Reflecting

No one says that doing a little is just fine.

No one celebrates small achievements for what they are – achievements.

We are bombarded by fitness and exercise goals that are sometimes, frankly unachievable. Take couch to 5k. It is a fantastic programme that has taken millions of people all over the world through a programme of running up to 5km and beyond. There’s no doubt that’s terrific. But what about the people who look at the programme and truly believe “that’s just too hard”? Or the millions of people who may have started and given up for one reason or another? Or those who reach 5km and find it such a mental and physical battle that they never try it again?

The psychological difficulties of being active are rarely discussed. To some, just stepping out the front door for a walk can be as big a personal struggle as a marathon is to others.

Exercise and fitness can evoke a plethora of negative memories and emotions that mean some people never start, such as being the last one chosen for the sports team, being fat shamed in the changing room at school or being the unfit one at the back of the exercise class.

Sometimes, if you are unhappy in your skin, even the thought of wearing lycra can make you feel ill.

The latest Public Health England recommendation for adult fitness from their ‘Getting every adult active’ campaign suggests at least ‘150 minutes of moderate intensity activity, in bouts of 10 minutes or more each week…[which] can also be achieved by 75 minutes of vigorous activity across the week or a mixture of moderate and vigorous”. *

Now, as a fairly fit person who usually meets that target it feels quite good to know it’s been recommended by medical experts. However, three years ago, before I began Couch to 5k, this would have felt enormous. In fact, I think I would have read it and decided it was way too much (and a bit too complicated) to even attempt and would’ve consoled myself with some chocolate.

When you’re sedentary – whether overweight or not, the thought of any physical exercise leaves you feeling almost panicked: ‘My face goes bright red’, ‘I get SO sweaty’, ‘I hate feeling out of breath’, ‘I don’t like my body in lycra’, ‘I won’t know what to do’.

 Joining an exercise class, starting couch to 5k or getting on your bike feels like such a momentous step it can often take hours, weeks or months to psyche yourself up to do it. It’s very easy for people to say ‘oh, just do it, you’ll feel great afterwards, it’s no big deal’ when in fairness you’ve battled with these feelings since you were at school and it takes more than someone being a bit pushy to encourage you to start. And then, when you’ve plucked up the courage, you’re almost there and the lycra is on, the voice starts again: ‘it’s too hot/cold’, ‘are you sure you can do this without dying?’, ‘people will laugh at me’, ‘should I go to the loo first?’ and so it goes on.

No one says that doing a little is just fine.

When you’re feeling like this, be kind to yourself.

 If you really really want to push yourself, then do. But otherwise, still do something – because you know that doing something is enough.

Enough to make you feel great, enough to keep that negative voice at bay, enough to challenge yourself. Walk around the block, run to the first lamppost, get on your bike and go a little way, go to the exercise class but step out of a couple of moves. Do enough for you. Because at the moment, the only other option is doing nothing.

Doing a little is just fine.

 

*https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/health-matters-getting-every-adult-active-every-day