Have you ever experienced guilt about exercise? Most of us will at some point in our lives. From those who are compulsive exercisers to those who don’t move much, we can all understand the feeling of “not doing enough”.
The problem for many with exercise is a lack of awareness or respect for our own bodies’ signals. We see exercise as a way to burn calories or change the way we look rather than joyful self-care.
Of course, exercise is an important part of wellbeing – our bodies are made to move and benefit from movement – and rest too! If you struggle with finding the balance between the two, shifting your focus to how you feel in your body during movement can take exercise from punishment to pleasure.
Signs of Compulsive Exercise
- Continuing to exercise through illness or injury when it would be better for your body to rest
- Feeling guilty if you miss a workout or skip a day of exercise
- Prioritizing exercise over other aspects of life such as getting a good night of sleep, working, or socializing
- Exercising as a form of punishment for eating or to “make up” for calories
- Sleeping poorly – this can be an indicator of overexercising and not having enough fuel (food!)
How to Start Moving More Joyfully and Intuitively
If you struggle with compulsive exercise or with finding the time and energy to move more, shifting your mindset about why you’re moving can make all the difference in the world!
As we do with Intuitive Eating, we have to learn and pay attention to our bodies’ signals. Note how you feel before, during, and after exercise.
Did you dread getting started but once you got going it was kind of fun? Did you feel happy and energetic after? Was it hard the whole time and you didn’t feel great after? You can and will have all of these experiences with movement. Catalogue these experiences for yourself as you have them, it will help you determine what kind of movement, how much, and when moving works best for your body.
- Don’t focus on the numbers and get rid of tracking devices. If your focus is weight loss, “making up” for food you’ve eaten, or getting a certain number of steps or reps in, movement will feel like a chore. Instead listen to your body’s signals, your body will tell you what it needs and what works best for it.
- Break the all or nothing mentality. You do not need to work up a sweat or have a high level of intensity to reap the rewards of movement. Research has shown that exercise does not have to be rigorous or lengthy to have health benefits. If pushing feels good to you and your body likes it, then go for it! But remember that even an evening stroll or doing housework is beneficial movement too!
- Find the joy in movement. Figure out what kind of movement is fun for you. If you’re unsure where to start, try listing what kind of movement you liked as a kid. Did you love to dance? Participate in sports with friends? Play with your dog? Try just turning on some music and seeing how your body naturally reacts. Go outside and be mindful of how it feels – take in the world with your senses!
- Focus on movement as self-care. Appropriate exercise can help with sleep, mood, energy levels, and decreasing stress hormones (too much exercise can actually increase stress hormones, this is where listening to your body comes in).