Today's word and segue into short Fit & Active October post is "gelastic," and adjective meaning "laughable."
A very uncoordinated person joining a dance class for exercise might seem gelastic, and in many ways it actually is; you just have to learn to laugh at yourself.
I mentioned in my last post that when deciding on classes to take at the Y, I resolved to only continue ones I enjoyed. One that stuck out to me on the schedule was Dance Blast. I thought perhaps because I sometimes turn music up very loud and jump around to it in my kitchen (Um, never mind. I don't do that at all. Ever. I swear.), it might be something I'd enjoy.
What I didn't realize is that the classes don't methodically lay out all the steps for you, even when doing new songs. More difficult steps might get a brief introduction, but for the most part the instructor just jumps right in, and you follow along. So during my first class, I was completely lost, oh, about 50% of the time. That said, when the class ended, I was hot, sweaty, exhausted, and happy about it. I've never been happy about exercising in my life. But to enjoy myself, I had to focus not on how much I was messing up the steps but on how much more fun it was to move my body around to the music than to simply listen to it while pedaling a stationary bike or running on a treadmill. I found out that my body doesn't particularly like monotony. Which was rather surprising considering that I am normally all about routine and habit.
I also had to realize that no one was focusing on me. Everyone was busy with their own dancing; it wasn't a competition. When I did look around to see if I could follow someone nearer to me than the instructor, I noticed that many people weren't perfect. Some knew the choreography better than others, and some knew it perfectly, and some hardly did the same dance at all, but everyone was dancing without any apparent self-consciousness. I've gotten better at following along each time I've been, but I'll still never be a great dancer. It doesn't matter, though. I'm getting a workout and having fun, and no one is judging me for not being perfect.
So here are some thoughts to take away from this: if you're ever nervous about varying your exercise routine, remember that you'll never know how much you'll enjoy another activity until you try. And always, always remember that it's OK not to be perfect. It's your workout, no one else's.
Oh, and sometimes laughing makes exercise even more fun.
Last year, a group of bloggers organized "Fit and Active September." At that point, I wasn't ready to participate in any fitness-related group activities (even blogging), so I am glad that Sophie over at Two Cakes on a Plate decided to bring it back for October 2014. You see, in the past, talking about health has sent me on a downward spiral. I've always had a very disordered relationship with food and exercise. Whenever I started eating healthfully or going to the gym, my motivation was always simply to be thin enough, because I thought being thin was expected of people in order to be accepted... and, to be honest, in many cases it is, which is part of the problem; expecting a certain appearance from people doesn't help them stay healthy or lose weight (if weight loss is what they actually need to achieve for health. You can't know that for sure if you don't observe their daily habits, and unless you're living with them, doing so would be, um, creepy and probably illegal?).
I had an eating disorder in college, and although it never got to the point of hospitalization or feeding tubes, it drastically affected the way I viewed exercise. Exercise was for burning calories. It started out as an activity to burn calories from the burger, fries, and coke I had for dinner last night. Then it turned into burning calories from that sandwich I had for lunch. Then I needed to burn calories from the 2 egg whites and half a turkey sausage I ate for breakfast. It was so exhausting that I finally decided simply not to consume more than 1000 calories a day. I was proud of myself when they added up to 800, devastated if I ever had a day that came close to 1500.
Exercise was a chore that only indicated when I'd done something bad to deserve it. And (full disclosure) it never occurred to me to think about it any other way until only recently. One reason I began this blog was in the hopes that I could help people from falling into the same spiral of guilt, shame, and body hatred with which I've struggled. I never imagined that it would open me up to a community of wonderful, vibrant women and men who can balance being body positive with trying to be healthy on their own terms. They've all had their struggles and setbacks, but I've been encouraged by their attitudes to think of exercise not in terms of calories burned or even in terms of how it makes my body look, but in terms of how it makes my body strong. How it helps aches and pains and endurance and posture.
I decided to get a Y membership and only do exercise that I enjoyed. I promised myself that if it felt too much like work, I would find something else. That isn't to say I wouldn't extend my limitations and push myself at all; I just wouldn't allow exercise to become my job. I felt dread when I thought about returning to do the elliptical. I found lifting weights monotonous. Pilates was OK, but I knew I needed to build up a bit of strength first in order to really reap the benefits of it. Finally, I went to yoga one day and a dance class the next. And when the time for yoga and then the time for dance came around again, I was excited about going. I love almost any and all music, and dancing around to it makes getting my heart rate up fun rather than grueling. With yoga, I've already seen a significant decrease in back pain, and I can use my abdominal muscles to hold me up without slouching (much) without it hurting. My weight and outward appearance haven't changed, at least noticeably, but I feel good.
I'm planning on doing one more post in October on not worrying about looking foolish while exercising, because I do look pretty silly in both dance and yoga. But... that's OK!
Have you ever had a change of perspective or revelation about your exercise routine?