Exercise (although not necessarily intuitive exercise) has been a huge part of my life for as long as I can remember…
I was almost always involved in some kind of sport from the time I was a toddler through my freshman year of college, and I’ve also always loved working out on my own time. I started running when I was in sixth grade, and I’ve branched out and tried a lot of different kinds of workouts since then.
Although I’ve always loved getting the chance to move my body, I wasn’t always doing it for the healthiest reasons. For a few years in high school, one of the reasons why I was always looking for new workout programs was because I wanted to change the way my body looked.
Of course, I also wanted to stay healthy and fit for the various sports I was doing, and I definitely loved the act of working out and how it made me feel… but the idea of changing my body was ALWAYS in the back of my mind.
It took me a while (a few years, actually) to realize that my feelings around exercise were not as positive as they once had been. This terrified me, and I didn’t really know what to do because I had grown so used to doing whatever exercise I thought I should do, whichever one was likely to give me the best results – even though I sometimes felt miserable while doing it.
While I was looking for answers to my disordered exercise habits, I was also looking for answers to my disordered eating patterns, and luckily (or not so luckily), these two topics often go directly hand-in-hand.
I started learning about intuitive exercise and how important it is to listen to your body, whether it’s in relation to food, a workout, or something else. I learned how beneficial it can be to take some time off of exercising in order to let your body heal and get back to a state where you can listen to its exercise needs effectively.
In May 2021, I basically hit my rock bottom in terms of my relationship with exercise. I was so stressed about life in general, and I had decided to add a half-marathon training plan to my plate, which I thought would help me feel better because that’s what running had done for me in the past. But this time it was too much; my body and brain were so tired, and I realized I needed a break.
I stopped following my training plan, and I gave up all expectations surrounding exercise. I didn’t set any goals around exercise – absolutely none – which was completely new territory for me.
But you’ll never guess what happened… I loved it.
It was scary as hell at first because I was still working through a lot of harmful thought patterns surrounding exercise, food, health, and weight (still am, in fact). But I realized that I was so much happier when I wasn’t forcing myself to workout in ways that weren’t serving me. Who would’ve thought? (;
I basically took the entire summer of last year off from a “serious” exercise regime. I tried to get in some form of light movement every day, but I wasn’t making myself do anything I didn’t want to do.
It wasn’t until this last fall that I started to get back into a workout routine, but it was much more laid back than it had been in the past. Instead of very specific workouts, my only workout goal was to get 30 minutes of movement in every day.
Over the past few months, I developed a more structured workout routine without totally realizing it, and I was loving it for a while. But at some point, it stopped being enjoyable and felt more like a chore.
After thinking about it for a week or two, I realized that something needed to change. And even though it was scary, and I was worried I’d regret it, I decided to end my running streak, which had been going for over 2 months by that point.
I also decided that I was going to have no expectations for my workouts or my exercise routine other than my goal to move for 30 minutes every day. And guess what? It’s only been a week or so since I decided to do this, and I am LOVING every minute of it!!
Sometimes it’s impossible to realize how much brainpower is going toward your obsessive and anxious thoughts about exercise until you STOP worrying about those things!
I didn’t even realize how much of my stress was coming from the fact that I was making myself run at least 1 mile every day and expecting myself to make time for an hour at the gym 3 times a week. I didn’t realize how deeply it was affecting my attitude, my mindset, and my mood!
Lately, I’ve been exercising in whatever way feels best for me that day! So far, I’ve done a couple strength workouts, gone on lots of walks, tried a Pilates workout video, stretched a lot, gone on a run, and hit balls at the golf course!
Intuitive exercise and the practice of paying attention to how I feel makes working out more fun, and it’s also given me a new appreciation for my body. I feel more in touch with myself, and that’s made a huge difference in my life already.
I’ve realized that as much as I would love to be someone that likes to stick to a workout routine and see a whole lot of progress in one area of fitness, that’s not really who I am. In fact, that makes me really, really bored. I like variety in my workouts, and there’s nothing wrong with that! I love to do strength workouts some days, go on an easy walk and stretch other days… and on days where I’m feelin’ reallll crazy, I like to run a nice 20 miles. (;
Now that you’ve heard about my journey with intuitive exercise, I want to encourage you to try it out for yourself by giving you a few (hopefully convincing) reasons! As if my story wasn’t reason enough. (;
8 reasons to incorporate intuitive exercise into your life
Get in touch with your body
One reason why intuitive exercise is so amazing is because it allows you to get back in touch with your body.
Not having to follow a strict workout plan or push your body when it’s already stressed can allow you to really notice how you’re feeling, and this ability can spread out into other parts of your life!
If you are able to connect with your body more around the topic of exercise, it’s likely that you’ll be able to get back in touch with yourself in regards to eating habits, sleep patterns, and more!
Learn more about yourself
Because intuitive exercise allows you to get back in touch with your body, you are free to learn more about yourself!
You may learn that you don’t like a certain workout – or even just a specific exercise. You may try something new and find out that you absolutely love it!
Whatever you learn about yourself will be helpful in the future, and it will allow you to feel even more in touch with yourself. There’s really nothing better than being confident in who you are and what you know about yourself. (:
Try something new
It’s always good to get out of your comfort zone, right? Well, usually. In this case, DEFINITELY.
Letting go of all expectations and plans will free up your mind – and schedule – and allow you to try other things. Maybe you’ve been a runner all your life, and now you want to try swimming. Maybe you’ve been lifting a lot and want to see what yoga is all about.
You don’t have to try anything you don’t want to, and it doesn’t need to be crazy. But at least get out of your comfort zone and try something you’ve never done before!
Possibly my favorite benefit of intuitive exercise is the decreased stress. Not only less stress around exercise, but less stress in general.
I don’t worry so much about my schedule anymore; I don’t even stress much if I’m running late to the gym because I know that I can just do whatever I want to do when I get there. I don’t have to workout for a certain amount of time, and I don’t even have to do a specific program.
I promise you, if thinking about training plans stresses you out, you’re not alone. And you don’t have to be stressed! My brain has SO much more room for fun now that I’m not planning my day around my workouts and always feeling anxious about when I’m going to be able to make it to the gym.
Intuitive exercise is also GREAT for building sustainable exercise habits.
It doesn’t matter if you’ve never missed a workout or if you are a newbie to the gym, intuitive exercise will only improve your habits and mindset around exercise.
The flexibility that intuitive exercise allows you to have around your workouts lets you build sustainable habits because it works FOR you, not against you.
Allow your body to rest
We all need rest days, everybody knows that. But not everyone actually gives themselves time to rest.
Because intuitive exercise encourages you to get back in touch with your body, you’re more likely to learn how to tell when you need to rest.
You’re going to learn what it feels like when you’re craving a workout (yes, that’s a thing), and you’re also going to be able to understand when you need to take it easy.
Reframe your mindset around exercise
Many of us probably grew up hearing and seeing things related to exercise that harmed our mindset around movement.
Fortunately, one goal of intuitive exercise is to unlearn those harmful messages. You DON’T need to workout if you ate a lot the day before; you DON’T need to “burn off” those treats you had earlier.
Your body deserves good food and healthy movement no. matter. what.
There is a really great book that I would recommend for anyone struggling with their mindset around exercise: it’s called Train Happy by Tally Rye.
Face your fears
I know trying intuitive exercise can be scary; it was for me. I was worried that I’d never workout again, or that I would never feel motivated to do anything physically challenging ever again.
Boy, was I wrong.
I found out that I, in fact, LOVED exercise; I just loved it in a different form compared to most of the people around me. I learned that I don’t like having a workout plan because it stresses me out, so now I do what I want when I want – no matter how “prepared” I feel for it.
Nothing good comes from staying in your comfort zone, so don’t let intuitive exercise scare you away.
I hope you decide to give the practice of intuitive exercise a try… you won’t regret it! And thank you so much for being here; it means the world. ((:
If you loved learning about intuitive exercise, I’d love for you to share it with family and friends so that everyone can have a healthy relationship with exercise!
And, of course, don’t forget to follow me on Instagram!