As we age, exercise does not have to be the ‘no pain, no gain’ pursuit that most of us have done some time in our life. Recently several older women had the opportunity to attend a class with an instructor who encouraged participants to exercise at their own pace – to connect with their body first and to allow the body to give feedback during the various exercises.
“I went to an exercise class yesterday morning, which I had arranged to go to a few weeks previously. That morning I woke up feeling drained as I had become run down and was still recovering from the effects of allowing that to happen, however I decided to go along to the exercise class as originally intended.
A lovely warm room was set up for us to work in. Stephen Gammack was the instructor and he started by asking us to first focus on our breathing and our posture before moving into some gentle warming up movements. Then Stephen guided us into some gentle aerobics exercises – not strenuous aerobics, but slowly building up our stamina. After that we did some strengthening exercises, finishing off with stretches for flexibility and some balancing exercises.
Between and during each exercise Stephen kept gently reminding us to keep focusing firstly on our breath and then on our feet and our posture, part of which was by keeping an open chest and allowing the shoulders and neck area to let go of any tension building up.
By the end of the one hour class I felt rejuvenated without the feeling that I had over-done it in anyway, yet still feeling like my body had had a really well balanced overall workout, demonstrating to me that it is not necessary to push the body beyond its limits.
From there I went straight to work still feeling lovely in my body for the rest of the day.”
“I notice when I connect to my body first before exercising I have a different relationship to how I move, breath and support my body. No longer are outcomes and the number of repetitions the focus, but instead I allow my body to 'give me feedback’.
Now that I am in my mid-sixties I have a responsibility to nurture my body and feel when and how it's appropriate to move and breathe, especially when doing physical activity. When I exercise, it is not to change anything but to support the body I have.
We are so used to doing exercise in blocks of repetitions, counting numbers and being result driven. Yes, we may get results but it does not support the body to continue at this pace into the latter years.
I thoroughly enjoyed our exercise class with Stephen for the, let's say, ‘Elder Women'. There was no pumping music, no goals to reach or expectations, just a suggestion to connect and listen to the feedback from our bodies. It's an awareness that I haven't always had, feeling that results were always counted.
I am realising more and more the beauty of connecting to my body before I begin to move. It has changed the way I approach my day, bringing a responsibility to listening to the feedback my body is constantly giving me. With the support of gentle exercise classes I have developed a connection to my body that allows for my body to have a say.”
“I realised that I am not doing enough aerobic exercise and that I had discounted that due to the forceful way in which a normal aerobics class is taught where the music forces you to go at a certain pace and you lose connection with your body and become a robot copying the moves.
The way we did it in this class was to exercise to our own rhythm while being aware of our bodies and that way you do not over-do it because the body tells you when you’ve had enough and you are encouraged to listen to it.
This is great for people to relearn as most of us have got into a habit of overriding our bodies.
I felt very vital and alive after the class and also clear in the head. I enjoyed the structure of the class where there was a variety of exercises addressing, strength, stretching, aerobic and weight-bearing exercises.”
As Sandra so rightly points out, as we age, ‘most of us have got into the habit of overriding our bodies’ with the consequence that many of us reach a point where we give up on regular exercise.
However, there is another way - by exercising in connection with our body and letting it give us feedback, we can have a well-balanced overall workout that sets us up to have a joy-full day.
We encourage everyone to try it for themselves!
Deidre M., Merrilee P., Sandra N., compiled by Anne McR., Australia