Since I moved to a small town in upstate New York, I’ve really gotten into this whole slowing down thing people talk about. Even in Boulder, CO, which was a HUGE improvement from my previous years in NYC, each day was packed so neatly and tightly. My MO has been to fit in a long list of activities like puzzle pieces into every minute of everyday. One of these has always been exercise. There’s been times in my life when I worked out 7 days a week. In the most extreme times of my life, I would wake up at 5am to spin before a long day of work a few times a week, and force myself to get to some other kind of class on the other days. In Boulder I developed a much healthier relationship with exercise, a big part of which was because my exercise began to take place in the mountains. Hiking is by far one of my favorite ways to move. But even in Boulder, I put pressure on myself to get to a class, go on a hike, a run 5 days a week.
After all, exercise is a piece of the equation for a healthy lifestyle. It’s so important to move, stretch, and sweat. When used appropriately, exercise is good for energy, our metabolism, mental health, muscle and bone strength, flexibility and agility. It can be fun, rewarding, enlivening and meditative.
However, like all things, exercise should be done in moderation. If you’re not listening to yourself and are over exercising, you’re actually causing your body undue stress, taxing your adrenals, affecting your hormonal and emotional health, and causing inflammation. I think it’s interesting to learn about this because often we are just talking about under-exercising. There are real consequences to both extremes. Especially for those with autoimmune and gut issues – extra stress from an overly vigorous exercise routine will leave you even more sick.
Just how much exercise is appropriate will be personal to each of us. And it might vary based on the week, the month, the season. Just like our daily circadian rhythm that aligns with the rotation of the earth, we are also tuned to the rhythm of the seasons. We can embrace that we are part of the cycle of all living things, and tune into this connection with all of the plants and animals we live amongst. And just like those plants that are now in stages of rest and hibernation – maybe it is a time for us to rest and rejuvenate. The spring, summer and some of fall are often extremely active times for us. We are traveling and adventuring, seeing friends and new places, going to dinner and drinks, live music, out experiencing the world. We exert a lot of energy and its an exciting time of year. And winter holds a different energy. Its important to still get outside (skiing + snowy hikes/walks are awesome!!), but its also the time to recharge and turn inwards so that we can again gather the resources to enter a new season. So embrace this time without guilt. Maybe that means spending more time reading, listening to music, creating art, nourishing with warming foods, cuddling up on the couch with a ‘Happy Hot Chocolate’, spending quality time with friends.
Maybe its because I’m literally immersed in the winter up here, on top of a mountain, surrounded by nature, in a small town with little to do! Maybe… 😉 But these days, I give myself permission to rest. To work on my long list of to do’s, even leisurely self-care ones, so that they make me feel replenished, not stressed and overtaxed. Not because I ‘earned it’, but because I deserve it everyday regardless of accomplishments. For me recently, reading on the couch instead of pushing myself to exercise is finding balance in my routine, my body, my spirit. Giving myself the gift of rest, without guilt. For others, you may need to exercise more as an act of self care. Only you can know through honest inquiry.
The answers are all within you. So tune in. Listen. And honor yourself.
Do you struggle with a balanced mindset around exercise? What can you do to slow down this season, so that you come out of it feeling fully recharged?