How to Exercise with Ease
Do you like to exercise?
I do and I don’t.
My preferred types of exercise tend to be gentle. I love to walk, especially out in nature, and I do so virtually every day for about 45 minutes. I also like doing a bit of yoga, usually in a class rather than on my own.
Over the past two years I’ve also done some running. I followed a program that gradually builds you up from nothing to running for about an hour over 13 weeks. I got to about 40 minutes, which was FAR FROM EASY for me, and decided that was more than I wanted, and settled into a pattern of running for about 20 minutes, interspersed with some walking, two or three times a week for a while.
This winter, however, I let it drop entirely. I somehow couldn’t face getting out in the cold, although I’m happy to do so to walk.
With the advent of spring I want to get back to some running – in my very moderate way – and have decided to do the program from scratch again to build up my stamina. I started this week.
I’ve done four “runs” so far. The first was a whopping eight minutes, in one-minute intervals, with two minutes of walking between each one! Starting gradually makes the process manageable for me, and means more likely to keep up with it.
Running is anything but easy for me, and using my body intelligently with my Alexander Technique knowledge and skills is invaluable to me, helping me use my body appropriately, without undue strain, compression and tension. It is especially challenging for me to prioritize my form and freedom for movement when I’m doing something which requires building strength and stamina. However imperfectly I do this, using the principles of the Alexander Technique helps me have more EASE in my body as I run.
Don’t get me wrong. I am still exerting myself – very much indeed. I’m just reducing the amount of undue effort I use tensing my neck or other parts of my body. This not only means I am less likely to be sore or injure myself, but also that more of my energy is conserved for the running itself, so I’ll potentially be able to run for longer. Believe me, I need all the energy I can get!
This process in a mindful one, including both awareness of my body AND what I’m thinking about as I run.
One particular part of the process that I’ve found helpful this past week, is using this sequence of thoughts as I run:
I am free to notice ease in the soles of my feet.
(I often shorten this to “I am free to notice ease in my soles”)
I am free to notice ease in my spine.
I am free to notice ease in my brain.
I am free to notice ease in my entire nervous system.
(I often shorten this to “I am free to notice ease in my nerves”)
I am free to notice ease in myself.
I then decided to add the following thought between my “ease sequences” as I noticed my tendency to shorten myself unnecessarily:
I am free to be my full height.
I’ve experimented with this kind of thinking when walking and at other times. I must credit some of the more unusual elements of this sequence (e.g. spine, brain, nervous system) to my friend and colleague Robert Rickover. I believe one of the reasons they have been particularly helpful is that it’s even harder than with other parts of the body to unintentionally try and make ease happen. (Note: When we try, we typically use more effort, therefore creating more tension! The key – the skill – is to think lightly, with as little attachment as possible to any desired outcome.)
This thought is my favorite:
When I’m running, I need to have thoughts that I don’t need to decide about. I have too much energy going into my running to make a lot of new decisions at the same time, so having a pre-determined sequence I know from experience I can rely on, is helpful.
Try out this sequence for yourself next time you are walking, running, or doing a repetitive activity or exercise – or even as you sit here reading this blog – and notice if it changes how you feel.
Exercising our body is an important form of self-care. For women in business – in fact for anyone with a sedentary job – it is more important than ever to get up and move our bodies. So many of us, however, do it mindlessly and without caring for ourselves in the process. Being intelligent about the way we use our mind and body as we exercise is self-care while we practice self-care! It helps us exercise with ease.
What forms of exercise do you enjoy? Do you tend to zone out, or are you aware of how you are moving and thinking? Try out the thought sequence and let me know what you notice? Do you have other ways of thinking that help you?
Please leave your comment in the space below. I’d love to hear from.
Running Image courtesy of blackzheep at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.
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