This post is an extension of an article written by myself for The Blide Trust Orkney's weekly newsletter #323 15th January 2018.
|Yeah, for sure, this would be me when I go to the gym...|
As someone who couldn't have been more surprised by my own conversion to the benefits and joys of sports and exercise had I woken up with my head sewn to the carpet, I'm an unlikely advocate for such things, but there you go. We've all heard it said that “exercise is good for your mental health” but, if you are anything like me, you have to experience it for yourself to believe it. I did a lot of research before I started, in books and online ( where there is a virtual ocean of fitness websites, blogs and YouTube channels to explore ), bought some basic equipment, and created a beginner’s exercise program for myself. It was tough, at first, and I didn’t even start to see real results for about 6-8 weeks, but sticking with it was worth it: not just for the gaining of better physical strength, but for the surprising ‘lift’ it gave to my mood and confidence. I began to attend some of The Blide’s Friday morning sports activities - lawn bowls, boxercise class etc. All of these helped me to get out of the house and into new places and situations. Amazing, too, how much I enjoyed activities as diverse as lawn bowls ( civilized and sedate ) and boxercise ( punching things, fuck yeah! ) I even attempted horse riding for the first time since I was, um, a helluva lot younger than I am now, although on that particular day my bad hip had ideas other than me getting on a horse. Since I was also only a few weeks out of hospital, just getting there and attempting to sit on anything more than a chair was probably an achievement!
Of course, 'exercise’ doesn't have to mean anything as big and scary as getting on a horse. Well, okay, a pony, as it was in my case...but hey, she was still fourteen hands and I'm only five-feet-nowt, remember! It can mean anything from walking to weight training, becoming a keen kickboxer or a gentle gardener. You can exercise at home, without any pricey equipment ( your own household items can be your equipment with some creative thought ), or you can go along to a local leisure center to do something there. Most of those have good deals on memberships. There is no ‘holy grail’ of exercise either: don't believe any of those so-called 'fitness gurus' who try to flog you a different story at just $99.99 for their two-minute video and piece-of-shit patented equipment. The point should be to do what makes you feel good, to whatever level you feel comfortable with, and stick at it. Up your game at a pace that you can handle. Give the benefits - physical and mental - time to kick in. Don’t be discouraged by prejudices ( your own or those of others ) or setbacks. And there will be setbacks - such is the perverse fucking nature of life! Well, it is mine anyway. For some the mental health benefits may derive from the social side of joining in a team sport or a class, for others it may be the literal working out of tension in the gym. For me, it was the realization that if I could make these positive changes to myself physically, then I could make other changes to my life involving aspects of my mental health. I've spent a lot of time in my life dependent on others due to chronic physical illness and it has driven me batshit insane many times. Feeling stronger physically has helped me to feel stronger mentally. It has given me the confidence to do things that I have never done before, and to start again doing things I haven't done in a long time.
So give it a shot. You never know, do you? With luck, and continuing health, in future I'll be getting into everything from archery ( yeah yeah, imagine giving me a goddamned bow and arrow to play with! ) to racquetball, and maybe there will even be the opportunity to try getting on that horse again...Fine, pony, whatever! Fuck me. You get the point.
|No, we are not going to be racing Clydesdales along the beach at Scapa...|