From ‘knocking myself about’ with exercise to deeply supporting my body

From ‘knocking myself about’ with exercise to deeply supporting my body

From ‘knocking myself about’ with exercise to deeply supporting my body

As an almost 60-year-old I have a body that feels fitter, stronger, more flexible and more vital than at any time in my life and I exercise for 15 - 20 minutes daily, and walk as much as I can. Yet 25 years ago I was a junior black belt kick boxer who would train and fight with men over twice my size, run, cycle and exercise every day – and my body felt stiff, hard, sore; I felt tired, depleted, and inflexible.

How can this be? Surely with the discipline of martial arts, the so-called flexibility to kick a man taller than myself in the head, the ability to be nimble when dodging kicks and punches and the stamina to exercise under endurance you would imagine the body would have felt strong, solid and vital? And with a younger body versus an older body wouldn’t there be some of those things we often put down to ‘getting older’, so that my body now feels worse than when I was younger?

On comparing the ‘before and after’ of an experience of exercise there are some revelations here worthy of exposing.

Wanting to look and feel better syndrome

In my younger days there was a constant striving to look and feel better – unsatisfied with how my body looked or felt – and feeling the peer pressure to be fit and look good. There was competitiveness in wanting to outdo others. So pushing my body into hard core exercise – to the extent of fighting men in kick boxing – gave a sense of achievement, having one over on others, proving to myself and others that I was ‘fit’. And there was always a story to tell about kick boxing, about exercise, about having spent two weeks holiday for instance cycling in extreme temperatures. I did not though mention how desolate I felt inside, how nervous I was, how much I worried, how exhausted I felt as I focussed only on the carcass of my physical body and on how it looked and not how it felt. And looking back, it is not such a great look to have bruises, broken toes and split lips, though somehow because my muscle tone was good that seemed to give a sense of looking better.

Exercise as a way of protection and managing life

During the time I was kick boxing and pushing my body physically to be fit, I was in one of the most difficult periods of my life. A sibling had committed suicide, and I lived in a home of domestic abuse whereby I was taunted and threatened and never felt safe or at ease in the presence of a partner. Instead of looking at how vulnerable, fragile, sensitive, and devastated I felt, I sought solace in fighting, in hardening my body in ‘knocking myself about’ through the exercise regime and the kick boxing. It was both an escape as well as a sense that I was dealing with things, moving on in my life, but I was burying and denying, which if I had been listening to my body was all there for me to feel with the anxiety, sense of depression, and underlying exhaustion. It’s interesting isn’t it, that to deal with the abuse and intensity of life that was coming at me, that I ‘knocked myself about’ to deal with it!

The compartmentalisation of exercise

There was something about the kick boxing classes, the fights, the cycling holidays, the running that was a place I went to, as though it was not all one and the same life but a place that was separate; as ‘a place where I could do well, where I could leave the other parts of my life at the door and gain some relief from life’. That way of life brings a roller coaster of seeming ups and downs – uppers with the pheromones from the exercise and the sense of achievement, the downers of having to walk back in the door in arriving back home and realising the reality of life. As well as compartmentalising the body into the ‘exercise zone’ and the muscle tone, but separating the depletion, lack of vitality, hardness the body muscles had to go into to do the exercise, and the pangs of angst which were easily numbed in a kick boxing class, but which arose as soon as I was at home in the situation where I felt uneasy and unsafe.

There is no development of vitality and fitness if we leave part of ourselves behind – and yet we say we or others are fit, when maybe muscle tone and stamina are strong, but the body is suffering in other ways.

After many years of kick boxing, pushing through with exercise and pushing through with life, I awoke one morning to realise that I couldn’t get out of bed and that I was actually very sick. Having sought the advice and tests from a doctor and a herbalist, I had during this time accumulated a number of medical conditions, including glandular fever. My body had called the shots and called a halt. Six weeks of rest, time off work, and then a gradual return to work and life and 6 months before I exercised again, brought the devastating reality that whilst thinking I was looking after my fitness and my body, that I was moving in a way that had taken my body further away from fitness and vitality than it had ever been to that point.

I was busted – the body had spoken loud and clear that this way of living was not the way. And I was about to be humbled to realise there was another way – a way that is all encompassing, and truly nourishing for the whole body.

In the years that followed and with the support of The Way of The Livingness, there was a remarkable turnaround. Initially it wasn’t easy to feel how depleted, exhausted and lacking in vitality I had become. But there is something about feeling worse before you feel a change. Not the ‘no gain without pain’ syndrome, more so the raw honesty of the body, and even though it feels like ground zero, there is relief in feeling the fragility and sensitivity. For many months I had pain in all parts of my body – I was so stiff I could hardly move some days – and there was a re-learning not just how to exercise, but how to move in every moment.

Gentle movements and gentle walking were all that were possible, then gradually swimming and gentle exercise. As is said here the change from running to walking was profound, and the realisation that fitness and vitality is a broader movement than exercise –– there is so much more to wellbeing.

And daily exercise is no longer ‘just exercise.’ It is a whole body movement that sets the foundation for the body’s movements and vitality in the whole day, and nowadays supports to the depth of the connective tissue, rather than the harm of the way of exercising in the past.

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Body imageFitnessHardness

  • By Anonymous

  • Photography: Clayton Lloyd