Does the word “exercise” make you happy or make you want to groan? Often times exercise is only associated with dieting, but it’s much more than that! Today I’m sharing my top tips to help you start enjoying exercise and learn how to listen to your body and move it accordingly.
There’s no denying the benefits that exercise can have on both our mental and physical health and wellness. Moving our bodies is an important factor in good health, but thanks to diet culture it is often only associated with dieting or attempts at weight loss. When we only attribute exercise to changing our body shape or size, it can be demotivating and frustrating when results aren’t immediately apparent. It’s also common (thanks again to diet culture) to feel that we’re only reaping the benefits of exercise if we’re doing grueling, sometimes painful workouts, and that we’re failures at exercise for not being able to stick to intense regimens.
Well that’s not at all the case, and I want to set the record straight and give you my top tips for improving your relationship with exercise from dreading it to finding joy in it. From feeling like you have to drag yourself to the gym to listening to your body and doing what feels good.
Change your mindset around exercise.
The first thing I recommend to start enjoying exercise more is to stop looking at it as a way to burn calories, “blast fat” or work off the food you ate earlier in the day. Not only does this kind of talk contribute to a negative relationship with exercise AND food, if this is the main reason for moving your body it’s less likely to be sustainable long-term.
Try looking at exercise as a form of self-care. A way to take care of your mind and body. A tool in your wellness toolbox. There’s no denying that exercise can help improve mood, sleep quality and stress levels in addition to heart health, bone health, and more. So why not focus on these things that impact how our sense of wellbeing each and every day rather than a number on the scale or having toned abs?
Choose exercise you truly enjoy.
It’s pretty straightforward. The only way we’re going to start enjoying exercise is if we enjoy the form of it that we’re taking part in! If you hate running, don’t force yourself to run 3 times a week. If you find yourself having more fun at group fitness classes, incorporate more of those! Maybe you love walking your dog and listening to a podcast or lifting weights at the gym. Choosing exercise that’s you truly enjoy is a huge factor in whether or not your exercise routine will be sustainable.
You also don’t need to have a routine per se. For some, scheduling out their movement works. For others, it may feel strict and lead them into unhealthy exercising habits like over-exercising. It may serve you better to just ask yourself daily or weekly what type of movement you’re in the mood for, and do that. If you do like to schedule your exercise, just remember to be mindful and get in tune with your body. It’s okay to skip it and take rest when you need it, even if you’ve got a workout penciled into your planner.
Not sure what types of movement you enjoy? I encourage you to try different things out until you determine what you find joy in. Check out YouTube yoga and fitness channels, workout apps for your phone, or tag along with a friend to their favourite gym or studio. Be reminded that exercise is also as simple as walking regularly, doing yard work or shoveling the driveway. A lot of times we’re taught to believe these things don’t “count” but I assure you, they do!
Ditch the “all or nothing” mentality
Just like one day or even one week of eating won’t derail our health, one day or one week without exercise doesn’t mean you’re not healthy or “fit”. It’s also important to ditch the idea that in order to be reaping the benefits of moving our bodies we have to be slaving at the gym for hours a day or running as many miles as we can.
All movement counts. Whether it’s running, walking, yoga, boxing, mowing the lawn, dancing, etc., it’s doing your body good. Unless, however, you do too much of it and risk injury. Again, it’s truly about listening to your body and doing what feels right. This doesn’t necessarily mean that anytime you don’t feel like exercising you shouldn’t, I just encourage you to be mindful and consider whether movement will help or hurt you and your relationship in the moment.
For example, you may be having a stressful day at work and get the urge to skip your lunchtime walk to keep working. Take a moment and consider what you need. Maybe that walk will actually help you alleviate some stress and give you a boost of feel-good endorphins so you can come back more positive and focused in the afternoon.
Invite a friend.
Make movement a social thing and start enjoying exercise! Exercising can be much more enjoyable with a buddy, so ask a friend to join you at a new class or your evening walk. It also helps get you out the door knowing that you get to go spend time with a friendly face. Having a friend with you makes trying new exercises or classes a lot less intimidating knowing that you have some support right by your side.
Personally, I always find I get more out of my workouts when I’m with a friend or a group. There’s just something about the social, team energy that I find motivating and fun to be around. If this doesn’t sound like you, that’s okay too! Knowing yourself and the environments you prefer is key. If group fitness settings aren’t your scene, there are some awesome online (both free and subscription-based) videos and exercise guides that you can do in the comfort of your own home.
Take rest when needed
I’ve already touched on this briefly, but in order to really start enjoying exercise and moving your body more intuitively, it’s important to allow yourself rest when you need it. Forcing yourself to exercise when you’re exhausted isn’t always pleasant. If you do this often, then you will more often associate movement with those unpleasant experiences also. This makes it difficult to look forward to exercise, doesn’t it?
Just like our bodies need movement, they need rest. They need time to recover. Whether it’s from our workouts, our busy weeks at work, chasing around the kids, etcetera. If it’s a goal of yours to move your body more, make sure you’re also allowing yourself time to rest when you need it.
Now I’m curious, do you enjoy exercise? Did you find these tips helpful? Do you have tips of your own to make exercise more enjoyable? Share with me in the comments!