The Joy of Going Slow
I am an incredibly impatient person.
I want things to happen NOW. I am one of those people who (in my head) actually say the memes "I did my first run today and I'm still fat? What's that about?!"
I jest; but only a little bit.
I have been following the same workout programme for 10 years now. When I first started I couldn't even get through 30 minutes of the DVD - the arms section?! It burned!! But before I got pregnant with Erica I was generally doing an hour of muscular structure work (basically Pilates on speed!) 6 days a week, with dance cardio added on a couple of those days. The programme is divided into 3 streams - beginner, intermediate and advanced. For each of these streams a new workout sequence is posted every Wednesday night. I would switch between advanced and intermediate depending on how exhausting my week was, where in my cycle I currently was, and how much knee twisting was involved in either sequence. I considered myself, if not an expert, then definitely fluent in the 'language'.
I waited 6 weeks after the birth until I did any exercise (other than walking)at all. Then, after my GP check and a session with a women's physio to look at any pelvic floor or ab separation issues, I started with the post pregnancy workout - a modified version of the usual sequences. I was so excited to get going, jump back in, return to where I was.. You know, be fit again!
The arm section was 10 minutes. It was all I could manage.
I'd kept myself moving all through pregnancy, and now I couldn't even manage a decent number of bicep curls! I wanted to be back in my hour long classes, sweating and using my brain to work out all the twisty moves, feeling my spine lengthen and my muscles contract. Instead I couldn't even feel my abs, and I was a sweaty pile of mush on the floor, with a long way to go.
But the next day I got out the DVD again. And I did the arms again. And then I looked ahead at the first 2 leg moves so I knew what was coming. I was slightly less of a pile of mush.
The following day I laid out my mat, worked through the arms and realised I had enough energy to do more. So I tried the first 2 leg moves (each one has about 30 reps). I didn't finish them, but I was making progress.
By the end of the week and my 6th workout (with each one being about 15 minutes, don't be too impressed!) things were beginning to feel familiar. It was a bit like when I went to Germany last year. A Level German was a LONG time ago, but by the end of the weekend I found myself picking up words and phrases, remembering sentence structures and idioms. I could just about order breakfast by Sunday! The language of the moves was coming back to me.
But my body was slow to get back on board.
The first 2 or 3 weeks were fine. I was excited to finally be able to move without having to manoeuvre around a massive pregnant belly! There was a novelty to being able to do any exercise at all. And, to be honest, I was pretty exhausted from newborn/8 year old shenanigans. But then I began to get despondent. Nothing seemed to be changing. I couldn't feel my stomach muscles in the places I normally could, every time I stepped on the scales the numbers were the same, and I still felt frumpy. There was a pile (a rather large pile...I may have too many clothes) of outfits which I longed to get back into that were still far too small. I began to wonder if I was ever going to get anywhere near my previous fitness level and size. I was going to be stuck a pile of mush in baggy clothes forever.
Thankfully, when you've done a workout for 10 years, it has become a habit. It is just something I do almost every day (which is why the 6 weeks after the birth were so hard!). So there was never any question of just giving up. I plodded along. And, as I rolled out my mat each morning I began to realise something: Because I had been doing this for so long I cut corners. In an hour long class things move fast and I didn't necessarily take the time to make sure the right muscles were firing at the right times. I rarely watched the breakdown videos beforehand to get clear on the moves. The beginner workouts are slow, and that meant they were frustrating at first, but I began to realise that I could feel which muscles were firing during a move, and I could be more focused on what each part of my body should be doing within a move. And when I focused on that level, I noticed small improvements. I started watching the breakdowns and became much more aware of what was going on during my 30 minutes.
Going slow is good for us. Especially if we are at the beginning of something or we have just moved up to a new challenge. When we take the time to care about the little things - form, where we place our energy, even how we breathe - then we are motivated by the progress we are making. We can see how our muscles and joints are working for us and be proud of what they can do. Rushing is for railway platforms; if we want to tune into our body in a way which heals our relationship with it as well as improves our fitness levels, then we need to slow down. Chalk up the little wins - the better understanding of a move, or the feel of a particular muscle engaging where it didn't before - as well as the numbers on a scale.
I'll be back to my hour long workouts soon - I'm aiming for when Erica is 6 months old. But in the meantime I am re-learning the language of both the workout, and my own body. I'm taking the time to focus on the little things; to use the 30 minutes to care for my physical and emotional self. And I'm hoping that the philosophy of going slow will spill over into other areas of my life as well. If lockdown has taught me anything it is that I used to spend far too much time rushing around - I'd like to remedy that.
If you want to take this time to concentrate on form, or on small goals that move you forward at a steady pace, then a coach can really help you. Ellie can be on hand to check your Turkish Get Up, or help you with a sense of perspective on your diet. Whether you want to feel more vibrant and energetic, or you'd like to get your core working again (like me!), having someone else's eyes can be a huge benefit.
Take care, and go slow