I know exercise is always a tough subject. When I bring it up in appointments, it almost always puts a woman on the defensive. Some women over-exercise and they don’t want to hear that this not be the best for them, while some don’t exercise at all or barely exercise. Regardless, it is a subject most women would rather avoid discussing. I usually ask about it and point out a few reasons to do less or more and leave it at that. It’s kind of like smoking, you know it’s bad, you’re just not ready to do anything about it, so talking about it with a healthcare person is not likely to do much good.
That said, I wanted to tell you a little story about my own experience. About a year ago, I moved to Portland. The time before the move required a lot of physical work, but I hadn’t really been exercising for several months. I did not want to start again. In fact, I resisted it for awhile! One day, I met a woman who told me about Bikram hot yoga. Truth be told, I always thought hot yoga sounded stupid. I mean, why do you need to push your body and get all hot to do yoga. Yoga is yoga, being hot is being hot.
I decided to try it anyway. I didn’t know anybody and someone had invited me to go somewhere, so how could I refuse, right? So, I went and it was miserable. I had let them talk me in to doing it for a 30-day package, so I felt like I had to go back. It wasn’t easy. Bikram is a specific style of yoga where you do the same 26 poses and the same breath work at every class. The teachers just call the moves and correct you in the postures (or yell at you, which is what it felt like in my first classes). I really wanted to quit. But, being one who does not like to waste money or not finish what I started, I kept with it. Needless to say, by the end of the 30 days, I was hooked. I made a commitment to go M/W/F every week. This is a rather big commitment when you also consider travel time and shower time.
I made it part of my routine and my schedule. I was resolute in that nothing would stand in the way and I never schedule anything at yoga time. I grew stronger. I began to have legs that had never looked the way they looked. My joints strengthened. I could hike better. My mind was calmer. I wanted to eat good things to support all of this. And, I had a community.
Ok, I’m almost to the point. Hang in there.
About 10 days ago, my foot started hurting. It hurt to walk, let alone stand on one foot. I couldn’t go to yoga (or so I thought) for a whole week. Here’s what happened. My mood started to tank. I became short fused and short tempered. I started eating sugar, not just once a day, but usually twice. My gut felt bloated and my sleep became more restless. Yep, this all happened in 10 days.
Today I went back. My foot still hurt. I couldn’t do all the poses, but I showed up. I felt the energy of the class. I felt the support of my teacher. About 1/2 way through, I felt a huge shift in my mindset. I could breathe deeply again and I felt like smiling. It was all the good feelings from endorphins flooding back. Endorphins create positive and relaxed feelings, reduce pain, improve sleep, and give you that euphoric feeling. Exercise releases endorphins.
I had to smile. Here I was thinking that yoga would make my foot worse, so I didn’t go and I sabotaged all the goodness I had created with my exercise. And, it happened fast! As a total bonus, after the class, I did a few hip openers and now my foot is much better and only slightly irritated. I’m guessing my low back was out and it was pulling funny on my foot. All of this could have been relieved so much faster, if I had just stuck with it.
I started remembering how I felt before I got into this class. I thought about how different my mood was then and how different it was just last week. I started thinking about my patients who “don’t feel like themselves”, feel short-fused or anxious, or who struggle with pain. While I don’t have any magic advice to help someone get started back into an exercise regimen, I can only say this…it’s so worth it.
How is exercise going for you? How do you feel about this post? How are you feeling on a regular basis? Are you mad at me for bringing this up or feeling guilty as a result? Or, are you thinking about how this might actually all be really true for you? What would be possible for you if you felt more endorphins on a regular basis. Is there anything you can think of doing to move your body that feels okay to you?
I probably won’t start bringing this up too more often with patients for the reasons I listed above, but maybe sharing the truth of how it’s been for me will inspire some of you to just do it?!
I’m Jen Owen. I support women’s wellness at my Holistic Women’s Clinic and through my transformational healing work. Come and see me for an appointment or check out one of my free offerings. I hope I can support you on your journey to being and feeling like your optimal self.