Movement is life. This last weekend I took part in a 6-hour indoor cycle event. It is something which I signed up for early this year when I was feeling somewhat better, so given the bumps in the road since, I really wasn’t at all confident that it was a good idea. Quite a few times I even thought about withdrawing, but deep down inside I knew that I needed to challenge myself and at least give it a try.
It wasn’t at all easy, I suffered a lot (especially in the last few hours), had to draw on all of my mental and physical reserves, cried and got emotional, and more than once thought that I was going to give up. But I didn’t. That is not what defines the heart of a warrior. The photograph is me in the garden post-event, relaxing in the evening sunshine and feeling proud that I did it!
My many years as competitive athlete taught me un unbelievable amount about myself and my strength of character, and I wouldn’t be the person I am had I not had that experience. I learned many important skills; courage, perseverance, confidence, determination, resilience, commitment, positive thinking, team building and so much more. My competitive days may sadly be over, but those character traits have transcended into the rest of my life.
Physical challenges are important
Challenges, especially physical ones, still make me feel alive! I know how important it is for me to push out of my comfort zone and seize life head on. I deliberately set myself big goals so I don’t live small. There is something about a physical challenge in particular which connects us to our inner warrior, that spirit which is roused by the struggle for survival. I think we all feel it to a certain degree. I suppose it stretches back to our ancestors where the strong survived and the weak did not.
So how does that almost innate desire to be fit and healthy manifest for a person who lives with long term illness which often brings into question that physical prowess. Are we less of a human being because if that inadequacy? Of course, the answer is no, but that doesn’t negate the importance of maximising our potential in all facets of life, even those where our capacity may be less. Unlike other areas where not measuring up to a minimum standard has few consequences, maintaining some level of physical fitness is a prerequisite for life. Stop moving altogether and lie in bed all day, and pretty soon the bodily systems break down.
We instantly understand that if an animal is always lying down and doesn’t move much, then something is very wrong. Yet the setup of modern society is seemingly designed to minimise our requirement to move ourselves at all. Drive-through fast-food, door-to-door transport, supermarket deliveries, internet shopping – a life of convenience is quite literally killing us!
Just because I have an illness which makes that movement harder, it doesn’t negate the personal responsibility to do my best with what I have. I would even be bold enough to suggest that because my physical reserve is less, the onus is even more there to push into that limitation.
I don’t think I am unusual when I agree that my self-confidence is inextricably linked to my state of health….and by default that has to include a component of my physical fitness. Maybe this is why suffering with difficult health so often brings with it significant mental challenges which run alongside.
You can’t avoid it
Of course, when something is hard, there is a natural tendency to avoid it or try to find away around. Honestly, if we hope to lead a productive and healthy life, then some form of physical activity or movement on a regular basis is a necessity not an option. The consequences of not moving our bodies on a regular basis in any way we can are well known – obesity, heart disease, type II diabetes, stroke, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, elevated cholesterol, some cancers….I could go on.
We are all told to sit less and exercise more, yet the exact prescription needs to be one which is safe, sustainable, enjoyable and works for you. What I am sure of is that it doesn’t take huge physical challenges to radically improve both mental and physical health. You don’t have to undertake a 6-hour indoor cycle to discover all of the benefits of movement which I mentioned at the top. A gentle walk, a yoga class, a wild swim, playtime with the young (or old) people in your life…it all counts.
Repetitive ‘baby steps’ built one on another over a period of weeks and months can transform your fitness remarkably quickly. Before long, what once seemed impossible is within reach and your horizons have expanded beyond all comprehension.
So, what is my message?
In the words of the Nike slogan, ‘Just Do It’. Set yourself a movement goal, a big one if you like, and make a start. Don’t expect to be perfect or for the road to be smooth. There will be obstacles and we all slip up. You have only failed when you give up and stop trying.
In the words of Jim Rohn, “Take care of your body. It is the only place you have to live.”
Remember, movement is life. No matter how ‘broken’ your body is, there is still so much potential within it if you nurture it and let it out. Your body needs you to do the right thing and take it on that journey. Love it, use it, master it, test it, but most of all, never give up on it!