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.