Physical exercise for the mind as well as the body.
Exercise is a big part of my life, and has been for the last 20 or so years. Addicted? Maybe. But I'd rather call it a healthy obsession. It wasn't always like this though, and I was fortunate enough in my mid-twenties to recognise the need to take action. Ultimately, this action led to a change in my career.
Having spent my early adulthood working and playing hard (and feeling pretty much invincible most of the time), the physical toll of a high octane lifestyle began to slowly creep up on me in the middle of my second decade: My clothes became tighter, I lacked energy in the mornings, and things like back pain and posture began to bother me for the first time. But apart from being the proud owner of a Bullworker, proper exercise was something I had only dabbled with sporadically after high school, and even then was rarely initiated by myself (unless you include the exploits of 90's rave culture into the mix); my youthful body would forgive nights of hedonism, long working days and precious little sleep, so training was something I never felt the need to make routine... But then came my baptism of fire, and I remember it very well indeed.
One Saturday morning, feeling worse for wear after a typically late and indulgent Friday night, I woke early, stumbled to the bathroom, splashed some cold water on my face and, inspired by the man in the mirror I no longer recognised, decided that it was now or never if I was to save my body from a life of physical neglect. So I threw on an old relic of a track-suit, concocted a simple, but brutal circuit of push-ups, burpees and sit-ups (the extent of my exercise portfolio at the time), and then performed each in rapid succession until I was flat out on the floor and unable to move.
Now I'd love to report that it was the immediate post-exercise utopia (the kind I often experience now) that led me down the path of health and vitality, but sadly not. For the next few hours, I felt rotten - no doubt due to my pre-exercise state of sleep deprivation and dehydration - so confined myself to bed for the rest of the day.
The following morning I rose early again, and in my rested and re-hydrated state, began to feel much better. My headache had been replaced with a satisfying muscle pain, and my energy levels seemed higher than was typical for 7am on a Sunday. So, taking advantage of the extra few hours granted to me, I began to draw up a plan to add some kind of structure to the chaos-on-the-carpet routine 24 hours ago. I dug out an old book on Royal Marine training, and very soon my 3 exercise blitz had morphed into a 12 discipline circuit that could have graced any contemporary fitness studio, or at least I liked to think so. Over the next month I added regular running, cycling and swimming to my routine, and within 3 months it had become a habit.
Now the physical changes I experienced were noteworthy indeed: my expanding waist line was now firmly in check, my fitness had improved markedly, and my default stooping posture had righted itself, giving me a much better view of the world. However, it was the mental change that really stood out for me: my self-confidence soared, my approach to life became more positive, and my sharpness at work led to some rewarding improvements in my performance. And it was these changes that came the soonest too, even before the aesthetic benefits were noticeable, and undoubtedly the main cause of my now dependence on the wonder drug that is called 'physical activity'.
So given my enduring enthusiasm toward physical exertion, you may be surprised that, at the time of writing this, it has been nearly 10 days since I did any meaningful exercise. Instead of sweating it out on the gym floor, I have spent these hours glued to my PC screen in the process of marketing my business - something that, given the chance, I can become equally as enthused about. So what am I noticing the most since taking this momentary dip into sedentary life? Weight gain? Yes, maybe a little. Fitness? Hard to tell as I am not testing it, but I'll no doubt notice it on my first session back. No, the thing I am missing the most is that feel-good-factor. Something that I have now come to take for granted, but am undoubtedly hooked on.
So if you really want to feel great again, try taking some exercise - just start slowly and build up gradually (unlike my own debut to the world of fitness). Personal Training is a great way to start the right way, and a very worthwhile initial investment if you're really looking to make a long term change.
Thanks for reading,