When you hear the word exercise - what words/phrases/thoughts come to your brain right away?
Does it look something like this:
To burn all of the calories
A must every single day - can’t miss a workout
To keep weight off and to keep from putting weight on
To prove myself
So with those things aside let me ask you this:
What is it about moving your body that you enjoy? ….
I have always had this weird relationship with exercise. Growing up, I was SO bad at sports, I was always picked last for gym class, and I found every excuse in the book to get out of practice for the sport I was involved in. When I decided to do cross country, people laughed at me. And from that point on, I felt like I always had something to prove. So once I discovered endurance sports, that was how I performed.. With an “I’ve got something to prove” attitude.
Because of that, coupled with my disordered eating habits, exercise derived from a place of fear. I always pushed myself past the point of exhaustion because otherwise I felt like a failure, like I wasn't good enough, and that the pounds would start piling otherwise. I competed in races because it gave me a chance to prove myself.
Looking back, there was no deep, positive, connection to my activity.
A few years ago, I started asking myself that same question, “what is it about moving my body that I actually enjoy?” I realized it wasn’t the competition (in fact, competition is what triggered me in all of the worst ways), it wasn’t the structured, balls to the walls exercise regimen, it was how I felt after and more importantly how movement connected me to my body, to nature, and to other people. There is something about moving with no expectations that brings me so much clarity and so much joy.
Today, movement looks so much different. It is not derived from a place of fear but rather from a place of love, from a place of craving joy and connection. It is such a special part of my day that I actually look forward to exercising. And the best part about my movement not coming from a place of fear is that when I am feeling tired, or have an injury, or my plans change, skipping my workout for the day isn’t a monumental thing that completely makes or breaks my mood like it used to.
Getting to this place doesn’t happen overnight, believe me, nor are my thoughts always from a place of love (there are still moments where those fears of proving myself and working out because of something I ate the day before come up) but I have learned to recognize my thought processes, validate the feelings that do arise, and choose to take the path that I know feels right, the one out of love.
So where the heck do you start?
Start by asking yourself that question, “What is it about moving your body that you enjoy?” Maybe it is getting up early in the morning and experiencing the quietness, or the connection with nature, or the camaraderie you get from attending group fitness classes. Pinpoint the pieces of your movement that bring you the most joy, that bring you closer to your connection of self and see what it feels like to make those things your motivators for moving your body, rather than from that place of fear.
It’s not going to be perfect (nothing ever will be perfect, nor are you perfect. You can’t screw up. Awesome, right?) and it will not always be easy. But start by just noticing, by getting curious, and by understanding your habits. Validate the feelings that arise (however you are feeling in any given moment is OKAY!) and get clear on what brings you joy. Only then can you start making your decisions out of love rather than fear.
Exercise, fitness, and movement do not have to be scary things. In fact, they can be beautiful, wonderful, life changing things.