Why do you exercise? What motivates you to get to the gym, go for a walk or unroll your yoga mat? For many of us, we are driven by our image, a desire to shed pounds, tone up and look good. Or it might be something we know we should do to stay healthy.
But all these reasons could mean you end up stuck on a treadmill of negative thought patterns as you continually look for areas of imperfection in your body. Why don’t I weigh less? Why aren’t my arms more toned and where on earth are my ab muscles? Exercising…or not exercising becomes laced in guilt and self-criticism.
Perhaps the language we use to talk to ourselves (and others) about exercise needs to shift. However hard it is – maybe it is time to move away from thinking solely about how exercise or movement will make us smaller, lighter and more aesthetically pleasing, and move towards thinking about all the marvellous things our bodies can do. Not only that, but all these amazing things you can do can be fun as well.
Rather than making every day a battle against our bodies – it’s time to call a truce and suggest joining forces with them. When you work with your body, who knows what you are capable of.
Our bodies are our tools that we can use to achieve whatever we want to do. You want to feel the exhilaration of climbing a mountain? Well, you can use your body to train and build up the required muscles and skills to do that. You want to be able to go running around the park without needing to stop? Your body can do it, if you treat it right.
Take a moment to be in awe of what our bodies can do and what they could do. And, most importantly let’s perhaps remind ourselves how moving and learning to move in different ways can an enjoyable experience too.
Imagine if exercise wasn’t just about squeezing in a couple of treadmill runs at the gym each week, but was rather about using our bodies to their fullest potential. Spending weekends outside, walking, running, climbing, doing handstands and cartwheels, exploring new places. Truly making use of our physical bodies and having fun.
Yoga can play a role here. It provides a space for you to take notice of your body. There shouldn’t be a sense of competition or judgment, just you on your mat exploring how to move.
Perhaps you just started yoga and have discovered you can touch your toes? Perhaps you have just mastered a crow pose? Be in awe of whatever your body can do right now.
Not only that, enjoy the sense of movement in your limbs as you flow through your poses. The sense of freedom from not sitting hunched at your desk or getting irate with people on a stuffy tube.
Enjoying how your body moves helps you like it a little more. It helps you stand a little taller, be a little more confident, a little stronger.
When movement or exercise becomes a chore, it becomes something negative and drags you down. It makes your body the enemy. When movement – whether it is yoga, dancing in the kitchen, kickboxing or going for a walk – becomes a joy, it becomes a habit for a lifetime, lifting you up each day.
Some of the thoughts in this piece were inspired by an episode from a podcast series I’ve been listening to for the past few months called ‘The Guilty Feminist’. If you have a chance, download it. It makes me smile.