Plain Old-Fashioned Exercise

I have pretty much avoided exercise much of my life. My family and friends joke with me when I would accompany them on a random hike or walk, calling it my "quarterly exercise". I danced as a kid, for about 5/6 years. It was enjoyable but I never really considered it exercise and I wasn't at all sporty. However, I am well aware of the multiple benefits of exercise as a main component of good self-care.

Exercise is great for emotional stress relief and is obviously good for physical health. It can be a particularly important component for trauma recovery by helping the person reconnect their mental and physical selves, which are often split apart as a way of coping with the traumatic event. In addition, regular exercise leads to personal feelings of strength and confidence, which can be an important component of trauma recovery by allowing the person to feel strong and better able to defend themselves in the future if needed. Or as a way to "take the power back"...literally.

Recently, I have been making a concerted and consistent effort to practice what I preach by getting fairly regular exercise, about 2-4 times per week. It has taken me awhile to find the right schedule and regimen, but I have made it happen for about 3 months now. I'm at the point where it's something I look forward to, a time where I can funnel my frustrations and stressors out of my body, a time for my to think and focus only on myself and my health. It's become an enjoyable experience! My exercise choices are yoga and zumba. I use the zumba to dance off my annoyances and negative emotions and the yoga to provide me with grounding, focus, and acceptance. I think a lot while I exercise and try to use the time specifically to "work things out". It's been so great and I am so happy to support my clients as they try to strengthen their relationship with exercise:)

A few tips to help make exercise a part of your life:

  • Start with something you enjoy and you will be more likely to stick to it. Everyone has their own "fitness personality". Find out yours here!
  • Make it fit with your schedule. My husband and I had to have many conversations about how we could make time for exercise along with work, childcare, family activities, etc. It took a lot of trial and error before we came up with a consistent routine. 
  • Figure out what your barriers are and eliminate them. Work out at home if gym cost is prohibitive. Go to the gym if you need to be somewhere out of your home to make it happen. Join a running club if others will motivate you. Take a class if you like to just show up and get your workout done. Start running if you like to get your exercise in solitude. 
  • Have easy to reach goals and move up from there. If you're just starting out, aim for just once a week. When that becomes manageable, add a day. You're less likely to quit if your initial goals are attainable. 
  • Try to get natural exercise when you can. Park far away at stores, walk places nearby if you can, take the stairs rather than an elevator, etc.
  • If you fall out of routine, start over.
Many of my recent posts have been focused on way to take care of yourself that are amazing and so helpful, but can be costly. Exercise can be free and the benefits have been proven by science and health researchers. Clients with any type of trauma history will find the results even more helpful. Regular exercise is a necessary component of self care and I strongly encourage everyone to find as much or as little of it as they can.

Marisa Etting