Today is a day when I’m struggling with my long commute and feeling frustrated with some deadlines that are creeping up on me - and all I want to do is go home and get in comfies and write this post. Usually my Monday routine is to go straight from the train to my fav yoga studio but today I feel like a pouting little toddler, stomping my feet, and whining and feeling rebellious against exercise. And ironically, today’s hack is all about the importance of moving your body.
I’ve been experimenting with intuitive eating for a little while now and something I love about the 10 principles of intuitive eating is the emphasis on movement and the way it makes you feel versus exercise as a way to burn calories. Movement does so much more than burn calories and exercise can really undermine the joy movement can bring. This post is NOT about counting your steps or drinking your pre-workout so you can kill it in the gym. It’s about doing what you love, moving in a way that brings you joy, and increasing your vital life force. Yes, moving your body improves your circulation, helps with digestion and elimination, increases your energy, and your lymph system loves it! But what’s even better is that a good workout can totally change your ‘tude. There have been days when I was in such a foul mood but I made myself go to yoga or the gym or walk my dogs because I knew it would make me feel better. And it did!
Not fat and happy. Fat and lazy. And I had all sorts of problems. I had this crazy back pain that sometimes left me incapacitated. So when I was about 23 or 24, I went to see my doctor. She was this amazing little Jewish lady - a straight-shooter with an east coast accent. She took some x-rays and came back into the room and said, “Well, Tina, I hate to break it to you - you’re full of shit.” I thought, what the hell? How can she say that to me? I’m making this up? My pain is fake? No, that’s not what she was saying at all. She was literally saying I was full of shit. I was so backed up that it was causing severe back pain. She told me I needed to first take some heavy duty laxatives, and then start moving my body. Because movement promotes detoxification and elimination. And I needed both.
I started training for a marathon and my whole life changed. I hate running but I wanted to go to Ireland so I signed up for a fundraising marathon in Ireland. I went from never exercising to training for a marathon. I was amazed at what I was capable of. And I never knew exercise could make me feel so powerful and alive. From that moment on, I began to experiment with movement that made me feel good, movement that fueled my soul, movement that changed my mood, movement that made my body feel totally alive. I’ve gone through so many phases with my exercise though - things that were really forced, things that I did because I felt pressured or guilty, or I took on challenges that were really severe and actually did damage to my body. That is NOT what this post is about, or what intuitive eating teaches. This is about two things:
So, what kind of movement makes you happy? For me, its swimming, walking my dogs, hiking, yoga, dancing, and surfing. I’m open to trying anything, but those are my go-tos and they never fail me - even on bad days.
If you are an avid calorie-counting, macro-tracking, only-do-it-for-the-burn kind of exerciser, then I challenge you to go outside of your comfort zone and do some exercise purely for the sake of the joy it brings. Maybe that means you try something new, something you’ve always wanted to try but didn’t because it wasn’t enough of a workout for you. But this challenge also means you’re forbidden to track calories or log it in your fitness app. And pay extra attention to your mindset. What happened to your body and state of mind when you just exercised for fun? What was it like for you to just focus on the joy versus the tracking and the routine?
If you are an avid couch-loving, non-exerciser, then here is your challenge: try any kind of exercise that sounds even remotely interesting to you. Try as many as you can until you find a few (or at least one) that you really love. Then dive deeper into that type of movement until you find the niche that really fills your heart with joy and gets your body moving. For example, if martial arts is appealing to you, then try a few different styles - Krav Maga, Karate, Taekwondo, etc. until you’ve found the strand of martial arts that really speaks to you and pulls out your inner strength. Another example - some people may think yoga is yoga. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. Acroyoga is totally different from yin yoga - they’re like complete opposite ends of the yoga spectrum. If you’ve tried one yoga class and decided that yoga sucks and you’ll never do it again, then you’re limiting yourself and your possibilities. Experiment until you find what you are really good at and what fuels your desire to do it again and again.
I saw this funny little graphic once of a kid sitting in a desk, head down, maybe even drooling and the caption said, “If the bum is numb, the brain is the same.” When I was getting my master’s degree I struggled with my multiple three hour courses and 8 hour exams - I could not sit for that long. My bum was definitely numb and there were days that I was completely brain dead because of it. As a teacher, I never sat down. It was so rare. I was walking or standing or kneeling next to desks all the time. To go from that type of environment to hours of lectures was brutal. I definitely build up some empathy for my students - 6-8 hours a day of sitting? And how many kids in our classrooms are just being talked to or talked at? We cannot leave it up to PE to be the only movement in our schools. If you haven’t figured out how to get your kids up and moving in your classroom, then check out some Kagan structures and find a workshop in your area. Getting up and out of their desk to do a think-pair-share with someone across the room could be the thing that wakes a kid up and reframes their entire day. There are so many ways you can incorporate movement into your existing lessons plans - so here’s my challenge to you: find a way to incorporate some sort of simple movement into your lessons every day for one week. Don’t get complicated - I’m talking: switch seats with the person behind you to talk to a new partner and go over the homework; stand up to do a think-pair-share; have a two-minute dance party before a big test; do a lap inside the classroom as a way to transition between subjects; toss a ball around as a talking piece when answering questions or having discussions; go sit outside for silent reading time. For some more ideas, check this article from We Are Teachers.
For me, my biggest game changers have been personal experimentation - trying anything that seems appealing to me. So I suggest the same for you. What has also been awesome is following people that have messages that align with me and where I am at in my life, like Brownstone Wellness and Christy Harrison, both of whom represent an underrepresented part of mainstream American culture: health at every size, and #blackmenwhodoyoga. Social media can be intense. Find people who you can relate to - not people you think you are supposed to look or be like.