There is so much power to existing in the grey area of life, wellness and habits. What I mean is: not looking at your choices and habits through a lens of black or white, all or nothing, this or that. In the time between my sophmore year of college and the age of 26, physical activity was an all or nothing thing. I was either hitting the gym for an hour+ daily or avoiding it all together. I wasn’t exercising from a place of compassion, rather a place of fear/negativity. If I had had a more positive relationship with exercise, it would’ve been easier to engage in movement from a place of self love and care.
Over the last two years, I’ve worked hard to repair my relationship with movement and become intentional with my exercise habits. I’ve learned that exercise is far from an all or nothing engagement. I mean, how silly is to believe that just because you skipped a week of working out, there’s no point to getting back into it? A walk is a walk; and whether you’ve done it daily or today is your first walk in years, it’s important and nourishing to your body.
Exercise: A Positive Habit, Until It’s Not.
Exercise and moving the body is an important health promoting activity. But there is a fine line to walk between having a positive relationship with exercise and having a negative relationship with it or letting it become an obsessive habit. There is a misconception that more is always more. But with physical activity, that’s not always the case. Regularity and consistency are positive, yes; but continuing to chase a higher intensity or frequency can lead things to a less positive place. There are many different signs that might be alluding to the need to improve your relationship with exercise or the need to take a break all together.
Signs Your Relationship With Exercise Could Use Some Attention:
- Your muscles and joints are always sore.
- Always feeling tired and fatigued.
- Feelings of anxiousness over the idea of missing a workout
- Your motivation for exercise is rooted in negative self-talk.
- You’re exercising in order to “burn” or earn” food.
- You dread your workouts but still push through it.
- Lack of joy and fun when you engage in physical activity
- Missing out on social connections and engagements in order to workout.
- You’re experiencing menstrual irregularities (which warrants a check with your PCP or OBGYN!)
- Sudden changes in appetite
- You’re engaging in activities because you think you “should.”
Again life is a grey area. I’d be willing to bet money that out of everyone that reads this very few people identify with all or zero of these signs. Most of you probably exist in the middle somewhere with a lean in one direction or the other. Whether you resonated with one of these statements or ten of them, what do you do now? First we’ll review a handful of ways you can nourish your relationship with exercise, and then you can reflect on how these can apply to your personal habits.
Identifying Positive Intentions For Movement
I used to be right there with the crowd exercising because I was unhappy with areas of my body, or in order to “burn” off calories. But here’s the problem: this leads to exercise being performed out of fear and negative self-talk as opposed to looking at it from a place of abundance. I can not encourage you enough to identify positive intentions for your exercise habits. Things like wanting to feel stronger, more energized, to celebrate your body’s ability or to keep your joints healthy. When you instill positive intentions into your mind and remind yourself of these before you move, you’ll feel connected to your choices and your actions.
Choose Activities That Feel Fun and Bring Joy
Life has enough seriousness, don’t you think? Moving your body should feel fun! Choose activities that light you up. Sure, maybe your friend finds crossfit fun. But that doesn’t mean you have to. Defy conventional exercise. If the gym feels like a drag, ride your bike, go for walks, join a pick up or intramural sports league. Whatever you want! Just try to find activities that you’ll enjoy and want to engage in.
Vary Your Movement Styles and Try New Things
Variety is key for preventing injury, burnout and boredom. Having multiple activities you enjoy is important for the body and mind. Too much of one thing is never a good thing, so switch up every other day or every few days to maintain a sustainable exercise habit. Use movement as an opportunity to try new things. Use an app like Mind Body to explore fitness classes available in your area, partner up with a friend and go try one out! You never know what styles of activity are your favorite unless you give new ones a try.
Embrace Imperfection and Use Caution With Metrics
Look, i’m never going to say it’s wrong to use metrics (speed or weight lifted) as a measure of progress. But I think it’s important to proceed with caution and to not let yourself get wrapped up in consistently beating your previous pace, weight lifted, AMRAP or one rep max. I used to post photos of my run times and caption it “beat yesterday.” That was cool and all, except that when I didn’t beat yesterday I felt disappointed. Like I had let my self down, and had done something wrong. I’d start blaming it on my warm up, my breakfast, my self-discipline. You see where this is going, right. If you want to create a joyful and positive relationship with exercise, you need to embrace your human-ness and be okay with the fact that our physiology will result in ebbs and flows on a regular basis. Related: use caution with fitness trackers.
Understand That Fitness Isn’t Everything
It’s okay to not engage in exercise today. Maybe you’re really stressed. Or you aren’t feeling well. Perhaps you have a social gathering to attend with friends or family members. It’s okay to live your life and miss a workout In lieu of nourishing yourself in a different way! Relationships, connection, enjoying food, pursuing your career goals, engaging in hobbies; these are all important pieces of life and can be just as nourishing to your body as your workout.
Listen To Your Body and Give It What It Needs
Nothing irks me more than hearing or seeing people on social media or IRL say, “feeling tired but pushing through anyway” or “I’d rather be napping, but here we go.” If your body is telling you its tired, odds are it needs rest, not a one hour elliptical session. Give it what it needs. Muscles feel tired and achy? Opt for a slow walk and stretch session as opposed to a weight lifting. Feeling under the weather? For goodness sake, please do your body a favor: hydrate and rest and opt for restorative movement — only if your body is up to it. Your exercise routine will be there when you’ve recovered.
Seeing Exercise As Self Care and Not Self Punishment
Please please please do me a favor and try to never again use a statement related to “I have to do this work out to burn off/earn/make up for eating ______________.” How do you make exercise something you dread? You equate it to punishment as opposed to something that makes you feel taken care of and nourished. You are a human being, not a calculator. We are more than the addition and subtraction of calories and macro nutrients. Regardless of how and what you eat, move your body simply because it is an act of self care. Move because it feels good and makes you happy, not because you enjoyed a slice of pie and wine with your best friend. The pie, wine and connection is just as important to your health.
Time for Some Self Reflection!
Take the time to write out your answers to the following prompts and to nourish your own positive relationship with exercise
- 5 Positive Reasons To Move My Body
- The physical activities that bring me joy are________________.
- I can tell my body needs extra rest when __________________
- I CHOOSE to move my body because it makes me feel __________________
- My favorite forms of movement are ______________________
- A style of movement I have been wanting to try is ______________________
- I am proud of my body and its ability to _________________________
- ___________________ makes me feel strong and empowered.
You have the power to cultivate a positive relationship with movement and to use exercise as self-care. It might take a little bit of mindset work and personal reflection, but it is possible.
Want to talk about this more? Send me a shout and we can discuss your personal opportunities to foster positive and joyful exercise habits.
Thank you so much for reading and I wish you a joyful day.