I have had an on-and-off relationship with exercise my whole life. Growing up, I don’t remember anyone talking to me about exercise (thankfully), but I do remember being an active kid. I was constantly riding my bike, tossing around the basketball, doing cartwheels in the backyard, or rollerblading. While I’m sure I watched TV as a kid, I have more vivid memories of being on-the-go.
As I’ve gotten older, some of those activities have fallen away. I’ve struggled with my relationship with my body and even more so with my relationship with food and exercise. I never really thought about the weight of my body until I was in high school. I remember being dressed up for the winter formal dance when one of the “cool” boys came up to me and said I looked pregnant in my dress. I’ve never forgotten that moment because it was one of the first times I paid attention to how my body looked.
Going into college, I brought those body image issues with me. A new friend that worked for the college newspaper asked me if I’d be interested in trying out for their new column called “The Biggest Loser,”based on the well-known weight loss TV show. Thinking it was finally my chance to lose the weight I’d so badly wanted to lose for years, I agreed. It took me three weeks until I quit because my chest burned during the runs and I was embarrassed because I still wasn’t losing any weight.
It’s taken me a while to unlearn the thoughts and rules I’ve had around exercise and what moving my body ultimately means to me. For so long, I saw exercise as a source of punishment for the food I was eating. I needed to “work off” the calories. I thought if I wasn’t drenched in sweat and sore the next day, I didn’t work hard enough. I believed I wasn’t supposed to have fun and enjoy my workouts—exercise was just a means to an end.
That was then, but now my thoughts about fitness, exercise, and movement have shifted. Now that I’m working from home and not walking to-and-from meetings, to coworkers’ desks, or going to grab another cup of coffee, I am more grateful for movement in its absence. And the most important change in my life that’s made me interested in exercising more again is my 18-month-old toddler.
For so long, I saw exercise as a source of punishment for the food I was eating. I needed to ‘work off’ the calories. I thought if I wasn’t drenched in sweat and sore the next day, I didn’t work hard enough.
I have my qualms about the fitness and wellness industry, but that’s for another story. What I do hope to share is how I’m reframing my mindset about exercise and movement. Outside of weight loss, here are a few reasons I’m including movement into my life more.
1. More energy
Raise your hand if you find yourself sluggish throughout the day going for your third and fourth cup of coffee just to get through. Been there, done that. In those moments, the absolute last thing I want to do is extraneous work like a workout, but it actually can help!
I know this sounds crazy, but on the days that I move my body, I tend to have more energy throughout the day. Sure, I’m winded after the first 15 minutes of a dance aerobics session or kettlebell workout, but by the time I’m done showering, my energy is high. Having enough energy to get me through the day is important because, as I’ve already mentioned, I have a toddler who is full of energy from the time he wakes up until bedtime.
2. Helps with hydration
When I was working in an office my water consumption was always top-notch. Refilling my water bottle always meant an opportunity to get moving and break up long work sessions. Now working from home, I don’t tend to drink nearly as much water. My opportunities to run and grab more in between back-t0-back Zoom meetings are sometimes small.
On the days I make time to move my body, I notice that I can get in close to 40 ounces of water before my day even begins (I prefer morning workouts). It’s good to drink half of your body weight in ounces of water a day, but it can be hard to get there if you’re not consciously thinking about it.
In wanting to know more about the effects of the lack of proper hydration, I found an article from The New York Times that said “inadequate hydration can cause fatigue, poor appetite, heat intolerance, dizziness, constipation, kidney stones and a dangerous drop in blood pressure. Brain effects include mood shifts, muddled thinking, inattentiveness, and poor memory.” In summary, hydration is important.
3. Better sleep
When I include movement into my weekly routines, I find that I have better sleep habits too. Anytime I move my body, it needs time to reset and recover. My body will tell me when it needs some rest.
If I’m chronically tired all the time, my workout is the first thing to go out the window. I’ll hit that snooze button and sleep right through it. So, planning my workouts starts the night before by getting to bed earlier so I can wake up on time.
4. Confidence booster
You know that feeling after you’ve done a kick-ass workout and you have a sort of fitness high going on? It’s confidence beaming from within, and I love that feeling. I know that there are a lot of conversations around movement that focus so much on the external appearance of the body, but confidence grows internally. If I feel terrible mentally, physically, or emotionally, it shows on the outside too.
Moving my body doesn’t come easy to me. I often have to force myself to get going, and I’m constantly coming up with excuses to skip it. But the powerful, strong, “I can do anything” feeling once I’ve finished a glute burning barre workout or a Zumba routine is addictive. Nothing feels better to me than feeling confident inside and out. I’m not saying moving your body is the only way to achieve it, but it helps me.
Remember movement can look however you want it to look. There is no manual that says a workout has to include running, lifting weight, or doing yoga. Go for a bike ride, take a walk with your family, try rollerblading, swim in the lake, pull out weeds, mow the grass, chase your kid(s) around, have sex (seriously!), or wash the car. Movement can be whatever feels good for you at the moment. Except for burpees—I wouldn’t wish burpee movement on my worst enemy.
Read More: 5 Ways to Fight Mom Fatigue