At the start of 2017, I made a commitment to myself to re-engage in some fitness practices that I used to feel passionate about but had given up due to circumstances such as evolving interests or scheduling conflicts. I’ve been feeling stuck or coasting and needed to switch things up a bit. The two forms of exercise I have eased back into are from opposite ends of the spectrum: kickboxing and yoga.
I’m finding that the physical exertion required by kickboxing balances out beautifully with the serenity of yoga. Whether I’m punching and kicking a heavy bag with all of my might or lying on a mat in a quiet room and listening to myself exhale, the outcomes are similar; I leave feeling destressed and energized.
Some of my friends have told me they could never try yoga because they can’t sit still. All the more reason to try it! A yin-yoga class where you basically sit or lie still in various poses supported by cushions for prolonged periods of time teaches you how to appreciate your body and mind in a different way. It’s so relaxing that in one class the woman next to me started snoring!
While I use rudimentary kickboxing drills to train some of my clients, and also non-contact cardio-kickboxing with the older seniors in my chair-fitness class, I haven’t had the opportunity to train in a way that I get a workout. In the class I recently started taking, I happened to partner with a young woman approximately my size, but about half my age. She looked fit, but I felt reassured when she told me she’d never done kickboxing before because this ‘old gal’ didn’t want to get injured. The first time it was my turn to punch and kick while she held the focus pads, she informed me that she’s pregnant. I was initially worried about accidentally hurting her, but, once we got into a groove, we both felt confident. When it was her turn to hit, boy could she pack a wallop! I jokingly asked her if she was mad at someone. She told me that kickboxing helps her rid of stress from her busy life.
It’s normal to feel muscular soreness a day or two following a challenging workout, but, between the intensity of the moves and the power I was putting into them, I was incredibly sore for a couple of days after the first class. The next week, I confessed to my young training partner how sore I’d felt. I also told her how old I was. I laughed when she told me she’d been really sore, too.
You can transfer whatever you experience in your own fitness activities to other areas of your life. For example, if you could benefit from more self-confidence, or want to feel more powerful, or not get so easily angry or agitated, choose exercises that will help you develop these soft skills or feelings. The ability to follow through with a goal, or face a challenge, doesn’t come naturally to everyone. You can hone those skills at the gym, or outdoors hiking a mountain, or running a race. Pick an activity that requires the characteristics you’d like to build up, such as perseverance, or the ability to release and cleanse yourself of mental and physical tension.
Transferring skills from whatever form of exercise you choose to other areas of your life can be a transformative process. You may not even realize you’re developing certain attributes until you find yourself in a situation where you employ them. Knowing I am capable of holding my own at kickboxing class with a partner young enough to be my daughter makes me feel strong and younger than my age. Being able to temporarily block out the world, unplug, let go of tension and exhale while chanting “om” in unison with other people helps me better cope with or even overlook what I might normally consider day-to-day stressors.
With a bit of introspection, each of us can identify aspects of ourselves we’d like to improve. Exercise can be a mechanism to develop them, although changing one’s personality traits is a bit more difficult than changing learned behaviours or states. We can then access the enhanced components of ourselves and apply what we’ve learned when needed. Sometimes a change in routine may be the catalyst that gets the ball rolling.