WAIT, WHAT?! Someone who doesn’t exercise? What’s she doing with her life? How is that possible? What’s wrong with her?
These might be a few of the questions running through your head right now, and don’t worry, I’ll answer them all in this post 🙂
Yes, you read that correctly- I don’t exercise. I actually really despise the words “exercise” and “workout”. I’m not sure about you guys, but when I think about “exercise” and “working out” I don’t think of positive or happy things- I think about hating my life and wishing I was somewhere else.
But just because I don’t “exercise” doesn’t mean I don’t move my body. Instead of using words like “working out”or “exercising”, I like to say “movement”. And to me, there’s three layers to my definition of “movement”- joyful movement, physical movement, and movement atmosphere.
I’m not going to lie, I still haven’t found my “happy place” when it comes to movement. It’s something I still struggle with, so I don’t have all the answers- I’m slowly but surely healing my relationship with movement and how it relates to my body. Recovering from compulsive exercise is not joke.
The funny thing is, I didn’t realize until I was about 6-8 months into my eating disorder recovery that I had an unhealthy and obsessive relationship with exercise. I thought only food was the problem…I couldn’t have been more wrong. I used to run races, from 5k’s to half-marathons, despite having chronic pain in my ankles. This meant that after I would run (even if just for a short time) I would be in excruciating pain to the point where I wouldn’t be able to walk and would be in hysterical tears. It pretty much felt like I walking on two broken ankles…it was bad. But, despite my pain, I kept running. But it wasn’t just the pain I experienced- I also experienced extreme guilt. If I missed one day at the gym or one day of half-marathon training it felt like the worst person in the world, I would even workout when I was sick. Like I said…it wasn’t healthy.
It wasn’t until I discovered “movement” that the game changed for me.
Moving your body out of joy instead of punishment. What a concept right? Whenever I talk to people about joyful movement, I’m normally met with an “ugh…how can exercise be joyful?” It’s pretty easy actually! Think back to when you were a kid. What were some of the actives you participated in? Do you remember how they made you feel? For me, taking dance classes and swimming were my life and brought me so much joy. But as I grew older and was influenced more and more by diet-culture, I slowly forgot about how much joy and happiness those activities brought me. It was engrained in my brain that intense cardio and lifting heavy weights was the only way I was allowed to work out. So needless to say, I haven’t had a positive relationship with movement for quite awhile.
When I think back on when I was swimming and dancing as a kid, I remember that the thought of how many calories I was burning, how many steps I was getting, how many points I was earning, or how many miles I had gone never crossed my mind. I simply swam and danced because I loved it- not because I was counting or measuring anything. And that’s what joyful movement is. Doing an activity because you simply love doing it!
Joyful movement isn’t worrying about how many calories you’re burning or how many steps you’re getting on your Fitbit, it’s doing an activity that makes you feel good, feel joy, and feel happiness.
I always tried to trick myself into thinking that running was joyful movement for me- it most definitely wasn’t. The reason it wasn’t joyful movement was because although I thought I loved doing it (I later learned I didn’t like it all that much) it caused me extreme pain. Like I mentioned earlier, I would get to the point after running where I wouldn’t be able to walk and would be in tears because I was in so much pain. Doesn’t sound too joyful to me.
Once I finally understood that running wasn’t in the cards for me anymore, I started to investigate other forms of movement that brought me joy and happiness.
I first took a walk down memory lane and tried to remember the things I loved doing when I was kid. That’s when I remembered how much I loved dancing and swimming (it’s crazy to think how deeply rooted I was in my disordered thoughts surrounding exercise that I totally forgot about the things I loved doing as a kid)! I also thought about other ways I had moved my body in the past that left me feeling happy- I added yoga and walks to the joyful movement list. Not only did I add new activities to the list, but I also added people. I used to use exercise as a way to isolate myself from other people, but realized that I actually enjoyed having people around! Now, I’ll take a long stroll with my mom, a yoga class with my cousin, or go for a bike ride with my friends! Adding other people to the equation has made movement an even more joyful experience for me!
Now that we’ve chatted about joyful movement let’s talk about physical movement. The idea of physical movement is something that my therapist and I talked about recently and I haven’t been able to shake that conversation form my mind.
We were in a session talking about movement, and I told her how I was still struggling with fighting my ED thoughts when it came to moving my body. She asked me to go through my daily routine, so I did. I walked her through a day in the life of Becca. After I was done she said mentioned how although I might not have been moving my body in some of the traditional ways I mentioned earlier, that I was still physically moving my body. She reminded me that I was walking from my car to my office, walking to and from class, up and down stairs, and all around my apartment. So although my ED was telling me that I wasn’t moving my body because I didn’t have on comfy clothes and tennis shoes, my therapist was telling me that I was still physically moving my body regardless of what I was wearing. At that point my mind was blown.
Before that point I had never really given what I do during the day any thought. I was in a very black and white mindset. It was either able to commit to movement either before or after work. I told myself that no type of activity could happen at work because I didn’t have the “proper clothes or accessories”.
Once I was reminded that physical activity was simply using my skeletal muscles to move my body from one place to another, my mindset shifted. I started to understand that although I may not be wearing athletic capris or a cotton t-shirt and tennis shoes- by walking, lifting boxing, climbing stairs, cleaning my apartment, rolling around on the floor with my niece, and simply opening and closing my car door I am still physically moving my body.
Is your mind blown as much as mine was? haha
Heads up: You don’t have to be in a gym setting to experience physical or joyful movement! This was one of the biggest misconceptions surrounding movement that I had to shake.
Hiking, dancing, walking, and even cleaning my apartment all take place in settings that don’t include a gym. I used to prescribe to the belief that if you “didn’t go to the gym or didn’t intentionally set out to workout it didn’t count”…..*insert extreme eye roll at myself here*. For example, in October of 2014 when my brother, mom, and I visited Universal Studios I would get up before either of them and would go for a run around the resort we were staying at for the sheer purpose of getting in exercise that “counted”.
At that time I didn’t take into account the roughly 10+ miles we were walking during the day all over Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. I remember how extremely exhausted I would be mid-morning because, instead of sleeping in like my mom and brother, I dragged myself out of bed and ran until it had done “enough” (Also, Florida heat and humidity is still pretty aggressive in October- so I got pretty dehydrated too). So, because I didn’t count walking around in the parks “worthy enough exercise” (AKA I actually had fun doing it) I drove myself to the extreme on that trip.
Now with all that being said, that’s also not to go without saying that you can’t experience joyful movement in a gym. If that’s your jam, go for it! Just recognize, on both ends of the spectrum, that some people love gyms and others don’t and that’s perfectly ok!
Although- I can say without hesitation that some of my most fond and memorable movement experiences have come from outside the gym. Take the picture above, for example. On a recent trip to Tucson, Arizona my mom and I stopped off at a vista on our journey driving up a mountain where we climbed and walked around on rocks and had a fun photoshoot (read more about my trip to Tucson here). I also think about the experience I had this summer while on a trip to New York visiting my best friend- we had so much fun walking around what seemed like the whole island of Manhattan (more on my trip to New York here and here)! Those are memories that I will cherish forever.
Movement doesn’t have to be dreaded. It can be enjoyed, it can be exciting, it can be fun. It can be in a a gym or outside a gym. It can include so much more than what you may think. But always remember that you don’t need to move your body out of hate for it or for the sheer purpose of manipulating the size of your body. Move your body because you want to celebrate how freaking awesome it is! Give your body some credit- it’s gotten you here, hasn’t it? 🙂
That’s all she wrote…
What are some of your favorite types of joyful movement? How do you enjoy moving your body? Let me know in the comments below
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