By far the most popular post I’ve written was the one about sticky back beliefs. You’d think from the response that I’d revolutionised the world! But basically, all I said was how we view our pain makes an enormous difference to how we experience it.
It’s the same for exercise. Exercise can be such a dirty word when you’re sore. It’s not just that moving hurts, it’s the effort it takes to do anything, not just exercise, and how fatiguing that can be.
Some people have suggested that just doing exercise is enough to change your pain. That by moving you can refresh your homunculus and that by doing this you’ll activate all these wonderful hormones and neurotransmitters and feel just fine. I don’t entirely disagree, but I think it’s a bit more complicated than that.
Here’s my take on exercise – and no, it’s not exercise and that’s all!
Exercise that’s done because you think you must is probably going to be a drag. Especially if you’re worrying that your pain is inevitably going to increase, and that you’ll have to not only deal with the pain intensity but also the fatigue that goes with trying to put it to one side while you do the physical stuff.
Exercise that’s enjoyable in itself, on the other hand, is a far different thing.
I am not, as most people will know, an exercise nut. I have enjoyed going to the gym a few times, and I do enjoy walking, but I do not run, I am erratic with any kind of stretching or fitness programme. Instead I enjoy dancing. And I can dance a LOT – it doesn’t hurt so much, I get my heart rate going, and I use my body the way it’s intended.
I ALSO love gardening, walking, and cycling.
I’ve talked before about taking “exercise snacks”, the five minute jiggle about in between doing other things.
To me there’s something amazing about my body doing things and moving that feels good for my brain. I relax a bit, I laugh more, I get “me time”. This is good!
Exercise doesn’t have to be huffy puffy weight training and neither does it have to be repetitive and boring. If you take a broad view of exercise as moving your body and getting your heart rate up a bit, almost anything goes, and yes, including sex. Housework (well, maybe?!). Grocery shopping. Going up the stairs, and down again. Cleaning the car. Biking to the shop.
Lots of variety, lots of options – company if you like it, alone if you prefer. Whatever, it’s not just about the exercise bit, it’s as much about what’s going on in your thinking as well.
For me, dance is a way to zone out from words. Just the music and movement goes on in my brain. It’s a form of mindfulness.
I can get in that same zone walking along the beach, or while I go up the stairs (alone). Some people don’t need as much alone time as me, but for me I prefer to exercise alone so I can have a brain break.
It’s also about thinking about my body in a different way – not as a lump of achey pain everywhere, but as a marvellously tuned, beautifully-organised body that moves and balances and does basically what I want it to do. Even when it’s sore, my body STILL does what I want it to do! How awesome!
How I deal with the “oh no this is SO hard” is change my exercise to something I do enjoy. Or keep going and wait for the buzz at the end. And if that doesn’t happen, I put some music on, or I watch someone else moving their body beautifully – and that’s letting my brain know that pain is NOT the only thing going on today.