Unless you have been living under a rock you are going to be aware of the fact that your body needs to be used in order to keep it healthy. At the very least your body needs to exercise to stay alive and function without pain in everyday life.
You need to do exercise everyday so that your muscles can be contracted to the extent that your second circulatory system the lymphatic system can operate properly as it is reliant on muscle contraction.
You need to regularly place enough stress on your cardiovascular system so that you can maintain at least enough aerobic capacity that you do not get uncomfortable or out of breath when walking up a few flights of stairs or suffer a heart attack in your 50s when doing some light gardening after moving a few potted plants.
You need to exercise to maintain enough mobility in your hips and ankles so that you can tie your shoe laces and so that you do not end up with messy lower back and hip mechanics that will probably end up leading to back pain at some stage.
You need to exercise to maintain enough strength that you can at the very least move yourself comfortably through space while effortlessly walking around until the day you die with enough strength and stability to be able to stick out a leg and stop yourself from falling over if you were to trip over a step as a 90 year old bringing in your washing.
While all of the above points are true I rather dislike the idea of using them as ways of convincing people to exercise. The reason being is that they all revolve around convincing people to exercise out of fear.
Apart from the fact that the biggest reason people feel they should exercise is that they do not want something bad to happen to them such as fat gain or a heart attack there are a tonne of other negative social and experiential associations people have with the word. When people hear the word “exercise” they picture the stereotypical intimidating bodybuilder lad in the gym that they went to that one time, or that runner they see gliding down the road gracefully every evening on the drive home from work that they feel they could never emulate, or that awkward feeling they felt when they went to that one circuit class and couldn’t do any of the exercises properly. Exercise also has a very formal association with it in which people feel it needs to be highly organised or structured.
For the sake of this article let’s forget about the variations of the word “exercise” and replace it with the variations of the word “move” so that we can start afresh.
While you may have to “exercise” for health, you should want to “move” for fun.
As humans our brains developed under the pressure of developing movement complexity. We are the most adaptive movers in the animal kingdom. We can swim, run, climb, throw, as well as emulate the movements of other animals completely different to us. We are without a doubt designed to move.
There are a huge number of physical qualities and certain people have higher predispositions toward some of these qualities because of their genetics and the environment they developed in. For instance people who are more flexible may have tried yoga or dance with some friends and stayed with it. Other people who are more aerobically capable may have tried running or cycling with some friends and stayed with it. Others who are more physically strong may have gone to the gym and lifted weights a few times with friends then stayed with it. The common denominator of all these people is that they all managed to achieve some early success in their chosen activity due to some pre-existing disposition towards it. They had some positive reinforcement early in their journey into the activity which increased their enjoyment thereby facilitated their continued attempts.
What if the flexible person went to the gym or if the strong person went running?
They would have not had the same early successes and so may not have stayed with it as diligently. This however is what happens with most people. Most people do not find the type of movement that they enjoy and as a result just do things that make them tired and sweaty but may not be inherently enjoyable like a spinning class or a random aimless circuit class whenever they succumb to the guilt driven fear based urge to move.
What I am trying to get at here is that you should try a range of movements so as to find what you enjoy. This way you will experience all the health benefits but get them through a fun activity. It is also extremely fun to learn new movements. There is an unmatched sense of accomplishment and satisfaction that comes with putting in the effort and training then getting a new personal best in the gym or the feeling of pushing through fatigue and pain and finishing a set or session even though your body was telling you to stop or the feeling of self-mastery of kicking up into a handstand for the first time.
Do a few dance classes. Do a few thai boxing classes. Do a strength program. Do a few yoga classes.
Or if you do not want to do anything formal just go to a park or pitch near you and start a stop watch for 15 minutes and for the duration of the 15 minutes do some sprints for a set distance or set time with some walk back recovery. If you do not want to run then get down in the mud and run on all fours doing some bear crawls. Make it enjoyable by being competitive with yourself and trying to progress by doing more reps in the same time or the same amount of reps in a faster time or just going out there for more time. Whatever; it doesn’t really matter once you are enjoying what you do.
Once you start exploring movement of all kinds and figure out what you like you will start to find pleasure in movement of all kinds. My primary sport for instance is boxing but I find huge enjoyment in learning new skills and have recently taken up long boarding as a new challenge and a bit of fun even though I have no background in board sports of any kind and I love it. The buzz of going from falling all over the place all the time initially to just falling all over the place sometimes now is unreal.
Using your body is a basic necessity for survival. The idea however is not to simply survive, the idea is to thrive.
“The body will become better at whatever you do, or don’t do. If you don’t move, your body will make you better at not moving. If you move, your body will allow more movement.” — Ido Portal
This Article is By Ciarán O Regan, BSc | Head Coach at ACLAÍ
Ciaran has served as Strength and Conditioning Coach for Limerick Minor Football for the 2012 and 2013 seasons as well as the Limerick U21 Footballers for the 2013 season. He has coached with Young Munster RFC, and also interned with Munster Rugby. He has also coached on an individual basis with people as varied as those simply wanting to get healthier and lose weight all the way to high level runners returning to the track after injury.