How to stop dreading exercise
Exercise used to be my unhealthy obsession. It usually felt joyless, but I gave it hours every day. I’d jog alone at night and lift weights so aggressively that I was nearly always sore. If someone delayed my "workout" (a term I rarely use now!), I would get so anxious that I wanted to cry. My friends called me a health nut, but when I was honest with myself, I wasn’t exercising for my health. I was willingly sacrificing my safety and mental health to shrink my body into OK-ness. In the years since, I’ve drastically shifted my relationship with my body and my mindset about caring for myself. I no longer exercise out of guilt, obligation, or punishment for eating. Life is too precious to spend bullying myself. Besides, I don't need bullying to move. These days, what inspires me to be active is the experience. I like the crunch of gravel beneath my shoes, the feeling of my muscles relaxing into a stretch, and the creativity of dancing like a weirdo. I like feeling strong, unencumbered, and capable! I don't "work out." It's more like playing. (Before I go on, I want to acknowledge that when we’re really low or in pain, the way we move our bodies has to adapt. If you’re struggling and the action step below feels too hard to try today, this may be more helpful. I hope tomorrow is a better day.) If you want to change your relationship with movement, here's how to start: Move your body in some way that feels good while you’re doing it. I’m not just talking about slogging through a run to get to the feel-good endorphins afterward. You can get endorphins going with most any exertion. Today's step is about enjoying the during of movement, too. Today, move your body solely for the joy of it, for as long as you want. If you think you hate exercise, let go of grown-up expectations of what exercise "should" be, and just imagine you’re a kid. What would be fun if you were a child right now? Would you swing? Hula hoop? Do cartwheels and spin? Crabwalk down the hall? There’s no time requirement, rush, or pressure to do this a certain way. Just let your instincts for play take over. When we enjoy movement, we’re more likely to keep moving our bodies regularly. But more importantly, wouldn’t it be nice spend a little more of life feeling good in your one and only body?