Feeling more generally achy and tired? There is a magic pill to fix that – it’s called movement.
As I’ve gone through midlife, my former athlete’s mindset is no longer in the house. I used to jump out of bed and run around the block, then do an hour of vinyasa yoga to start my day. Slowly (no, pretty quickly), those movement habits slipped. I often would just rather stay in bed. I tell myself that in this time of life, constructive rest is necessary.
While constructive rest and contemplative practices ARE essential for a vibrant second half of life, so is movement – maybe more than ever. But in midlife and beyond, wise active lifestyles require us to move, skillfully, even when we’d rather not. Here is the self-inquiry: when is movement fueling my life force, when is it draining my life force? The same thing goes for rest: when does rest fuel my life-force, and when does it drain? In mid-life as our bodies change, discerning how and how much to move and to rest may be the biggest factor that determines how you feel on a daily basis.
That feeling – that I’d rather just stay in bed feeling – is the feeling of our body’s mitochondria (the very energy centers located in our muscles that keep us feeling and operating well) slowing down and shutting down. Yep – that’s what’s happening on the physical level, inside. What’s happening in our mind is resistance – it’s easy to tell ourselves that we can’t or maybe will later. As we age, our body’s ability to recover needs help. From us. If you stop moving before or after menopause, you begin to age more rapidly – mitochondrial slow down happens more quickly as your muscles atrophy. That makes you feel old, tired, achy.
So, even if you are not feeling motivated. Even if your bed is comfortable and you have nice sheets and the TV is right there. If this is you, repeat this phrase:
Skillful movement begets ability to move. I am worth it. I am worth it right now, in this moment.
Maybe you stay in bed and do some abdominals, and aim to move each joint in your body. Maybe you get up, clean and vacuum. Maybe you start with a walk around the house. Maybe you do a modified version of the scientific 7-minute workout. These movements won’t restart years of slow moving mitochondria (you might need to get a smidgen more vigorous), but it is the first step to get there. Just take the first step. No matter who you are, what age, what ability, you can move. If you are in a wheelchair, wheel and move what you can as you are able to feel better.
As we age, our exercise needs are different than earlier in life. Injuries can last longer. Recovery may happen a little more slowly, but is important – stretching is important. Movements that gently explore and maintain range of motion are critical. Warming up stiff joints with heating pads before moving them can be helpful, as can prophylactic anti-inflammatories before a walk. If you can afford a massage on a monthly or even weekly basis, great. Or try self-massage – Abhyanga, the Ayurvedic practice of self-massage, has improved the quality of my life – I recommend it!
There is nothing wrong with feeling lazy, feeling tired. Our chaotic and difficult world can make us tired even after a perfect night’s sleep. But we do need to get over the fact that we used to be able to recover from pretty much anything with a day of vegetables, water and rest, and perhaps we don’t anymore.
So, I pledge to you that I’ll do it too – get up & out, and exceed the national movement recommendations and move for at least 30 minutes each and every day. Today it’s a modified scientific 7-minute workout and some yoga OR I’ll go to the gym with my husband.
How about you?