WILLETT WORDS OF WISDOM
HOW You Move and Workout (not just how much)
Many of us are tuned into cardiovascular health and the benefits of exercise; yet, we don’t talk much about how it all relates to cortisol and other stress hormone levels. It isn’t about getting the heart pumping hard, hitting the punching bag with all our might, or lifting huge amounts of weight. It is about balance.
I see many people come running into the gym to grab a very hard work-out. Unfortunately for many, they are coming from stressful jobs, to do a stressful workout, to then return to a stressful job. Stress does not have to connote something bad. It can mean that we are having a very difficult day; or, simply that we are having a busy one. It can also be that we have sat all day which is very stressful on the body. As I like to say, the body does not know whether it is running from a lion, a pile of emails, or a very difficult boss. It responds the same way with the sympathetic system getting activated to take us to fight or flight. Unfortunately, most of us are revved up in this mode. Our adrenals are shot so to say; and, the parasympathetic system of rest and digest is on the back burner. When our bodies are primarily operating under stress and we go right to a workout that is high stress on the body, we are keeping the sympathetic system in overdrive. We may feel better trying to work out the stress; yet, we are further exhausting the body in the process. This pattern is not sustainable on the body. We have to dial down in addition to dialing up.
It all comes down to body awareness. We have to take time to continually tune-in to our bodies – how are they feeling, where does it feel good or not so good, what emotions are attached? The body doesn’t lie, it holds the story. Take a moment to tune-in to your body right now. Be open to listen. Take your time. What is your body trying to tell you at this moment?
It serves us well to take time to listen to it throughout the day. Do a little body scan from head to toe first thing in the morning and think about what you can do that day to take care of your body and nourish it – healthy food, less sitting, more conscious breathing, periodic stretching, or spending more time with people who feed your spirit as opposed to deplete it. Tune into the body throughout the day. That’s where the wiggle often comes in. Take time to gently wiggle your body, to move it, to notice it; and, to respond to what it is saying and what it needs.
Bringing this body awareness into your workouts is key. Are you coming in to workout after a very stressful and exhausting day? If so, maybe it would be best to take a restorative yoga class, take a light walk, or do some stretching and breathing instead; or, at least take some time to breathe and relax before you begin a revved-up workout. Mix it up. What other physical movement routines would create more variety and balance to nourish your body best?
And if you like to socialize during your workouts, great. Just don’t sacrifice body awareness in the process. You can chat with others, though don’t forget to continue to check in with your own body during the workout. How do you feel when you’re lifting those dumbbells or doing those squats while talking with your workout buddy? There are social workouts and there are workouts where it is best to be intensely focused on your own body; for example, tai chi or moving meditation which I offer in my teaching.
There are many different strokes for different folks when it comes to movement and workouts. Though for all of us, the important thing is that we keep our bodies balanced (not just in overdrive, though equally relaxed and rested). It begins with our own body awareness, continually tuning in to our bodies, hearing what they are saying; and, making wise choices that are in our body’s best interest when it comes to our movement and workouts.
©AnneLloydWillett July 2019