in corpore sano - Livre d'Or

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in corpore sano
Friday, 01 June 2007 at 09:49 pm
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I've been meaning to post some noodling on the topic of exercise for while; the post is expanded from a comment I made to a friends locked post chez syllopsium. I decided earlier in the year that I really ought to start doing some formal exercise, both for my long-term health and also for my immediate mental balance.

The Karolinska has a really good system called "health promotion", where they make a serious, non-token effort to encourage all their employees to do exercise, including providing really good facilities and instruction for this aim. I suspect this programme costs a lot less than the loss of productivity resulting from an unhealthy workforce! As part of this they do a comprehensive programme of regular exercise classes. I thought attending a class might be more motivating than doing something repetitive on my own. A big part of the reason why I don't get round to doing as much exercise as I should is that I find working out extremely boring, while I'm too uncoordinated for team sports or dancing, which would be a more intellectually stimulating way of getting myself moving.

I decided to attend a class geared specifically towards people who are just trying to get started with exercise. The idea was to try samplers of different, relatively gentle things each week, with no commitment to the whole course, you just turn up when you feel like it. This worked really well, until unfortunately the class was cancelled for lack of interest. But before that happened, I tried yoga, pilates, qi gong (which I think is a form of tai chi with a different transcription), wellness meditation (which included some stretches and stuff, it wasn't just sitting and thinking!), and a variant of pilates with inflatable balls. Wellness meditation and qi gong turned out to be too gentle even for someone as out of shape as I am. Yoga was ok, but the balance between painful stretches and aerobic activity was too far towards the former. Pilates was probably my favourite, and playing with the balls is fantastic; it's fun, and the ball makes it a lot harder to "cheat" on the exercises. Though it's noticeably tougher with the balls involved; 40 minutes' exercise left me really tired rather than just pleasantly relaxed.

The teacher is really lovely; I was half expecting some kind of sadistic, scornful PE teacher, or else some irritating guru type trying to meddle with my soul. But neither of those turned out to be a problem; she was very encouraging and kind, but also matter-of-fact about the exercise routines based on spiritual disciplines. Following fairly rapid streams of instructions in Swedish is a bit challenging, but it helps to keep my mind occupied.

One thing I found awkward is that many of the techniques, pilates particularly, depend partly on controlled breathing. Having someone telling me how to breathe comes close to being a panic trigger for me, because of too many experiences when I was a kid having bad asthma attacks and the panic being made worse by well meaning people crowding round me and telling me to calm down, take deep breaths etc. (The one time I had an actual panic attack it was related to that too.) Over the years, I have developed a resistance to panicking when I'm short of breath, and I was able to apply the same principles to avoid having hysterics in the middle of the class. But it was a closer call than I would prefer.

Both the hormonal buzz and the muscle aches after a session last longer than I was expecting. I'm not cut out to be a masochist, but in a sideways fashion I think I have a bit more insight into why some people are into that kind of thing.

The trouble is that they changed the system a few weeks in, and now there are a load of bureaucratic hoops to jump through in order to register for the exercise classes, rather than just showing up. I have been bad and not got round to tackling the bureaucracy. Still, summer is coming with opportunities for exercise that is fun for its own sake; I want to do some kayaking and possibly biking around the countryside and archipelago. I have found a few anglophone rambling clubs, and should get round to joining one. Options for when the brief spell of clement weather runs out: maybe look into DDR (I have heard rumours there is an unofficial version for PCs), or even try just try using the gym facilities on my own in order to get some physical activity more than once a week. Now that I know that exercise feels good, I may be able to overcome the barrier of finding it boring.

Whereaboooots: KI, Flemingsberg, Sweden
Moooood: energeticenergetic
Tuuuuune: Massive Attack: Teardrop on the fire
Discussion: 8 contributions | Contribute something

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hatam_soferet: default
Date:June 1st, 2007 10:23 pm (UTC)
1 hours after journal entry
It's still boring, I find, but that's why I quite like swimming, you can just go up and down and think about other things whilst doing it. And of course it feels good afterwards.
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doseybat: default
Date:June 1st, 2007 11:37 pm (UTC)
2 hours after journal entry, June 2nd, 2007 02:37 am (doseybat's time)
Have you tried ceilidh dancing and general sightly chaotic spinny fast pair/group dancing? Really really better than gym, as well as more social interaction than an excercise class, as well as nice music. And you get spun around!
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Date:June 2nd, 2007 12:07 am (UTC)
3 hours after journal entry
Have you tried ceilidh dancing and general sightly chaotic spinny fast pair/group dancing?

I really ought to! But I need to be organised.
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blue_mai: default
Date:June 2nd, 2007 10:40 am (UTC)
13 hours after journal entry, 10:40 am (blue_mai's time)
i haven't been this year due to a combination of my laziness and the erraticness of the instructor, but a couple of years ago i did qi gong regularly and really want to get back into it. it's literally the study/way/discipline of breath/energy (qi or chi - but tai chi isn't that chi it's a different word). so the breathing is really important. my lessons i find really interesting - they are in 3 parts, the first is qi gong which does seem less strenuous but that may be because it's treated a little casually in the lesson, then we practice a tai chi standard form - it's gentle in a way but i find it quite significant in terms of exercise - thinking about movement and posture combined with breathing in a really precise way takes a lot of effort. then finally we get taught self-defence applications of the slower moves, exploring one or two in detail. which is interesting but i found quite unpleasant in parts - i would never go for a combat/competitive learning structure like you often get with taekwondo or karate, but i found myself being taught how to pin people to the ground and take them out. ugh. some stuff like blocking punches and redirecting movement are quite good though.
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darcydodo: default
Date:June 2nd, 2007 04:25 pm (UTC)
19 hours after journal entry, 10:25 am (darcydodo's time)
You're planning to get on a bike? I'm so impressed! :)
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lethargic_man: beardy
Date:June 2nd, 2007 09:59 pm (UTC)
1 days after journal entry, 09:59 pm (lethargic_man's time)
Still, summer is coming with opportunities for exercise that is fun for its own sake; I want to do some kayaking and possibly biking around the countryside and archipelago

No, you go biking around the archipelago in winter, when the water between each island is solid. ;^b
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Date:June 3rd, 2007 01:18 pm (UTC)
1 days after journal entry
Well, I only dance Israeli dances. That is the only exercise I enjoy. I am in a quite advanced class. Israeli dancing is actually a mixture of all folk dances round the world. As there was only a woman's group on my medium-advanced level we just practice the circle dances which I like more actually than partner dances. We turn around a lot and some dances are very jumpy, too. (We do not hold hands.) It makes me tired, too. I need to concentrate very much on the steps. I look most of the time what the teacher is doing and simply try my best to follow. It is good for my back as well. I guess in Sweden there won't be Israeli dances but maybe some other challenging dances which maybe be similar.
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Date:June 8th, 2007 07:56 am (UTC)
6 days after journal entry
You Have My Genuine Respect. Really. I still have to accomplish this feat of "setting foot in a gym". I hope the experience boosted your confidence and that you keep up the good work!
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