This is a reblog and edit of a post from November 2017. You can read the original here.
You know what I hate? Exercise. You know what I love? Joyful movement. And here’s the difference:
Exercise is firm, regimented, and doesn’t actually care how you’re feeling that day. It employs phrases like “no pain, no gain” and “just do it” to push you past your personal limits. And it means well, because exercise is good for your heart and makes you stronger and faster. Some people really enjoy exercise and having a training schedule and that’s okay too, because it’s all about what truly sets your heart on fire. But to me, exercise is a distant acquaintance that you nod to on the street and automatically reply “fine” to when asked “how are you?”
Then there’s joyful movement – the friend that grabs your hand and says “But how are you really?” after you say “fine.” The difference is the lack of a rigid, day-by-day plan and the huge amount of listening to your body that is done. Which isn’t to say that an exercise plan doesn’t allow a certain amount of listening to your body, but there’s something so refreshing about thinking, “I sat a lot today and my body is craving movement. I’m a little sore from moving apartments, so a walk and a yoga video sound great.”
ANY MOVEMENT IS BENEFICIAL
I want to take some time out and call attention to the fact that any movement is beneficial and you don’t have to have a complex plan or big goals or any plan/goals at all for it to be good for your body. I’m guessing we all know some of the benefits of movement and fitness (heart health, joint health, etc) so I won’t parrot those here. Exercise has been shown to improve body image, and I think that’s amazing. But I think it’s also good to know that allowing yourself to find movement that feels good to you is a great place to start, and you don’t need to try and run a half marathon or CrossFit your arms off just because your friends do. If you love those, that’s cool! If you don’t, that’s also cool!
IS IT ALWAYS JOYFUL?
Let’s dig into this question a little bit. I love that this whole up-and-coming concept of joyful movement is catching on. I think it sounds so positive and happy and freeing. But I also wonder to myself a lot – am I always supposed to be feeling absolute joy?
I think it’s okay to not be ecstatic about every workout or class or exercise opportunity. The harm comes when we force our bodies to do things they don’t want to, or when choosing movement takes away more from our day than it adds. For example – I know that my body doesn’t feel great at the end of the day if I haven’t moved a bit and walked around or stretched. So, I try to walk to deliver messages at the hospital instead of phoning for them, I use a restroom across the building, and I take a stretch break every hour or so while I chart. My heart doesn’t soar with joy for any of these things, but they’re quick, painless, and add up to feeling a little less physically tense at the end of the day.
Here’s some questions to ask yourself to guide in your decision making:
- Why am I doing this? (your why should not be your appearance)
- Does this add to my day? Or add more overall stress?
- Did I sleep well last night?
- Is this a muscle burn or muscle pain? (there is a difference and pain is bad)
DISCOVERING WHAT MOVEMENT IS JOYFUL FOR YOU
Two words: try everything. And then sing this song in your head while you do it.
Just kidding about that song thing, but really – if your doctor says it’s okay/you’re cleared for movement/it feels right, trying all the things is such a fun way to make discoveries. I used to think all you could do at the gym was a combination of a cardio machine + weight machines, but having a friend teach me how to use the free weights/heavy weights was an eye opener for me! Then I thought, if this is fun, what else am I missing out on?
So, here’s a list (that is by no means comprehensive) of different kinds of movement to try!
MOVEMENT EXPLORATION OPTIONS
My absolute favorite form of motion for a full year was Barre3, a combination of pilates, yoga, and ballet barre. I especially love the body positivity vibes I get from the instructors (in person and online!) when they say things like “Here’s what to do if this doesn’t feel good in your body” and “Remember that your body is different every day, so it’s okay to adapt along with that.” Here’s a free class online or the link to the full online workout library (the subscription is SO worth it if you love this – not sponsored, just a great value!).
I will say, yoga is one of the kinds of movement that feels best in an actual class rather than on my own. I went to an intermediate class with a friend over the summer and it was so nice to be surrounded by people who were also centered on loving and moving their bodies for an hour! For at home, I love Yoga With Adriene on YouTube! Here‘s a 15-minute feel-good flow.
I’ve never tried Pilates in person ($$$) but The Balanced Life Pilates with Robin Long is a great Youtube channel for equipment-free pilates options! I’ll open a quick 10-minute pilates flow video for when I need to move but am feeling cozy and lazy at the same time (anyone else get that feeling?). Here‘s my current fave.
Who can resist a tried-and-true (and FREE) favorite like taking a stroll? I usually bring Drew along if I feel like walking so we can chat, but a podcast works just as well if he’s not around! Here‘s one that will give you all the food positive vibes.
I bought a kettlebell shortly after moving in with Drew and it has been such a satisfying way to enjoy a sweaty workout at home! Sometimes I want slow stretching, and sometimes I want my heart to pound – and this workout definitely makes it happen.
We live in the mountains of Idaho and hiking trails are plentiful and beautiful! AllTrails is great for finding a path, or just googling around works too! If you’re ever in the Tetons, we liked this Jenny Lake hike – lots of milage but relatively flat so it’s not too hard on the legs.
I haven’t swam (swum?) in a while, but Kylie posted a lot about it when she was pregnant with her sweet little girl, and it looked so good that I’m pondering a trip to an indoor pool…or maybe just a hot tub. 😉 I love how weightless swimming makes me feel, and it’s so easy on the body! Basically a spa day plus a workout in one.
This post is part of the Abundantly Enough blog series, where my girl Amy Shen and I chat about all things HAES, intuitive eating, and wellness. Join us in our Facebook group for more discussion + weekly videos!