Why Am I Allergic to Exercise?

As I unwrapped several layers of colourful paper, I was filled with a mixture of excitement and dread. My heart rate accelerated with each movement of my fingers as I guessed what laid beneath.

“Come on, rip it up!”

“Here, give it to me. I’ll open it for you.”

“Typical. She’s saving the paper for future use.”

I smiled. Given the chance, my children would have pounced and ripped the wrapping. I did not want to rush.

The last piece of paper fell on the floor. I now held a white box in my hand. A small box that held the key to better health. For, being continuously told that I was unfit, had finally got to me. I asked for a Fitbit as a Mother’s Day gift. A choice I hoped I would not regret.

“Let’s go for a walk and try it out,” said my son.

“It’s not charged yet.” I replied at once, a tinge of relief in my voice. I needed time to calm my racing heart.

Forget the mistakes. Remember the lessons.

To understand the above, I must explain that I have a bad reaction every time someone suggests some form of exercise. I break out in a cold sweat. My ears start thumping and my body feels heavy. That might seem like a silly reaction when I know that exercise is good for the body and mind. Not only does it help with weight loss, it can also act as an anti-depressant. But I cannot help it, my brain goes into overdrive.

Years ago, I was quite active. I would wake up at the crack of dawn and run several miles. I also joined the local gym, took up dance classes and aqua aerobics. I even encouraged my children to take self-defence classes, football, horse riding and swimming.

I enjoyed running. I practised in my hallway, building up endurance before venturing out into the streets. Several weeks later I was running three times round the block without stopping. I found running along the river at sunrise most uplifting. With no one about, I had the world to myself. I was on a roll. But all that came to end when I had to relocate. The change in my environment led me to become stagnant.

On and off I tried to get back into an exercise routine. But ten minutes in and I would be thinking, “I want to stop. I can’t keep going.”  Instead of hitting the treadmill, I sat on a yoga mat and read a book. My last Fitbit was not in synch with my phone, so I used to cheat by shaking my wrist to speed up the steps. Even resistance bands have been used to tie one thing or another around my house.

I lost the plot. I sat on the sofa and cheered athletes on TV. My gym ball became a footrest. I felt like I had completed some HIIT workout every time I came back from grocery shopping, loaded with six overflowing bags and climbing three sets of stairs. I was convinced I had lost 2000 calories just by panting and sweating.

I kept my family both amused and appalled by my lack of enthusiasm. I would not be surprised if they made funny videos of me doing the plank. The look on their faces and the shake of their heads in despair, were a good indication of how hopeless I was.

“Rule your mind or it will rule you”- Buddha  

The reason I do not like exercising is because I hate experiencing any type of discomfort. I wish there were machines that would do all the effort. I cannot understand people who are obsessed with gym and spend half of their monthly salary on membership and exercise gear. I know some who ‘live’ in branded sportswear and feel more comfortable in a pair of trainers. I would rather hit the town for a cocktail with friends.

Spring is the time of year when we ditch our thick clothing and feel more conscious about our bodies. As it is often the case, we discover that all our idleness of winter months comes with a price: lack of muscle and too much fat. We might feel sorry for ourselves, but we do not regret the indulgence of comfort food.

I have decided to regain some elements of my former routine and ditch procrastination. I am proud to say that I have not cheated. My phone is collecting accurate readings.  I am in for the long haul, a commitment that I need to honour. I know the journey will not be easy, but if I persevere, starting with a daily walk, it might end with a marathon sometime in the future. Well, time will tell.

And God Created Women

It all started with a march that took place in 1908. Thousands of garment workers went on strike, marching through the streets of New York demanding better pay and working condition. Four years later, in 1911, the first International Women’s Day was celebrated.  

Every 8th of March, across the globe, women stand together, fight for the end of discrimination and celebrate those who have achieved economic, social, cultural, and political success.

Yet, in some parts of the world and indeed in many households, women still face discrimination and inequality. While they perform the bulk of household duties, it is often the men who get special credit for the little they do.

My mother did not have a beautiful life. Growing up, I occasionally witnessed her feeling helpless, afraid, and insecure. I did not know why. No one asked, ‘What can I do for you?’. Instead, she was made to feel bad with ‘What’s wrong with you?’.

It is only after learning about myself while exploring areas that stunt me from growth, that I got a glimpse of what would have been my mother’s despair. Through a long emotional process, I have learned to get through the feelings of helplessness and sadness. It is a constant battle, fighting not to be sucked in by the negative energy of others.

Not only was she a wife and mother, but for many years she was the main breadwinner. On top of childcare and household chores, she provided us with basic material needs such as food, shelter, and clothing. She was a proud woman who never asked for help. She portrayed herself as a strong woman when she was probably on the brink of despair. She gave up her independence dedicated her life to the ones she loved.

Why didn’t she challenge the discrimination and inequality she must have felt? Her sole purpose was to love and guide her children and stand behind her husband. She inspired us to go to great lengths to attain our potential. Did she struggle with mental health? I have not a single doubt though she hid it well.

My mother laid the foundation for the person I have become, through her hard work and selflessness. I cannot thank her enough for the love and support over the years; for working so outrageously hard to give me a life worth living. She should have been celebrated every single day, not just on Mother’s Day. She should have been celebrated for being an exceptional woman, a jewel, a rare pearl.

On 14th of March, it is Mother’s Day in the UK. While I will be celebrating the bond that I have with my children, I will also take a moment to think of the one woman who dedicated her life to motherhood. A beautiful soul who was never celebrated as a woman. My role model, my mother.

“Each time a woman stands up for herself, without knowing it possibly, without claiming it, she stands up for all women.” – Maya Angelou

“There’s power in allowing yourself to be known and heard, in owning your unique story, in using your authentic voice.” – Michelle Obama

To my mother, the woman God created. Happy Women’s Day. Happy Mother’s Day