Exercise. Nod your head if you’ve ever procrastinated exercising. Maybe it’s because you dread going to the gym and being judged by other people, or maybe it’s because you think that no matter how many miles you run on the treadmill, you’ll never look like that girl on Instagram. Or, maybe you feel quite the opposite. You love exercising so much that you literally don’t know how to eat or relax on days that you can’t do it. Wherever you are on the exercise enjoyment spectrum, I want to shed a little light on how you can transform the way you think about exercise and make it an integral part of your lifestyle.
How to Find Exercise you Enjoy
Like many of you, “exercising or working out” wasn’t something I thought or worried about growing up. I went to dance class, my extracurricular of choice, 3-5 times per week. It wasn’t until I went to college and was removed from my regular dance class schedule that I realized I needed to find a new way to move my body. I tried the elliptical, crunches and fitness classes like Zumba. All of these were okay, but I still had a horrible feeling that my work in the gym was never good enough as I continued to put on weight.
After my freshman year, I forced myself to spend the summer in the gym after weight gain and just feeling blah about my body. Fast forward six months later and I was completely obsessed with exercising. I started each day early with a 3-5 mile run and time at the gym. I felt alive. I loved my new body and the attention I was getting. After maintaining the same fitness routine for a year or so, I started to get more discouraged with my runs. Even if I ran five miles in the morning, I would still feel like I put on weight after eating a piece of bread. Exercise became something I couldn’t function without and a box I needed to check off to feel worthy enough each day.
My first recommendation for finding exercise that you enjoy is to be aware of your feelings toward certain types of exercising. If I would have respected my feelings enough to realize that I wasn’t enjoying running at the time, I probably would have been a lot happier. I could have easily opted for a different type of exercise, maybe even go on walks instead.
The purpose of exercising is not to shape your body to look a certain way. Exercise is an opportunity to take care of your body and improve the health and vitality of your life.
When I was in my exercise obsession phase, I always said I needed to “work out.” It’s amazing what can happen when you shift your language from “working out” to exercising, moving or being active. For me, “working out” seems like something I’m forcing myself to do to look a certain way. Try using the words exercise or movement instead. Move your body to take care of it and feel good in it.
Another way in which you can find a type of exercise that you enjoy is by broadening what you define as exercise. You don’t have to be in a gym lifting weights or going on a five-mile run. Exercising can simply be going on a 30-minute walk around your block, gardening or dancing in your apartment. Getting on your feet, increasing your heart rate and utilizing your arms and legs in different ways are all amazing for you! Especially if you are new to exercising, going to a gym can be incredibly intimidating. Start simple with daily walks or a 30-minute barre video on YouTube. Your body and its needs are completely unique and so should your exercise routine. Therefore, you don’t necessarily need to do the fitness program that is trending on Instagram to feel well and fit. Last weekend during my trip to Denver, my exercise consisted of a long hike up a mountain (which was more challenging than I thought it would be) and walking each row of the Red Rocks Amphitheater. Be intuitive with your movement and have fun trying out different forms of exercise until you find the ones that you have fun doing and that make you feel best.
Not only do we need to be mindful about what types of exercise make us feel alive and well, we also need to be mindful with what types makes us feel good at certain periods of our lives. As our lives evolve, our body’s needs change too. After my overexercising phase, I started to develop a lot of health issues, knee pain, gut issues and exhaustion to name a few. Though I resisted it, doing rigorous exercises like long-distance running and intense strength training would have continued to prevent me from healing. I had to be respectful of my body’s needs at the time and opt for exercise that would slow me down. I turned to lots of yoga and long walks. After a year or so of taking it easy, I now feel that I have the energy to work in more strength training and higher intensity cardio. Be accepting of your body’s needs at different periods of your life.
If you’re feeling unmotivated about being active, I recommend joining an exercise or movement community of some sort. Join an outdoor adventure club, go to a yoga class or find a Facebook group of people who live a similar lifestyle. The community will help you feel less alone in the journey and support you when you want to give up.
The most important thing to do to nourish your relationship with exercise is to not beat yourself up when you don’t do it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard girls put themselves down for eating a certain type of food and then not going to the gym. We are our own worst critic. No one is judging you more than yourself for not going to the gym! Only you know how your body feels. If your body genuinely doesn’t have the energy or time to exercise one day, don’t beat yourself up. Simply accept it and schedule your next time for movement so that you don’t give up on taking care of your body.
You were beautifully and wonderfully made and deserve to feel well in your body. Take care of it by being active and doing the different types of exercise that are fun for you. Your exercise routine won’t look like anyone else’s.
Do you struggle with maintaining a positive relationship with exercise? What is your favorite type?
xo, Morgan, Mint+Mo
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