Too often, moving our bodies has become a moralistic ritual called “exercise.” One “must do this” to maintain “health.” In our culture, health is defined as thin and thus, moving our bodies becomes all about attaining a certain body shape or size or about weight loss. This can lead to compulsion or, conversely, avoidance. Moving our bodies can become a thing we dread, a form of drudgery. When we move our bodies in the context of this negative mindset, we can lose touch with our bodies and what they are communicating to us. Let’s talk about some things to think about in regards to exercise and body movement.
Injury is your body’s way of saying it’s working too hard and needs to rest. Consider your intentions: are you exercising because you feel you “have to?” Are you afraid of skipping a day? Or are you working through injury because your coach told you to? Consider this: exercising through injury can lead to lasting, chronic injury, inflammation and pain. We need to ask ourselves is it worth it in the long run?
Time with loved ones is just as important as moving our bodies. Our minds and bodies are not separate. While body movement can be a fun and important part of our lives, we want to be able to take the compulsion out of it. Can you miss a “workout” to spontaneously spend time with a loved one? If working out is taking away from real obligations you have in your life, it’s time to take a careful look at your relationship with exercise.
Detach from the idea of weight loss when it comes to body movement. Imagine, if you will, moving your body just for the sheer joy of it. When weight loss is the motivator factor, it can cause a disconnect between your mind and your body, once again leading to compulsion, a poor relationship with movement and body, and burnout.
Watch kids! They move in all sorts of ways. Find the fun in movement!
Redefine why you move your body. Think of what you enjoy. Is it the camaraderie? How fast you can go? The competition? Discovering your strength? Or just being alone with your thoughts? Connect to your values and connect to your body.
Ditch activities you don’t like. Only do activities you actually enjoy. Resist the urge to do a certain type of exercise just because you heard it will burn more calories or cause “those pounds to melt off.” Reconnect with activities you love and are within your ability. No need to push yourself to do things you don’t like. That will likely lead to injury and eventual burnout anyway.
Switch venues. If you’re always at the gym, try the great outdoors. Always on the trails? Hit the pool!
Change it up. Variety keeps you mentally interested, and also allows you to move in different ways, challenge different muscles — which makes you less prone to overuse injuries.
Create community. There’s nothing like a walk and talk with a dear friend to clear your mind, reason things out, and just enjoy one another. Most of all, have fun together! Maybe try a fun new activity and laugh the entire time.
Experience the joy of solitude. Moving your body can be a form of meditation.This reconnection to your body can reduce stress and anxiety, and allow you to gain perspective on things you hadn’t been able to when your mind was racing. Look around at your surroundings and appreciate the life that’s all around you.