Summer Rewind: What’s The Big Deal About Exercise?

 

Here’s another post from the archives, this time exploring how it’s possible to find the same autonomy with movement, as it is with food. Hard to believe, I know, but true.

***

“I’m just one of those people who hates exercise”. That’s what I used to say. And I believed it. Man, did I hate exercise. I felt angry (and guilty and ashamed) at the mention of the word and, I have to confess, I’m worried some of you may stop reading this post for the very same reason, but I hope not.

In the past, if a slim person said to me “I’m just going to the gym” I’d think “why the hell are you doing that? You’re already thin! You don’t need to go to the gym”. It was my assumption you only exercised to lose weight. It didn’t occur to me that people might exercise because they enjoyed it.

After all, what was enjoyable about exercise? Nothing. All that pain and sweating and discomfort. It felt like punishment.

And it was.

We often adopt the same all-or-nothing approach to exercise that we do to eating.

I was punishing my body for being too big, for being wrong, for being defective, for being shameful. I told myself I had to do something about it. I needed to get a grip, give myself a good talking to, get my shit together.

That was how I approached exercise and that’s why I hated it.

It was about taking a body I considered shameful and attempting to transform it into something “acceptable”, nothing else. With that as my starting point, I was doomed to failure.

Why? Because if you approach exercise purely from a weight loss standpoint, you tend to “attack” it rather than find a way to work it naturally into your life. However much you exercise, you tell yourself it’s not enough. Rather than a means of looking after yourself, you use it to compensate for eating too much or to give yourself the right to earn what you’re going to eat.

Despite the fact you’re unfit, you don’t listen to your body about what it’s capable of right now. You just push it to get rapid results. And because you don’t see those results quickly enough, and because the entire experience feels like torture, you give up and never want to do it ever again.

Subsequently, in exactly the way that you form damaging beliefs as a result of dieting, you develop negative beliefs about exercise according to your experiences: “it’s too hard”, “I can’t do it” and, of course my favourite, “I’m just one of those people who hates exercise”.

We often adopt the same all-or-nothing approach to exercise that we do to eating. In the same way that it’s either “I’m restricting or I’m bingeing”, it can be either “I’m going to the gym every day for 2 hours and totally crushing it or I’m doing absolutely no exercise whatsoever”.

But where’s the middle ground? Because just as you can have a healthy diet without having a perfect diet, you can have a fit body without having a “ripped” body.

Realistically, how much time do you have for exercise? 20 minutes a couple of times a week? Fine. 5 minutes every other day? Fine. Whatever you can manage is fine. If it’s manageable it just becomes a normal part of your life, not a Great Big Deal or something you dread. And if you change your experience of exercise, you change your beliefs about it.

The reason I’m telling you this is because if you begin to normalise your eating and your relationship with food calms down, a very strange thing can happen.

You get messages from your body to move more. Something within you gently urges you to be more physically active.

Obviously, when I first started receiving these messages I ignored them (because I was just one of those people who hates exercise, right?). Luckily, my body is smarter than I am and the messages became so persistent that I couldn’t disregard them any longer.

Physical activity is an expression of self-care – a way of demonstrating to your body just how much it means to you.

My clients are often amazed to receive similar communications from their bodies and these experiences contribute to their developing self-trust. 

It’s astonishing and gratifying that the body you’ve despised and abused most of your life is still attempting to co-operate with you. It’s as though your body is patiently saying “I know how you feel about me, but I’m still here and I’ll work with you whenever you’re ready”.

You also have to work with that part of you that might feel self-conscious about slapping on the lycra and hitting the gym. While it’s likely you’re going to experience some self-consciousness trying something new, it’s no good if you’re feeling overwhelmingly insecure. Better to do something you really enjoy, rather than signing up for a 12-week hardcore Butts ‘n’ Guts Power Pump Killer Body Booty Camp (OK, I made that up).

“But I won’t lose weight that way”, you might say.

Don’t let weight loss be your motivation. Rather let it be a by-product of your improving relationship with yourself. You don’t lose weight from a starting point of “I hate my body”: you lose weight from a starting point of “I value and appreciate my body and I want what’s best for it”.

I’ve come to believe that, rather than punishment, physical activity is an expression of self-care – a way of demonstrating to your body just how much it means to you.

Exercise is an ally when life is demanding and challenging. It helps balance you emotionally and psychologically. It helps negate years of derogatory messages and body-loathing and striving to be perfect. It helps you prove to yourself you’re worth looking after.  

It helps you feel strong. 

It helps you feel good

It helps you make peace with your body.

And that’s a very long way from “I’m just one of those people who hates exercise”.

That’s why it’s a big deal.

juliederohan.com

16 thoughts on “Summer Rewind: What’s The Big Deal About Exercise?

  1. I found that even “exercise” is an all-or-nothing term. There were various forms of exercise that I hated, and until I found something I enjoyed doing…
    It was a bonus that when I found that form of exercise, weight loss was inevitable, but it was a by-product.
    I reckon that hating exercise just means we haven’t found the right form yet.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I think you’re bang on the money there, Mr B. I prefer the word “movement” to “exercise”. For me, it’s about connecting to my body and keeping myself balanced – emotionally and physically. Good to hear your thoughts, thank you. Hope you’re doing OK.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. How many of us try to bully ourselves into exercising? I know I used to, and it just doesn’t work. Instead if we listen to and work with ourselves, it can become such a pleasure. Many thanks for your comment, hope you’re well.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I really like your post. It is so true that even when we like to move, our minds can go ‘if I do this exercise, I can eat a bag of crisps’ or ‘soon I will look this thin’. The fun is in the moving itself and it can take so many different forms.
    For me it takes some mindfulness to enjoy the movement in the moment and not let my mind run into the (near) future wanting to see results and put more strain onto my body than is needed.
    A question I like to ask myself (as a perfectionist) is ‘Am I working too hard?’ When the answer is yes, I try to ease up and do less.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. What a great question to ask yourself, Kacha. As you say, the key is staying present and listening to yourself. After so many years of torturing my body, my mantra is now “I refuse to punish my body”. Thank you for sharing your experience, Kacha – I hope others will find it useful.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Funny, I also hated exercise. I was in the Navy Reserve and every six months we had to take a physical test. 1.5 mile run, pushups and situps. That was all the exercise I got! Almost killed me every six months, and it’d take me over 15 minutes to finish the run. I’d always barely pass. Also, I was a cop and thought why should I get in shape? Do all that work then just get shot and killed one day! Then, when I realized I was going to survive the police force and retire, I realized I should get in shape to enjoy retirement. I’d hate to survive the police department then have a stroke take me out. I bought a treadmill and started running. Then lifting weights. Finally on the Navy physical test they told me I scored high enough to become a command fitness leader! When I went to school for that at the age of 47 I ran the 1.5 miles in 10:25. Then I decided to become a personal trainer. Now I workout 6 days a week and love it! Total change of lifestyle.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow! What a journey with fitness! You’re proof you can move from a position of hating exercise to loving it. As you demonstrate, that process begins with a desire to look after yourself. Thank you so much for sharing your experience, it’s great to read.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Julie! I’m always perplexed by the motivation of exercising to lose weight because despite being heavily into fitness at times, I never found it impacted my weight, just my mood. I ran marathons and remained a large person. I don’t run anymore, but my body calls me to move, as you talk about, all the time, and I trust that feeling so much more than any fitness ‘goal’. My goal is to keep moving 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Karen, what a great goal that is – just to listen to your body and keep moving. You’re absolutely right that size has nothing to do with fitness and feeling good. Personally, I think there’s something incredibly liberating about refusing to buy into the “thin = health” message and just trust our bodies. Lovely to hear from you, hope you’re doing OK.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Julie, I couldn’t agree more. I actually do hate exercise, even the ones I love lol I would rather not do them, but because of the benefits you’ve mentioned toward the end, I wake up and make myself engage, and I usually feel much better.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Kathy, I’m sorry to hear you hate exercise! But I’m glad you feel better when you do it. Maybe one day you’ll look forward to it? Lol. Many thanks for sharing your experience, I hope you’re doing OK.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Thanks for sharing!… I rarely do “labels” here… 🙂 I just do what works for me and helps me mentally and physically.. I can take a long walk and enjoy the wonders of the universe.. I meditate and explore the wonders of the mind.. I just follow my heart… 🙂

    Until we meet again..
    May love and laughter light your days,
    and warm your heart and home.
    May good and faithful friends be yours,
    wherever you may roam.
    May peace and plenty bless your world
    with joy that long endures.
    May all life’s passing seasons
    bring the best to you and yours!
    (Irish Saying)

    Liked by 1 person

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