Some reflections on fitness

Life for many of us is becoming more sedentary.
We are often told that to keep heart and circulation in good condition
we need more exercise.

This is certainly true for most of us, young and old.
Unless you are one of those who already engage regularly in a sport,
the question then arises:
what sort of exercise would suit you?

Think back to the last time you really made a physical effort…
What was it?
A country walk?
A bit of gardening?
Running for a bus?
Moving some furniture?
Dancing?
Playing a game you haven't had time for lately?

DID YOU ENJOY IT?

What did it feel like at the time?

  • You could have done more?
  • You were tired, but sensed you could soon get the hang of it again?
  • You noticed that you are not so young as you were?
  • You were glad you don't have to do that every day?
  • You were wishing you could lose some weight?

How did you feel next day?

  • Rather pleased with yourself?
  • A bit stiff but not discouraged?
  • Or did you get a crick in the neck?
  • or twist a knee or an ankle?
  • or get a pain in the back?

All these reactions should be taken seriously in choosing your type of exercise. Don't let anyone persuade you into attempting more than you feel fit for.

Above all, choose something that is FUN, that you ENJOY,
and that you can increase gradually if you want to.

And I do mean FUN IN ITSELF – not merely that you enjoy thinking of the good it must be doing you!
And please, DON'T rush into doing exercises for this or that muscle – what about all the others that are supposed to co-operate with it in a balanced way?

There is another side to exercise that is hardly ever mentioned.
It is not said often enough that "fitness" has different aspects,
which together make up the totality of your health.

Some aspects of fitness

Cardiovascular fitness is the aspect that concerns the heart and blood vessels.
The locomotor system refers to the bones, joints, muscles, cartilages, ligaments, etc. that enable us to move around as we want to.
The nervous system consists of the brain, the sensory organs,
and the wonderful network of nerves throughout the body.
It reports on conditions – internal and external – and carries messages about what we want our muscles to do, and what we want them to avoid doing.

Whatever form of exercise you decide on, it is important to remember that
EVERY PART OF YOU IS RELATED TO EVERY OTHER PART.
You are a marvellous, complex UNITY,
with possibilities for doing all sorts of things.
BUT
supposing you damage one part of your locomotor system,
other parts of it are likely to suffer sooner or later.
And in the long run, the cardiovascular system also will suffer, because you
can no longer give it the exercise it is used to.
And your nervous system will probably let you know that you don't feel too good.
It's all related, because it is all YOU.

How can you ensure that in doing good to one part of you, you won't hurt
or neglect another part?
Whether "exercising" or just going about your daily life,
every movement you make can be a little bit of "good exercise",
or can do you a little bit of harm,
according to how you co-ordinate yourself to do each movement.
The effect is cumulative.
Obviously, you can't, every time you move, run and ask someone if you're doing it the right way!
But there are guidelines, and you can learn them, if you like.
That's what the Alexander Technique Centre is here for.

If your body does everything you ask, easily and comfortably,
you can go ahead and ask a bit more of yourself,
and your whole system will probably thank you.
But if not,
some forms of exercise can increase the problems – so be warned!
Think of your car – if it's not in perfect order, it still might just get you to the shops. But would you risk a holiday in the Alps in it?
Your own locomotor system is even more complex, even more valuable.
Before placing greater demands on it,
do you know how to check that it's working properly?

You have been told to consult your doctor before starting any exercise programme.
Quite right: he can examine and advise you, so that you don't overstrain your heart.
But the decision about how you move cannot be delegated to anyone.
We all have to be responsible for how we move!

We should pay more attention to the quality of our movements,
not just the quantity.
Before moving, we should prepare ourselves for movement,
by giving ourselves time to think:
Am I in balance? (If not, I must be stiffening somewhere, because I don't want to fall.)
Am I free to move? (Driving with brakes on is no better for me than for my car.)
Which bits of me do I want to move, and where to? (I'd better know where I'm going.)

How much do you know about the whole person, the unity that is YOU?

Here are a few more questions you could ask yourself:
Can I point accurately to my hip-joints? (Not many people can!)
What kind of movements can I do there?

Where is the joint between my head and my neck? (Even fewer people get this right.)
What movements are possible there?

How does my head-neck joint affect my hip-joint?
How do they both affect my knees and ankles?
How do all these affect my balance?
What is their effect on my breathing?

You may think we should have been taught about these things in our school-days.
I agree with you – it would have saved a lot of trouble.
I didn't learn it at school, did you? Or your friends? Or your children?

Don't you think you have a right to know a bit more about how to look after yourself as you move about?

Helping people with this is our particular job. We all spent at least three years learning it.

Why not contact us to find out more?

See also Mind and Muscle, Chapter 31.

Elizabeth Langford, 2002