Why do you exercise? To lose weight? Have a smaller bum? Get rid of the bingo wings? Chasing the elusive abs?
Today I want to look at reasons why we exercise; finding ways to let exercise serve you rather than the other way round. Now, when I first started exercising, I fell in love with running (not immediately, who does?!). But as I finished university and started work, running became a necessity to manage my stress levels and also having always been ‘thin’, to stay thin. If I ate a bit too much cake – run an extra mile! HIIT is great for you – do it 30 minutes after getting out of bed! A lot of us will know what it feels like to punish yourself with exercise.
Until 12 months ago, I was exercising for the wrong reasons. ENTIRELY.
My most recent exercise revelation (and hopefully not my last) was triggered by something my yoga teacher said. In conversation with her, she’d said ‘your body can’t distinguish between emotional stress and physical stress’. And that got me thinking. I realised I hadn’t listened to my body in years. So I started to ask ‘will it nourish me?’. Is it going to benefit my body AND mind? Will it add to my sense of well being? Or am I pushing myself to do it because I feel like I should do it? Don’t get me wrong, we all need that motivation to get out and do something, and most of the time when I ask myself that question the answer is yes, but I no longer want to force my body into too much stress (no more 6am HIIT session, yay!).
My perspective has now completely changed. I believe:
Find the exercise that lets you chew through your stress (which for me is running and yoga - moving meditation), not because you ate that extra slice of toast for supper last night. Find the exercise that empowers you (which for me is lifting weights) not because you feel you have to go to the gym tonight after an emotionally exhausting week at work. Find mental and physical relief in what exercise you choose to do, every single time, not because you are pursuing some appearance-led goal. When you do that, exercise becomes a more sustained, committed part of your life anyway. Find balance in your life, and we can only truly do that when we tune in and listen to our bodies.
"Find mental and physical relief in what exercise you choose to do, every single time, not because you are pursuing some appearance-led goal."
Bear in mind, you may not find the exercise you love right away – because let’s face it, it’s hard and requires effort. But persevere, try new things, until something clicks and you can say, ‘yes, this is my thing’. Remember too, that we will get it wrong sometimes. Because changes in mindset take time - you may say one thing but you don’t truly believe that yet. That’s ok. It’s a journey for everyone. Keep telling yourself it and eventually it will become part of your accepted ideas; about yourself and your life. Exercise should add to our well-being, not take away from it.
Have you found a particular type of exercise that just ‘clicked’ with you? Is it difficult to find balance in your life?