I thought that I would with gears to a topic that can be tricky for some – our relationship with movement. Many people struggle mightily with finding the balance with what does it look like to move our bodies without it being about burning calories?
First, we need to understand that bodies do like movement. Since the day we were born, we wiggled and delighted in seeing what these bodies could. As youngsters, most of us rode bikes, played tag and swam.
Where things go astray for many of us, unfortunately, is that movement gets hooked to changing the body or movement gets associated with painful experiences.
In the first scenario, we try to use exercise as a means to change body shape and size. We also often use exercise as a way to “burn off” calories from foods we believes are higher in calories. The problem with this is hat exercise turns into a chore one feels like they “have to do” , robbing ourselves of moving for enjoyment and health benefits; the goal being numbers. Maybe for some people they can be okay with this; however it sure could be a whole lot more fun to take a walk without worries if this helped one lose weight or at least not gain weight that day!
This way of relating to movement takes us out of our bodies, instead of becoming more grounded. Sometimes this is one of the reasons we compulsively exercise — to literally “run” away from feeling or thinking about situations. There is nothing wrong at all with movement or stress management or relief; the issue is it is the ONLY way you can cope and missing a day or week or month would make you anxious and possibly restrict your food to compensate.
Our bodies know how to regulate food intake by decreasing the amount of food it takes to be full/satisfied without having to calorie count. When we are having trouble doing this, we are lacking trust in our bodies that through intuitive eating, we can be at the weight that our bodies can easily maintain with varied diets and regular movement. This is hard obviously when we desire to weigh less than our bodies naturally want to weigh (that is a whole other blog post).
In the second scenario, when we are not interested or avoiding movement, a couple of things may be happening for us. We could have histories of not having good experiences with movement (teased or left out PE or sports that we might have attempted but not at the level of most around us), trauma, burn-out from childhood/young adulthood sports and burnout with movement used for dieting purposes because the
exercise stop “producing” results, aka, weight loss. We could also been pressured to move for our health and traditional, weight centered activities are not joyful. We may not have discovered movement that was enjoyable when we are younger . And as we add on more responsibility, it can be hard to even keep in movement we like because the pressure to get a lot done pulls us from regular movement.
There are a handful of things we can do if we want to have a relationship with movement that is flexible and free of self-judgement.
1) Remember, you are not morally obligated to move your body. As Ragen Chastain says, you are the boss of your underpants. You get to decide if you want to move or not, regardless if others think you should, even if it might be of benefit.
2) If you do want to move, find at least one thing you value about it. Say you want to feel more peaceful, find an activity that matches that motive. If you want to feel more peaceful, probably rock-climbing wouldn’t match that, but maybe a walk around a lake may.
3) Take it slow. It is easy to want to expect yourself to meet some kind of prescription, ie , do 3x a week for 30 min. Start where you are. If one time a week of 10 min of something that is convenient and hopefully enjoyable is what your body can do, allow that to be good enough and build from there.
4) Think outside of “exercise”. Many of my clients have gone beyond the gym to hiking trips, canoeing, horse back riding, ariel yoga, dance and adult kickball. Some people stick with a regular waling routine that suits them just fine. We can rediscover joyful movement.
5) Even stretch breaks every 90 min at work can reset our ability to focus because it brings grounding back into the body.
6) If you are doing intensive trauma work, need to renourish your body to improve menstrual function/illness or
have injuries, the best thing might be to just WAIT. Wait til your body/mind is ready and certainly work with your qualified therapist, nutrition therapist and MD to determine when is the right time.
Check out my video as well for more meanderings on breaking free from exercise as a “should”.
Let me know; what is holding you up from moving in a way that feels good to you? It’s not about the have to, but about I want to.