If you had asked me 10 years ago if I thought “joyful” and “movement” could be one and the same, I probably would have laughed. Because most of what we hear about “movement” or exercise, is intense + intimidating. Or that working out has to be running a marathon or doing burpees until you pass out. Not only do we hear that it has to be a crazy tough workout, but we also better be doing it every single day for hours, right?
That doesn’t sound joyful to me.
That’s because mainstream media and fitspo stars are missing the mark. They all have a different plan or routine or type of exercise that is said to be “most effective” or get the “fastest results.” But what if you don’t have time for their routines? Or simply hate the style of exercise they’re promoting?
Sometimes that’s where we get left. Movement looks overwhelming, miserable, and time-consuming so we feel defeated before we even start. However, moving our body can absolutely be fun and joyful rather than something to dread.
First, we need a mindset shift — starting with the why of exercise/movement.
Many would say they workout to help “make up” for what they’ve eaten. Movement is not a punishment. Viewing it as such continues to add morality to food. Like, I ate “x” food, so I have screwed up/sinned/am bad so now I must pay penance by exercising. This is a diet mentality that is simply not helpful for our well-being.
For example, when we discipline kids, giving out a punishment is negative reinforcement to stop them from doing something again. That punishment is meant to be an undesirable penalty. So, if we have it in our minds that exercise = punishment, how in the world can we try to expect ourselves to have the desire to want to do it?
So what other reasons can we find to move our body rather than as a form of self-punishment?
- Maintain energy levels
- Regulate mood
- Health benefits
- excluding weight manipulation
- Social interactions
- Improved sleep
- Because it’s fun!
These can be more appropriate reasons to want to move your body rather than trying to control your weight.
However, you have to be honest with yourself. It’s all too common for us to say we are over-exercising to help manage stress or to stay healthy, but deep down, we need to check ourselves. We may be telling that to others when in reality, our true motivation is manipulation of our body size + punishing ourselves.
Let’s say we’ve got our minds right about why we want to move our body. What type of movement do we choose? How often?
Find a type of movement that you can truly find joy + satisfaction in doing.
If you hate running, don’t run. And a traditional gym is not a requirement. You don’t even have to leave your house or neighborhood.
- Maybe you love taking evening walks with your significant other or your dog.
- Or hiking + exploring a new trail gets you fired up.
- Let’s also not downplay the energy it takes to deep-clean our homes! Phew!
- Dancing around the house.
- Videos on YouTube.
- Any type of sports.
- Swimming with your kids in the pool.
- Cutting the grass with a push mower.
Or maybe you like the community and social interaction included with going to a gym or studio. There are so many options out there these days.
- Tons of yoga varieties.
- Barre classes.
- Spin classes.
- Running / walking groups.
- Weight lifting.
- Dance classes.
- Martial arts.
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends the following for cardiovascular benefits: 30 minutes of moderate-intensity movement at least 5 days per week. Or 25 minutes of vigorous activity 3 days per week. They also recommend throwing some muscle-strengthening in there for two of those days.
Depending on your current lifestyle, those recommendations may seem like a lot or very little. However, I often see people promoting exercise every single day for >1 hour. We cannot forget the value of rest, both physically + mentally.
There are going to be seasons of life in which we simply cannot move our bodies as much as we may like or the recommendations suggest. And that is okay. We need to listen to our bodies more. If you didn’t sleep enough the night before, had a long, stressful day — it’s completely acceptable to not move your body as much that day. Because while exercise can be beneficial, it is still stress on our body that affects our cortisol [a stress hormone] levels.
Listen + connect with your body to see what you’re craving in terms of movement. Are you feeling tight? Maybe do some yoga or stretching. Feeling like you have an abundance of energy to shake off? Maybe a more higher intensity option like a group exercise class or a walk/run. Checking in regularly can help us select what type of movement actually sounds + feels good to us.
We can take care of our bodies by honoring them, rather than punishing, + choosing what works for you to be joyfully moving.