How I stopped hunching over my hiking sticks
By Lena-Jean Charles-Loffel
Find out how getting moving made a big difference to Lena’s mood, health and overall wellbeing.
It’s not news to people that physical activity brings many benefits to our lives. Just by moving our bodies helps maintain our weight, improve our fitness and combat chronic diseases. We can also improve our mental health too by getting some movement into our day.
But what we don’t always recognise are the unique benefits that physical activity can bring to each of us.
My name is Lena-Jean Charles-Loffel, a proud Yorta Yorta and Gunai-Kurnai woman, and I have my own personal learnings to share with you for getting moving.
Picture this! I’m lugging 8kg on my back up the Inca trail in Peru. My feet are getting heavier with each step and I’m hunching over my two hiking sticks, gasping for air. The rest of my tour group had passed me hours ago. I’m on my way to the ruins of Macchu Picchu. It was in this moment I thought I was living my best life. And in so many ways I was, yet, in so many more ways I wasn’t.
Had I put more thought and effort into getting some physical activity into my day before the trip, I would have spent more time enjoying the phenomenal views of Peru and less time looking at the ground and struggling for breath. This trip was when I decided things needed to change. When I returned home, I made a commitment to figure out how I could enjoy getting moving more often.
Looking back, I didn’t realise how much anxiety I had. Seriously, that girl hiking to Macchu Picchu had no idea. By getting moving every day, I was able to combat my anxiety. I had more energy and found some confidence and motivation to take on some pretty awesome challenges. And it all started by just walking my dog down the bush, which soon turned into jogging. I then felt confident enough to join a gym and meet other people who were also prioritising their physical activity and overall health.
Three years have come and gone and I can honestly say I never imagined I’d be living the lifestyle I am now. My alarm rings at 5am, I’m out the door by 5:30am and doing some sort of physical activity by 6:00am. My Sundays are spent running. I’ve run two half marathons (21.1km), taken on the Kokoda trek in Papua New Guinea and am currently training for my first marathon (42.2km) with the Indigenous Marathon Project.
This sounds like a lot, and I guess it is. I’m still shocked sometimes that this is the new me. But between developing a new fitness level and losing 20kg, I have gained so much mentally, including so much that I didn’t realise I had to gain.
I encourage everyone to jump right into getting some more movement into their day. You can start small! Give yourself the chance to try something new, meet new people and learn the potential that lives in you. Challenge the mental blocks – you might even be surprised that you had some you never even noticed before. Everyone has so much to gain from physical activity. We all know this. But each of us have something unique to gain. Find what that is for you. And of course, don’t forget to look back and reflect. I’ll never forget the girl that took on the Inca trail who struggled not only for breath but also with self-confidence. She has taught me so much.
Last updated: July 20, 2022 at: 1:18 pm