“Yep yep I know- we should all do exercise because it’s ‘healthy'” I said to my boyfriend, mouth full of pepperoni and one slice shy of a full dominoes large pizza.
I was in my tracksuit bottoms, spread-eagled on the sofa, and guilty in the knowledge I’d never exercised properly for any period of time in my whole life.
I know I know. There’s health benefits. Its good for you. I’ll get a bikini body. I’ll minimise cellulite and live a longer life…
It’s all well and good having that knowledge, but actually exercising and getting myself out there to do it, well… I kind of always felt like- whats the point?
I’m a big girl. That’s normal. Big is OK, right?
My knees are chubby and look like old men’s faces, but I can live with that.
However, reading Emily Nagoski’s book “Come as You Are” was a game changer for me, because it helped me finally unlock the actual benefits of exercise.
I used to moan like a mofo about doing exercise until all of a sudden it made sense to me about why it’s important.
Because stress is cumulative, so too needs to be your exercise routine to continue to trick your body into feeling safe again.
Basically, I understood what the bloody hell the point of it is (aside from, ya know, keeping your internal organs going and decreasing your risk of nasty illnesses.)
What the fuck is the point of exercise?
Emily (love her!) writes about the idea of the stress response cycle.
Basically, when we see a stressor (this used to be something like a lion/tiger/bear) our brains go into fight or flight mode via the hormone cortisol being pumped into our blood stream.
Cortisol gets us ready for survival, and anything not needed to stay alive (e.g. getting the horn) is shut down in favour of being able to run or fight.
Running away from the stressor keeps us alive (pretty handy ey?), and the act of escaping reduces our cortisol levels because we know we’re now safe.
As they always say- if a tiger is chasing you, you don’t exactly feel horny, do you?
HOWEVER. Because nowadays we have different stressors (e.g. work, the kids or the washing up) we often can’t outrun them- they’re part of our everyday life (chronic stress).
Many of us have super high stress levels.
Mine are (or used to be) so high I don’t even notice I’m stressed because the feeling of being busy is just “normal”!
Because our bodies are in survival mode almost permanently, we’ve got a constant supply of cortisol curtailing our sexual desires.
We don’t WANT sex, or need it, because cortisol is saying “hang on mate- we’re trying to survive here first and foremost, the D is LITERALLY the last thing we need”.
How to shut cortisol up and get back your sex drive
So, because we can’t escape our everyday stress, the solution to a lack of desire lies in manually overriding the stress response ourselves.
To do this, Emily Nagoski recommends exercise, or more precisely, running!
This made SO much sense to me.
We need to trick the body and mind into thinking we’ve run far enough from our stressors that we’re safe, and our brains can reset to relax (and therefore, increase desire).
So, I wanted to incorporate different forms of exercise to see whether any had more or less of an impact on not only my physical health but also on my relationship to my body and to my sex drive.
- Hit the gym. Yes, I got myself a whole blooming gym membership. Post on this coming soon.
- I took up running- see this post on “running for lazy bitches” for more
- I tried yoga (COMING SOON)
- Belly dance (COMING SOON)
To feel the benefits of exercise, it’s not enough to only do it once or twice.
Escaping your stress means taking up regular exercise that can reduce those levels of cortisol in your system on a long term basis.
If your body is in flight or fight mode because of stress, exercise tricks your brain into thinking you’ve outpaced that tiger and reached safety. So it relaxes, produces dopamine again, and you’ve got the green light for sex.
Yes it’s hard work, but if it gets you bonking again, it’s totally worth it!
How about you, do you find exercise impacts on your sex drive?