thoughts on how to exercise.
In my opinion, making peace with movement doesn’t mean you never exercise again. Instead, it’s about being able to interact with movement in a way that enhances your life and supports you in living your values. For me, there hasn’t been anything in my life that has tormented me quite like the requirement to have to exercise. It was something I thought I’d suffer from for my entire life, but God didn’t leave me there in that place of misery.
I’ve had several requests to do a post on how to incorporate movement again when you used to have a disordered relationship with exercise, so I wanted to share no specifics or “shoulds”, but instead some thoughts I have on the matter.
thought one: this body is not made to be thrown around.
One thought I’ve had often is, “this body is not made to be thrown around.” It’s made for intentional movement that respects my body. I watched the Docuseries Cheer on Netflix and it was so painful. So much self harm disguised as a sport. When watching I just kept thinking, how reckless. If you’ve watched it, then you saw how difficult of situations some of the kids came from and that many were suicidal and cheerleading gave them purpose and a safe space. I worry what happens to them once their temporary savior is no longer an option, since the sport of cheer, unless you go on to coach, is unsustainable.
Watching the show made me think how for the average, non-elite exerciser, we need to be able to distinguish between sensation vs. pain to keep ourselves healthy. Pushing ourselves to sensation is okay, pushing ourselves to pain results in harm and should be avoided. If you cannot respect the limits of your body and instead move in a way that breeds injury and disease, then you need a goal to not exercise.
There is a need for honesty here. Maybe you want to be thin/toned/given the title of an athlete, but if that isn’t going to happen without throwing around your body recklessly to the point of injury, then that needs to be accepted and respected before you can healthfully engage in movement again.
thought two: exercise isn’t a way for me to cope.
Similar to Joshua and Samuel in the bible with their stones, I have a box in my closet where I keep reminders of the things God has taught me. The idea is that by having visible reminders of these things I won’t have to keep learning the same lesson again and again. So far these have been things that I thought I’d always suffer from, but through knowing Him he’s taken them for me. One of these reminders I keep concerns running and it’s taped to my 2009 marathon results.
One of my constant prayers around this is, “disrupt me, oh God. If my body or exercise shifts towards becoming too important, disrupt me.” May it be with realized wisdom, injury, or a body change that isn’t readily accepted in our culture.
I now realize, for me, exercise was always to punish, to numb or to create a false refuge where I thought I’d find my worth. Now that I know that, when I’m not feeling self compassionate or am so overwhelmed I want to numb out, I don’t go to exercise. Exercise is not an option for coping for me. This has been one of the most beautiful realizations for me – exercise is to add to my joy, not to cover up negative emotions. I had this wrong for so many years.
Since I stopped consistent running 7 years ago, I’ve coped with a negative situation by running exactly one time and it was a couple weeks ago (I did 1 mile by 2 minutes walking. 20 seconds running. 2 mins walking. 20 seconds running. repeat. because that’s what my PT recommended and I was able to do it pain free) because I was curious what would happen. It was a cool experience to do it and realize, “okay…that still does nothing for me. Noted. I can respect that. That wasn’t the right way to take care of myself in that moment.” I explained why I think running doesn’t help me cope in my Window of Tolerance post and after my experience a couple weeks ago I still stand by the assessment I made in that post!
For years I was using exercise wrong. If I’m having a bad day, exercise will not turn it around (I feel like that’s a common thing people say…”just go exercise” or “exercise is the most underused anti-anxiety drug” –> for me, I disagree.). It will numb me out, distract me, and lead to me feeling more frantic, anxious, and depleted than I began. The takeaway here is: Exercise is not something I do in times of distress. Exercise, for me, isn’t a way to cope with negative emotions. I’ve realized now that exercise only feels like stress relief and pleasure if I’m in a healthy place. What do you think?
thought three: you need to have authority over your own body.
One thing I love about Momma Strong is how she says, “You have authority over your body.” Meaning, move your body how you should move your body based on you being a unique human with needs, don’t just blindly follow what I’m telling you to do without making an assessment of if it’s good for you. Make the informed decision! No one is going to micromanage your exercise for you. You have to do it.
There are a lot of ways to take care of your health that are good. You have to decide which are nourishing to your body and mind. Haley shared the below Determinants of Health graphic on Insta and it’s such a good reminder of all that goes into us being well. Too much emphasis is put on food intake and movement.
What do you think? Have you found a way to move that respects your body? Are you currently exploring what movement gives you energy or are you taking a break from movement? Have you ever thought to ask yourself: When did exercise become unfun?