The benefits of physical activity are truly bountiful; exercise can decrease stress, prevent illness, bolster self-esteem, boost holistic well-being and foster academic performance.
Of course, when it comes to improving our health, we might intellectually understand what is required to be well, but still not make our health a priority because it feels too inconvenient or intimidating.
Personally, I wanted to increase my sense of physical literacy and participate in more fitness activities. Did I say ‘more’? I meant ‘any.’ Days, weeks, and months (okay, years) were flying by without me even attempting to break a sweat. I made a commitment to attend TRU Recreation classes regularly for one month.
I started the experiment on the last day of a month. Technically, I could’ve waited one more day. I’ve always been a big proponent of the “I’ll start tomorrow” ideology, but I’ve also learned that ‘tomorrow’ is a day that never comes, and figured that if I don’t go today, then I might not go tomorrow.
In preparation for this experience, I posed the question: “how can implementing fitness into your daily life improve overall well-being?” I’ve since discovered that the question is: “has anyone ever barfed while doing burpees?”
What is a burpee, you ask? A burpee is a full-body exercise used in strength training and as an aerobic exercise. It’s a not-so-gentle blending of jumping and pushups. It’s a real test of the will, makes your legs feel like jello, and your arms like limp spaghetti. I don’t believe I’ve ever done them before, but I can only assume that I looked as elegant and graceful as I felt.
If you want to start with something low-key, Zumba is a fantastic option, but you can’t take yourself too seriously. At all. Being playful is key. I’m not gifted in the choreography department, but I do love to dance. Odds are, other participants will be moving and grooving perfectly in time with the instructor. And you, like me, might be flailing tunelessly in the back row. That’s ok. It’s not once-in-a-lifetime audition to be Beyoncé’s back up dancer. The stakes aren’t that high. All that is required is that you move (bonus points if you smile). Although, if you want to serve some hip-swivelling realness, please do.
After a week of classes, I discovered an unforeseen benefit; exercise has a way of driving thoughts out of your mind. I’ve been known to spend an entire yoga class wrestling the urge to make to-do lists, or worry about the day, whereas, with recreation, all there is IS Zumba. The movement. The beat. The jazz hands (even if it’s not required). As long as you move—it’s all good.
Each time I tried a new type of class, I had to give myself a little pep talk. I also kept affirming the thought that the only measure of success was in showing up—and sweating profusely. Don’t kid yourself, friends, there are days when turning up is half the battle. In fact, I was successful. Let’s call it sweat-cessful.
Another key to navigating these classes is accountability—the buddy system is LIFE. We need meaningful, like-minded, goal-oriented friends that can lovingly push you towards your intentions on those days when you can’t deal. Over time, you’ll make friends, and get to know the instructors and it gets easier to go alone if need be.
Ultimately, if you push through doubt, vulnerability, and fear, you will feel better on the other side.
I’ve learned that consistency is critical and any little disruption can throw you off. Skipping days are the kiss of death to a routine. You take a break for a day, a week, a month, then suddenly five years have gone by, and you wondered what happened to your life. While flexibility is necessary for student life, making fitness a non-negotiable commitment is essential.
After that self-imposed challenge in the spring, classes are now a regular part of my week, and I’ve have noticed a significant impact on my physical, mental, and emotional health. Fitting a class in your day can clear out the cobwebs of a tired brain, energize yourself for a productive afternoon or centre yourself after a hectic morning.
- Pack a gym bag. In addition to gym clothes, be sure to pack deodorant, body wash, dry shampoo, hand wipes, elastics, bobby pins, towel, fresh socks and undergarments, whatever you need for a hygienic pre and post-workout routine. (Do future you a favour – preparing yourself the night before class is best).
- Implement the buddy system. Make a plan, and take turns following up via text or email.
- Track, document and reflect. Whether it’s stickers on a calendar or some handwritten notes in a journal, it’s nice to remind yourself of how far you’ve come.
- Prioritize hydration and nutrition. Be sure to fuel your body with healthy foods and lots of water.