I used to consider myself a serious athlete.
Now, for any of you who know me as a twenty-something year old you may be giggling a bit, as I currently have maybe one athletic bone in my body (I hate doing anything that feels aggressive or causes me to grunt and make weird faces). As a kid I played soccer my whole life. I even traveled and played on different competitive teams in high school and trained like a BEAST [at least I thought so]. I’ll never forget visiting colleges and talking with my Dad about which division the teams were, how the coach liked their field set up, and if the girls seemed experienced and well-conditioned. At some point in the middle of my senior year, my mind changed. Like a switch went off, I decided not to continue playing soccer and to make my college career about academics.
When this switch went off, another one turned on. I suddenly became a “runner.” I originally had no idea how or why it happened, but I routinely woke up early, got to the gym, and ran. I’m using quotes because at the time I had never thought twice about considering myself a “runner,” but I certainly was no longer an athlete, so where did that leave me? There was something in me that felt exercise and athleticism was part of my identity; something I was supposed to do and enjoy. Without ever giving it thought, even after studying all night and wanting nothing to do with that treadmill, I still got up and ran.
It wasn’t until I discovered intuitive eating that it dawned on me – movement can be intuitive too. I actually wasn’t bothered by the fact that I developed this running habit in college until college was over. My career began quickly, I moved, and this whole adulting thing started. Between my commute and long days at work, I no longer had the time or energy to engage anything but couch sitting, eating, or sleeping (never mind running). And just like that, another switch. This is when I realized I hadn’t been putting thought into activity or movement, but rather was functioning from a place that diet culture often instills in us – that we should be doing XYZ “for our health.”
Finding intuitive eating and movement has truly guided me in making the healthiest choices I’ve ever made around activity and exercise.
Now, I still find ways to move my body throughout the week, but only when it’s something I enjoy and it certainly doesn’t bother me to skip a day or two. Realizing that I had an identity and purpose in my life other than representing as an athlete or “runner” came first. I am a powerful, [outspoken], intelligent, compassionate, young woman/sister/daughter/wife/friend and dietitian who does NOT enjoy running! Yep that’s right. Could I do it anyway? Sure, and very occasionally I do when I need some awesome jams and to stomp off some steam. Instead, I’m grateful to have learned to listen to my body, and understand when it needs movement, and what it enjoys feeling.
When was the last time you moved your body just because it felt good? [*cough* kitchen dance party] Even if you didn’t sweat, or watch the ‘calories burned’ add up on a machine? Try tuning into what type of movement you’re craving, using what intensity, and for how long. This will change constantly, so it’s great to start building a repertoire of activities that you enjoy and are accessible during a variety of life scenarios. No matter the movement, the benefits of activity are likely still provided, and without stress!
Get your heart pumping for improved cardiac health, boost your mood, strengthen your muscles and bones, and even improve sleep and energy.
How can you develop more intuitive movement? Here are some of my favorite ideas for your future endeavors 🙂
– Walking your dog (or cat, turtle, hedgehog – I don’t judge)
– Hiking with a friend
– Riding your bike to work [or the ice cream shop]
– Chasing kids (preferably your own) outside
– Gardening or yard work
– Visiting a playground
– Trying a new exercise class *yoga, tai-chi, kick-boxing, Barre, Spin, Zumba and more!
– Stretching in front of your favorite TV show
If you struggle with an ED or compulsive exercise, remember: taking a break is considered intuitive as well! If you had a broken leg, it would never heal unless you stopped using it and nurtured it for a while. Your body works the same way – we all need rest and time to recuperate. All bodies require different things and deserve to be moved in joyful ways.