You know how some people are scared of intuitive eating and giving themselves unconditional permission to eat because they think they’ll overeat previously forbidden foods and never eat fruits and vegetables? I find the same fear exists in people regarding intuitive movement. Some people are afraid to leave behind mainstream gym culture or regimented exercise programs because they’re afraid they’ll never work out again. This stems from the extremes of yo-yoing when it comes to eating and exercise – some people are either all in and on a diet and exercise regimen or (when that gets to be too much) they overeat all the foods they were restricting and quit exercising. Unfortunately this is the pattern that our culture sets up and not surprisingly, it’s not good for mental or physical health. The key is trusting ourselves to know when, what and how much to eat and move our bodies.
If exercise doesn’t change your body, why do it?
There is so much more to exercise than its impact on our physical appearance. One time in my early 20s I was lifting weights in the gym and a guy came up to me and asked me what I was training for. I was so confused … I said “… life?” That was the first of many times I’ve received comments or unsolicited advice from men at the gym.
Can people accept that it’s possible to work out for the sheer enjoyment of it and how it makes us feel rather than to look a certain way? (And that a female can enjoy lifting weights without having to be training for a fitness competition?)
Here’s the thing: when we hinge exercise on our appearance, we’re less likely to have a positive relationship with it and we’re more likely to go through periods of intense exercise and periods of being complete sedentary. It can even lead to an exercise disorder that has serious health consequences. When we exercise for reasons other than appearance, it becomes a habit that is neither extreme nor punishing. It’s truly enjoyable and we reap the mental, physical and emotional benefits of moderate, regular activity.
Humans naturally like to move.
Give yourself the space and freedom to tune in and really feel your body and listen to it. What kind of movement sounds good? What works with your physical abilities? When does your body get antsy for movement? What makes you feel the best? How do you feel when you don’t exercise?
Just as gentle nutrition comes after we make peace with food, following physical activity guidelines come after we build a healthy relationship with exercise. We must first find what feels good, then we can work on fine-tuning things once we have a positive relationship with food and exercise.
Trying a variety of strength, cardio, flexibility and balance activities will help you explore various types of activities and learn what you enjoy most and what feels the best. If you’re into the gym scene and are eager to try equipment, work with a fitness professional to show you the ropes.
You’ll find more enjoyment in movement.
Once you explore all the benefits of exercise that have nothing to do with how you look, you’ll start building deeper motivation to make it a habit and actually enjoy it more.
- Enhanced stress management (sometimes sweating can feel downright therapeutic)
- Better sleep (fall asleep quicker and sleep more deeply)
- Feeling more energized during the day (wake up your body by moving and stretching)
- Stronger muscles and bones (for better functionality as we age)
- Increased lung capacity (for not getting winded doing everyday activities)
- Reduced risk of chronic disease (such as heart disease and diabetes)
- Better mood (endorphins for the win)
- Increased productivity (walk breaks during the work day do wonders)
What are your non-appearance motivations for moving your body on the regular?