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Giving up or taking up – a choice for Lent

This is the week that Lent begins and no sooner have the pancake ingredients been packed away than many people start thinking about giving something up for the next six weeks.

While Lent has its roots firmly in Christian religion, the concept of giving something up for a while has been embraced by the wider community. Fasting for short periods has become popular as a way of boosting health and helping weight loss; cutting things such as sugar and chocolate from the diet is a further means of promoting weight loss; and giving up cigarettes and alcohol is a target that many people set themselves as they seek a healthier lifestyle. It is the contemporary version of Lent.

Here, I am advocating turning the idea on its head and actually ‘taking something up’ for the next six weeks. By all means give up chocolate, snacks or alcohol through this period of Lent but replace it with something that will give you a new outlook on life.

Here are just some of the many, many options for taking something up this Lent.

Class-based fun

If you are a solo artist when it comes to exercise, how about giving a class a try. Just for six weeks, add a class to your work-out routine. It could be spinning, boxercise or circuits or you could really challenge yourself and learn a whole new skill – maybe a dance or a martial art. The concentration required to learn something new will challenge your brain as well as your body and, by using different moves, you will use different muscles, which will challenge you physically as well.

Pump up the muscles

Many of us shy clear of free weights, believing that we don’t possess the knowledge or the brawn to pump iron. Well, research suggests that we could all benefit from doing some weight training as it is one of the means by which we stop our muscles atrophying as we get older. This doesn’t mean lifting sinew-popping huge weights, but a weekly workout with some appropriately heavy weights will help tone and strengthen muscles all over your body. Talk to the Kelsey Kerridge gym instructors or personal trainers to get advice on how to lift weights safely.

women weight lifting

Change the pace

Do you get on the treadmill and set it to the same pace and distance each and overtime? Or do you religiously row five kilometres before getting on the stationary bike and bang out 20k? It is sometimes a good idea to throw a speed session into the mix. By doing a sprint session on the treadmill or speeding up (and slowing down) on the bike and rower, you are challenging your body’s energy systems to work harder. It is proven that our bodies adapt to exercise, so if we are doing the same thing each and every time, there will be a point when your body gets little benefit from the efforts.

Take a moment for yourself

How often do you just empty your mind and think about nothing? Chances are this happens very infrequently, if at all. The 24/7 society we live in often leaves us with very little time for just doing nothing and yet, just as our bodies need a complete rest from time to time, so do our minds. While yoga itself is a very active and thoughtful process, connecting body, breath and mind in a tough sequence of exercises, it is also an activity that builds in time to empty your mind. Savasana or corpse pose at the end of a practice is the perfect opportunity just to lie down and relax everything. Consider taking up Yoga to give up on stress this Lent.

My final offering this Lent is the idea of ‘free-styling’ it in the gym. Forget your regular work out routine and just have a go at everything you normally avoid. Battle ropes? Give it a go. Pull-ups? Even if you just dangle from the bar, you are still getting a good stretch. Going to the gym doesn’t have to be about order and routine, it should also be about having fun.