Intuitive Movement: How to make exercise *actually* fun
My first experience with “exercise” was probably like a lot of yours: P.E. class. We did jumping jacks, arm circles, and, my absolute least favorite, “the mile.” Then middle school came around and these same activities were sandwiched between locker room awkwardness, which consisted of body contorting shimmies in an attempt to not reveal more than an inch of skin. This was exercise. This was working out. And this was decidedly NOT fun. Nothing about exercise felt like “intuitive movement.” If anything, the little voice inside my head was telling me that working out was simply not for me.
It wasn’t until I started pursuing activities that made me feel connected to my body — not in conflict with it — that I realized it was possible to genuinely enjoy physical activity. It was about the opposite of how I felt with all the workouts I thought were the “right” type of exercise such as movement that involved treadmills, tucks, and uppercuts.
All this to say, if you don’t like exercise, I know how you feel. But my bet is, some of you may be like me and just need a little more experimentation and re-framing. Because when you connect with intuitive movement that speaks to you — working out can *actually* be fun.
Disclaimer: I am not a fitness expert or nutritionist. I’m simply someone who found joy and comfort in intuitive movement. And I hope you may find something that resonates with you from my experience!
1. Embrace intuitive movement
Much like the “intuitive eating” ideology, “intuitive movement” shifts the focus away from following a set of rules and, instead, towards listening to your body.
Rachael Hartley, a registered dietitian and certified intuitive eating counselor, describes intuitive movement as: the practice of connecting with your body’s “internal cues” and “using that to determine what type of movement, how long, and the intensity you’d like to engage in.”
The general takeaway: do exercise that FEELS GOOD and not like punishment. For example, if you truly dread going on the treadmill — maybe that’s not the right thing for you. Or if you find yourself having to “reward yourself” with new workout clothes or ice cream cones to get to a workout class (insert: me before every barre class), then it’s probably a sign that exercise isn’t inspiring you.
On the other hand, if you feel a sense of confidence after an activity, whether it’s biking, dancing, or walking around your neighborhood, then listen to that feeling. And embrace it! Because research shows when we ENJOY our workouts we’re more likely to stick with them.
2. Be open to change
Just like we probably don’t want to eat the same thing every day, we probably don’t want to do the same workout every day either. If you’re like me, Mondays are when I feel most motivated to go for a jog or do a HIIT workout. But by Thursday I only have energy for a 20-minute walk, maybe.
Ultimately, changing up our workouts is a good thing, according to Shape. Since our bodies adjust to the workload, we eventually need more “change” to grow. So if you’re feeling bored or unmotivated, it may just be that it’s time for a transition.
Here are some ideas if you’re feeling a bit in a workout rut:
- Free online yoga classes on DoYogaWithMe.com
- This 20 minute HIIT workout class
- Walk in your neighborhood (call a friend or listen to a podcast that makes you happy)
- Go on a hike and soak up the fresh air. AllTrails is a great resource if you’re looking for hiking inspiration
3. Plan realistic workouts for you
If the idea of setting your alarm early to do something active makes you want to curl up in a ball — consider afternoon or evening workouts. Similarly, if working out for an hour is out of the question with your busy schedule, try making an effort to do twenty minutes of movement at some point during the day.
Making your workout fit your routine — rather than changing your whole routine to fit your workout can be a helpful way to get moving. However, starting a new habit is easier said than done (more on that here). But research shows that the smaller the habit, the easier it is to establish and maintain.
(For some ideas for quick and easy exercises to squeeze in your schedule, check out this post)
4. Celebrate rest
Rest days are not lazy. Far from it! According to HealthLine, rest days allow time for recovery, prevent muscle fatigue, reduce risk of injury, and support healthy sleep. Plus, when you give your body time to recharge, you’ll be way more likely to stick with your routine for a long period of time. So next time you have a rest day, please don’t be down on yourself! Those days are just as valuable as “leg days” or “cardio days” — just in a different way.
5. Prioritize joy
As mentioned above, when we like what we’re doing, we’re more likely to keep it up. It makes sense! It’s hard to be excited about something that isn’t even a little bit fun. And with something as important as physical activity, it’s worth nourishing a relationship with movement as an investment in yourself.
Do you have any tips for enjoying your workouts? Let us know in the comments! We’d love to hear your thoughts.
Read more: Tips to stay on track with your healthy habits during lockdown