For as long as I can remember, "no pain, no gain" was my exercise mantra. Since I don't really enjoy pain, I basically just didn't work out.
Because I thought that exercise "didn't count" unless you were sweaty and panty and super sore the next day, I always had to rely on massive amounts of willpower to get myself to the gym. And even when I did workout, it never met my expectations of what I thought exercise "should" look like, so I perpetually felt bad about myself.
Since then, I've learned that I much prefer gentle movement. I love to move my body, but most of the time, I like to do it in ways that are a little less strenuous.
Gentle movement most definitely counts, not that we need to be keeping tally of these things. Our body needs rest, but it also needs movement. Gentle movement is a way to give it both. By pairing a relaxing stress reliever with light movement that gets the blood flowing, gentle movement helps reduce the allostatic load (the accumulated wear and tear on the body from chronic stress, poor nutrition etc.) while reducing the health risks associated with sitting too long.
Here's some ideas for gentle movement that I've been loving lately:
Scott's dad got me a kayak for Christmas, and now that it's warm, we've been loving going out to the river. We're lucky to live right where the Saluda and Broad rivers meet the Congaree, so basically we've got three rivers for exploring. Being out on the river is so calming for me - it's like hiking on water.
Running is the one vigorous activity I really love - I've done three half marathons now, and even though I have a love/hate relationship with training, it's worth it for the thrill of the race. More recently, I've been enjoying a nice leisurely run/walk, where I drop the (self-imposed) expectations of running the whole time, go slow, and stop whenever I feel like it. This weekend I went for a morning run/walk along the riverfront before a storm was supposed to come through. It was quiet and cloudy and cool, and because I went on the run with the goal of relaxation, I didn't feel bad stopping at the lookouts along the way to enjoy views of the river.
When I got into yoga seven years ago, it was the first time I actually enjoyed exercise. That's probably because my priority was feeing better and coping with anxiety, not changing my body. When I'm at the office with long days of client sessions, I love that I can break out five minutes of yoga between sessions to ground and center myself, or perk myself up when I need some more energy. If you're new to yoga or a bit intimidated to try it, it can be helpful to do a few basic yoga videos online before trying a basic yoga class.
Walking the Dogs
With pokey Charlie, my heart rate definitely isn't getting up on a walk. When people see me and my 200 lbs of dog, they always joke "who is walking who?" But seriously, I am usually dragging them around the neighborhood because they're so lazy. Still, I love that even if I'm feeling super lazy and don't feel like getting out of the house, I know that my dogs still need to walk, and I always feel so much better afterwards. It's basically a built in thing that ensures I'm moving my body (at least a little bit) every day.
My favorite hikes have been pretty physically challenging and adventurous - 11 miles through an extinct volcanic crater in Hawaii, up a volcanic crater in Costa Rica to go swimming in a lake in the middle, to the top of a red rock butte in Sedona. But considering we live smack dab in the middle of South Carolina and there are no extinct volcanos or red rock buttes or anything remotely adventurous nearby, I've learned to love quiet hikes through the swamps at Congaree National Park. I've learned there are less "WOW" moments, there are just as many "wow" moments. You may not live near the mountains, but check out local state and national parts that may have more leisurely hiking trails.
Cleaning the house
I'm going to regret putting this online because I'm pretty sure my husband is going to use it to weasel out of chores, but you know what, I really enjoy having a clean house. And even though I don't loooove cleaning, it gets my body moving when I need a break from work or a Netflix binge.
Even though I prefer gentle movement, by removing expectations that I have to push myself hard in a workout, I find myself craving more vigorous types of exercise too. So when I do actually go for a long, hard run, or hit up a cardio class, I actually get some enjoyment out of it.
What kinds of gentle movement do you love?
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