My relationship with exercise has changed in a way that mirrors the evolution of my relationship with food.
What used to be rigid, all or nothing, and at times obsessive is now far more gentle, easygoing, enjoyable, and ever-changing as I am. It's not perfect, but that's not the goal.
I'm sure there are people reading this that work out daily and have a great relationship with exercise. Working out is not obsessive nor hindering their life, bur rather bringing them joy and long-term health. And that's awesome! Nonetheless, I know a lot of my readers struggle with the spectrum of health where they're in in too deep. I've been there. This post is for you!
My Workout "Routine"
I'm asked often what I do to workout, how often, where, and when. There's no straight answer. While I'm generally moving my body in some way several times a week, it's fluid. It's more frequent and intense some weeks and more easygoing or sometimes absent other weeks.
I am constantly seeking "balance" navigating two full time businesses, my relationship, my family, my "me" time, my social life, my intellectual growth, my physical health, and my sanity. It never looks perfect, but I shift things often as certain seasons require more of some and less of others.
The most dramatic shift from how I used to view exercise compared to now is my why. When I was exercising in a way that centered around shrinking my body versus overall health, happiness, and empowerment, my workouts looked very different.
I felt that if I didn't spend an hour at the gym, it was a waste. If I skipped more than two days a week, it was a wash. If I wasn't dripping it sweat, it wasn't a real workout. It wasn't about moving in a way that felt good. It was another thing I wanted to control.
I'd get frustrated about which body part I should be focusing on, drowning in the vast sea of online information on how to achieve the "perfect" body (which would obviously make everything else in life fall into the perfect life).
Once I loved my body, the puzzle pieces would all fit. I would be able to give myself more love and in turn receive more love from others. If I only I just stuck to the plan. Right? Wrong.
Evolving My Motivation to Exercise
Having a rigid workout routine did not bring me joy. It actually sucked joy. I had an opportunity to move my body and feel GOOD but I felt pressured to take it to the max every time, with no regard to whatever else was going on in life. I had an opportunity to listen. To be intuitive. To feel more empowered in my workouts and to change my perspective.
I knew my workout routine (and more importantly the reasons behind it) wasn't serving me anymore. As my values shifted from wanting a perfect body to craving a full life and peaceful mind, I started to disconnect from movement that was too long, too frequent, or unnecessarily intense.
I knew I had the potential to like, to LOVE, what I was doing so instead of judging my "why," I became curious. Just like exploring foods that used to be off limits, I started to try fun new workout classes, like hip hop. The joy (and sweat!) I felt dancing for an hour was so real, so far out of my comfort zone, something I wouldn't have considered a "real" workout months earlier. It was electric.
It took practice. I had to shift my mindset and my behaviors accordingly. Like throwing away the scale, I craved getting used to activity that felt intentional and brought me more peace and clarity. I craved more random days off. I wanted to do a 30-minute Boot Camp without feeling like I had to do cardio afterwards. I started to gravitate toward shorter workouts and new strength training classes that challenged me in different ways.
It practiced running when I wanted to run. I noticed when I really felt like running, my runs were so much more invigorating. I truly enjoy working out, the gratifying feeling afterwards, and knowing I have stamina and strength in mind and body. But there's a difference between wanting to feel strong and over-exerting yourself (i.e. endangering your long-term health) in the name of "fitness."
Is Your Movement Mindful?
What does mindful movement mean to you? It's different for everyone. For some people it might be running outside. For someone else it might be doing a slow yoga class. If you hate yoga or love to run, that doesn't mean you're not mindful. Find what makes YOU feel present, comfortable, supported, and excited in your body versus feeling shame, judgement and lack of worthiness.
Does your routine center on compassion or is it driven by guilt? Does it change as you do or do you force it to remain the same?
And come back to your why? Does it foster a compassionate lifestyle? There's a big difference between wanting to be able to chase your kids around and using exercise to find value in yourself, as punishment, or a tool for when you think you've eaten too much.
My Workout Gear: Fabletics!
Before we get more into it, let's chat about all the delightful Fabletics workout gear in these photos! You guys know I'm all about balancing comfort style, and affordability. Luckily Fabletics is a master of all three with tons of leggings, tops, sports bras and beyond for whatever activity you fancy. Even if it's just sitting on the couch!
If you're not sure which outfits would be best for you, I'd suggest taking their Style Quiz for personalized outfit ideas. Be sure to enter your email after you take the quiz so you can receive exclusive monthly discounts and updates about new collections that haven’t been released yet!
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The Difference Between Challenging Yourself And Rigidity
You can encourage yourself to adopt a healthy, intuitive exercise routine in a way that doesn't dampen your life. Ask yourself: is your routine flexible? Do you skip dinner with friends to run? Do you compromise sleep to get in an extra morning workout? Is it connecting you to your body or isolating you? How is that serving you?
Just like some days I wake up wanting to wear comfy clothes versus a dress, there are days where a walk feels like it would serve me better than doing a mindless high intensity workout. We get stuck in the routine of tuning out or minds and doing what we "should" do per the magazines, Instagram, and the media versus eating, moving, and being in a way that's unique and intuitive to us.
The more you tune yourself out, the harder it is to listen and the more your body gets used to external influences. Flexibility is key.
You should be able to take an unplanned rest day. There will be a time in your life where something or someone takes precedence over working out. Can you put exercise on the back burner without judgment? Can you take three rest days instead of two if life needs you to?
When Exercise Isn't The Healthiest Choice
Exercise should further connect you to your body, not disconnect you. Find your own rhythm and threshold of workouts that is appropriate for you in this season of life, that challenges you and bring you joy. Everyone has a different level of emotional, nutritional, physical, and mental stress they can tolerate and live a full life.
More is not always better when it comes to exercise. If I'm sick or have had an insanely busy week, I'll read or do something to quiet my mind versus push my body further.If you have low energy, feel like you're suffering through a workout, in pain, or feel disconnected, I strongly urge you to put intense movement on pause.
Exercise is a stressor. If you're physically or mentally overloaded, working out on top of that can exacerbate the situation. I work with women who have to stop exercising completely (temporarily) in order to regain their period because for them in this season, more exercise is not better.
There are times where we have to instead focus on self care, combating stress, eating well (and enough), and getting enough sleep so we can show up for themselves and contribute to the world versus feeling constantly depleted.
Cortisol is a stress hormone that rises when we exercise. It helps repair damage when we workout to aide in quick recovery. Your body won't respond to the stressor that is exercise well if there's too much external stress going on. In this case, a yoga class or a walk with a friend may be a more useful use of your energy. Work on minimizing stress in life so your body is better equipped to handle the stressor that is exercise.
Now tell me--how has your relationship with exercise evolved over time?
This post is in partnership with Fabletics. Thanks for supporting the brands I love! Huge thanks to Angela and Chaz at Photo 243 for capturing these amazing shots. Follow them on Instagram here!