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Returning to the Gym? Take it Easy

My quarantine body

While writing letters and connecting with old friends I feel our bonds strengthen across seas and timezones

My limbs let me know that my foundations are shaky, my central nervous system sends a sharp message “I am here”

Painted landscapes on walls are souvenirs of nature that I once visited

While my knee headlights point in other directions and my pain says to me: “you are important”

I can smell sun warm concrete after rain as my pelvis tilts as if pouring water to the ground below, and my lower back twinges as if to say: “I see you”

And my children throw themselves into the joy of being at home and laugh

While breath rushes to my chest, shoulders rise, jaw clenches and I prepare for flight

My neighbour’s perfume transports me to childhood hugs and simple love

I breathe and centre myself

And we sit assembling a jigsaw, quietly being

As my body whispers

I am here,

you are important

and I see you

For many people not only have they not been to a gym for four months they haven’t done much exercise in that time either. I have been teaching on zoom and walking but my body is still pretty unconditioned and creaky.

My advice today to everyone - including myself - is to take it easy. To listen to your body. To listen to what it wants more of and what it is not ready for. I do not have your personal experience of what it feels like to be in your body. You do.

The gym is weird too. We have to follow a one way system, we get invited in to class, if we haven't brought our own mat we take turns to spray down a mat and then go to our taped off area of class. That is a lot of new sensory input to process and the lower down "feeling brain" is going to be more up regulated than our "thinking brain." So for the sake of our parasympathetic nervous system we need to go gently too.

There’s a concept called intuitive movement. The idea behind it is to experience your body from within rather than an object seen by others. Be aware of your internal cues. Hunger, pain and fatigue should be seen as a conversation that you need to have with your body. Respond to what it is telling you and it will work with you to help keep you well.

When we ignore the body’s whispers invariably they turn into life stopping shouts.

The goal is to be attuned to how it feels to be IN your body. If you are a person who thinks about your body as if you are viewing it from the outside, as if it were separate from you. If you focus on how people perceive you; your appearance; and how you look in your clothes, then your homework is to start treating yourself in the same way you would treat a small child. If she was hungry you would feed her, if she cried you would comfort her, if she made a mistake you would forgive her, if she fell over you would help her up again.

Be curious about your internal world. Enjoy your return to the gym but listen to your body, now is not the time to push yourself. Instead listen to what you really need from your movement and do that.

Be well.

xx

P

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Primrose Hill Community Association,

29 Hopkinson's Place

Fitzroy Rd

London

NW1 8TN