Performance

Exercise Happy

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How yoga taught journalist Elizabeth Bennet the joy of exercise.

I interviewed a top personal trainer recently and their advice really resonated. The takeaway wasn’t the latest science-backed training regime or a must-have superfood but something much simpler: “the best exercise program for you is the one you’ll actually look forward to.” It sounds obvious. Too straightforward even. But it’s something I definitely overlooked for far too long.

I spent years thinking exercise was something I should do; another piece of life admin to tick off the never-ending list. I was easily influenced by fitness trends and those cool new studios you see on Instagram. I signed myself up for intense spinning sessions, shouty HIIT classes and even guilt-tripped myself into long runs by doing half marathons. I’d equated working out with hard work, and if I wasn’t punishing my body I wasn’t doing it ‘right’.

It was yoga that changed my outlook. I’d been going to classes on and off, and it was the only form of exercise I genuinely looked forward to seeing in my calendar. I immediately fell for how the classes linked breathe, movement and music and I found the sense of progress in terms of flexibility and strength deeply satisfying. However, crucially, it was the only thing that seemed to quieten my constant whir of mind chatter. I would always leave the class feeling a little lighter and more positive, and it became my saviour in testing times.

Now, yoga is what I dedicate my time too but it’s also taught me how to find the enjoyment in exercise in other ways too. Walking around London where I can (preferably with a podcast), combining socialising with some movement (a bike ride with friends, for instance), and the occasional run in the park if I’m in need of some fresh air. Realising exercise could take place outside of a dedicated gym or studio was a lightbulb moment.

Of course, what works for me won’t necessarily work for you. Maybe you love dance classes, team sports, or lifting weights – whatever you look forward to, do that. In the age of ‘self-care’, the phrase ‘me time’ is banded around liberally but I do believe that finding a form of exercise that you don’t dread is the most vital step. Not only is it the motivation you need to draw yourself out of bed or keep your plans when someone suggests after work drinks, but it will make you feel your best. After all, we may put emphasis on how exercise changes your body but its superpower is how it can change your mindset.