I’ve been thinking about this for a while now. As I continue to dive deeper into my relationship with myself, with my personal yoga practice and healthy living this has been coming up a lot for me recently. And even more so with the clients I see. So often, people ask me what is the best type of exercise to get the body they want, the results they desire, or the energy they’re craving. I am discouraged by this questions a lot. Why? I don’t actually have the answer. Or at least, I thought I didn’t. But now, I’ve decided the answer is reclaiming exercise for every body.
The source of my frustration comes from the societal expectation that we have to move our body only because we want it to look a certain way, instead of actually enjoying the way it moves. Believe me, I have been guilty of this plenty. Which is why I feel comfortable calling some bullshit on it.
In the past I’ve abused exercise to change my body, and I don’t say that with complete disdain or judgment. I believe there are absolutely ways to create goals to gain strength and still love yourself, because I have done it before too. I did it when I was playing volleyball and being recruited to play in college. I did it again when I wanted to fit into a dress for a high school dance. I did it again in college after recovering from a major flare and knee surgery. I have been there, both for the right reasons and the wrong reasons (for me).
There have always been various ways I’ve enjoyed moving my body, and there have been workouts that I have loathed. I weight trained for two years in high school as an extra curricular because I wanted to get stronger, I wanted to see (and did) and dramatic change in my performance as an athlete. I loved it. I enjoyed lifting heavy and feeling my physical strength and then seeing the progress made on the court.
I had goals then that weren’t related to my appearance rather the way my body performed, and the way it felt to experience life. I believe when we get stuck so much in this world of living solely for how we look we forget the joy of the experience itself. It’s why I am so inspired by these women who are moving their body, engaging in sports and generally being badasses without worrying about trying to fit the mold of the sport’s stereotype. This is reclaiming exercise.
I hated however, being in college and going to the gym to get back into “shape” after recovering from an illness and injury. It took everything in me to get myself to go. Everything about moving had become associated with the way my body looked, instead of the way it felt and frankly it wasn’t motivating at all.
As years passed, I tried to recover from that injury and major flare. I continued to feel weakened, I felt I had lost my strength, and I didn’t believe that I could be again. So instead of focusing on gaining that feeling back, I focused on how it would look. Let me tell you, it didn’t work.
I remember feeling incapable, I wouldn’t even dare go to lifting area of my college gym because I was so embarrassed. I assumed that everyone there would see me as weak, or unfit, or even fat. It’s a shame, really, because all I did was do myself a disservice. Especially because I actually knew what I was doing there, and I once enjoyed it. I tried taking yoga classes but even then I was so immobile from my illness that I found it difficult to do most pose. Again leaving me feeling isolated and vulnerable to the perspective of other, more flexible, fit people in the class. I never climbed the rock wall on campus because I was afraid that I wouldn’t be good at it, or couldn’t lift myself up. But by focusing on the way it looked, the way I looked, it took any pleasure out of moving. So I simply didn’t.
I see this a lot. I see it with my clients struggling with excessive weight or recovering from illnesses who don’t know where to begin with exercise because they feel intimidated. That intimidation only comes from one place. YOU. It comes from psyching yourself out and assuming that everyone around you cares what you look like. And honestly, no one does.
I think back to being a little girl. I would run outside, play kickball until late hours in the summer, run through the woods, do gymnastics and cartwheels and movements that don’t even have nomenclature because it was fun. It was pure bliss. Moving inside my body, being with myself, the experience of play was euphoric and sublime as a child.
Our adult minds can be so insecure that we would rather focus on what we look like moving, rather than experiencing the transcendent experience of moving as a human being.
Have you even experienced how rad it is the way your body moves?
I began to reclaim movement in my life five years ago. I realized not only the profound appreciation I have for my body’s ability to move, but this paralyzing fear of not being able to move after living with an illness that severely restricted my movement. I reclaimed it for myself not because I wanted to change the way I looked. Because I wanted to change the way I felt, the way I experienced myself. It was the greatest revelation of self-love I had come upon to that time. I don’t hike on a regular basis because I particularly enjoy a steady incline, I do however love the connection I feel to myself from moving in nature. I practice yoga as a means to not only to challenge my physical strength, but to explore the depths of my inner resiliency. I rock climbed outside for the first time in Colorado this summer because it was freaking fun and I go bouldering for the same reason. I use movement as a way to experience myself as a living breathing being.
There will always be times, where we have goals we want to meet. That may include strengthening specific muscles, increasing flexibility or losing weight, and that is all fantastic. Changing your body composition can be done out of self-love too. But let’s not assume that every person no matter WHAT they look like is setting out to change the state of their current body instead of relishing in the experience of the way it is moving now.
Don’t live your life being held back from finding joy in your own movement because of how it may look. Reclaim your movement. Reclaim exercise for yourself. Find the joy in yourself. It would be a shame for you to go your whole life not knowing how divine and transformational the connection to yourself is when you fully embrace the way your body moves.
What has been your experience with movement and exercise? Share with me in the comments!