I don’t know about you, but my relationship with exercise has always been a little rocky. I think I’ve mentioned it before, but I grew up as a gymnast, and then did competitive and high school cheerleading after that. I was an active little girl! As a nine and ten-year-old, I had four, four-hour long practices a week. That’s 16 hours a week of highly active practice! It never felt like exercise, because I was just practicing being a better athlete, and even though we had conditioning, I knew it was to make me a better.
Then I grew up, and exercise became “punishment” and I only did it when something went wrong; whether that was at cheer practice, or ya know, I needed to “fit” into my skinny jeans.
It wasn’t until I was in my second year of college that I started to realize exercise wasn’t just something you did because you wanted to look good (or ate too much)! I had two awesome roommates who loved exercise: one loved to run and was working on her yoga teacher training, and the other was a CrossFit coach. I would watch one leave for the gym and the other lace up her shoes to go for her run as she was training for a full marathon and wondered if they hated it or loved it. I asked one of them one night, “Do you actually like to exercise?” and she replied, “Oh my gosh, yes! I love it!”
Love it? What? I haven’t loved exercise for a long freaking time! But that sparked something in me. So, I started going to yoga with the one, and tried CrossFit with the other. And I started to reap the benefits of exercise. My head was clearer, I was sleeping better, I had more focus when I sat down to do homework, and it was a fun way to hang out with my roommates! I even signed up for 2 half marathons that year, and at the time of this post have ran 4. Exercise became a part of my daily life. I even signed up for a CrossFit gym and got pretty into it. I enjoyed the camaraderie of group fitness and it was cool to actually learn how to lift weights.
To make this long story short, I had moved, and so I left my CrossFit gym, but signed up for an OrangeTheory Fitness class. I loved it so much and actually just became a certified coach!
But my point of this blog is my rocky relationship with exercise. I went back and forth my entire life of exercising for punishment or for looks, and actually for the benefit of moving my body, and performing better as an athlete. And I know I’m not the only one. Especially with anyone who has had an imbalanced relationship with exercise. If you are in recovery or are trying to get recovered from any kind of eating disorder, you are usually told not to exercise. So then when you are given the green light, what does that mean? Is it okay to break a sweat? To work hard, to lift heavy weights? To enjoy going to the gym 5 times a week?
I haven’t had an eating disorder, but I’ve been working here for over three years, and I have seen this dilemma a lot. What is important is doing it because you love and respect your body, not because you want it to change or because you ate too much this holiday season.
There are so many benefits to exercise, and here is a list with just a quick 10 benefits, demonstrating why exercise is so important.
- It can make you happier: Exercise has been shown to improve your mood and decrease feelings of depression, anxiety and stress.
- It helps you maintain your muscle mass: It is also crucial to supporting a fast and healthy metabolism
- It’s good for your muscles and bones: As people age, they tend to lose muscle mass and function, which can lead to injuries and disabilities. Practicing regular physical activity is essential to reducing muscle loss and maintaining strength as you age. It also helps build bone density to aid in preventing osteoporosis later in life.
- It can increase your energy levels: Exercise can be a real energy booster for healthy people, and those struggling with persistent fatigue and serious illnesses.
- It can reduce your risk of chronic disease: Daily physical activity is essential to maintaining a healthy weight and reducing the risk of chronic disease.
- It can help skin health: Moderate exercise can provide antioxidant protection and promote blood flow, which can protect your skin and delay signs of aging.
- It can help your brain health and memory: Regular exercise improves blood flow to the brain and helps brain health and memory. Among older adults, it can help protect mental function.
- It can help with relaxation and sleep quality: Regular physical activity, regardless of whether it is aerobic or a combination of aerobic and resistance training, can help you sleep better and feel more energized during the day.
- It can reduce pain: Exercise has favorable effects on the pain that’s associated with various conditions. It can also increase pain tolerance.
- It can promote a better sex life: Exercise has been proven to boost sex drive.
As we go into this new year, let’s change the “exercising every day” or “lose 50 pounds” New Year’s Resolutions to finding a way to incorporate exercise into our lives. Maybe it’s snowshoeing or skiing. Maybe it’s taking an evening walk with a loved one to decompress and catch up on their day. There are so many ways to move your body and everyone enjoys exercising differently! And that’s the beauty of it! There are no right or wrong ways to exercise.
The point is, it’s important to find something you like to do, that involves moving your body intuitively. Your mind will be clearer, your heart fuller and when you exercise for the right reasons, your life will be more meaningful. And that sounds beautiful to me.