If you despise exercise, it’s not your fault. Many people have an experience of “exercise” early in life which negatively impacts their relationship with movement.
As children, we are naturally drawn to physical activity. If you’ve spent time with young children recently, you know what I mean. Children love to run, swing, dance, climb and play. Why? Because it’s funny. Recess is fun. Playing sports at a young age is fun.
However, as we grow, things get more serious and competitive, and what used to be fun loses its appeal as it moves from optional to mandatory.
Let’s find out what happens in the passage between “get to” and “have to”. Do you remember when your relationship to the movement changed? Is it
something about the dreaded
“f-word” – “fitness” – who makes you cringe?
Maybe it was a trainer or physical education teacher who made you do extra laps for talking or being late. Maybe it was a dance teacher or gymnastics trainer who commented negatively on your appearance. (Apologies to the amazing coaches and teachers who would never dream of shaming a kid. We know that’s not everyone, but sadly, it only takes one in life to ruin an experience.) Maybe it was a family member who suggested you exercise to offset the weight gain of puberty or college “freshman 15.” Or it could be the unrealistic advertisements and filtered, photoshopped images of people with perfect bodies flooding our inboxes.
Whatever the source, we all have inputs into life that affect us as we enter adulthood. Some of these influences cause us to exercise more, tracking every step taken and every calorie burned. Some of these influences cause us to give up exercise altogether.
The good news is that it’s never too late to reinvent your relationship with exercise. There are several health benefits associated with movement, both mental and physical. Strong muscles with healthy bones, stress management and the production of “happy hormones” such as dopamine, serotonin and endorphins, movement, or dare I call it “exercise”, can be vital . The exercise method we choose and the mindset we possess makes all the difference.
If you tend to shy away from exercise, ask yourself why. Identifying the root source of your dislike is the first step to understanding your next step.
Be aware that there are many movement options, and not all of them have to be super intense or shameful. There are communities of all kinds that come together without judgment – online, in person, with others, or on their own. You can travel with whoever you want and how you want. The most important thing is to find something you really like. Being afraid to try something new is normal. Overcoming the bump requires additional inertia. Forcing yourself to stick to something you dread is a definite break.
It doesn’t have to hurt at work, and if what you’ve done in the past hurts you, it’s probably not a good choice. Try something new. You do not know where to start ? Think of a type of movement you have enjoyed in the past, then ask yourself a few questions:
• Did I feel good about my body?
• Was it an emotionally positive experience?
• Did I end up feeling better or worse about myself?
• Which part was the most enjoyable?
The magic is in finding something that’s both good for your joint health and enjoyable. I was a runner and, to be honest, for many years I loved it. Then one day I didn’t. I was often injured and everything hurt me. Now I move in a much less intense way, which is even more effective at building strength in my body, and I can do it with people I like to be around. The music is fun, the environment is positive and supportive, and the workouts are never boring as the instructors bring their unique personalities to the experience. When I teach children or families, we even add a friendly game of dodgeball using the Pilates balls at the end.
Erin Paruszewski is founder and CEO of Alkalign, a functional fitness studio located in downtown Los Altos. She is the author of “It Doesn’t Have to Hurt Work.” For questions and more information, email her at email@example.com.