What comes to mind when you think of “Exercise”? Is it a joyful, expansive feeling of activity, creativity and delight, or is it a sense of obligation, suffering and dread?
For a lot of women – especially those who struggle with food, weight, and body image – it’s more of the latter. Exercise becomes a big “SHOULD”, maybe even a form of punishment, damage control, or a strategy to earn your right to eat.
Unfortunately this dynamic actually impedes your ability to get the full benefits of any such exercise you subject yourself to!
Here are 3 compelling reasons why it’s time to give it up:
“Exercise” limits you. When most people think of exercise, what comes to mind are things like running on a treadmill, riding the stationery bike, lifting weights, grueling boot camps, etc. In other words, the “Gym” mentality. When you think about it, most of these activities are very masculine in nature. They have a driving, repetitive quality that is less than nourishing for many women
Instead I invite you to think of Movement, which opens you up to so many more possibilities. There are many forms of movement that embrace the feminine aspect of being. Things like dancing, Zumba, yoga, and something I’ve been dying to try, S Factor (a sexy pole dancing workout!) Even a walk in nature or dancing around your living room falls under the umbrella of movement.
Plus, movement celebrates the ability to BE in a body, it’s about using what we have been given in a way that nourishes rather than diminishes the spirit.
“Exercise” can be toxic. When we view exercise simply as a “have to” in order to burn calories or force the body into submission, it promotes the toxic dietary belief that the only way to lose weight is to eat less and exercise more. The truth is there are so many factors that impact how our bodies burn calories, including our state of mind when we ingest and expend them.
If you are approaching your workouts from an anxious state of mind (like being glued to the frickin’ calorie counter on the elliptical and driving yourself past the point of exhaustion until you’ve burned off that slice of pizza), I’ve got a wake up call for you: just like eating under stress, exercising under stress (including anxious thoughts like fear of fat, body judgement or self punishment) actually impedes your body’s ability to burn calories and build muscle. So you’re working twice as hard for half the result. It’s time to let go of the idea that we are a calories-in/calories-out machine. Mind-Body Nutrition science proves that it’s not true.
“Exercise” is short-term. There’s a saying I love: “The consciousness that obtains sustains.” What this means is that the approach we take to get something is the approach we have to maintain to keep it. If you are engaging in punishing exercise to try to drive off those 10 or 20 lbs, what do you think you are going to have to do to keep it off? Is that really how you want to live your life?
Instead think of movement that you could see yourself doing 3, 5, 10 years from now. Do you still want to drag tires around a football field in 5 years? If you already had the exact body you want, what kind of movement would you want to do? Think sustainable, enjoyable, nourishing.
What’s lighting me up lately are fluid, flowing activities like Yoga, hiking, riding cruiser bikes with my sweetie or an occasional outdoor run. This is a long way from the cardio junkie gym-rat I used to be when I was struggling so hard to achieve and maintain the perfect body. And you know what? My body looks and feels better than ever (and I actually eat more too!).
Make how you FEEL when doing any activity more important than how many calories it burns. If you are someone who loves the thrill of pushing your body to it’s limits by running a marathon, or who gets a rush of empowerment from watching your strength grow from your Cross Fit workouts, by all means GO for it. But if you prefer creative dance, a walk on the beach, or playing Wii Fit with your kids, then know that it counts just as much if not more.
Here’s the equation I want you to remember:
Feel good = Pleasure = Relaxation = Full healthy metabolism & muscle building
And here’s a closing tip: When faced with a number of options (for example, should I go to yoga or a hike or kickboxing, etc…?) one of my favorite practices is to ask my body, “What wants to happen today?” or “What would most nourish me today?”
Because when it comes down to it, your body wants to move, without demands or judgement. Give her that opportunity. Ask her what she wants.
Let go of “exercise” and embrace all the glorious possibilities of “movement” today!