29 Mar “I exercise so there is more of me, not less of me.” – featuring Shelly Johnson, blogger at Love is Stronger
This week’s blog features the awesome Shelly Johnson – when I first read her piece about her love of walking I’d been sitting at my computer for hours – staring at the sea but not quite getting out there. It inspired me to get outside that day! Like lots of people, I know I’ll always feel better afterwards, but it can take a bit of a push to get going.
I also speak to lot of people who feel that walking doesn’t really ‘count’ and what resonated with Shelly’s piece was that not only does it ‘count’ but it counts in SO many ways. Finding a way to get moving that you enjoy can bring a whole host of benefits – from mental health to physical and beyond.
Shelly was kind enough to let me get nosy and ask her a bunch of questions about her experiences and the awesome art work she creates as well.
So Shelly, could you tell my readers a bit more about yourself –
I blog at Love is Stronger, and I am also a philosophy instructor at Georgetown College in Georgetown, Kentucky. I have a PhD in philosophy, and I specialize in philosophy of education, ethics, and social and political philosophy. I write a lot about love and education, but I also write and research the philosophy of play sometimes, which I really enjoy. Before I went to graduate school, I was a middle and high school English teacher for over a decade. In both my teaching and writing, I strive to empower people to think clearly and be confident and joyful in their life. In my spare time, I love hanging out with my husband, John. I also enjoy reading, writing, walking, drawing and painting.
How was it that you came to go walking regularly?
About a year ago, I realized I was unusually stressed out and anxious because I had just finished my PhD program and changed jobs. I realized one day that I had not gone for a walk in ages and had been spending an excessive amount of time indoors. I also realized clearly that this was contributing to my stress. So, I went for a walk and felt so much better. I was less stressed and felt more free and peaceful. I went the next day, and I felt even better. A few weeks before this, I had begun a breathing practice, and I suddenly realized that it helped me have more energy for walking long distances like eight, ten, and fourteen miles. I fell in love with walking, and I loved being outdoors. So, I’ve kept walking all this year.
What makes you get up and go when you really don’t feel like it?
Over the past year, I learned that our bodies crave movement and nature. When we spend time moving in nature, we have more energy, we think more clearly, and we are more strong and confident as well. I realized that moving regularly helps us be the most powerful version of ourselves. I want to feel powerful and be able to do powerful things. So, sometimes when I don’t feel like walking, I remind myself that walking gives me power—physical, emotional, and mental power. That’s really motivating to me. I also almost always see cool and unique things on my walks, and so I tend to view them as adventures now, which also motivates me. Who doesn’t love adventures?
I love how your blogs cover the experiences you have when out and about – do any particular walks stick in your mind?
I have several! The day I first walked eight miles stands out to me. Before that walk, the furthest I had ever walked was about four miles. It was really exciting for me to realize, “Wow, I have become a long-distance walker.” I felt like I could do anything.
Another time, I saw a beautiful black and blue butterfly on my walk. I stopped and sat down on a bench to watch it. It landed on the ground next to me, and I marveled at its beauty for a few minutes. I love butterflies.
Lastly, I had a beautiful rain walk this fall. When I first started walking, it was summer, and the weather was conducive for walking comfortably most of the time. I wanted to keep walking all year round, but I was a skeptical about how I would do walking in rain and snow. It took me a while to get used to walking in different kinds of weather, but one time I went on a four and a half mile walk in the rain, and it was wonderful. I felt proud of myself.
What has your relationship with exercise and movement been like in the past?
I have always been a somewhat active person. I used to do aerobic dance in high school and college, and I loved it. I also played volleyball and basketball in high school one year. I always loved the way exercise made me feel, but in my teens and early adult life, I felt pressured (as most women do) to use exercise to shrink my body and make it fit cultural beauty standards. I began to view exercise mostly as a way to maintain or lose weight. This made exercise a chore and punishment. Eventually, it made me want to quit exercising, and I did for a while.
How does that compare with where you are now?
I have a much healthier relationship with exercise now. I regularly tell myself, “I exercise so there is more of me, not less of me.”
By this, I mean that I exercise so I am more powerful physically, emotionally, and mentally. I exercise for myself now and not to meet some arbitrary standard culture sets for me. These mental changes have caused me to embrace exercise wholeheartedly, and I find it a joy now.
Tell us a bit more about your blog and your art
The goal of my blog, Love is Stronger, is to empower people to create a better world together through kindness, respect, and compassion. To do this, I believe we must learn to treat ourselves and our bodies with kindness, respect, and compassion. So, if you stop by my blog, you will notice that I write a lot about body-love and self-love, and then I also write a lot about politics. We cannot treat other people well if we don’t understand how to treat ourselves (including our bodies) well. These things go together.
My art is one of my favorite parts of writing my blog. I used to draw all the time when I was little, and then I took a long break from drawing. I didn’t pick it up again until I was in graduate school. I began drawing little comics and pictures and posting them on FB because they made my friends and colleagues laugh. It was a great way to relieve stress.
And then I started drawing more and doing watercolor paintings with my drawings. And I got hooked. Now I can’t stop drawing and painting, and I do most of the artwork for my blog. It’s a wonderful hobby.
Anything else you’d like to add?
I enjoy somewhat unusual forms of exercise. I really enjoy juggling and hoop-dancing, and I like doing cartwheels and handstands, too.
I love Shelly’s realistic and honest approach to getting outside and the host of benefits it’s brought (I now also want a podcast so that I can natter on with her about the benefits of play as well 😝). I know that I always love the very random sightings I manage to see when up on the downs or wandering in the surf (most recent – seagull trying and failing to eat a starfish!!). It’s that aspect of the unknown – and the joy in getting out there even in crappy weather! Why not get out there and have a nose at it all yourself?
I do know that walking isn’t possible for everyone, but there are so many things that you could try – check out my earlier blog in Brighton and Hove for ideas on inclusive movement in your area.
Liked what you’ve read and want to find out more? Check out Shelly’s blog here to read more and see more of her fab art work.