterday, I finally went. I pushed aside my negative thoughts, and made it to the class. I was sick of feeling uneasy, sluggish and stressed.
Before the class, I was tired. I was grumpy. I was dragging my feet.
But as soon as the class started, it felt exhilarating to feel my body. Yes, I was huffing and puffing and every exercise was tougher than usual. But during and after the class, I felt good. Really good.
The whole day, I was in awe of how just one, one hour-long class, was able to affect my outlook and my mood. That hour cleared my mind, eased and soothed the tension in my body and lifted my sinking spirits.
I felt as if I was truly giving myself a gift. That I was taking good care of myself. That I was breathing a bit better.
Yesterday was even more amazing because years ago I despised exercise and honestly was confused by it. In college, exercise was this mysterious thing. What do I do when I get to the gym? How do the machines work? What resistance level do I push? What is a resistance level? What if I can’t last for 10 minutes and I’m embarrassed when I have to stop? What if everyone is staring at me? What if everyone knows that I don’t belong here at all? What if I mess up?
During that time, I was so focused on using exercise as a weight-loss tool that I completely glossed over the fact that moving your body is enjoyable. And even more so, that it makes me feel alive, calmer and happier.
I also had a very narrow and rigid view of what exercise was — pounding the treadmill pavement or any grueling workout at the gym — so I never thought I could truly enjoy it. That it could nourish me this much. That I could actually savor the during.
That I could pick and choose the activities I preferred — not the tips and tricks I’d read in some women’s magazine or heard on some morning show. I didn’t have to do the exercises that would work my muscles the most or the ones that were in right now.
I could ignore that advice and focus on myself.
I could listen closely to my preferences, to the way my body was feeling, and let that be my guide. I could do what I liked regardless of the calories I burned or the muscles I worked. I didn’t have to focus on that. I could just focus on pure pleasure. On enjoying myself and having fun.
Movement can be exhilarating if we’re doing what makes us happy and feel fulfilled, and for every person that’s different. And for the same person, it’s different at different times. Some days, we prefer a slower walk outside. Other days, we prefer a swim in the pool. Or a yoga class. Or a stretching DVD. Or a long bike ride. Or a treadmill at the gym.
What are your favorite physical activities? How do they make you feel?