Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Energizing Your Body - Self Appreciation part 2

In this article I'll present ideas on building appreciation, care and fitness for your body. My intention is to offer something you can put into practise today. I imagine it will be of use to those of us who have become too familiar with a sedentary lifestyle. Self appreciation I find involves both the body and mind.

Photo: Martin Cleary

Simplicity is often the key to great progress in self appreciation because the results are easily identified and often tangible. The fact many of us have relatively healthy bodies suggests we can care for our physical nature, as much as we care for our emotional and mental ones.

We live in a culture seemingly obsessed with the 'glamour' of the body and a desire for an illusory physical perfection. I'm sure you've noticed. I believe perfection like beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I feel moderate exercising (for many of us non-athletes or non-competitors) offers a great way to cultivate a healthy appreciation of our physical self. All action however, begins from a point of stillness.

Standing still
This exercise helps you to be more aware of your body and to create relaxing feelings that you can enjoy whilst walking, sitting or standing still.
  • Relax and stand upright with both feet firmly on the floor. If you prefer to sit for health reasons then that is good too.
  • Cast your awareness over your body and get an overall impression of the way you feel.
  • Casually notice your breathing, it's natural rhythm.
  • Gently allow your breathing to take care of itself and your body
  • Be aware of the most tense spot in your body. Then be aware of the overall comfort in your body.
  • Feel the most relaxed place in your body. Focus on the sensations of relaxation there. Tell yourself to double those great feelings.
  • Allow those relaxing feelings to grow until you're happy to guide them through your body to replace the tense spots.
  • Stand comfortably and notice how differently you feel and what has changed about your appreciation of your body.
  • Now begin moving slowly in any way you feel is good.
  • Keep the relaxation you have and then begin walking. If you prefer, enjoy a walk outside (assuming you've been performing this indoors).

Let's go walking
Walking is the easiest of all exercises even if you live in a very hilly town as I do. I'm interested in walking as a way to appreciate our bodies, our physical well being and our environments. There is research suggesting walking is good for strengthening the heart, reducing depression, controlling blood pressure and type 2 diabetes. What better way to begin appreciating your physical health!

The truth be told, not everyone enjoys walking even though it's a routine daily performance for most of us. I found the above step by step exercise very useful for enjoying much more of the walking experience. Relaxation whilst walking means I breath more naturally with an improved posture and pace, allowing me to notice much more of my environment. It's also a low impact activity compared to more rigorous pursuits.

If you've not walked any substantial distance for a while, I recommend frequent short walks, gradually increasing the time/distance. Use it as a direct way to explore your neighbourhood (if it's safe), meet new people and journey to new locations. Walk with a friend or alone, listen to your mp3 player and stay safe and be aware of traffic and pedestrians. Walking may be the excuse you need to get a pet dog.

Check out this site to Map Your Walk and plot your walk and distances

Ready for Running
Running helps me clear out emotional residues like frustration and anger and reduce anxiety and physical tension. It makes me feel and look good. I find the pleasure in running amongst the physical exertion. I recommend reading my earlier post on Easing your way into Sport Training to make running or any exercising more attractive and pleasurable. I apply it successfully and there was a time, long ago when I really did not like to run.

To appreciate more of running find your preferred style (see links to techniques below), to reduce injury and build and maintain stamina. This involves how you use your body and what type of running systems you devote your time to. Running is obviously more demanding than walking. So begin slowly, build gradually and find happiness in this. In my experience there is a big difference between putting on a pair of running shoes and going for it and taking your time to feel what it's like to enjoy a run.

Useful Steps:
Be aware of how you physically run. The following had a great emphasis on my injury free short runs. Whereas before I introduced them, just 3 miles twice a week gave me sore knees. I don't know what will be best for you, so I've provided enough information and links to get you started.
  • Reduce the impact of running by keeping knees slightly bent, hips relaxed so they can move back and forth, arms parallel to the floor moving back and forth, head looking forward and balanced naturally. Keep feet low to the ground with balls of the feet landing first then the heel, while the foot is under the body.
  • I replaced my running shoes with flat soled gym shoes which reduced impact to my knees. The running shoes had too much rear cushioning causing my heel to strike the ground sending shocks to my knees. The impact is now greatly reduced and is absorbed by my calves and thighs. I thought this was unique to me but found others experienced it also.
Check out this site to Map Your Run to plot your run and distances.

Finally, there is a blossoming appreciation for the benefits of body weight training for health and fitness. That's a wonderful thing as it gives us more opportunities to train at home, outdoors and in both large and confined spaces. There's plenty of techniques and systems to sample. Remember to begin new exercises gradually and be flexible in exploring what works best for you.

Check these links if you have an interest in body weight fitness: Ross Training and Fitness Exercises. Also check out the videos at Expert Village and type in search box: Exercises or a specific type of exercise like press ups to see a demonstration.

Keep the following in mind
  • Fitness and health can be achieved in small, frequent steps.
  • Begin gradually
  • Make it varied and fun
  • Fitness is not the same as health. Keep a balance
  • Reduce risks of injury through over training
  • Relax, eat and sleep well
  • If you want to lose weight, eat less and nutritiously and move around more

Appreciate that you have potentially many years to explore the benefits, mentally and emotionally from your physical well being.

Thanks for reading

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