Most of us have our favourite exercises to which we easily default. We often like to do them because an easy option feels, well, like an easy option. What I am challenging you to this month (as well as to myself) is to think about an exercise which you regularly avoid or thoroughly do not enjoy. Choose one that you know would be beneficial, if only you actually did it.
You may avoid an exercise because you find it difficult to do, tiring, awkward or you just keep “conveniently” forgetting.
So long as it is an exercise which is not avoided because it is painful, I propose you highlight it for a month as THE one you are going to focus on practicing.
Consider the following:
1. Lose any negative beliefs you hold about your chosen exercise. Instead, look at it with completely fresh eyes and an open mind.
2. Consider where it needs to be done (on a carpet or mat, where space is necessary)
3. Is particular clothing necessary
4. What time of day would suit you best
5. Some other variable that deters you from doing it.
Consider the exercise in terms of it having a beginning a middle and an end. Then view each of these three parts as a series of building blocks . Don’t focus specifically on the end point. You may start with only getting into position and not moving very much, if at all. AND THAT’S JUST FINE. Or you may be able to get into position but only move part way through the exercise. That too is just fine.
If you feel especially stiff and it is this that is one of the limiting factors, grab yourself some cushions or rolled up towels to place under your head, knees, shoulders or wherever you feel you need the support to enable the position to feel more comfortable.
Once you are in a comfortable position consider how long you hold that position or, if you are able to move, how may repetitions you’ll do. If you are holding a position, begin with counting slowly to 10 and then move out of the position to a more comfortable one. Then repeat the exercise once again.
If you are moving (a small or larger range) repeat slowly and gently 10 times.
As you find you can hold or move for a little longer, then hold or move for a little longer. Breathe steadily, lengthen your spine, drop your shoulders and attempt to release tension where you find yourself holding it. It maybe that you need more physical supports, as mentioned above, to aid the release of this tension.
Some key points:
Repeating for a few seconds most days will, in a relatively short period of time, increase the ease the with which you can move. If you stick at it!
As you improve, where it is appropriate, you can reduce the amount of support by lowering the height of the support from the rolled towel or cushion.
For all of us over time, there can be more and more exercises or postures that we avoid because we feel too stiff or weak to perform them. This is not good news because the list of ‘exercises to avoid’ can become longer and longer. This in turn facilitates a longer list of where in your body you feel stiffer and weaker.
Working on moving your body by small degrees but with support and better control, will slow down the rate of those stiff and weak areas, stiffening and weakening. The stiffer and weaker you are the more vulnerable you are to straining your body. Think of exercises as just “scripted movement patterns”. The human form is designed to perform all manner of movement patterns, day in and day out. Just because you struggle to complete a fully “scripted movement pattern” doesn’t mean you should deprive yourself of the benefits of performing components of these movement patterns.
It is not about an-all-or-nothing approach.
It is however, about doing-a-little-a-lot-to-achieve-a-lot-little-by-little approach.
My chosen exercise is this:
Stand with legs apart and feet turned to ’12 O’clock’
Gently turn hips away from direction feet are pointing
Lengthen spine and bend leading knee
Arms out over legs, shoulders dropped, breathe
Repeat on other side.
The only time I do this is when I’m demonstrating to someone else, just how useful and important an exercise it is! However, I find it really awkward and instead of doing it more often to improve my ability, I avoid it, repeatedly. Until now that is. So for the next month I am going to do it for 10 seconds on both sides, every day and gradually increase how long I do it as my strength and flexibility improves.
So join me in thinking through what you can to do this month.
Start with one exercise. In a month you could then consider another exercise and then another…
What will you choose and why? Have a think and let me know!