VSan exercise brings joy and if not can I hoe it, Marie Kondo style? I write this from my traditional position: a hunched, static ball, like a gargoyle (expression and posture). As one of the 47% of British women who have not done any vigorous exercise in the past year, I barely move. It’s gotten worse recently: the dog is too old for long walks, Pilates is too far away, meaning I’m paying £35 a month just to feel guilty, and I’m really busy, okay? (If you could raise your heart rate with a defensive attitude and an apology, that would be fine.) The last six months have been my least physically active since I had glandular fever at 19, a time I look back on with nostalgia: sleep for 14 hours, read for 10 minutes, snack, then return to sleep.
I feel bad: stiff, achy and insomniac. But is it because sitting in front of a laptop for 12 hours a day and then moving to the couch to stare at a bigger screen is objectively bad for me, or is it because I’m culturally conditioned to believe it’s Wrong ? OK, that’s the first one, but the peer pressure is also overwhelming. Every middle-aged woman in media has chiseled deltoids, a six-pack, and a story about the bliss of getting ripped. I’m thrilled that we can soon, collectively, literally crush the patriarchy, but I’m definitely not pulling (lifting) my weight.
I need to move that tired piece of meat, but I never found the exercise really enjoyable, which is why I watched the eight-and-a-half-minute Joy Workout. A little joy would be nice – simple, wholesome joyrather than the damage variety, which appears to be the only one on UK shelves currently. Plus, no one is so busy they can’t spare eight and a half minutes – I spent more than that staring at the Daily Star lettuce last week.
Designed by health psychologist Kelly McGonigal, the workout combines moves that elicit positive emotions and are overtly joyful, cross-cultural, and is set to a soundtrack “aimed at enhancing positive emotions.” There is a video to follow, in seven thematic sections. I tried it and present my findings in case you too seek joy through (manageably short) movements.
Start scope section, I realize that I expected him to be less…exercise? The achievement is hell on my tight shoulders. Sway, a gently expansive side-to-side motion, makes me look like one of my aunts at a wedding before Come on Eileen arrived; I move away from the window. “How would you like to throw your fists in the air?” the rebound asks the section, to which the response is “terrible”. Shake is a moment of respite, but it takes me six seconds of Jump to hiss, “I hate this.” And when the perky voice-over suggests I “try some puppets,” I default to the anguished howl of a wounded rhinoceros. Celebrating is supposed to feel like throwing confetti; here it feels like a crisp, popping wake to my spine.
The final section, Freestyle, invites you to improvise, which I do with all the loose, rhythmic abandon of one of those heavy-cloaked priests at the Queen’s funeral. Then I notice I have another annoying email: I check it, swear, then sit down and start working again. That’s why I can’t have nice things, like functional shoulders.
I’m not sure you can create a lot of joy by following a special exercise recipe. It tends to come up when you least expect it, I find. The closest I’ve come right now is riding a bike. I never had the balance or the courage to ride a bike but I took an introductory course this year, and with encouragement, kindness and the occasional prompt, something clicked. Now I look for excuses to pedal down quiet streets and bike paths, feeling fast (for me – I always get passed by infants and extremely old people) and free. Sometimes, on my bike, I’m momentarily consumed by childlike joy: the breath of air, the playfulness, the feeling that being alive is incredible, really. Is that what the exercise demons are talking about? I guess it could work its way.
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