When it comes to exercise, do you ever ask yourself, “What do I enjoy doing?” Or is it, “What exercise burns the most amount of calories?” What is your reasoning behind choosing the form of exercise you’re engaging in? When the main reason is weight loss, it is often a short lived experience that will cycle on and off, just like dieting will and can feel hard to “stick with.”
Exercise is often coupled with dieting, which leads to an all or nothing relationship. When exercise is done as part of a weight loss regime, it is often painful (no pain, no gain, right?), really intense and not overly enjoyable. But that’s just what you do, right? You’ll burn the most calories and lose weight quickly. But how sustainable is that? Even if you feel that what you are doing is good for your body, how good is it for your head?
Clients that I have seen who have engaged in this sort of exercise feel that exercise is a HAVE to, not a want to. Days off from exercise are filled with guilt, anxiety and restlessness. They feel they have to change what it is they are eating, and even ignore their hunger cues, because they are not working out. Working out is what gives them the permission to eat, what they want, how much they want or is the undoing of yesterday’s “indulgences.” This is what the war looks like. Days of dread, sometimes hate. Negative energy filled with body judgement, critiquing, “should-ing” on how many calories you must burn, how many minutes you must run, how many steps you must take. You have become a prisoner to an exercise jail you feel you can’t escape.
Curious as to what the love with exercise looks like? A loving relationship with exercise is doing things you actually enjoy doing, that makes your body feel good. A loving relationship does not focus on weight loss or body change, but rather the health and quality of life changes with exercise. Exercise has been shown to help reduce cognitive decline, heart disease, certain cancers, anxiety, depression and diabetes, just to name a few. Regular physical activity helps to increase strength, balance, sleep quality, creativity, appetite regulation and mood. When your focus is on any of these, you’re reasoning for activity can change. It is no longer to change the outside, but rather honor, the you, inside. To take care of yourself, love yourself, and listen to yourself. Finding the things that you actually like and enjoy may mean being open to things that you haven’t tried before or exploring the things that you feel “don’t count” as exercise. Some people love playing tennis, taking a walk or pushing around heavy weights, while others find happiness on a yoga mat. None of these are ‘right’ or ‘wrong.’ It is how you feel when you are doing them and your awareness of how this movement makes you feel about your body.
Love always wins the war. Sometimes is just a matter of breaking free from the chains that hold you prisoner and choosing peace instead. So be curious, be adventurous and have fun!