The Best Exercise Secret

October 1, 2015

I’ll never forget limping into my obstetrician’s office when I was five months pregnant with my son. I had a constant, jabbing pain in my hip–which turned out to be sciatica–and I was grumpy because my running schedule had been sidelined. My doctor suggested I relax and put my feet up.

That was easier said than done. For years, my perfectionist tendencies around weight and body had been driving me towards intense, goal driven physical activity. This is the hidden side to exercise—when it’s mainly a practice in not gaining weight. I had been moving from a place of push and force for so long that letting go of how far, how long, how fast or how many calories burned was a challenge.

Yet being forced to slow down brought more intelligence to my workouts and in the process I discovered the best exercise secret: move in ways you love. It completely changed the way I experience exercise.

Once I shifted beyond seeing exercise as a way to burn off calories it liberated me from needing a high intensity workout each and every time. It meant I could go for a walk if I wasn’t up to running. I could do a yoga class. I could go for a bike ride with my daughter.

I began to feel like I was doing something for my body rather than doing something to my body.

Even if you aren’t an over exerciser like me the secret is still a game changer. Maybe you have bad memories of exercise from high school gym class. Maybe exercise feels like a form of punishment to you. Either way, finding a way to move that is enjoyable means you will be more likely to do it and stick with it.

If you’re moving from a place of stress, force or self-rejection—in other words pushing through militant exercise to get the body you want—then you aren’t enjoying being in your body now. This type of movement tends to have a short shelf life. Yes, you may lose weight but once you can no longer keep up with a heroic level of exercise you end up back where you started–struggling with extra pounds and dissatisfied.

We need a new consciousness around exercise that isn’t about perfectionism, self-judgment and obsession around body image.

It can be liberating to decouple weight loss goals from exercise and instead discover what kind of movement you truly enjoy. From that place it becomes easier to focus on bigger, more meaningful intentions such as taking care of yourself and what you can achieve in life with a strong body as your foundation.

I’m still a runner and I love challenging workouts but my mindset has changed. I exercise now to clear my head, feel inspired and pump up my energy. Movement of any kind fits with the larger vision I have for myself—which is to feel vital and maximize my experience of life.