Fitness as self care

I was having a chat with a colleague earlier in the spring and I mentioned how much I was enjoying the gym after a hiatus in the early winter due to COVID. While I could have substituted walking for the gym, I rarely enjoy walking in the winter as the ice scares me; after a loved one slipped and broke their leg, I have even more cause to fear winter walking.

My colleague told me how much they enjoy exercise and how they see their workouts as self-care. It’s a concept that really resonated with me and encapsulated some of how I have started to change my thinking about the role of exercise and fitness in my life. Before the pandemic, for example, I tended to think of self-care as booking a massage or a manicure (thanks wellness industry) or even taking a cup of tea and just staring out the window looking at the birds, the neighbourhood cats, and the passing clouds, but exercise as self-care? I never dug deep enough to explore how that might work.

I get exercise as important for heart health, keeping my joints mobile and ligaments and muscles elastic, but it is something I do so I can be functional and able for as along as possible. While I often find swimming meditative (even though I am not fond of meditation as a practice), lifting weights is about the deliberate movement and effort involved, and it’s not necessarily focused on calming my mind.

When I first started focusing on my fitness work, I looked at it as caring for my physical self, but not as part of holistic approach to supporting good mental health or recovering from stress. The buzz you get from a great session, the runner’s high, the overall sense of wellbeing, that was the bonus of working out, the cherry on the fitness cake, if you will.

These days I’ve changed tack. Getting a walk in, readying myself for a return to the pool, getting back into yoga are all about shaking off the stress of life — work deadlines, caregiving needs etc. Juggling all the balls is mentally taxing and when you add in the protective measures to deal with the pandemic, well, your faithful blogger was quickly becoming a stressed out, crispy kitty.

This white cat can’t even any more as it looms grumpily from its perch on a wooden post. Photo by Steve Harvey on Unsplash

The fact that my heart works better, I can lift weights, swim laps or garden happily, is fabulous. But I am liking how much more grounded I feel after a workout or a nice walk even if my fingers are ready to fall off from the cold. I’ve discovered I work more efficiently, that I am processing stuff effectively and I no longer feel like Ms Grumpykins above. My goal is to be like Ms Ginger below: relaxed, loose and ready to chill for the weekend with a good book or a new sewing project.

A ginger cat stretches luxuriously on whitewashed wooden flooring. Photo by Timo Volz on Unsplash

Stay safe and well friends!

MarthaFitat55 lives and works and plays in St. John’s, NL, the far east of Canada.

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