Dancing her way to a better future, Shanika Trotman knows the importance of movement when it comes to longevity in the office, gym, and at home.
At work, at home, and in the studio, she’s sharing the important message of why you should stay active at your own pace.
Read more about Shanika’s motivation for moving with family, the importance of introducing exercise to children, overcoming the sedentary effects of desk life, shedding the intimidation of gyms, and how to better understand yourself for years of physical activity enjoyment.
Moving every day at work, home, and play
“I’m Shanika, I’m 30 years old. I work for easyJet in quite a sedentary job and, outside of work, I do a lot of dancing. I’m trained to teach Latin and ballroom dancing, and I’m currently doing a salsa qualification as well with a local dance school. As well as keeping moving, I really love the social aspect of it all.
“Keeping active is so important. You sit down at work all day. You don’t move and it’s so easy to not realise the effect that’s having on your body.
"It can start shortening your spine and affecting all of your ability to move if you’re not careful.
"You need to keep moving and be active to keep your body in working order as you get older.
“Even if it’s just shoulder rolls… I find myself at my desk and I’ve hunched so far over myself that I have to sit back, take a breath, and do 10 shoulder rolls to keep that positioning that opens your chest.
"You feel so much better for it afterwards as well because it increases your lung capacity as well as just keeping your joints in shape. It’s so important.”
Exercise to keep family safe and be “the fun auntie”
“What first inspired me to get moving was definitely my family. My family started to change. My cousins started to have little kids, and I was looking after them one day in the park.
"As I was running after them to keep up, I realised that I would really struggle in some situations if one of them was in danger. Not just for me, but for these kids that I love with everything, I need to keep active so I can keep them safe.
“It was partly that and partly understanding how my body was changing. My metabolism was slowing down. We’ve all gone through that point where you can’t keep eating everything that you want anymore, because you just start carrying it.
"I felt sluggish and didn’t have a good level of energy at any point. I just felt that I needed to get back on the horse and kick myself back into gear.
“That motivation of playing with the kids and not having to say ‘auntie Shanika needs a break for 10 minutes’ is powerful. I want to be that auntie that gives them all the memories of doing all the fun things like going to the park and riding bikes.
“My brothers are both into fitness so it’s a great way to connect with them as well. My other half plays a lot of football as well, so I kind of didn’t want to be left behind or be the one who can’t keep up. My family keeps inspiring me to move more.”
What are the barriers to exercise?
“In terms of barriers to exercise, I’m definitely a fair-weather workout person. I really struggle when someone says ‘let’s go out for a run’ and it’s raining.
"I usually just think ‘absolutely not.’ I can find that really difficult. Same with if it’s dark and your energy is naturally really low, so I personally really struggle to pull myself up and get out and about.
“I always really enjoy summer to get moving, but by that point it’s easy to be in a negative body image headspace. That can perpetuate even more paralysis.
"It’s easy to think ‘I’d really love to do it but my body’s not ready,’ and then, all of a sudden, you’ve missed the summer. I’m trying really hard to break through my winter blues when it comes to working out.
“My favourite way to keep moving is definitely dancing or group exercise. I find that sometimes I can go to the gym and I feel really lost or overwhelmed.
"There are so many machines and it’s not always easy to approach someone to say that you don’t know how to do something. With as much will in the world, you can watch as many YouTube videos as you like explaining how to use a machine, but you still feel self-conscious in the gym. I just find it really intimidating.
“In group class settings or when you’re learning to dance, everyone’s really encouraging and supportive, so you don’t ever really feel like you’re on your own. You don’t feel like you’re being singled out and watched. That’s my favourite way to do exercise.”
How to overcome barriers to exercise
“For anyone starting out on their journey of physical activity, even a walk is OK. Just increase your steps over time to get your body and heart used to it. It may feel really intimidating, but one of the things I did – because I didn’t really know where to begin – was make little changes such as taking the stairs instead of taking the lift or escalator.
“Making little changes like that can start getting you into a much more positive headspace. You’re further along the journey than the person who’s not making those changes. Even one push-up is better than the fact you did no push-ups yesterday. Being really kind to yourself and taking time would be my advice.
“I used to sit and watch Strictly Come Dancing and think ‘I really wish I could do that,’ or ‘don’t they look elegant doing that in the samba and salsa?’ I used to sit and wish before, but now I can, because I took the first steps.
"I don’t want my life to pass me by and get to the point where I’m much older and struggle to move. I want to use my body while I have it, while I can look after it, and while I can keep recovering.”
The importance of understanding effort levels
“Effort is so important for your recovery. If you understand your effort levels, it helps with your endurance and recovery through a workout.
"You can understand when you need to push or if you’re going too hard and need to give yourself a break. If you push too hard then you’ll end up injuring yourself and spend more time out of doing exercise than being active.
“It’s just really important to acknowledge that everyone has their own journey and everyone has their own pace. So even though there are things about community, don’t compare yourself to other people too much.
“One of my closest friends has run marathons and does all kinds of Ironman things, but that’s not me. I love to dance. If I was constantly competing or comparing myself to them, I would probably never exercise again because I’d always be the one that’s not good enough.
“When you find your niche and you find your passion, then explore it. Everyone has a movement passion.”
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