As a long distance athlete I am an ardent believer in the mental health benefits of exercise and endorphins. However, recently it struck me that perhaps not everyone is in love with running quite as much as I am. Perhaps the idea of intense exercise seems intimidating. And do you know what? That’s perfectly okay! You don’t need to be an athlete to benefit from the golden flow of endorphins. So I thought I would shed some light on the matter and share a few innovative ways to incorporate movement into your daily routine.
Far too many of us drive to work, sitting down, slave away at a desk all day, sitting down, and then pound our bodies in the gym for an hour, before sitting down again to read or watch television in the evening. And we call this movement?! If this is you, and don’t worry you’re not the only one, then you’re probably wondering why you’re not bathing in these glorious endorphins that I keep harping on about.
The truth is, that often when we take part in these intense workout classes at 20:00, with a bunch of slightly drained fellow city dwellers, the endorphins vanish as soon as we leave the room. This is because essentially all we are doing is adding physical stress to our existent emotional and psychological stress levels. We are quite literally adding to the load. During the class we can feel invincible, with the strength and power of a superhero, yet as soon as it’s over we turn back into ourselves, knackered, sweaty and a little empty inside.
The key factor behind all this? Mindfulness.
Syncing the mind and the body is the secret to benefiting from endorphins throughout your entire day, as opposed to just for a snippet. Once you feel connected to your body, you can switch on the endorphin flow with the simplest of movements.
My first tip for bringing movement into your routine, is one which several inspirational people have taught me over the years (which simply cannot be coincidental). In fact one of the sprightliest 70 year old’s I’ve ever met is a huge advocate. She always taught me to perform everyday stationary tasks with an added twist. For example whenever you have a spare moment, maybe when you’re waiting for a bus, do 30 tricep dips. You might feel a little silly, but you’ll be laughing when you’re 70 and full of life! I find that whenever I feel my energy levels depleting, a few tricep dips sort me right out. It’s the endorphins!
Another friend of mine, a black belt martial artist, who looks 20 years younger than he really is, swears by doing squats whilst brushing his teeth. He claims that it sets him up for the morning and brings his awareness into his body.
It’s all about doing little movements throughout the day to keep us connected and grounded in the present.
Another favourite trick of mine is desk yoga. Desk yoga is simply spending 5 minutes every hour giving your body a good stretch to reawaken your mind and clarify your thoughts. I like to get out of my chair and leave the laptop behind for a moment whilst having a walk around. When I return back to my laptop I hold a spinal twist on each side, reach right down to my toes, and then do a seated version of Bitilasana (cat cow pose), arching and concaving my spine. This movement of the spine boosts energy in the mind and opens the heart. I often experience my most fruitful creative bursts after a heart opening back bend. If anyone mocks you just tell them to try it for themselves. They’ll thank you later.
Next up is one of the most primal ways of reintroducing movement into your day.
Walking, cycling, or running as a means of transportation is incredibly natural to us as human beings, and yet so many of us seem to have lost touch with this. As animals we would always use movement as a means of getting from A to B; or bed to work, shall we say? It just makes more sense! So perhaps give cycling or jogging to work a go. Many companies now have schemes set up with motivating rewards for anyone daring enough to commit, and that’s not the only benefit you’ll reap. After ditching the car or train you’ll feel fresh and alert for the rest of your day, you’ll have got in some morning exercise, and rather smugly you’ll have avoided being crushed into a tube carriage underneath a lawyer’s armpit at 07:30. However, if running or cycling to work is simply too impractical for you, perhaps you could try getting off the tube a few stations earlier, climbing the escalator, and power walking the rest of the way? This is just as admirable in my eyes.
My fourth and final piece of advice is to find a style of movement that you love, and practice it daily. Not because you feel like you need to work out, but because it makes you feel awesome. It could be anything from walking the dog, dancing in the kitchen whilst making your tea, yoga in the garden, or tricep dips at the bus stop. Just love every second of it, and the endorphins will flow.
It has taken me years to really reconnect with my body, and I’m still learning from inspirational people on a daily basis. So I encourage you to look around, experiment, and seek out your favourite way to move. This way you’ll never have to “workout” again!
Lots of love,