Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Changing the Purpose of Exercise

As I talked about in this post, I have learned so much about true health and positive body image and how those things are related. I have learned that weight has very little to do with it. Exercise is one of the things that I have had a drastic change of heart toward. 

I had always heard that you should find something you enjoy and do that as a form of exercise. The thing was, there was never anything I really enjoyed. I did enjoy the feeling after exercising, though. I had basically decided that I was just a person who didn't like exercise. I enjoyed running sometimes and I could walk all day long--unfortunately I have a daughter who enjoys a very limited amount of time in the stroller. Just before summer, a friend of mine invited me to join a group of women at a church building for Zumba.

exercise is not punishment

I went. Mostly because I wanted to see this friend and also because she convinced me that it would be a good time. I hadn't ever tried Zumba and I'm not sure why. I went to my first class and I loved it! I loved it so much that it became an obsession for a few weeks-the rest of the week I worked out using Zumba videos online instead of my regular workout videos. I had actually found an exercise I loved doing. 

This may sound dramatic, but it was a life-changing discovery for me. It actually gave me a chance to hear the way I spoke to myself about exercise and what that communicated to me. I would wake up on the morning (it's now become mornings-YAY!) I had Zumba and I would be excited about exercise. If I decided to do a different workout on the other mornings, I would find that I would think, "Ugh. I don't like this." But my "motivation" came from things like, "But you need to do it. You need to lose weight. You need to get things in control. You have to." What was shocking, though, was realizing that I was mentally bribing myself, "When you lose the weight, you can workout however you want." 

I've mentioned this before, but having JaiseAnn has made a huge difference in how I perceive things related to health/body image. I started to think about what messages I wanted to send her. What was more important--being a thinner version of myself or teaching my daughter to celebrate (not punish) her body through exercise? And that's when I freed myself from forced exercise. I've created exercise boundaries for myself (I will do a post on that later) which is my way of being accountable and making sure I get some form of exercise in every day. If I want to do a Zumba video, I do. If I want to go running, I do. If I want to work out to an at home DVD, I do. I make sure that I take time to think about how I would like to spend my time exercising that day and then I go with that. No more rigid programs. No more feeling forced. Now I embrace each activity as it's my choice rather than my punishment. 

This discovery has been so liberating. I encourage everyone to try it. It's so fun. Like I've said, I haven't lost the weight yet, but I know that I'm in a good place with exercise and I'm so proud of that. I have been working out more consistently than I ever have before in my life--and I love it. 

What is your attitude about exercise? Do you have a favorite form? Do you (or have you) ever treated exercise like a punishment? 

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