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Exercise. Seriously?

Whilst driving into town this morning, I passed a guy on his bike, let’s call him Dave, and I gave a little whoop of joy. In fact, had it not been a 100kmh highway, I would have pulled over, got out, chased Dave down and hugged him. I don’t make a habit of hugging passing cyclists but Dave was different. Why? Well, as you’ve asked, I’ll tell you. Dave was dressed in his ordinary knee length shorts, t-shirt and trainers, ruckie on his back, and was just cycling along at an ordinary pace enjoying the view. Choice. It made my heart happy. Go Dave!

‘No, I’m sorry, Dawn. Still don’t get it. Explain further, please.’ OK. I shall.

From my recovered perspective, it looks very much to me like physical activity, in all its forms, has been kidnapped by the dark and nefarious diet and fitness industry now rebranded and repackaged as the health and wellness industry but so thinly veiled as to be transparent should you have the mind and care to look, and dragged away in the dead of night whilst everyone was sleeping. Now, it’s being held hostage and ransomed back to us at a rate of 10,000 steps a day.

However you choose to give your body the opportunity to move, whether cycling, walking, running, dancing, swimming, yoga (don’t get me started) or whatever, there’s a prescribed way of doing things, a process, a plan you have to buy, an expert you have to consult, a brand you have to dress in, a brand to put your feet in, an app to download, a fit-bit to monitor it, a target to hit, a specified number of miles/steps/hours to achieve, a predicted number of calories/fat grams/kilojoules to be expended, a facebook group to share your photographic evidence with, an Instagram group to share photographed competitive comparisons with… the list goes on and on.

When did everything become so serious? When did movement stop being for fun? When did it become something you have to control and analyse? When I was growing up there used to be maybe six people in the whole town who were known as ‘joggers’, you know the ones that were so committed they ran on the spot whilst waiting for the traffic lights to change. Now, even pensioners are dressing their dogs in all-weather anoraks, power-walking and fretting over which electronic device is most accurately going to log how many steps they’ve taken. What’s going on?

Look, movement is a good thing. Bodies like to move. Movement is essential for good health but being obsessed with numbers is not good for your mental health and neither is pushing yourself to ridiculous standards and neither is comparing yourself to other people and neither is not trusting yourself to know what to do, how much to do of it and when to start and when to stop.

Dave had it sussed. Out on his bike, moving his body, enjoying the view. I don’t think Dave had consulted his cycling coach as to how fast or far to go that morning and Dave had definitely not Googled what to wear to reduce aerodynamic resistance because his shorts were flapping in the wind. But, Dave looked happy. Be like Dave.

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