During my lifetime, I have enjoyed many different types of exercise. Early in my life, I did step aerobics with my Mother, played softball, and ran long distance for the track team. I never experienced flow state, a state of mind in which one might feel fully present in their activity, focused and immersed. I felt awkward, uncoordinated, and overweight. I remember thinking everyone else was better! Other people moved with more elegance, looked stronger, and moved faster.
I began feeling self-conscious about my abilities and my body.
It's strange because I do not see the chubby girl I remember once being when I look through old photos. That girl just looked like a girl, maybe a little more stocky than some of the other girls, but still just a girl, one deserving of love (including self-love) and affection.
Diet culture has really done a number, for sure. In my case, I developed a negative self-image by the 4th grade. But as a Gen Xer, I grew up with Cindy Crawford and Kate Moss, and I loved Vogue magazine, fashion and music. The messaging I was getting as a young woman was that thin was beautiful, and I wasn't thin.
I did Weight Watchers, ate meal replacement bars, took caffeine pills, and skipped meals only to binge in the evenings. I couldn't really involve my parents; they had enough to think about with the recession and all. So as any "good" firstborn child, I suffered in silence and tried my best to navigate the landscape. I did a terrible job! It wasn't until I was in my 40s that I figured out how to really; I mean really, I love the skin I'm in.
Don't wait to love yourself - start today!
The sad truth is that many experience decades like I did, hating their bodies, mistreating their bodies and feeling ashamed of their bodies. There are many reasons for that - perhaps it was the messaging from magazines, music videos, or the "mean girls" at school? Nowadays, it is even more difficult to escape the cruel body imaging influencers. Social media has put them into everyone's pocket, and our phones have become an enormous distraction from real connection to one another and ourselves. This influence does not only affect women; it affects everyone.
So what is the solution?
Your inner world is the solution, and you must cultivate that inner world as you would a garden. Tending to negative self-talk, limiting your scrolling on social, and being mindful every day. Using mantras and positive affirmations is my favourite way to boost my mood and ground my thoughts. Talking to myself has never felt so empowering! The influencers aren't going anywhere, but luckily there are positive role models out there. You can find athletes and rock stars that promote a healthy body image and share how they care for themselves by eating right, moving daily and looking after their mental and spiritual wellbeing.
I might not be an influencer, an athlete, or a rock star, but I advocate for an eating for health lifestyle. The pillars of this lifestyle were taught to me by Dr Ed Bauman during my holistic nutrition studies on my way to becoming a Nutrition Consultant.
So how did I go from not enjoying my body as a youth to loving my body in my 4o's?
I tried it all! In my late 20's I was a dive instructor. I carried tanks to and from the boat. I moved gear, did demonstrations in the hotel pools. I was running on the track - just loops, where it was lit and safe to run. I was active but not healthy. Later, I got into spin classes, yoga, and gym workouts. I bought pilates and Jillian Michael's DVDs. Then came CrossFit and golf, and eventually, I started running again. I dabbled but did not find my movement for years.
Get to the couch to 10 K stuff!
I think it is relevant to mention that I am just like you - on a journey! I am experimenting and looking for the foods and habits that fuel my body, support my activity levels and make me feel how I want to feel. I have also been on a journey to find my movement. Exercise is such a loaded word - yes, we should exercise, but the deeper conversation is about how to move your body and care for it! Finding movement that challenges me and brings about balance has been elusive. Currently, (because I believe this equation is fluid) I have found that running and yoga offer me just what I need.
I can achieve flow state during a run, and I can hold focus during a difficult Inside Flow or a meditative Yin Class. Both running and yoga challenge me but in different ways. I can push and sweat and flow. I can breathe and take in my inner and outer surroundings. I can be raw and strong. I can be soft and flexible. I get excited just writing about it, which makes me want to move. THAT is how you should feel when you find your movement. Find it! For yourself, not for weight loss, not for your partner's approval or society's approval but for YOU! Find it for your health, balance, breath, and beauty.
My couch to 10 K experience!
I will be honest I have been looking to be more consistent in my running and my yoga practice for a long time. During the pandemic, I got out for more dog walks, got in my 10 thousand daily steps, and got in a run here and there. When I felt like some yummy mat work, I would stretch or follow along with a YouTube yoga video - but my movement was sporadic and filled with guilt. I wasn't committed to caring for my body the way I knew I should.
Read that again.
The way I knew I should...for me, this is my story, and it might give you some insight into what you've been avoiding, but what works for me is probably not right for you; please know that I share from an open heart, an encouraging heart, and a place of compassion. The diet culture has hurt many of us, and in many ways contributed to me becoming an advocate for healthy eating and self-love.
My hope for you is that you'll find the equation that suits you, the one that lifts you to your highest potential by way of the foods you eat, the thoughts you think, the people you include in your life, and the movement you practice regularly.
How I did it.
I knew that part of my problem was not having a plan, and I needed to know when I would be running and when I was to make time for strength work and yoga. So I found a plan, and then I set a start date.
On Boxing Day, December 26th 2021, I started running. I created an accountability group, and I shared every time I ran. The plan hung on the fridge, and I ticked off the boxes every day. The first day was only 3 km of combined walking and jogging. It was easy, but I felt so accomplished! I was not even tired when I got home. But I promised myself that I would do the program as it was laid out without skipping ahead. Each week I would have three days of walk/running, one day of core work, one day of yoga and two rest days. The program would quickly get harder until I ran three days a week, between 4-7 km, without stopping each time I went out.
After 16 weeks of regularly running three days a week, I did my first 10km last Sunday.
What have I learned?
I need a plan!
My body improves when I put in a dedicated focus to change.
My body is stronger than I give it credit for.
I love running to podcasts, I have always listened to music until now, but I ran faster than I should, which often led to injuries.
It is OK to change the plan, to pivot, and listen to your body.
I love the "real" hunger cues that come from being more active.
Being active is also "me time" in the past, I choose to drink coffee on the sunny patio to take time out for myself - a sedentary activity.
Slow and steady really is a great strategy.
I still enjoy coffee in the sun, but I have found a way to move my body that I look forward to; for the sheer joy of being outside, breathing and moving.
I started slow, and I increased my weekly activity by 10% a week.
Years ago I did an 8 km with my husband and I thought my hip would give out on me. After that, I assumed I was a 5K kind of girl. However, I have learned that the process, the conditioning and the time on my feet are what matters. I like to run alone. I am an introvert who has learned to be extroverted when necessary, but I find that running is a great way to charge my batteries and get ready for my next engagement.
Running does make me feel stiff and sore, so my yoga practise complements my running. For me, this is the perfect combination - for now. Because movement is organic and it should change and evolve with you as you do! Find your movement. I believe we are all created with unique interests and preferences, but that movement is a way to check in with yourself, your breath, your mind, and your emotions. Find something that works for your unique lifestyle and make it a regular part of your week.
If you are looking for a couch to 10 K plan and want mine, get in touch. You may also find a PT near you or find your own plan on Google. Ease into it - have fun - and be consistent! If you like to journal, maybe write down what you are learning along the way.
Who are you today? What are the habits that make you, well, you? You have so much potential and you have the power to create a life you love living!
Get out there and do all the things - your future self will thank you.
Kristen Moss NC
Buteyko Instructor & Lifestyle Coach
Mother of two