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  • Alessandra Large

Movement vs. Exercise. How do you frame it to yourself?

Updated: May 4, 2021

Now this is a tough question and BTW, I don't intend to answer it here, just discuss it (says the eternal social scientist lurking deep within me).

The truth is that, if someone had called it movement to me a bit earlier, I might have started doing it a bit sooner and less begrudgingly. Truth be told the word exercise still leaves a bitter aftertaste in my mouth and a legs, bums and tums class (BBB in Dutch) makes me want to cry (before, during and after). Movement, on the other hand, sounds more natural, organic, dreamy and something that doesn't have to suck. We were made to move and to think, but were we made to run on treadmills or stand on the spot flinging our leg to the side over and over with a resistance band around the ankle and our phone in our hands (and was a hamster made to be put in a cage and to run in a wheel... I implore you to also think twice before caging any animal unless it is a rescue and only knows that way of life) but ANYWAY... Food for thought...

We were designed to move with skill and agility, with fast reactions and from intuition. Whilst we no longer need to climb trees or chase and catch our dinner, we still need to carry our shopping and run for the bus (err... "Alessandra" I hear you say, "that is what Picnic/Ocado is for and GET A WATCH") and we also just want to be able to feel good, fit in our jeans and, let's face it, a party trick never goes amiss (seriously there is literally no functional reason to do the splits, other than to impress your friends. However, there is a lot to be gained from the journey TOWARDS full splits - i'll talk on that another time).

For now, I will tell you a story of a girl in an all girls school (FYI - if you are considering sending your children to a single-sex school, please reach out to discuss with me first).

At the age of 11, she was excited, competitive and a large part of her identity was being 'good' at sport (I have to highlight that she went to the SMALLEST primary school, so it was very easy to be good at things). Then she joined a school where learning how to move well and from enjoyment was not a priority. Are you already great at hockey/netball/swimming? OK, you can be in the A team. Are you just keen to play? Don't bother, but also don't you DARE not try your hardest and if you let a goal in you SHALL be shouted at. Anyone else recognise this? (The good old days). Oh and this coupled with what I now recognise as low self-esteem and body image issues/shyness/being a teenager (again - HOLLA) basically made her hate sport and view it as a punishment. She still swam occasionally and played hockey badly until the age of 17. Then she dabbled in pilates at 18 (on her gap yarrrr) and finally felt kind of interested in moving... But then went straight back to occasionally going to the gym with literally no idea what she was doing or why she was there (oh yes, because of guilt) until the age of 21. AND THEN... she discovered that hula hoop wasn't only for 4 year olds and well... Bob's your uncle.

I found my 'thing' at 21. It was a form of movement that had zero competitive element to it and it really didn't matter whether you were good or bad, it was just fun. It was also really cool at festivals and I once made it to the promo video of a VERY small festival (life = complete). From there, I got curious... I could get sweaty and feel good and it didn't have to feel like torture. I was completely present whilst I was hooping. My mind was busy learning tricks and new things instead of wishing my time away and my body was changing. My coordination was better and I felt stronger and from this, more confident.

I needed and still need my movement to be mindful if I want to stick to it. Luckily, pretty much any movement (I am speaking more from individual movement than team sport, which is of course, really great, just different) can be mindful. If we move from presence and maybe even incorporate awareness of the breath, we can make running, weight lifting, anything mindful.

Don't get me wrong, the feeling of a grueling workout can be super appealing, and to many, a true joy. But I don't believe it should be done as a punishment or out of guilt. Movement should be something we enjoy, something that we don't ONLY enjoy afterwards.

A confession...

I always used to have a little laugh to myself when people told me they were going to 'train' later. I would always think 'what exactly are you 'training' for?' In my opinion, if it wasn't a fight or a marathon, it wasn't 'training'. Lifting weights twice a week, did not count as training in my mind. HOWEVER, it turns out, the joke was on me. The thing is, as silly as the word still sounds to ME, they had/have framed their movement practice as something that is important. Training makes it sound essential and something that is non-negotiable, and, I suppose, they are training their bodies to cope better with daily life/to look better on Instagram. Who was I to judge?

I realise now that it is all about how I frame something to myself. So, if it helps you to say you are 'training' for something (whether you actually are or not), say it! Or call it your 'movement practice', your 'yoga practice', your 'walking to the shops instead of driving', or just stick to good old 'exercise'.

Remember, how we sell something to ourselves MATTERS. Sure, I STILL procrastinate and put moving off, but I now know that I actually really love it. I aim to move from a place of self love and joy (and because I, honestly, can't afford new Levis).

If you need a bit of movement inspo:

1. Keep an eye on my instagram for some tips *

2. Go to my linkt.ree or youtube - Here you will find the links to my 10 minute movement videos, that are designed to be interspersed throughout your day. You can do them with or without a mat and in any reasonably comfy clothes!

3. If you haven't found your thing. KEEP SEARCHING

4. JOIN MY ZOOM CLASSES - every Monday/Wednesday/Friday 07:30 UK time/08:30 NL time

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