Lagom: How to Find Balance in Fitness
Lagom (pronounced ‘lah-gom’) is the latest wellbeing trend to hit our shores from Sweden to teach us the importance of living a more balanced life.
And lagom can have a profound effect on our physical health if we apply its concepts to our exercise routines.
Even Einstein knew that there was a link between balance and movement: 'Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.'
So what exactly is lagom?
The Goldilocks Principle
Lagom is all about finding a middle path: not too much, not too little, but just enough.
The idea of lagom recalls Robert Southey’s fairy tale, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, where a little girl tries three bowls of porridge and finds one too hot and one too cold but the third bowl is neither too hot nor too cold; it is ‘just right’.
This is a good analogy for Swedish society, which is well known for its equality, democracy and fairness.
The Swedish way is ‘everything in moderation’, with no room for excess, showing-off and no extreme behaviours.
Humility is prized more than competitiveness, which is not actively encouraged.
Families raise their children to believe that they are part of a whole. No-one is better than anyone else. All are equal.
We could all listen to and learn from lagom’s calm, rational and balanced approach to life, applying its principles in our own lives and fitness routines.
Doing ‘Just Enough’ Exercise
In Sweden, people love to incorporate their exercise into their daily life.
Walking is the main method of transport, and ‘Motion’ is something that is greatly encouraged.
The principle behind this is simple: just move more.
It doesn’t have to be difficult. Just get off your bus a stop early and walk the rest of the way, take a stroll in your lunch break at work, or dance in the kitchen with the radio on.
Exercise for All
In Sweden, there is a non-profit sports organisation run by volunteers with over half a million members called Friskis and Svetis.
Their website states that ‘Friskis & Svettis is a common denominator for people of all ages, lifestyles and interests’.
They realise that exercise must be ‘fun’ for us to continue with it, and describe their gyms as ‘a free zone from performance requirements. With us, you'll be just the one you are.’
They classify themselves as being ‘in the experience industry’ rather than ‘the health industry’.
The Swedish concept of equality is so apparent here, and there is something very encouraging about this non-competitive and inclusive approach to keeping fit.
Exercising outdoors in nature is a huge movement over there and there are a lot of outdoor fitness clubs.
This is probably because of the Nordic philosophy of ‘friluftsliv’ which refers to the benefits of an outdoors life, combined with their very generous constitutional right of public access to nature, known as ‘allemanstratten’.
Camping, woodland walks, barbeques, exercising in the park in groups, or picnicking whilst doing some gentle stretches are all part of the lagom lifestyle.
A balance between city and nature, exercise and rest.
And when exercise is incorporated into your life in this way, as a simple commitment to moving more every day, it is not hard to keep that promise to yourself.
Exercising the Swedish way is sustainable.
Lagom and HIIT
High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is something that has been very popular for a few years now.
It involves short bursts of high intensity, all out effort for a few seconds, usually for 1 minute, then rest periods.
You can burn a lot of calories, improve cardiovascular fitness, tone your body and rev up your metabolism for 24 hours after the session, and all these benefits can be experienced with only 8 minutes a day of HIIT exercise, 3 days a week.
HIIT, with its balanced emphasis on exercise then rest for a few minutes a few times a week, seems to fit with lagom and the essence of not too much, not too little.
Whilst the exercise can be strenuous, and you should seek the advice of a doctor before starting any new exercise regime, it is not something that is unachievable. I say this from experience, and as someone who is not particularly sporty and who has never really exercised.
My humiliating school P.E lessons put me off exercise for life. Being made to reluctantly run around a freezing Wintry field for an hour in gym shorts twice a week and being yelled at didn’t really inspire much motivation in me.
The only time I have ever stuck to an exercise routine, which I devised myself (cycling on an exercise bike, 30 mins every day, and a short aerobics session that I put together with the few exercises that I knew such as sit-ups, press-ups etc) was before my wedding in 2015. My motivation was, I’m afraid to day, vanity. I wanted to fit comfortably into my corseted wedding dress and to be able to breathe in it. No Victorian swooning or fainting for me on my big day!
But HIIT, combined with more lagom-style movement in my everyday life, such as walking, is something that fits into my life perfectly now without being too much or too little. It is just the right amount.
No Excuses Needed
So, with lagom as your guiding principle, and HIIT sessions, you will find that the usual excuses we make to avoid exercising fade away.
No time, or find exercise boring?
It’s only 8 minutes, three times a week. We could do it whilst we’re watching T.V or in the ad breaks. 8 minutes goes quickly, and then you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing you’ve done your exercise routine for the day.
The feel-good endorphins released during exercise will give you energy. And you only need to need to work out for a minute or so, and then you have a minute to rest and build your energy back up. It is invigorating.
No money for the gym, or embarrassed about working out in front of other people?
No matter. Just do it at home as no special equipment or kit is needed.
If you have tried exercise before but have fallen off the wagon with it, just try again with this very balanced and achievable form of workout.
In the time it takes to a make a cup of tea and have a biscuit, you could have completed your exercises for the day and enjoy feeling the benefits and inner glow of knowing you’ve made a positive step forward for your wellbeing, and all with perfect lagom-style balance.
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