While I write a lot about health and conditioning, as well as fuelling the body to optimise vitality, I rarely touch on the flipside of the health coin: the issue of illness.
When trying to keep your body fit and healthy forms an integral part of your being, and when you like to be able to control all aspects of your life, ill health becomes not only a physical, but also a psychological drain.
I hate the feeling that I have no control of the cells replicating in my body and that a medical examination is like a test I can’t revise for.
And our tendency as a society, particularly in the UK, to ignore, bury or fail to discuss illness makes suffering all the more isolating and anxious-making.
With this in mind, I recently watched this TEDx talk, shared with me by my friend Ruth. There is something about someone else verbalising the thoughts and feelings that you might have that can alleviate an aspect of anxiety related to a negative diagnosis.
In this talk, as for me, exercise forms part of the solution to that feeling of being disconnected from your body. When you feel that your cells, hormones, glands or neurones are replicating, firing, excreting or degenerating in a way that is outside of your control it can make you feel alien in your own skin. In these circumstances, exercise offers a way to ground and reclaim your corporeal self.
Whereas illness causes resentment towards the body and a feeling that it is conspiring against you, exercise helps to give you back respect for your body and a sense of being at one with it.
When I run, swim, dance, climb or do yoga, it’s not me versus my body, but me and my body, working together and figuring it out.
When our bodies are made up of so many cells and so many complex systems it seems unsurprising that at times things go wrong. I try not to think of illness in terms of ‘fair’ or ‘unfair’, words which are emotive and unhelpful, but in terms of statistics and probability. And while we can do all that we can to weigh the odds in our favour, when you flip the coin you still may get the face you don’t expect.