One of the things about being unwell I struggle with the most is not being able to exercise. While some of the time there might not be a doctor standing over my shoulder telling me not to, its pretty hard to do a bike ride or a barre class with the levels of pain, blood loss, headaches and the side of iron deficiency that can crop up.
I haven’t always craved exercise like I do now. As a really young kid, I loved my gymnastics classes, but after moving back to my state’s capital for highschool, I played netball because sport was a requriement of my school, not due to a burning need to play. In the later years of highschool as the worst of my menstrual bleeds kicked in, I struggled getting to school activities at all. Throughout the intervening years at uni and my first few years of working I was, well, a lazy bugger. I walked where I could instead of using vehicular transport, and I did the occasional hike, but not regular, planned bouts of getting sweaty. I’d had a rough few years in this period, with sporadic employment and family related stress, and illness (of the ‘normal’ variety – lots of winter ickiness), and exercise hadn’t been in my mind despite the constant encouragement from my lovely R.
Until about 18 months ago (February 2012) when a friend, E, mentioned a workout she’d tried which she loved because it really worked her muscles, and they had a great intro offer which made trying it out nice and cheap. And so I was brought into my first Barrecode class (and my first ever barre workout of any kind). And holey moley was I sore after. And for the following four days, where I struggled lifting my arms over shoulder height, engaging my core to do anything, and walking up hills. There was so much just screaming at me but I kinda loved it! It was the first time in years I actually felt like I’d use my muscles properly, but it felt good. Like they were meant to be feeling. Used and useful. Aching for more use, literally. So I went back the following week, and the one after that, and slowly built up to twice a week. Then I started trying different class formats – I started with Barre Fusion, which is a yoga/barre mix, and I now do that once a week. There’s something so restorative about the yoga sections that I can’t get enough of, and the vinyasa flow section is so grounding, I completely focus on the task at and stop the silly brain nattering that can happen at other times. Then Barre Core. Originally more like a standard class with more core sets, earlier this year these killers were added making it a more well rounded core workout, allowing all the core muscles (even the lower back) to get a strong yet safe workout.
Can you tell I’m addicted? I should be Christie‘s media officer…
I’ve also rediscovered my love of riding. In one of my bouts of unemployment, in 2009, I decided I’d had enough of doing short term, boring jobs, and wanted to spend my sizeable tax return on something fun. So I booked a trip to New Caledonia. I spent one of my days on Ile de Pins doing a self guided biking tour, and it was just so much fun I made one of my goals when I finally landed a more stable job to buy myself a bike. R was pretty excited about this – he’s an avid rider, though he’s yet to convince me to do one of ‘his’ rides (he’s a mountain biker, and unfortuantely for him I value my life a bit more than to follow him up a mountain on a bike 😉 ). On Sunday we did a lovely ride, my first ‘proper’ one in months on the foreshore trail across the river from our house. I not only did a good distance, but I did all the hills which I’ve never done in one ride before on both directions. It was so nice to be out and riding again, and the fresh are felt amazing.
Since I started riding and doing barre, I’ve realised how much a difference regular exercise makes. Its all that boring stuff everyone knows, like stress releif, improved health and immunity, but by gosh is it true. I’ve noticed the biggest benefit is from stress. Doing a barre class, going on a ride, or getting out to one of the many state or national parks in short driving distance from my house is so therapeutic. Fresh air and sunshine are so good for my mental health, and a bit of good old sweat and exertion ensure my mind stops running and I’m truly in the moment. Its a circut breaker for whatever is running around in my head. Focussing on the movement, posture and accuracy of what I’m doing means I can’t think any mean girl thoughts. And in the last week, I know I’ve become a happier, more awake, more focussed and sillier (in the best possible way) person as I have gotten my bleeds under control and been able to get back into exercising again. With 3 barre classes and a bike ride last week, and another 3 classes this week, I know I’m making myself happier and healthier.
I could be frustrated I spent a few years not exercising, and not really understanding and living the truth of the endorphin high, but I’m glad. Glad that I now have R and we enjoy rides and hikes together, and glad that I didn’t start anything else sooner as I might not have developed my love affair with barre & the wonderful instructors at Barrecode otherwise. And right now, I’m extatic that I’m back exercising and loving it. I can *technically* live without it, but I certainly can’t thrive without it. And why would I want to – I’m happy, healthy and strong (in every sense) from my exercise routine, and for me, life would be pretty dull without all of that.