ongoing intuitive exercise journey

Learning to resist fitness culture after being immersed for it in years (and continuing to be surrounded by it by virtue of the world we live in) is hard work. I’ve gotten way better at it over the past couple years but I am not perfect and it’s still a work in progress.

Today I’m sharing an update on my personal intuitive movement journey — if you haven’t read my first post on this from last year, check it out!

So here’s where I am today:

Recently I was at the gym, heading up to the yoga studio, when I ran into a trainer I had worked with years prior. We chit-chatted and I told him I wasn’t lifting heavy anymore and instead was listening to my body and doing mostly yoga when it came to structured exercise. We talked about how great yoga is, both physically and mentally, and about how he recently got back into yoga and was loving it. However, he felt the need to end the conversation with “You still gotta lift heavy though.” Ugh. That didn’t make me feel great but I reminded myself that I know what’s best for me and I’m honoring my body which is the best form of compassion I can show it.

{Pssst… Jessi Haggerty has some awesome resources for trainers including her nutrition and body image coaching skills course}

I’ve noticed changes in my body since I stopped lifting heavy. It’s something I’m learning to make peace with and reminding myself that my value is not correlated with the amount of cellulite on my body or my muscle definition. Our bodies are not meant to stay the same. Plus, vinyasa flow classes are still a great workout and I benefit from them much more than I did from lifting. They still “count” as weight-bearing exercise, which is important for bone health, and provide flexibility, balance and mental health benefits that lifting heavy did not. If you’ve ever been to an intense vinyasa class, you know it can get your heart pumping enough to “count” as aerobic exercise too, which is important for cardiovascular health.

I was never able to hold a headstand or crow pose while lifting heavy, or fully get into bird of paradise, which I’m now able to do since focusing more on yoga. Right now, these bring me more joy than squatting my body weight. My anxiety and my relationship to my body also have improved since moving more intuitively.

intuitive movement yoga and cat

Movement for me these days is more about how to make my body and mind feel good than to make my body look good. It’s caring more about stretching and proper alignment to prevent pain and injuries than lifting heavy to get a round bum.

While I haven’t gotten under the bar in many months, I have had the one-off lifting session with kettlebells, free weights and EZ  bars here and there. But I no longer do them on a rigid schedule, I do them when my body is craving lifting/pushing/pulling heavy things.

When the crippling soreness sets in the next day I’m reminded of the struggle I used to have trying to balance lifting, running and practicing yoga several times each throughout the week. My body was constantly sore and yoga was so difficult and not enjoyable on super sore muscles. I’m glad those days are behind me. I much prefer the yoga and walking I’ve been into lately.

I also recently was reminded of how dreadful the treadmill is. I live in Chicago where the weather is not very runner-friendly from January through March (and this year, through April). I like running outside on the Lakefront Trail to enjoy the scenery and beautiful weather spring through fall, not to force myself to get miles in no matter the weather.

My dad lives in Austin, TX where the weather is obviously much milder in the winter and he asked me to run a 5K with him during an upcoming visit this February. I hadn’t ran in months so I wanted to do some training so I could actually enjoy the race. I trained on the treadmill throughout January and boy was it less than pleasant. I’m still glad I did it so I could run at a leisurely pace and carry on a conversation with my dad during the race but I won’t be running indoors again anytime soon.

Some days I want a sweaty vinyasa class. Some days I want to walk. Some days I want to run. Some days I want to lift weights. Some days I want some quiet stretching and inversion practice on my own. Some days I want to rest. Each of those are the best form of movement when they feel right for me.

It’s important to note that the kinds of movement I find triggering or problematic are unique to my history. Some people have problematic histories with yoga, while my relationship with yoga has been a healing one. I’m not bashing or promoting any specific types of movement — only you know what is best for you.

My point in sharing all this is to show that this is a process that takes time and is not linear. There will be days when you feel bad about your body, there will be days when you feel like you aren’t moving your body how you “should” and there will be days when you mourn the thin/fit ideal that you’ve left behind.

It’s important to notice and sit with these thoughts and feelings through them we heal.

Some things that can help during this process:

  • If you haven’t already, unfollow all those fitspo accounts on social media (and anything else that makes you feel bad about yourself). Replace them with accounts that show diverse bodies doing diverse things. Jes Baker has a huge list on her site.
  • Surround yourself with positive messaging. Unsubscribe from emails and newsletters that promote fatphobia and orthorexia. Explore body-posi blogs and sign up for their emails instead. (You can sign up for mine here!)
  • Practice non-judgmental curiosity with your body rather than judgment. Pay attention and notice. Even offer it a little kindness, compassion and gratitude.
  • Listen to this podcast episode and this one too.

 

This is my personal intuitive movement story. If you’ve had issues with exercise, consider taking a step back and taking a recalibration period. If you have exercise addiction, seek treatment from a professional.

 

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