Stop giving yourself a hard time about exercise
This week I did some cardio. (There’s a full stop there because it’s literally been so long since I did some that it’s a sentence in and of itself.) Sure, I like to stretch, I walk places, go dancing yada yada yada but I haven’t formalised my exercise all year. (Yup, I’m a health coach and I’ve had a sporadic exercise routine for months. Shock horror. I actually feel a little bit ashamed writing that down, but that’s the need for this piece, so keep reading...) Yesterday I actually put on a 20 minute youtube video and did some ‘cardio’ in the form of some aerobics. And well, I had to laugh at how unfit I’ve become over this year because seriously, within 10 minutes I was sweating, huffing and puffing.
Laugh? Yeah babe, you have to laugh. A few years ago I was fit enough to run a 10k in 1hr 15 minutes. Yet here I was in my living room doing some low impact knee raises red faced and in need of a drink of water.
I laugh because otherwise the inner critic (or bitch voice) will start telling me that’s I’m not good enough. And that’s simply not true.
Exercise, like food and everything else, has been co-opted into diet culture where unless you’re ‘smashing it’ or hitting your PB (in my house that’s peanut butter but for lots of people it’s ‘personal best’) and striving to ‘shred, gain or get ripped’ then you’re doing it wrong or not doing it well enough. NOPE.
Seriously, we all have to stop giving ourselves such a hard time over exercise and see it as something that looks different at different phases of your day, week, month and year.
Take my year for example, it’s been one hell of a crazy one so far. At the beginning of the year I lost my Dad, so I’d class that as some pretty big emotional trauma. As it threw my life up in air it also put exercising way down the list of things ‘to do’. During the summer I was working pretty much 7 days a week, and in the past month I’ve been pretty preoccupied moving cities so again, exercise has fallen off the priority list. Maybe this sounds like excuses to you, I’ve seen enough memes on Pinterest to know that there are definitely a heap of people who would say I’m not showing up for myself, but you know what, fuck em.
Life ebbs and flows and in my experience, for most people that means that sometimes you’re going to be able to stick to a regime and sometimes you may not. And that’s ok, folks!
Recently, my life has opened up a little bit and I felt the need to move. My body and my brain were all of a sudden craving movement. So I moved. And although it felt hard and sweaty, it also felt great.
Here’s what I know to be true. Our bodies want to be well.
That’s the magic of learning to listen to what our body is trying to tell us. Our bodies don’t want to sitting around forever really, they want to move. So giving yourself space and some compassion to what that movement looks like, and realising that it looks different and changes over time, will do yourself a massive favour.
Watch out for this trap. Don’t fall into the trap of being so preoccupied with ‘how’ to move and what to wear while doing it that you don’t do anything at all.
That’s fitspo bollocks for you. The world of ‘fitspiration’ wellness on Instagram says there’s only way exercise and fitness can look like. *eye roll* I was recently talking to a pilates instructor and she pointed out that a few years ago it would have looked weird if you’d gone to the gym in a cropped top. Now it’s the norm and it’s putting people off who want to go in baggy T-shirts. It’s that such a shame because movement is movement.
It doesn’t matter if your leggings don’t cost £100
If gyms aren’t you for, don’t go! Find something else. And go out walking in a dirty T shirt if you need to. NO JUDGEMENT.
Be kind to the person you are (maybe you’re never going to get to 6am yoga) and suddenly it makes finding joy in movement way easier.
Exercise can feel like a chore if we set ourselves unrealistic targets. But if we do it from a place that even a small amount is a win, then suddenly we find joy in simply moving.
Remember to express gratitude for all that your body CAN do (even if it’s thanks for your heavily beating heart making you all red faced and out of breathe, hello! That’s incredible!)
The thing with fitness is that it grows quickly and even if you’ve lost it, it’ll come back in pretty good time. I love that about the body. It’s amazing really. Wherever you are in your fitness journey, it can develop and evolve. I love that.
Just do what you can.
Let’s also open our eyes to what exercise includes. It doesn’t have to be a spin class or crossfit or running a marathon. It’s just moving your body ANY WAY YOU WANT TO.
I have one client who told me that she’s started sword fighting. SWORD FIGHTING! Isn’t that awesome!?
For too long we’re busy telling the body what we think it ‘should’ need, that’s with both food and exercise. But when you start to live your life from a place of body acceptance and stop giving the power to external things, you can start listening to your inner guru. The one that really knows what’s up. This is living from a place of embodiment (being in your body), it’s a pretty sweet place to be.
Here are some good question prompts to think about new ways you might want to explore movement from a more embodied place (i.e. asking your body what’s up):
Do you want to be on your own or in a team?
Do you want to feel hyped or relaxed?
Do you want to work towards a goal or is it just enough to move?
Think about what you like to do as a child? (Hula hooping or adventure playgrounds, yup both exercise.)
Do you want to get outside or is the privacy of your own home better for you?
Another good way to get yourself moving if you’re like me, a reluctant exerciser, is to create a incentive jar. *cha-ching!*
Here’s how it works:
Set yourself a goal e.g. 6 swims in a month, and then give yourself a prize as motivation for doing it e.g. a new dress. It’s amazing how much more motivated you can be if there’s an incentive at the end. You can also do it as something mean like give a donation to a political party you hate if you don’t do it. But I’m more motivated by carrot than stick. But I’ve heard both working.
Ok, have you got that babe? We have to stop giving ourselves such a hard time about exercise. We all know it feels good to move, and that to be our happiest and healthiest version of ourselves we need to exercise. But let’s be more flexible in seeing that at different times in our lives we’re going to be able to commit to doing different things. And that’s totally ok. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, just do what you can when you can.
It’s not about anyone else, it’s about you and your relationship with your body.
Here’s a recap on how to be kinder when thinking about exercise:
Remove judgement. And tell the bitch to leave the room. Life gets crazy sometimes.
Stop worrying about ‘how’ and ‘what to wear’ just going outside for a walk counts.
If you’re unfit, laugh at it, and know that things can improve quickly. Have a sense of humour and smile, it’ll make everything better
Accept who you are and when you’re more likely to want to move - and find activities that don’t feel like punishment.
Open your eyes to what exercise can include, because if it’s moving then it counts!
Do what you can.
Show all the gratitude for what your body can do, stop focusing on what it can’t do.
Right, I’ll be huffing and puffing again today and hoping it’ll be less hilarious than yesterday. Who’s with me?