Finding Joy in Movement – My Journey and Yours
For me, movement is so intrinsically linked to who I am, it’s irreversibly embedded in my lifestyle. When I was a professional dancer I thought it was the pure love of dance that drove me. But as I grew older and more in tune with my deeper self, I realised it was the physical movement involved in dance that was keeping me hooked. This led into my exploration of physical movement outside of dance in the fitness space, initially for my own personal growth. I realised it was movement full stop that literally moved me: the endorphin high I used to equate with being on stage, I found while running, on the gym floor and lifting weights, and eventually (and most intensely) when I led a group of people on a class journey - their own physical exploration.
Something that really pushed me to take the leap from professional dance to professional fitness was that the physical exploration in the latter could be free from outside judgement. One of the energy drains in being a professional performer is the constant assessment, comparison and competition – everyone working against each other for a coveted role and their moment in the spotlight. Conversely, one of the joys of the fitness space is that there’s room for everyone to move purely for themselves, (and when the environment's right) without judgement or comparison to others. In my practice as a fitness professional this is one of the main drivers for me: creating a space where people can find exercise enjoyable and rewarding, free from judgement of self or others. If there’s one thing I want you to take from this post, it’s that if you don’t think you enjoy exercise, you just haven’t found the right form for you yet.
Movement for Everyone
I firmly believe that there’s a form of movement for everyone – something that makes you feel so good, it’s worth fighting through the temporary discomfort of pushing your body for. To be frank, at a basic health level it really doesn’t matter what this movement is. Maybe it is in the form of structured ‘exercise’ in any of its (infinite) forms! Or maybe it’s less formal like playing with your kids in the garden, cracking on with a full hour of housework with the radio blasting, or walking through the forest with the dog. All of this is great. Keep it up, and throw this non-exercise movement in as often, and as much as you can! Incidentally, it’s the time spent doing these types of things that use up more energy in a day than the one hour of exercise. So if weight management is your goal, this is also useful to keep in mind.
So what about when you want (or need) a little more structure to your movement? Depending on your goals (both personal and whimsy, or on a deeper physical health level), structured, considered movement will need to be woven in. This is often where people start to focus on what they ‘should’ do, rather than what makes them feel good and what they’ll ultimately therefore stick to. For optimal health, all adults need a combination of weight baring and cardiovascular focused exercise (because this is what we’ve evolved to be doing!). Within these two groups there are forms of exercise that fall almost fully into one camp rather than the other, but the majority straddle the line between both to a degree.
If you’re someone that loves to do aerobic style classes like dance cardio or activities like running, you’d be well placed to add weight bearing exercise to keep your muscles, and the structures that support your muscles and joints strong. For some that might look like lifting weights in a traditional way, for others it might be a barre or Pilates class, or even doing simple bodyweight exercises (like squats, press ups, planks) at the end of your cardio. Find something that both balances your fitness programme, but also makes the activity enjoyable for you. There’s no point in struggling through a Pilates class that you find dull for example, because you won’t be focusing properly to get the desired benefits from the class, and ultimately are wasting your time and making yourself miserable! Find something that’s tolerable to you (at least!), and over time as you see your own improvement it will likely become enjoyable.
Many formal exercise classes now offer a strength and cardio hybrid approach, so you get both benefits in one session. This is a style of class I love to both do, and teach! You’ll find this approach in my Dance Bootcamp and (to a lesser degree) Dance Live classes, the LDM Shape Changer classes I teach for Louisa Drake Method (louisadrake.com) and in classes like Barry’s Bootcamp. Even in these examples alone, there’s a range of styles to suit personal preferences, so it’s worth trying as many classes as you can until you find your fit. In a group setting, the vibe of the class will be what keeps you coming back: the instructor, the music, the general atmosphere in class or at that studio, interactions with other clientele, and of course the movement and how it leaves you feeling. Identifying what you like and dislike in these factors can help lead you to a class you can really enjoy.
For others, exercise is a solo pursuit, in which case the onus is on you to change up the variables above to make your exercise experience enjoyable: plan your session so that you achieve what you aim to, play music you enjoy, make your environment welcoming (go outside if that motivates you, put on workout wear that makes you feel good and shut yourself away from distractions so that you can focus). Again, there’s no point in pushing yourself to run if you loathe running! Experiment with different forms of exercise which achieve a similar outcome, and meet yourself where you are: if you’re out of practice or new to an exercise set yourself realistic targets so that you can actually achieve them and celebrate your success, rather than wallow in your failure to achieve an unrealistic goal!
I’m going to leave you with some interesting exercise styles I like, should you be looking to spice up your (fitness) life!
High Energy Dance cardio (of course, it’s one of my favourites!)
Try my Dance Live! Content here: https://www.instagram.com/emilymayhunt/channel/
Try my colleague Bianca Borlant’s Dance Fit content here: https://www.instagram.com/biancaborlant/channel/
Holistic Mind-Body Workouts
Try the Louisa Drake Method here: https://www.louisadrake.com/pages/on-demand-workout-videos
Bodyweight and Primal Flow Workouts
Try Francheska Fit’s content here: https://www.francheskamartinez.com/links
Easy to follow Weight Training Circuits
Try Mr & Mrs Muscle’s content here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCi_J6WNj99ro-9cPZOUrf8Q