The "Why" Behind the Workout
160+. That’s the number of workouts that my online portal said I’ve done since this time last year. That breaks down to about 4 intense 40-60 minute workouts each week, not counting the untracked yoga sessions, ab workouts, long walks, or other routines outside my little home gym. That’s a lot of 5 AM wakeups and time crunched before classes to fit it in. It’s a lot of later dinners to squeeze in some movement or delayed mornings to make sure I’m burning some calories.
I’ve been taking some time in the last few months to reflect on my movement journey and really dig in to my relationship with exercise.
An epiphany didn’t come overnight, but seeing this meaningless 160+ number has given me a bit of a wakeup call, which is slowly leading to a fresh perspective on movement. To be honest, I’m finding that both my motivation and interest in regimented exercise has been really slumping lately. When I say regimented exercise, I mean anything structured: on a video, in a gym, in a HIIT class, etc. When I really dig into this, I think it’s because I’ve reached a point in my recovery journey and life where exercise just doesn’t mean as much to me anymore - at least not in the way it used to.
Let’s unpack this... bear with me, my own self-discovery wheels are turning as I write.
My history with exercise can be described as compulsory and generally unenjoyable. From high school to more recent years, I’d feel guilty if I didn’t exercise regularly. It got to the point where I couldn’t focus on school or work if I didn’t work out. Movement took up an unhealthy amount of my headspace, causing stress and anxiety. It’s crazy, because that’s the opposite effect that movement should have on the body! In reality, compulsory exercise thoughts can be just as debilitating as disordered eating thoughts. In fact, they’re the one thing still ruthlessly hanging onto me as I push forward in my own journey.
Now, I’m working harder than ever on self-love, body acceptance, intuitive eating, and mindful movement. Put in the simplest way I can think of: in the last 6-12 months, I’ve realized that my body is literally going to be what it’s going to be, and it’s not changing. Whether it’s genetics, hormones, set-point-weight, whatever - that little 160+ number or other exercises didn’t really change the way I looked at all.
Even more importantly, I’ve realized that I need to deeply examine my intentions behind why I do regimented workouts in the first place. I’ll be real with you - some days I really do work out simply to feel good and get a mood boost. Other times, I know deep-down that my movement is fueled by comparison and wanting to change my body. At this point, I can recognize when each kind of movement is occurring. Now, I’m better at re-centering my thoughts and body when I realize that non-positive movement is happening. I think this is something we should all be doing: are we working out to feel good, or are we pursuing a thin ideal that will only drag and exhaust us for eternity?
I guess what I’m trying to say is that at the end of the day, I have more acceptance now than ever that:
1) exercise doesn’t always make me feel good, physically or emotionally
2) it’s not going to change my body dramatically
3) I get way less value from it when I do it out of a place of self-hate or compulsion
Do I want to completely eliminate exercise/movement from my life? Absolutely not!
I plan to continue working out and finding intuitive, healthy ways to move, because I KNOW that there are times when it makes me feel really good. Your relationship with exercise will ebb and flow, and that's 100% normal. All workouts make you feel different. However, all of my recent realizations about regimented exercise just make me...like it less. Doing this deep-dive into my intentions + thoughts behind movement has just really helped me shift my viewpoints surrounding it.
This reflection helped me realize that sometimes, an extra hour and a half of sleep can go a long way. That going on a bike-ride with my husband or throwing some disc golfs with friends can provide me a chance to move and is usually WAY more fun. That taking a stroll with my friend and her baby is more important than pressing “play” on 40 minutes of "legs and booty". That going to a slower-paced yoga class instead of doing a plyo workout can calm my mind in a way HIIT never really will.
Even though I’m a work in progress, I’m so glad I’m realizing that life is so much more than regimented movement and working out. My ultimate goal is to find a super happy medium: a world where exercise doesn’t hold any power over me, and instead holds only a place of positivity in my mind and soul. I hope you can do the same!