The Millennial Pilgrim: Find your exercise, make it work for you

If you are not the kind of person who likes to wake up early, do 10 sets of surya namaskar or hit the gym at least four times a week, you are not alone. Exercising is a painful activity. And as much as the popular wellness media may bombard you with articles of how transformative physical activity is for your physical and mental health, you usually tend to process this information only intellectually. Often intense exercising, the kind we need to build that dream bikini body, is punishing to say the least and requires a great deal of discipline and will power.

On most days, will power is a limited resource. It is hard to come by even when you have the best of intentions to get started on the treadmill or pump those weights. Just the other day, my friends and I during a conversation shared a common observation we all had made about our mother's YouTube video watching trends. That they were hooked on to exercise videos but never went beyond taking a walk in the park. It is true, we are far more sensitised about the benefits of exercising than we were ever before. Yet, incorporating it into our daily routine is as difficult as writing with your left hand if you are a righty.

The clinical research on the importance of physical movement unanimously declares it as the single-most important thing for our mental well-being. It's highly recommended for those diagnosed with anxiety and depression. While all this information makes us sign up for gym memberships, the dropout rate is simply criminal. I personally have wasted an entire year's salary on gym memberships before I gave up on it completely. It was only after I discovered a gym in an obscure corner in my office that I really started enjoying exercising. And of course, I wasn't paying any money for it. Clearly, what was stopping me from going and availing the benefits of my gym membership wasn't a lack of intention but the distance between my house and the gym, and lack of time to work out. We often do not account for the number of hurdles between us and exercise. We waste much of our time in picking up fancy clothes and bottles for our gym visits than practically weeding out the factors that make it difficult for us to work out.

Also, if a workout is too structured and repetitive, it cannot keep us interested for long. Incorporating a sport that improves body posture, hand-eye coordination, and brings joy to our life by helping us bond with fellow players makes life far more interesting. I took up squash a few years ago just to spend some quality time with my partner. Not only did it improve my health and relationship, I soon became part of a loving community of people of all backgrounds and ages. The simple point I am trying to make is your workout regime doesn't have to be an isolated, boring repetitive activity. For centuries humans have toiled together. They could endure great physical hardships simply because they did it together. The route to physical fitness can be extremely isolating and lonely if you don't seek out the right community that will bring you up to speed, boost your flagging self-esteem and keep you motivated.

Each one of us is endowed with a kinaesthetic intelligence. If you pay attention to how your body responds to different kinds of movements, you will be able to pin down the modality of exercising that best suits you. Freestyle dancing is another great way to exercise. The therapeutic benefits of dancing are endless. It helps in emotional release, gaining confidence and improves your self-image by leaps and bounds.

Every form of exercising be it running, swimming, cycling, weight-lifting, playing a sport, dancing or yoga has its unique benefits. The idea is to find out what works out best for you.

I tried running and swimming early on in my fitness journey and I could never bring myself to enjoy them. I experimented with a host of other options and finally figured out my body responds best to yoga and freestyle dancing. The runner's high that is so eulogised by fitness bloggers is not for everyone.

There's a yoga high too, just as there is a cycling high. But for you to transcend the pain and hit that spot of absolute bliss, your physical makeup and personality type have to be compatible with that form of body movement. So, test out a variety of forms and types of exercising before settling in for your best fit.

(The writer is a mental health and behavioral sciences columnist, conducts art therapy workshops and provides personality development sessions for young adults. She can be found as @the_millennial_pilgrim on Instagram and Twitter.)

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