Many people, especially women, are put off going to the gym and lifting weights as they think it is too hard or in turn will make their body become hard, but exercise, lifting weights and the gym can be loving, nurturing and so much fun.
I used to work as a fitness instructor, personal trainer and yoga teacher, and for a while was put off going back to the gym, because I ‘thought’ it was too hard for my body, but in truth it was how I had been choosing to exercise that was hard, not the exercise itself.
In truth my body really responds to it – rather than exercise feeling like a hard slog and something I’ve got to do, I have discovered exercise feels amazing, joyful, nurturing and really supportive. For me the key is to stay connected, to not be drawn into looking in mirrors, checking out other people, their bodies and what they are doing, but to truly stay present with myself and how I feel from within.
It is also not about being rigid with the exercises I choose to do. Sometimes I love using free weights, at other times I feel the need for more support and use machines. I also love playing and experimenting with equipment. There may be days that I stay at the gym for 20 minutes, other days where I will be there for an hour or more, all depending on how I feel and my workload that week, e.g. if I have a long, physical week.
There are even times when I have been tired, and ‘thought’, “Oh I’ll go home and relax”… but then have chosen to go to the gym instead and done a lighter session, which in turn has felt so nurturing and supportive, and in truth re-connected me with my body, and out of my head.
One morning, whilst sitting on a weights machine, I felt so clearly in my body, that if I make exercise about my outer and how I look, I go into my head and my body hardens – it becomes about drive and something I do… Whereas if I feel how I am actually lovingly supporting myself, making a commitment to me, then immediately I, and my body, feel much more present, gentle, amazing, light and full of joy.
Not only can going to the gym be joyful, nurturing and supportive, it also offers an opportunity to feel how I have been choosing to live in other areas of my life.
- does my body feel hard
- are there parts of my body that feel tight, heavy or stiff
- does my body feel unbalanced
- am I racy, anxious, stressed out
- am I being arrogant… thinking I know better than another
- is there a force, a drive, a push
- am I in my head thinking about lot of other stuff
- am I ignoring what my body is sharing
- is there comparison or judgement with myself and others
- am I putting myself down, disliking parts of my body, or
- am I focusing on one thing instead of feeling all of me?
…All of which is not me…
OR do I feel:
- joy-full and
- full of wonder at what my amazing body shares with me?…
… All of which is definitely all of me!
As I have found out, it is also an amazing opportunity to honour my fragility and vulnerability, to not override it and feel I have to be or act a certain way. I can feel fragile and vulnerable, be all of me and still exercise – each time my body is asking me to connect to something deeper.
So for me, going to the gym, exercise, swimming and walking is not a ‘should do’ or a ‘have to do’ – it is a ‘love to do’ – it is about joyfully connecting, honouring, nurturing and committing to myself and to my body, so that it will be of support no matter what is truly asked of it.
By Gyl Rae, BA Hons Fine Art, PGDE, DIP Personal Training & Sports Therapy