by Dr Rachael Hall
From the age of 9 to 17, I practised Judo twice a week, I learnt discipline, dedication, how to be able to do over 100 press ups, sit ups or squats, I learnt to channel my aggression (not deal with it), throw people, pin them down or stranglehold them until they either submitted or passed out. I loved it. The school bullies who used to pick on me for being small or too clever soon stopped hassling me when they found out I did martial arts. It gave me protection. It made me tough. I wielded it as a weapon and as my source of defence.
At 17 during a practice fight I simply paused for a moment to take a breath and in that moment I felt that this isn’t fun, it really hurts to be pushed around, kicked and thrown by another and it frightens me that I am doing this in return. Now that all happened in a split second and I didn’t really know at the time where the words or message came from. I continued with my ‘sport’ for a short period after this but each time the overwhelming feeling of “I can’t do this anymore” and the awareness of the pain I was pushing my body through became stronger until I had to eventually admit that Judo wasn’t for me anymore. My body was telling me to stop even though in my mind Judo made me fit and strong and protected. I wonder how long my body had been trying to say, ‘hey you’re hurting me’, before I actually listened and took notice.
This wasn’t the end of sport for me however; during my time at University I gained considerable weight so in an effort to get fit I took up running. Initially I hated it, I used to cry, I felt like I couldn’t breathe and I was going to die! Then one day I ran without effort, it was so easy and I was hooked. From there I went on to run 10k’s, half marathons and took up Triathlon and sessions at the gym lifting exceedingly heavy weights – proud that I could leg press four times my body weight and keep up with the men. The fitter and slimmer I became the further I wanted to push my body. I used to do events where I’d swim in lakes and rivers in the UK with water temperatures of 16 deg C and NO wetsuit. As my body hit the cold water I felt like I was going to have a heart attack! I told myself I was doing this for fun – not very intelligent considering I had two degrees in the medical field.
I competed in Triathlons for ten years training 10-15 hours a week whether I felt like it or not; even when I was exhausted, had the flu or was injured, I would still train or compete, it was like an addiction. I was slim and fit and could eat huge amounts of food without getting fat. Then aged 32 I started to notice that when I went for my training runs I couldn’t get into it: if truth be told, I kept stopping and starting, couldn’t find a rhythm but pushed on regardless. I found the same happening when I was cycling or during swim sessions. This went on for a few months until one morning five minutes into a run I pulled up with a voice in my head saying ‘I hate this and I don’t want to do it anymore’. I simply turned around, walked home, took off my running shoes and that was the end of my Triathlon days.
Looking back my body was communicating with me, sending me numerous signals telling me exercising so hard wasn’t working but I chose to override that by telling myself how good it was for me, that it was keeping me fit and that I enjoyed it. But in reality I was actually using exercise and sport as a form of self-abuse and punishment and by training so hard I was able to numb myself from feeling and used it as an excuse to eat as much carbohydrate as I could muster.
These realisations came to me years before I had attended any of Serge Benhayon’s presentations; I simply thought that exercise didn’t work for me so I had stopped exercising completely. But what Serge presented was that we need to look after our body, the way that you are with it, what you eat and how you exercise. That it is important to keep it fit but at the same time to listen to your body (I wish I had been a bit smarter at that) and that it is possible to achieve a high level of fitness with gentle exercise alone like walking and swimming for example. Never have I heard Serge tell anyone not to exercise, in fact the truth is quite the opposite.
I felt great resistance to exercising again, but started by going for gentle walks and doing light weight training, taking care not to push too hard, stopping when I felt to and not having any expectations of how far or long I would walk or how many reps in my weight sessions I would do. If it no longer felt gentle or I was getting out of breath, then I said ‘that’s enough, no more for today’, which was a massive shift from the ‘no pain no gain’ mentality I had previously entertained. I now walk most days for up to an hour at a brisk pace, weight train 2-3 times a week, swim now and again and feel really healthy, fit and strong. It’s great to have found a way to exercise in a more respectful and caring way for my body which no longer screams at me that this is not fun or it hurts, but instead shouts with joy that this feels wonderful.