We can all agree that part of being healthy is regular exercise. Exercise can help strengthen your muscles, improve your mood and immune system, reduce stress and help you feel good in your skin. But how do you know if the exercise you are doing is actually helping you or hurting you?
There are many types of exercise, just as there are many types of people. Not all exercise is good for all people, based on body type, overall health issues and age. First, figure out what your goals are. Are you trying to get 6-pack abs or are you trying to stay healthy? Are you looking for a way to be social? Are you trying to make up for your "less than perfect" diet? Each goal will have a different strategy attached to it. In the end, you want a form of exercise that reduces stress rather than creates it.
Mindfulness can be very helpful when it comes to exercise. Notice how you feel before, during and after exercise. The information gained from this type of noticing might adjust how you seek after and achieve your goals. It will help you determine what your body actually requires and this may or may not be in line with your goals. Do you notice that every time you exercise you are wiped out for the rest of the day? Do you notice that you feel sluggish until you exercise? Do you look forward to moving your body or do you dread it? Are you sore for a week after exercising? Are you injuring yourself frequently? Are you only doing one type of exercise or do you mix it up?
Ideally, exercise shouldn't hurt. If it does leave you sore, that soreness should only last for a day or 2. Exercise should energize you, improve your mood and lower your stress levels. If you find that after exercise you don't feel these things, you might not be doing the right routine for you.
For someone with a lot of energy and high stress, something more active would be great. Running, biking, weight lifting, swimming, Vinyasa Yoga, Pilates, Nia, something that makes you sweat and gets your heart pumping is great. That being said, if you push too hard and too fast, you are actually creating stress for your body, rather than reducing it. You don't need to run for 10 miles to make it count. If you are always recovering from injury or exhausted afterward, you need to back it off a bit, either by giving yourself a day or 2 of rest every week or by doing less per workout.
For someone who has low, sluggish energy, like you are carrying a 100 lb gorilla around with you wherever you go, you will also benefit from moderate exercise, like in the list above. This type of sluggish energy usually responds well to moving the body, but most likely you will need to find something you really love to do. Maybe dancing around your living room singing at the top of your lungs (or just dancing without singing), walking or hiking in nature, going ice or roller skating/ roller blading. Once you move, you will feel so much better, so finding something that you look forward to will be a great motivator to keep it up.
For someone with low energy where it feels like someone pulled your power cord, gentler exercise will benefit you more. The more you push through a workout, the more depleted you will feel and this will raise your body's experience of stress. Activities such as Gentle Yoga, Tai Chi, Qi Gong, even Meditation, can help nourish the body's energy and help you feel better without straining.
So pay attention to how you feel and do what is best for your body, because it's the only one you've got!
Janine L. Agoglia has been teaching Vinyasa yoga since 1998. Her yoga journey started in 1995 with Iyengar Yoga and she stumbled upon Vinyasa yoga in 1997. The combination of breath with proper body alignment is what fuels Janine's practice and the classes that she teaches. She believes that yoga should be safe as well as challenging, creative and fun. She always emphasizes proper alignment within the flow, as well as focus, breath and humor to help students find the balance between strength and ease. Deepening one’s physical awareness helps one strengthen his/her spiritual awareness and mind-body connection. Janine loves being able to help people deepen their own practices, finding yoga in everyday life, on and off the mat. Her DVD, “Vinyasa Yoga for Regular People” is available for purchase at the front desk at Lumina Mind Body Studios in Wayland, MA.
In addition to being the Co-Director of Yoga and teaching yoga classes at Lumina Mind Body Studios Janine is also a Licensed Acupuncturist and Chinese Herbalist who practices at Integrative Therapeutics in Natick, MA.