How can we make moving our bodies something that brings us joy?
For me, joyful movement is perfectly epitomised by children. We see them all around us, running when they could walk, jumping and leaping at every opportunity and throwing themselves into any sport available. They will literally be physically active all day long with seemingly endless amounts of energy. And the smiles on their faces whilst they’re doing it are plain to see!
So what changes as we get older? I’m sure I speak for most of us when I say that I want to exercise regularly and consistently, because I know the positive impact it can have on my physical and mental health. So if we know, understand and believe this, why do so many of us find it difficult to put into practice?
Let’s start with the word ‘exercise’. If someone says it to you, what’s your immediate reaction? Excitement? Or more like fear, shame, dread… If you’re anything like me, I’m sure that at some point or another, you will have associated exercise with some pretty negative emotions. But it really doesn’t have to be that way.
How about if we switch up the way we talk about exercise? Language can be really powerful, and often when we change the words that we use to describe something, we can alter our response to it too. What could happen when we start thinking about movement, instead of exercise? How does that feel and sound?
For me, the word movement evokes a much more positive range of emotions. I think of freedom, fun, opportunity and choice. In fact, when I looked up the words exercise and movement in the dictionary I found the definitions interesting. Exercise is an activity requiring physical effort. Immediately this conjures up images of challenge, sweat and the sense of something difficult. Whereas movement is defined as a change or development. This sounds far more appealing and interesting to me. Ultimately exercise and movement can be one and the same activity, but the way in which we describe the activity can hugely influence our likelihood to participate in it.
When we give ourselves the opportunity to participate in movement, rather than exercise we may find that we’re far keener to become consistent and get involved. Movement encourages us to be more creative and incorporate a range of different physical activities, whereas exercise can often make us believe that it has to be performed in a gym, be high intensity and make us sweat! Our bodies and minds respond so well to variety, so mixing things up to match our physical and emotional needs can be really beneficial.
The way in which we live often demands that we have a routine in our lives, and there’s nothing wrong with bringing this approach to movement too. If we know we have time available on a particular day each week, or if there’s a specific class we enjoy then it’s great to turn that into a habit. But there’s also nothing wrong with waking up and deciding that we don’t fancy our usual activity that day, for whatever reason! If we feel more energetic than usual we could swap a planned walk for a run or a HIIT class, but if we know we need something lighter then we could switch our normal weights session for some gentle stretching or even a complete rest. Movement can really only be joyful when it’s intuitive.
Intuitive, joyful movement has no rules and it doesn’t require us to be experts. If we’ve never tried something before then that doesn’t have to hold us back. Maybe we’ll be great, maybe we won’t, but that honestly doesn’t matter and isn’t the point! For years a belief that movement had to be in a gym with copious amounts of sweat and jumping around, coupled with the knowledge that I’m not that flexible so therefore might not be very good, stopped me from getting involved with yoga. What a shame that I missed out! Thankfully I was able to change the way I thought about movement, and have now given all sorts of different genres of yoga a try. Some I prefer more than others, but all of them have made me feel great and opened up my body and mind to something new. The same applies to working with weights. Until I had my first child I’d never tried strength training, largely because I was scared I wouldn’t be able to do it because it would be too hard. Now I absolutely adore how lifting weights makes me feel, and how much stronger and more capable my body has become as a result.
I still love a great sweaty HIIT and boxing class, but I also have a huge variety of other movement in my life. I have a general pattern that I follow throughout the week, but I definitely change things up, throw in a home yoga 30 minutes, go for a spontaneous walk or rest out a planned weights session if I feel like I need to.
Maybe take a moment to think about what kind of movement you’d most enjoy and would like to try, then go about bringing it into your life. We could all gain so much by embracing our inner child.
Comments are closed