Here are some good reasons to exercise: because it feels good. Because your body wants to move. Because it’s healthy. Because you love the fresh air. Because it’s a mood booster. Because it’s an act of self-love.
Here are some not-so-good reasons to exercise: because you hate your body. Because you think you need to look like a Victoria’s Secret Angel. Because someone told you you were fat. Because you need to punish yourself for eating. Because no matter how thin you get, it’ll never be good enough.
The images of six-pack abs and rock solid glutes we see plastered all over Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram are forcing more than just motivation on us. Often, there’s a distinct undercurrent of disapproval – aka, body shaming. The subliminal message is, if you’re not kicking your own ass (or having someone kick it for you) – you’re lazy. You’re lazy, flabby, cellulite-ridden, old, fat, ugly — pick your language of self-loathing.
In other words: NOT GOOD ENOUGH.
But that’s bullshit. All bodies are inherently beautiful. And despite what society would have you believe, the only person you should be trying to look like is your best YOU. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be a better you — a fitter you, a slimmer you, a healthier you. As long as it comes from a place of self-love, it’s all good. It’s when it comes from a place of self-hate, beration and loathing that things go awry.
Look, I’m the biggest fan fitness ever had. I work out at least five days a week, mostly weight training, yoga and as much outdoor activity as possible. It’s a part of my lifestyle (though it wasn’t always) — and it’s sustainable. And I tout the benefits of this lifestyle to everyone who’ll listen. Why? Not because I think everyone should sport a six-pack, but because moving our bodies is what we were born to do. It’s not natural to stay sedentary, and when you start exercising that becomes extraordinarily evident based on mood improvement alone. After all, exercise is a natural anti-depressant. This I know.
That’s why you should make an effort to move. Not because you need to drastically change your body or whip yourself into some ridiculous, Photoshopped standard of perfection, but because it will make you feel good. It produces endorphins, keeps your heart healthy, pumps oxygen through your precious bod, AND makes you feel good all the way around. Seriously, what else can boast those kinds of benefits?
But here’s what exercise shouldn’t be: Self punishment. A miserable experience. Boring. Painful. Torturous. Overly strenuous.
So many trendy workouts are all about busting your ass, pushing yourself to the limit and basically running your body into the ground. And while pushing yourself (or being pushed, gently) can absolutely be a positive thing, that undercurrent of disapproval and “faster, harder, better” rubs me the wrong way. There’s too much “not good enough” going around.
If your only forms of exercise are insanely strenuous and you’re only doing it because you’re desperate to lose weight or get (unrealistically) fit or make other people happy or live up to some absurd ideal, you won’t sustain it. BUT, if you find an enjoyable way to move your body — if you do it because it makes you feel good and gets your blood flowing and because you like being outside and because it’s life-affirming and natural, you will sustain it. For the duration of your stay on Planet Earth. And you’ll do it because you want to, not because you think you have to.
The interesting thing is, there are other women echoing these sentiments. There’s Amber, the founder of the Go Kaleo health and fitness blog, who rocks. Her mission is ” to change the dominant paradigm of the fitness and diet industry, from aesthetics to health and happiness.”
MORE OF THAT PLEASE.
Then there’s Rachel Mac, a former fitness model who decided that eating nothing but skinless chicken breast and denying herself water for muscle definition was insanity. No longer a fitness model, she’s healthier and happier than ever. And yes, a few pounds heavier.
In the end, all that matters is that you move your body by whatever means necessary. If you truly love Insanity, Crossfit and triathlons, by all means, do ’em! If you love yoga, do that. If you’re just into walking around the neighborhood every afternoon, hell, that’s fine too. Don’t let anyone tell you that your exercise of choice isn’t good enough or hard enough or punishing enough. Do what YOU enjoy and what speaks to your body. Do it on your terms and compete only against yourself. Forget everyone else. Forget what society says. Forget all the brainwashing you’ve absorbed in your lifetime. Exercise, like everything else we engage in, should come from a place of self-love and self-acceptance. Not self-hate. Never, ever self-hate.
Your body’s been a damn good companion to you all these years, right?! Be nice to it. Show it some love.