Exercise Is Meant to Be Enjoyed

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Part of learning to eat and live more intuitively is learning to listen to your body. I don't think anyone would deny the positive benefits of exercise and the effect it can have on your health. Movement is good. It can help you turn your bad mood into a good one and drop your stress levels wayyy down. It can improve blood pressure, cholesterol, and lower your risk of diabetes, stroke, heart disease etc. But when it becomes a way to control the shape or size of your body, you will more than likely find yourself in a place that is not actually healthy at all.  There are tons of conflicting messages out there about exercise, how often you should be doing it, for how long and which ones are "most effective." Typically, "most effective" is referring to how well it can help you to lose weight. But if our only goal in exercising is weight loss, it would make sense that we would eventually come to hate it. Think about it, exercising for the sole purpose of weight loss is super daunting- there's a ton of pressure to meet a certain goal or number that maybe our body was never meant to be at. It's the same with food. If you're eating certain foods only because you want to lose weight, and not because you enjoy them, you're probably going to get sick of it and give up. 

We all have different genes and sizes where our body is comfortable and functions best. You can do a lot of damage by over exercising, trying to control your body, forcing it to be a smaller size than it's meant to be. I love the analogy in the book Intuitive Eating. You wouldn't try to shove your foot into a size 6 if you are a 9. It isn't meant to be that size. So why do we do that with our bodies? Neither the 6 or the 9 is better or worse. 

Let's rethink exercise and movement altogether. It shouldn't be something that you feel you HAVE to do. If you exercise just because you feel guilty about what you ate the day before, that's an issue. If you feel defeated after working out because you didn't meet a certain calorie goal, that's an issue. Exercise should be something that you WANT to do because you enjoy it and it makes you feel good in every sense of the word. 

For the last few years I was very regimented about getting up around 5:00-5:30 am to go workout and for a long time I enjoyed it and it worked for me and my schedule. But the past few months I started to dread getting up that early and wasn't enjoying the workouts. So I stopped. I opted for sleeping in longer (still working on going to bed earlier) and maybe doing a workout in the evening. Sometimes that means going for a run, or some other circuit workout (I love the Nike Training Club app), or class. Other days it's just going for a walk, stretching, or nothing at all. Rest is needed too. There's no pressure and no guilt. 

It's also good to try new things and to challenge yourself. You can become bored with your routine and dread exercise for that reason. Do you have to run a marathon? No. But if it's always something you've wanted to do, and running is something that gives you joy, then go for it! The amazing thing about being human is that we're all different and we enjoy different things. Try a new class you've been curious about, or explore hiking. Stepping outside of your comfort zone can be so rewarding. 

So we know exercise is good, but maybe you need take a step back and re-evaluate your heart and motivations. It may be that you need a break from movement altogether, and that's okay. Take all the time you need to sort through everything, seek help or counseling even. But when you're ready, come back to it with a fresh perspective, and learn to love it for the right reasons.