Article How exercise is helping me through a difficult time

A difficult time

With this blog I share a very personal story in the hope that it helps others know that they are not alone in their difficult time.

My brother, Mark Andrew Rowen, passed away last month.

At just 62, he is gone too young, but suffered too long through 9 years of cancer and its cruel treatments.

It’s weird how something expected can still hit like a tonne of bricks.

While it’s such a relief for him, how can we get used to the world without him in it?

It’s a difficult time.

How exercise is helping me

It’s probably not surprising that exercise, being such a big part of my life, is helping me get through the loss of my brother.

In this article I’ll explain the ways I feel that exercise is helping me through the grief.

If you’re going through a difficult time, my sincere hope is that there’s something here that’s helpful for you.

Routine is comforting for me

I’m a creature of habit, discipline and routines are important to me.

Some say ‘organised’, some say ‘control freak’ – either way, you get the picture.

My world has been disorganised and out of control since I lost my brother.

It’s a tumultuous time and I’m questioning the importance of everything that crops up in daily life.

However, being an exerciser is also part (a big part) of my identity.

Exercise is a habit and something I do without question or overthinking.

Keeping up my exercise routines is something that I can control right now, and this has brought me some comfort.

It’s my self-care

I know that some people struggle with the idea that exercise is self-care.

How can something that’s dreadful and hard and punishing be self-care?

I believe that all exercise, including the so-called ‘hard/punishing’ type, is absolutely self-care.

How can something done to look after our physical bodies and health be anything but?

So, my physical self-care is certainly ticking over while I keep up my exercise routines.

But exercise is also my main vehicle for mental and emotional self-care.

This is the case no matter the form of physical activity that I do – from higher intensity (running and heavy lifting) through to the most leisurely of walks or having a relaxing stretch on the floor.

I have been leaning towards more soothing forms of exercise lately though.

Exercise to sooth

At times I could not face what I would normally do for exercise on a given day, so I’ve been mixing it up.

I always enjoy swimming, but I only do it sporadically.

The morning after Mark died, I decided to go for a swim and it was the best thing I could have done.

I felt supported in the water and it was very soothing.

Walking barefoot on the beach has also been beautifully calming, as is yoga.

Substituting some of the higher intensity exercise I normally do for soothing options while I go through this difficult time has been very helpful.

It’s my meditation

I don’t practice what would be considered traditional meditation. Exercise is my meditation.

The way I see it, the essence of meditation is focusing the mind, so any practice that helps you focus your attention counts.

When I’m exercising, my attention is focused on what I’m doing, especially my breathing.

It’s so important to breathe in a certain way during strength exercise, and I find it easy to focus on my breath when I’m running or doing other huffy and puffy activities.

When I’m focused on exercise and how I’m breathing, I’m taking time out from my current concerns.

And this is another way exercise is helping me through a difficult time.

It helps me feel better

All the ways that exercise is helping me through grief I’ve outlined so far really just lead to this.

Exercise makes me feel better. This is always the case.

Whether I feel good or bad going into the activity, I always feel better afterwards.

And the good feeling lasts for hours after the workout. It’s not just a fleeting thing.

My clients tell me this all the time and I proved it to myself again this morning.

The previous two days have been stressful and busy, with grief amplifying my reactions.

I skipped exercise those two days and they were hard to get through.

I’ve still got a lot on my plate, but I’m coping today because I went for a run this morning and feel soooo much better. I’m still sad, but it’s not paralysing me today.

I need more than exercise

It’s important to know that I’m definitely not saying exercise is the only thing that’s helping me get through this tough time.

The support and love of the many beautiful people in my life who care about me has been phenomenal.

I can’t thank them enough for their kindness and holding space for me to cry and reminisce and vent all the things that grief has triggered for me.

Exercising has been great, but it’s just one thing.

I generally exercise by myself, but I don’t have to go through this on my own.

I’m getting professional help in addition to the support of my dear family and friends.

Massive realisation

Something strikes me as I go over what I’ve written here.

I’ve reflected on and described how I feel that exercise is helping me through one of the saddest and most difficult experiences of my life.

My massive realisation is that exercise helps me in these ways ALL THE TIME!

These are the lessons I’ve just taught myself.

  • When life seems out of control, getting on with exercise can help me feel like I have some control
  • Exercise is my self-care – physical, mental and emotional self-care
  • I can nurture myself with soothing forms of exercise more often
  • Exercise is my meditation – I actually meditate a lot
  • Always remember – no matter how I feel before, I always feel better after exercise
  • Exercise is not the only thing I need in life – there are many people who are here for me

Keep in touch

Please reach out to me if anything in this article resonates with you.

You can email me at kate@fiftyfitness.com.au or connect via social media.

I’m on FacebookInstagram and LinkedIn.

You can have a read of my previous blogs here 🙂

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This blog was written by

Kate Rowen's avatar

Kate Rowen

I wish to acknowledge and pay my respects to the traditional custodians of the land where I live, work and exercise, the Whadjuk people of the Noongar Nation.