Over the last decade I have been so fortunate and grateful to enjoy participating in many running events of varying distances and terrains, in many parts of the world. Fortunate because this takes some resources (which many don’t have) and grateful because I have a strong body that allows me to enjoy this (which I also recognise is not a given). All of these I have done simply because I love it, embracing each endeavour to the extent that I love it. All of this time spent training has also given me a lot of time to think about my philosophy on running, which is also my philosophy on movement, exercise, and fitness. This is jotted down below.
Do what you love
Sustainable action or commitment is often driven by a deep love for something, rather than a discipline for something. The same is true in most areas of life — try to apply this to exercise too. If you understand what it is that you love, you may also understand the reason that you do something — i.e. the underlying value that you derive from doing an activity. If you for example feel that you don’t always enjoy the actual activity of exercise, consider other things that you may love and that you may get from exercising — community, socialising, time in nature, goal achievement, focus, de-stressing, confidence, exploration of an area, improved health, etc.
In order to know what you love and enjoy, try different things. At the moment I enjoy running (road and trail, mostly short to medium distances), high intensity and strength gym sessions, hiking, yoga and walking. I am grateful to have a natural love for these actual activities, but I have also always been strongly driven by my love for nature and time spent outdoors, which I get from many of these activities. Other things that I have attained from running over the years are here. Next year I may enjoy other activities. Try to explore new opportunities (within reason of already having an idea of what you do and don’t enjoy).
Listen to your body
The best headspace to get to, as with many other areas of life, is one where you can identify what feels right for you (I believe that this applies to nutrition as well, i.e. in knowing when and what to eat). This is when you have learnt enough about your body in trying different activities, that you can tell when a movement feels right or wrong for you. If an exercise or routine doesn’t feel right, it does not make it bad, it only means it may not work for you at this time. Try to listen to your body and let it tell you what works and what doesn’t. Try to know the difference between something being ‘hard’ and being ‘wrong’, for you.
The same principle applies to rest. Your body will tell you when you need to rest and/or to allow it to heal itself. Prioritise this. Again, use your discretion to recognise something as being ‘hard’ and ‘tiring’, or rather being ‘wrong’ because you need rest.
In most societies there seem to be three groups of people: a) those who cannot exercise or allocate time to exercise due to unfortunate circumstances or other priorities; b) those who move and exercise throughout their day (for example as part of their work or family life) without needing to allocate time to exercise; and c) those who carve out specific time to exercise because they can and/or don’t get to it otherwise.
For the moment I am so grateful to be between the second and third groups above. That being said, I greatly admire people that move in whatever way that they can, especially if it is through simple and functional movements that we all engage in as children but then stopped at some point, potentially causing some of the weak spots that we experience later in life. Try to do what you can and just keep moving.
Build in supports
Finally, use your discretion to build in support structures. These may be friends with similar interests or goals, coaches who provide you with some guidance, and therapists who you see once in a while for some checks. These support structures may also include time that you free up for exercise (potentially requiring the support of others to make possible), or physical tasks that you purposefully don’t delegate or leave to others, so that you can engage in them.
In summary — do what you love, listen to your body, keep moving, and build in supports.
What is your philosophy on movement/ exercise/ fitness?