I used to have a very fraught relationship with exercise.
To make up for eating cheesecake or committing the cardinal sin of ‘sitting down’, I punished myself by pounding the pavements, spending hours in the gym and living by under law of
And even though I pushed myself through it five times a week, it was never something I actually wanted to do.
Happily, these days, exercise is something I actually look forward to. I truly enjoy it. I even wake up early for it. Sometimes I don’t, I go with the natural ebb and flow of things, like you would anything, but these days I like it enough to not fear it and to have worked it into a solid part of my routine.
To do so, exercise had to become enjoyable and not instrumental: it couldn’t be attached to burning calories or changing my body or the first step on the ladder to becoming an undiscovered swimwear model living at their mum’s house in Reading and working in admin.
It had to stop being a futile chore or the next stage of the battle against my body.
Rather, it had to be reframed as kind of a ‘hey, this thing will probably be quite fun and make you sweat a bit and will release some REAL GOOD endorphins that make your brain happy but ultimately no pressure let’s just try and have a nice time’ type of thing. Y’know?
So if you’re trying to do the same, here are some little tips to reframe your thoughts around exercise:
Do it for your brain, not your body
If the goal’s a hashtag summer bod then when and if you don’t see results, you’ll be disappointed and demotivated.
And if that is your goal, is that truly for you? Or is for what other people think of you?
Do it for you.
But mainly, do it for your brain.
Do it for the smile it puts on your face or the time away from your phone or the fresh air or the space to breathe on a hectic day.
Exercise is not a punishment for having a duvet day or eating Doritos.
And if you think of it as a punishment, you’ll never feel like doing it.
I rarely look forward to stuff that makes me feel bad (exclusion applied to all the flavoured shots I had in Vodka Revs every Tuesday night between 2011-2013) so I don’t look at exercise that way either.
Do shit you actually like
I hate the gym. I can’t really be arsed with weights. I don’t like the loud
music. I don’t want to be on a treadmill staring at a subtitled re-run of
Homes Under The Hammer.
But for a long time I forced myself to hit the gym hard because I’d heard it was the ‘most effective’ type of exercise.
And, to be honest it was: it was extremely effective in making me totally loathe and fear exercise.
So now, I never go to the gym. I swim, I run, I fling my arms about unconvincingly in a combat class.
I think if you want to make exercising a regular part of your routine, you have to choose something that you genuinely think you’ll enjoy.
So if you love dancing, try a Zumba class, if you’re stressed af at work, roll out the yoga mat and
take some time to stretch, if you’ve got a new podcast to get stuck into, plug in your headphones and take a nice walk.
Make it achievable
Don’t promise to immediately run a marathon or go to Legs, Bums and Tums morning, noon and night.
If you set the target too high, you’re setting yourself up to fail. And that means that once you have a hungover morning where you don’t make it to the gym or run 1 mile instead of 3, you’ll say ‘oh, screw this’ and never do it again.
You’ve got enough pressure in your life as it is, from achieving perfect eyeliner to not falling
asleep at your desk every day at 3pm, so don’t make working out another pressure on top of that.
Take it slow and remember that all types of movement count. Good exercise is just moving your body in a way that feels good to you.
Chill out about it
Take it easy on yourself.
So you were too busy to go on that lunchtime stroll or someone invites you out for espresso martinis when you’d planned a circuits session: big deal.
Life’s for living, not lifting weights (unless you’re a weightlifter then, well, yeah it kind of is, babe).
Be kind to yourself.
You’re no better or worse of a person because you didn’t make it to the gym. And don’t say you’ll ‘make up for it’ by going extra hard next time or not eating custard creams for the next week, else you’ll just end up back at step one.
So go forth, run, jump, skip, downward-facing-dog your way to a better relationship with exercise and start to enjoy just doing it for you.
Have you found your exercise groove? What is holding you back?