We know that exercise can be ‘therapy,’ but there is something powerful when you connect your mind and body and exercise from a place of control and stillness, where you are truly present in the movements.
After 16 years in the fitness industry, it’s this year in particular that has stood out with women wanting to use exercise as a form of therapy to reduce stress, in conjunction with wanting to tone up and gain strength. Life is busy, and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down any time soon.
Keeping up with not only your daily life involving work, family, activities, home duties (the list goes on) but social media life and platforms can be overwhelming and taxing on the mind and body.
In Australia, 1 in 3 women will experience some kind of anxiety in their life. (There are excellent resources out there to help with this, so do contact Beyond Blue if you are needing this support.) In addition to this, more and more women are feeling lethargic and tired most of the time.
I hit ‘burn out’ in my late twenties working in gyms and running my personal training business where it took a huge toll on my wellbeing. I was always getting sick and was so tired to the point of extreme exhaustion wanting to sleep in the day for hours even after a good night’s rest.
The effect of this was lowered emotional wellbeing, hormones going out of whack because of increased cortisol in my body and literally questioning everything I had learnt in fitness. I needed to completely revamp my lifestyle. In having to stop teaching classes I was so passionate about and cut back on most activities I had done for years, anxiety crept in with the fear of not knowing if I could stay in this industry.
As fate would have it, I thought I would give Pilates a go because it seemed less intensive but still able to give me some of that ‘workout’ feeling I was used to. Have you ever experienced trying to exercise and then your mind wanders during the workout? What’s for dinner, what do you need to do later, so many thoughts can enter your mind. Well that was me for quite a while.
The great thing I noticed though was doing a Pilates session helped me become more present because of the coordination required for breathing and slower, controlled movement focusing on muscles I had not really worked before.
My mindset and confidence started to rebuild, knowing I could still exercise and keep my body strong and toned without having to exhaust it, especially in the midst of healing adrenal fatigue.
Fast forward a few years and I’d studied it through many courses and was now on a mission to help more people discover this unique exercise method and fell into a great opportunity helping mental health clients with exercise and meditation as part of their weekly treatment program.
In this project I worked with a team of social workers who explained the difference of this method of exercise in helping their mental health clientel, compared to walking on a treadmill for instance.
One senior social worker said, ‘in needing to coordinate your mind to focus on particular muscles, breathing and matching up movements, it brings people into a state of complete presence where they cannot be anxious or depressed in that moment.’
The other interesting point he noted was ‘in building the body’s coordination and strength in using body weight exercise like Pilates, there is self-efficacy (self confidence) building, which in turn helps the person build confidence over time in other areas of life, knowing they have succeeded at physical strength improvements.’
I interviewed several of these clients who participated and the consensus was it made them feel ‘better from within’ and over time we noticed their moods and confidence lift, and ability to stay present within the classes, accomplishing advanced strength body weight movements from being complete novices in exercise and having severe mental health conditions to contend with.
In seeing results like this and experiencing myself first hand the ups and downs that an imbalanced mind and burn out can bring about, its important to take care of yourself no matter how busy life gets.
Small lifestyle habits like 10 minutes of meditation and 30 to 60 minutes of light exercise a day can really help. The important thing is be present when you do the exercise to really get your mind to switch off from everything else.
During October to support Mental Health Month we are offering $5 Mindfulness PIlates classes at our studio in Kingsgrove, Sydney. Please contact [email protected] for enquiries or to get in touch about exercising to heal adrenal fatigue and stress.