Zen And The Art Of Lazy Exercise

I have no “exercise regime”. Pre-Covid, I went to yoga twice a week. And to say my class was “low-impact” would be an overstatement. I would just go for effect. The first part of the class was the best: we gossiped for at least 15 minutes. Then we got around to do a little stretching, followed by something physically untaxing, such as conscious walking, then a little controlled breathing and a relaxation exercise. Extra calories burned: nil. I didn’t wear yoga clothes. I didn’t take a yoga mat — just a towel that I laid over the centre’s own mats. And I didn’t wear trainers, because I just had to take them off anyway. I went begrudgingly. I didn’t look forward to it, and I was generally in a bad mood when I arrived and would sit scowling for a while because it was 10 am and I was already tired yet with a long day ahead of me.

Sounds fun, right? #SaidNoOneEver

That, alongside walking a couple of kilometres a day and the odd trip to the pool with my daughter, was my exercise regime.

Then came lockdown. And guess what… I found Jo Wicks, lost 5 kilos and am bursting with energy.

That last sentence was a complete lie.

For a while, the world was getting fit in front of their screens across the globe thanks to our time-out and lockdown exercise gurus. People were posting their newly honed and toned bodies on social media. And, as my nine-year-old daughter says in fabulous English (that she’s learned from YouTubers), “that kind of triggers me”.

So the closest I got to this was doing a little Cosmic Yoga and ganga dancing with my daughter. At one point I may have sat down and scrolled through some fitness videos on YouTube, but that was about it. My main issue is that I don’t like being told what to do, so following someone’s instructions on moving around vigorously is my idea of torture. In fact, even during the guided meditation in my pre-lockdown yoga classes, when the teacher said, “imagine you are on a beach”, my mind replies “no” and just goes to a complete blank (which is the end-game of the meditation, luckily) as a rebellion against being told what to do. As I live and breathe, I am a rebel without a cause. I don’t do it on purpose. I just can’t help myself.

So, back to the exercise, this got me kinda “re-thinking” exercise. And I deconstructed it into several points:

  1. I do exercise to stay in shape (roughly translated to not put on weight and fit my clothes)
  2. I do exercise for the feel-good hormones (even though I think I mainly just activate the “feel-tired” hormones)
  3. And here’s the biggie:I mainly do exercise to stop myself from feeling guilty about not exercising. Ugh.

I was quite shocked when I realized that number 3 was probably the biggest cause. Like seriously. I thought I had my sh*t together a little more than that. So, given my aforementioned resistance to following any kind of structured exercise regime, I decided to work out what works for me. I’ve always loved the concept of “lazy exercise”, but I’ve never really delved deeply into it. Along comes a lockdown, confinement and… lazy exercise as a completely legit alternative to any structured exercise regime.

I love the fact that gyms and swimming pools were closed for so long. It just completely removed all guilt about not going. Alert: the keyword is in the aforementioned sentence: “guilt”.

We’re all well-aware of the amazing, life-changing benefits of exercise, right? Yet the majority of us don’t spring from our beds in the morning to go out for a healthy run, go to the gym, or hit an early morning hot yoga class.

Why is this?

Here’s a good answer: because we don’t have the energy.

And the fitness gurus all reply: well you would if you DID exercise

I reply: THAT, my fitness friends, is a massive overgeneralization.

So, back to lazy exercise. Here’s how I do it:

  1. Get as much sleep as possible. Take a nap as and when needed. This is essential for me because when I’m exhausted, my body feels terrible. I could get away with a lot more when I was younger, but not now.
  2. Look the part: I like to put full makeup on and gym clothes just to do a little stretching in the lounge. Then go for a walk, looking incredibly sporty, making sure that I’m seen by as many people as possible. Working theory here: the better you look, the more people that see you, the more effective it feels. Also, go out in your gym gear, wearing a backpack, which looks as though it could contain sports gear, and just go and pick up a few bits and pieces at the supermarket. That counts as exercise in my book.
  3. Not all days are the same. So if you feel like going for a light 10-minute jog one day and then don’t feel like, or have the energy to go for one the next day, then don’t.
  4. Do not fight yourself; it’s a battle you’re always going to lose. I have Fibromyalgia and if I push myself, my body pushes back. Also, I would like to point out here that most people I know who have been athletes at a younger age have a plethora of knee, hip, back and neck problems. Obviously, that is something that happens over time, but the emergency rooms are often filled with people who’ve injured themselves during sport, right?
  5. Make it fun and it’ll get done. Okay, I super pinched this one from the amazing Flylady, but it’s true. And you can get really creative here, i.e. 10 squats while waiting for the kettle to boil.
  6. Netflix + 15 minutes on an exercise bike + 5 mins of 1 kg weights are great!
  7. It’s easier for me to eat healthier than it is for me to exercise and burn off hundreds of calories, so I just generally watch what I eat. Disclaimer: I am allowed to break this rule as and when I want, or is needed.
  8. No smartwatch to tell me how many steps I haven’t taken or any mobile phone app. Nah! I’ll just exercise as and when I can. That way I can say I do as much as possible.

I shall die happy if I have never done a spinning class. I’ve seen those things through gym windows and they are my definition of hell: exhaustion, noise, sweat and lots of people in a tight space. It’s Lazy Exercise all the way for me…

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Elizabeth Jackson

Elizabeth Jackson

I write about adulting hacks I make up as I muddle my way through life. Why? For shits and giggles. | Come & play?