Having a structure of spontaneity with movement.

Before we jump into today’s post, I wanted to link to my two past exercise posts + my movement module from my eCourse.   All excellent resources on this topic.  If you haven’t read the posts or gone through the module, and compulsive exercise is something you struggle with, I’d recommend those in addition to today’s post :) 

  1. Exercise and me (aka some thoughts on helping you get out of an exercise compulsion)
  2. When exercise isn’t good (aka disconnecting from your body)
  3. Truly Healthy Movement eCourse Module

I feel like I haven’t talked about movement in a while because I don’t struggle with an unhealthy relationship with it anymore.  This week, as I was sitting on the couch listening to an audiobook, I thought, “I never thought I’d feel better on days I don’t exercise, than days I do exercise.  I never thought there wouldn’t be this running thought in my head of ‘did I or didn’t I exercise today.'” But, go figure, here I am.

When I was running daily, even though I would take rest days, there were no rest days because rest days were spent mentally obsessing over how I wasn’t moving enough that day.  So while I was physically allowing myself to take a break from exercise, mentally there were never any breaks.  And because I HAD to run everyday there was never any room (or energy) leftover for joyful movement or trying out a new & different exercise class.  There was always this fear that if I stopped moving in this rigid way something drastic would happen to my body.  Now I realize I don’t have to micromanage my body’s size through eating or moving in a particular way.  My weight is my body’s job.  I don’t have to worry about it.

Having zero exercise plan is still what works for me.  The only structure I have with movement is a structure of spontaneity.  For me currently, yoga is out due to knee pain galore.  Yoga was hard for me to give up because mentally it’s been so helpful in allowing me to tolerate discomfort and boredom, life skills I wanted to develop.  Lately I have enjoyed swimming (or sculling) in a pool, gentle bike rides around our neighborhood and ropes at the gym.  All those things are fun for me and they really do feel joyful.  There’s no, “you have to do x on this day.”  I just do those movements I enjoy when I feel the urge to move.

I realize now to go back to exercising how I used to, I would have to give up taking care of myself.  And similarly, to be in a body size different than the one I am in right in this very moment I would have to give up taking care of myself.  I would have to disconnect from what my body is telling me and zero percent of me will ever be willing to do that.  Now that I’ve gotten to experience being present and feeling life, I won’t ever go back to how things were before.

So many people associate more exercise and being in a smaller body with comments of, “oh, you are really taking care of yourself!”  When for me, and I imagine many of you, my body changing size would be a cry for help that society would greet with praise and encouragement to keep ‘taking care of myself’ even if it’s ruining my life. 

With me and movement, it’s been nice to experience what non-judgmental awareness teaches you.  I’ve learned on days I move more vs. days I don’t move as much I eat pretty much the same amount of food.  To know if it is the exact same amount of food I would have to be obsessed with food, so I can’t say that, but my eating doesn’t change much on movement vs. non-movement days.  

When I was in my ED and people would post, “this is my post workout snack” or “pre-workout snack” my ED brain would say, “oh you should only eat that if you are moving more.”  Now I realize my body asks for pretty much the same amount of food on non-movement vs. movement days (even before pregnancy).  I don’t even bat an eye lash at having a Clif bar for a snack on a day I’m not moving in a structured way.  It’s just a bar that makes a great snack no matter what you’re doing.  I also feel my hunger and fullness cues better on non-movement days.  When I was compulsively exercising I didn’t have any awareness of hunger or fullness cues because I was so disconnected from giving my body what it needed.

Another thing worth mentioning –> One of my very good friends is very athletic.  At the beginning of our friendship I was still exercising compulsively, but about a year into knowing each other I started making moves to become less rigid with my movement and it was hard for me to be the less athletic person in the relationship.  I’m sure a lot of you can relate to finding your identity in being the “fit” one.  The identity of the “fit & toned runner” is something I had to let go of…slowly and then all at once when I took an extended two month vacation from gyms and running and only allowed myself to go on walks outdoors.  Being the ‘fit & toned runner’ never allowed me to live a better life.  Giving up being the ‘fit & toned runner’ has 100% allowed me to live a better life.  I’m more soft and fleshy and present and curious and aware and I intend to stay that way.

I’ve talked about it before, but it really did feel like I was going through a grieving process when I moved away from running.  It was the hardest thing I’ve done.  If it’s seemingly impossible for you to stop compulsively exercising, just know that I get it.  And I hope this post will encourage you to take a step towards a more relaxed and pleasant relationship with exercise.<3

What is a step you can take to move towards a more healthful relationship with movement? Or what are steps you’ve taken to move towards joyful movement?

Next week on the blog we’re going to dive into some my initial experiences and thoughts about pregnancy.  Have a great weekend guys :)


  1. Thanks for this post! I am really working hard to get to this point of moving when I want to rather than saying I have to! Also just a thought for your knees if you are still in pain, have you tried acupuncture? I have been going for the past year and I love it! It helps take away inflammation and they can help with other things like if you have allergies, etc. Some people are like nah it’s not for me, but just a thought! :) 

  2. This post… brought tears to my eyes. I am very much in that phase of letting go of the identity of the “fit runner” that I held on to so tightly for so many years. It is so hard, and I deeply appreciate your acknowledgment of that. It truly is a grieving process. This week especially, I’ve been questioning myself for letting myself “go” and I’ve had those stressed out, anxious thoughts of “how can I get ‘back on track'” so this was the perfect time for me to read this post, and I will bookmark it for the future when I need a reminder that I am not doing anything wrong by moving away from running and a strict exercise routine! In fact, reading this helped me reflect on the ways that I really do FEEL BETTER now that my life isn’t all about intense exercise. I used to return from a morning run, shower, and want to crawl back into bed. Now, I do exercise that doesn’t deplete me. I’m also tuning in enough to know when exercise first thing in the morning will be energizing and when it won’t be. 
    If I can just focus on these positive feelings, this journey will seem so much better. It’s just hard that my physical appearance has to change too and in a way that I am still working to accept and not view as bad or unhealthy. 

  3. Gosh, that’s a good word. I’m learning there are more and more days when my “happy place” with exercise is more or less a game time decision each day. I work evening shifts at the hospital, so oftentimes having a slow morning without plans for exercise helps me feel more rested and balanced. Another great post!

  4. love your outlook on this!! and i’m so glad you have a healthier relationship with working out – i feel like mine has become healthier over the years as well in moving away from that feeling of having to workout 7 days a week otherwise i’m going to turn into a whale. like whatever, if i don’t want to workout one day, or if i just feel like going for a walk, then so be it. other days i can do something else, or not. it’s my choice, just as its yours, and what’s most important is feeling GOOD. thank you for sharing another beautifully written & authentic post!!

  5. So much sage advice here. I used to choose exercise over people. Exercise wasn’t very fun to me at that point in life. Now if I am planning to go running but my husband says, “want to walk the dog with me?” I walk instead.
    I took pressure off myself as well. Much like you, I don’t make myself do any specific exercises. I find I am much more energetic at work and when hanging out with friends this way. I’m putting my energy towards things that make my life better!

  6. I have never struggled with compulsive exercising (which I am so thankful for,) however I have had to change my thoughts/ actions to become healthier physically and mentally.
    I used to do crossfit, which I loved at the time. However, after a few months of doing it,I felt like I was doing out of obligation (I became the one who does crossfit…..) Also, crossfit completely messed with my hunger cues. I was always ravenous. It was uncomfortable and made me more stressed out that it should have. I tried so hard too listen to my hunger cues, however I felt like I was hungry every 30 min- an hour. My brain was obsessing over food since I just couldn’t figure out how to stop this gnawing hunger, which always lead to binges.

    After a few months of debating on whether to leave and try something else, I began to realize that I had to do what was right for ME. I read all about how you gushed about yoga, so I finally decided to try it…and fell in love!!
    It really helped me connect with my body, focus on breathing, release stress instead of causing stress etc. It’s been a little over a month of doing yoga and my hunger cues are beginning to regulate again. I feel like I can live day-to-day without feeling so ravenous and actually tune into what my body is craving/ how much food I actually need. 
    My only concern is as I go to college, what exercise should I do? I don’t know if they have a yoga studio and I really want to do something that is joyful. I joined a program where once a week they have fun classes such as spin, yoga, pilates etc  (which makes me excited!!) but I definitely want to find some kind of joyful movement for other days…. we shall see :) 

  7. No surprises that yoga aggravates your knee pain – every PT I have seen (which is…a lot) has been seriously anti-yoga. They always recommend Pilates instead. You don’t need standardized training (or a real understanding of anatomy) to lead a yoga class, often to the detriment of the students of such a class. Pilates, on the other hand, requires a certification, and instructors often actually know what they are talking about when it comes to anatomy/injuries/proper alignment.  

    • I LOVE pilates, but we actually think the reformer machine is what killed my knees! Which is such a bummer bc it is so fun!!!! Too much knee movements + jumping for my poor knees. Hopefully I’ll be able to get back to it eventually :)

  8. Thank you for this, Kylie!

    I’m at the point in my recovery where I don’t exercise beyond taking walks or doing one light yoga class a week. At first, it was so hard to step out of the mindset of “I HAVE to move” every single day–and I lived in NYC, so I really was moving a ton each day! But now I live in a more peaceful environment and I’ve taken a step back from exercise for months, and my body is so much happier. I’d say I’m actually eating more now, too–hooray for that! It’s so freeing when you realize you don’t have to micromanage and manipulate your body.

    Thanks again!

  9. Last year I broke my foot (stress fracture) so was unable to run for most of the year. I really struggled with the loss of that identity, and made me question why I had put so much identity in it (I’d only been running for just over 2 years). I was able to cope by turning to other forms of exercise, but out of that I discovered my struggle with exercise compulsion through your blog, I’d never heard of it before. It’s still hard, and I’m not fully ready to give up exercise since it’s my major coping mechanism for grad school, but I’m thinking I might need to at some point. I want to be able to exercise and be happy about i, but also have time for my family. I realize you can’t have everything in life, and I’ve been afraid to give up exercise, but you’re posts are so refreshing, like a spring rain, they give me encouragement and hope. I want to be friends with my body and not fighting it all the time. Thank you for being so wise and sharing it with everyone, you’re the best! :)

  10. Honestly this may be one of my favorite posts yet, and that’s saying something! Love your conviction that it is our body’s job to manage our weight and NOT ours- so true!! Also- interesting that you feel more in tune with hunger/fullness cues on days where you don’t work out. Will have to pay more attention to that and see if I’m the same! Thanks for always being bold and honest in your posts. :)

  11. I have a kind of random question not totally related to this post…I have recently given up structured exercise after a dietician strongly suggested that I am experiencing adrenal fatigue. While I do show almost all of the symptoms, I know many medical experts don’t even really believe it is a real thing. First off, do you think the adrenals can, in fact, be overtaxed and require healing? And if so, what are your thoughts on the relatively rigid diet suggestions recommended for healing them? I’m torn between trying to heal a disordered mindset through intuitive eating and also trying to heal my physical body with a more rigid eating plan.

  12. Only in the last couple weeks have I been able to do this.  I was working out intensely Monday through Friday for over a year.  In the last couple of months I was over it – tired of getting up at 5am, not into the work outs, etc, but I was still doing it!  Finally, three weeks ago, I said I’m only going if I feel like it.  Sometimes I go – I’m excited to go.  Sometimes I don’t.  I’ve started doing other things to move my body. And overall, I just don’t spend as much time thinking about it – dreading it or otherwise.  Feels really good.  

  13. I just adore this Kylie… and I adore YOU! You are a breath of fresh air in this space. Thank you so much for all the positive energy you put into the world!! ✨

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  15. I feel like I am currently struggling with exercise. I have a gym membership and some days I dread going to the gym. But I worry that if I cancel my membership I won’t ever exercise. Part of me thinks I need to exercise to be strong and to feel good and sleep better and all that good stuff. Another part of me thinks it may be because I want to “maintain” my weight. I don’t really know. :(

  16. This is SO GOOD! It wasn’t until I found your previous posts on movement that I finally made the connection that regimented exercise and running were actually taking away from my life instead of adding to it. Like you, even when I was on a “rest” day, I wasn’t actually resting because I was mentally dreading when I would have to go run again. And I can remember ever single day I was at work, and even though work would go fine, I would actually be DREADING when work was over because that meant I also had to go run. I DO love running, but now I’m only doing it when I absolutely feel like it and I’m WALKING a lot more and finding it is so much better!

  17. Thank you for this post. Especially the part about how you connected being a fit, strong runner with your identity. I also had this attachment and there was a period of time where I was continuing my distance running (through pain, fatigue, burnout, etc) because it had become my primary identifying characteristic amongst my peers. That was a really hard thing to deal with. What helps me now is really paying attention to my inner voice – is there an internal or external motivation to do something? This was never hard as a kid – you either liked something so you did or you didn’t like something so you didn’t do it. When I get stuck between my internal and external voices I sometimes think – what would I do if I were a kid? Thought I’d share because this really helped me:)

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  20. Oh man. I can relate to this post. My identity is totally wrapped up in my workouts. I feel like a pathetic looser when I have to take a break from the exercises I feel I should be doing. Question for you. When I have tried taking a day off from exercising(I’m including walks here) I feel icky and like I’m going to jump out ofy skin by like 3 so I end up doing some sort of exercise. Does that just mean that my body needs some sort of movement each day or is it like a withdrawal symptom?

    • Hi Katie!

      It’s hard to say without fully knowing you and your exercise history and how much your level of movement is having a negative impact on your life. But I think it’s great for everyone to explore their attachment, or for some aversion, to various types of workouts!

      Ever done yoga? Not power yoga or hot yoga, just like a gentle, flow class?

      Yoga can be good for some bc it helps you stay mindfully attached to the present and encourages individual to stay connected to body sensations and explore that icky feeling and what it’s about rather than just saying, “eww eww eww I don’t want to feel this.” The slow nature of yoga challenges the hyperactive nature of movement like running, cycling, cardio exercises you may be doing to push that icky feeling.

      I hope you let yourself begin to take a break from workouts and ponder where else your identity could be found. Just my thoughts<3

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