Moving my body to clear my head is a relatively new concept for me. For years, I put off exercise due to lack of enjoyment – it was a punishment, or something I felt pressured to do in an extreme way in order to lose weight. I wasn’t skinny enough, so I needed to exercise to get thin. And the exercise I made myself do was never something I actually enjoyed; it would take me weeks of thinking about going out to exercise, then on the day I finally made myself go I’d have to psych myself up to even leave the house, spend an hour or so in the gym pushing myself way too hard, eventually going home and feeling a small high that I’d actually completed a work out. Then by the next day, that high would completely fade, I’d remember how much I didn’t enjoy the exercise itself, and feel no motivation to go back.
It’s taken years of this cycle, but recently I’ve really felt a shift towards a healthier relationship with my body, and how I move it. Now when I exercise, I try to be kinder to myself about it. If I miss a day for whatever reason, I pick up where I left off instead of telling myself I’ll have to start again from scratch. I’m beginning to see exercise as a way to clear my head and as a form of self care – which is exactly what it should be! Exercise and movement are just ways of keeping yourself strong and healthy, and hopefully happy too. I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to get to this stage, but I’m really starting to embrace my body and working to make it stronger rather than smaller.
The way I’ve done this is something very new for me (in case you haven’t realised by now, I’m a pretty extra person): I didn’t make it a big deal. For just over 2 months, I’ve been meditating first thing every morning, followed by yoga and a couch-to-5k session every so often when I feel the motivation – and this is the first time I’ve really spoken about it. In the past, every time I set my mind to a new cycle of exercise or healthy eating, I always felt the need to broadcast it – almost as a means of justifying the way I looked and making myself more comfortable with it. ‘I’m chubby, but I’m doing something about it and that makes it okay’, feels like what I was trying to say, and it often made me feel even worse when I’d inevitably fail at my overambitious training plan. I’d mention it to my friends and tell all my work colleagues, hoping that I’d feel pressured into continuing the plan so that when they then asked me how it was all going, I’d have some results to share. The reality of course, was that I couldn’t keep up with all these lifestyle changes I’d decided to put into action all at once, and feel awful when people then asked me about it and nothing about my body or how I felt about it had really altered.
It was a horrible way to treat my body, and not great for my mental health either, so this time I’ve decided to not really talk about it with anyone- with the exception of that time I drank two bottles of wine at girls night and decided it was prime time for a downward dog… I also do get the irony of posting about it on here, but it seemed like a conversation that might help others, so here I am. For the most part, it’s something I’m just going to do for me. So rather than tracking progress in terms of pounds lost or clothes I can now fit into again, I’m going to track it by how much more flexible I am, how much stronger by body feels and how happier my mind is. Helping my mind is also why I’ve started meditating every day too, and I’ve found my head so much clearer just for taking 10 minutes out of my day to sit quietly and let my thoughts come and go.
I’ve also learnt that exercising doesn’t always reflect the way your body looks; you can spend every evening in the gym and still not have a thigh gap, or you could eat 3 Big Macs a day and never put on weight. The best thing is to do what makes you as happy and healthy as possible, without punishing yourself for not meeting unattainable goals. As the old cliche goes: it’s the journey, not the destination – in other words, my advice is to exercise because you want to that day, not because you’re hoping to lose 4 stone in 6 weeks so you can get that ‘beach body’ (which everyone should know by now quite literally just requires you to have a body and be on a beach).
So, the main purpose of this post isn’t intended as a boast about how I’m doing so great at exercising; but rather as a reminder to anyone out there struggling with your body (or your mind) that you’re not alone. It can take years to find a routine that works for you and that you actually stick to when it comes to exercise. And that’s okay. It’s not something I can really help with – from experience, new routines seem to stick much more when you come to them on your own. But if you feel inspired to make a change, I thought it might be worth putting a few useful links below to the websites/apps I use:
Do you have stories about positive exercise changes you’ve made? Or maybe any experiences that made you feel happiest with your body (you go gal!)? Let me know in the comments – I’d love to hear from you!