My Old Fitness Mentality
For many years, I had quite the negative relationship with exercise. I thought it felt like torture or punishment to run and I also thought running was the only type of exercise I could do to lose weight. I also thought I needed to spend at least two hours exercising to burn enough calories to deserve my food. And no surprise, I did not work out consistently. I began to loathe working out and when that happens, you find reasons not to do it. For several years in my 20’s, I alternated between exercising a lot and going weeks without exercising. I couldn’t really find a rhythm or balance that felt healthy or was consistent for me. I had a very love-hate relationship with exercise and spent a lot of money trying to convince myself that I liked exercise.
Exploring a New Mentality
When I was in my late 20’s, I finally realized I don’t actually like running. Sure, it felt like a great accomplishment to finish a half marathon, but my heart wasn’t really in it. I started to explore other types of workouts, like Kickboxing, Crossfit, yoga, and I realized that there were so many other fun ways to move. But I still had some work to do on my reasons for exercise. I would still be motivated to exercise to lose weight and when I didn’t lose weight, I didn’t want to exercise. My discovery of yoga was a particularly eye-opening moment. I was shocked to find a type of exercise where I didn’t strive to compare myself with others; I could just be on my mat. And that was enough.
It was not until I started to focus more on non-weight loss reasons to exercise, that I really started to love it for the other different benefits. For me, the biggest one was my mental health. My sleep was better and my anxiety was greatly reduced when I exercised regularly.
While I was pregnant, exercising regularly helped prepare my body for giving birth and it helped me appreciate how strong my body is…I mean I was growing a human and my body thrived from gentle weightlifting and pre-natal yoga.
Also, I realized and continue to try to get away from exercise as a type of morality. I am not a “good person” because I exercise and vice versa. Exercise is not part of my identity, it is something that I choose to do because it makes me happy.
What is Joyful Movement?
The term “joyful movement” comes from something called the HAES manifesto–which stands for Health At Every Size. This school of thought is used in helping people heal from eating disorders and encourages individuals to adapt a more positive relationship and mentality towards exercise.
The 4 Steps towards adopting a Joyful Movement Mentality
- Find a type of exercise that feels good. Like REALLY GOOD! Whether it’s spinning, yoga, Zumba, Rockclimbing, or any other type of exercise, find one that you like. And while we’re talking about this, don’t be afraid to try something new. There are so many different kinds of workouts–you are bound to find one that you like.
- Identify Non-Weight Loss Reasons to Exercise This tip goes hand in hand with Step 1; examine your motivation for exercise. If you are exercising to lose weight, exercise is not going to be fun. It’s going to feel like a chore that you have to do; sometimes even like torture. And if you do lose weight, what happens when you reach your goal weight? Do you stop exercising? Do you do it less? There is way too much grey area with this type of mentality. Exercise is something we can all enjoy, it is not a means to an end or making our bodies look a certain way. Here’ a few non-weight loss reasons to get you started:
- Eat Real Food. All Food Eat food from all the food groups and you may need to eat a little extra when you exercise. Don’t limit yourself with diets or limiting calories. Yes this includes carbs, sugar, protein, fats–we need all the food groups. Research demonstrates that diets don’t work long term and focus too much on restricting food in some capacity. If you are working on improving your relationship with exercise, it is helpful to also improve your relationship with food.
- Listen to your Body There are going to be days that you don’t want to move and that’s okay. There may even be weeks when you are sick or just need a break. That is okay. Listening to your body is what is most important. If one type of exercise isn’t fun to you or gets old, do something different.
My Challenge To You
Now that you’ve heard a little bit about what joyful movement is and how to move towards this mentality, is this something you can do? I bet you can! It may not happen overnight, but I can promise that working on your relationship with exercise will improve how you perceive it and yourself.
Note: If you struggle with an eating disorder, please consult with your treatment team before exercising. Part of the healing process is not engaging in exercise for a period of time.