In today’s society, we’re constantly bombarded with exercise fads and rules around exercise. The media, along with a bunch of unqualified (and sometimes unfortunately qualified) folk love to tell us when, how and what type of exercise we ‘need’ to do to be ‘healthy’ and get the ‘ideal’ body type. But if you take a step back and think about it, how the hell would someone other than yourself know what is best for your own body?
Can someone else tell you that you can feel a cold coming on, therefore making exercise a really unhealthy choice? No, they can’t! Does anyone else know that you’re physically and mentally exhausted after a stressful day at work, and so a night spent snuggled up on the couch is the best thing for you? No, they don’t! When it comes to movement, what’s ‘right’ differs from person to person. And that includes both what we’re each able to do and what we actually enjoy doing.
We seem to be at a point where the dominant exercise mentality is all about doing things harder and faster. If you aren’t moving at a crazy intense pace then people question whether it’s truly exercise (and believe me I’ve been there, questioning myself daily on this one). But the thing is, there’s no shame in moving in a way your body craves – if anything, you should be proud of your ability to listen in the midst of so much noise. When you move in a way that makes your body happy, allowing it to move when it wants and rest when it wants, you’re treating it with love, respect and kindness.
Lately, walking, pilates and yoga have been exactly what my body wants. I’m loving waking up on a cold winter morning and knowing that I don’t have to pound it out running, and instead I can do some gentle movement next to the heater. Sometimes I still struggle with the comparison and shame I feel when I see someone running or hear about someone hitting up a HIIT class, but I’m starting to get more comfortable and confident that the decision I’m making is the right one for me.
Everyone is allowed to move and exercise in a way that feels best to them, and it’s more than likely that what you feel like doing today won’t be what you feel like in a year’s time. Your movement preferences, like so many other things in life, will change depending on the season of life you’re in. But I think if we can start to remove as much judgement and comparison around it as possible, the world will become a much better place. Exercise shouldn’t be something that you use to validate your superiority over anyone else, it’s simply a part of life (and a relatively small one) that should be enjoyed as an act of kindness to your body, not a form of punishment.