I still have a hard time “justifying” a workout that isn’t grueling. Don’t get me wrong, I love challenging my body and getting a heart-pumping, strength-training workout. It’s an elixir for my anxiety. And many times, it’s fun.
But it’s not always what my body requests.
If I’m stretching or doing something else less rigorous, I wonder if I should be pushing myself more. I wonder if I’m making the best use of my time. Am I truly being efficient?
I can also hear women’s fitness magazines in my mind, scolding me.
In our society, we’ve largely been taught that exercise must be back-breaking in order to be “effective.” We must maximize our workout time all the time. If you have 30 minutes in your day, you must be a productive exerciser and get all your reps in and speed up the pace.
Exercise is viewed as a chore to check off your to-do list or a punishment for the sin of consuming too many calories.
And unless it has an end goal – weight loss, bigger biceps, leaner legs – we think we should pass on that physical activity. It’s just not worth it.
Instead, we need to pack in the pavement-pounding exercise and unpack the pounds.
At the core, I believe this viewpoint stems from thinking that we don’t deserve to feel good. Pleasure in its purest form. Just because. We don’t think we deserve to nourish ourselves.
In Eat, Pray, Love, when Elizabeth Gilbert decides to learn Italian purely because she loves the language and it makes her happy, she hesitates at first, and then ponders:
But why must everything always have a practical application? I’d been such a diligent solider for years – working, producing, never missing a deadline, taking care of my loved ones, my gums and my credit score, voting, etc. Is this lifetime supposed to be all about duty? In this dark period of loss, did I need any justification for learning Italian other than that it was the only thing I could imagine bringing me any pleasure right now?
But how do you change the ingrained beliefs that physical activity must be productive and must involve weight loss?
This question was prompted by a recent comment from a reader.
What if everything now, movement, is considered “calorie-burning” to the point that any movement is considered exercise and no longer just for the whimsy of the adventure…
Even hiking, walking, anything…
If someone loved activity, as a real thing, but now has tainted it with this perspective, how do they get out of it?
Or is it like an alcoholic’s continuous hopeless recovery from the disease – they are incapable of having a drink sensibly or without the same motivations so they must forever abstain.
That is a depressing thought.
I don’t mean to sound cliché, but movement is what you make of it. And it’s important for it to be pleasurable in the purest sense. So experiment with different types of movement to see what’s most pleasurable for you.
Do you associate exercise with losing or maintaining your weight? Do you think exercise is a chore? If you did, how did you change that mindset? What are some of your favorite ways to move your body?
P.S. There’s so much more to say about finding fun ways to move your body, and I have more great insight from a variety of wonderful experts, so expect another post on exercise very soon!
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Last reviewed: 8 Sep 2010