Keen to get (a little more) active? Take Embrace Yourself author and Body Image Movement leader Taryn Brumfitt’s advice and move for pleasure.
In Adelaide, where I live, there’s a mountain called Mount Lofty that lots of people run, walk and drag themselves up. It’s really challenging to get to the top, but it’s a fun(ish) thing to do.
Over the years, with varying fitness levels, I’ve reached the top. I’ve dragged myself up when my fitness was low, I’ve run the entire way when I was super fit and, occasionally, when feeling positively overzealous, I do things like piggyback my four-year-old daughter the entire way to the top!
You see, the thing about fitness and our health is that it’s rare to sustain a particular level forever. As humans we evolve, and so do our levels of health and fitness, with some years feeling particularly packed with energy and others going at more of a subdued pace. Sometimes life is awesome; other times it’s shit. Sometimes we are firing on all cylinders, and some days we can barely lift our heads off the pillow.
Regardless of how fit or unfit we might be, shaming ourselves into moving our bodies is not the Embrace way. Even if you have been more sedentary than usual or eating foods that you perceive to be ‘bad’, moving your body should never be a thing of punishment. Instead, it should be a thing of pleasure.
Hiking up Mount Lofty with a human backpack didn’t feel particularly enjoyable at the time, but the reason I did so was to spend time with my daughter and to achieve a sense of accomplishment when I reached the top. If you know Mount Lofty, throw me a high five next time!
Never once did I set out on that epic adventure with the motivation of weight loss or building muscle mass. I did so because the activity filled my mind, body and soul with fulfilment.
WE NEED TO MOVE OUR BODIES BECAUSE WE LOVE THEM, NOT BECAUSE WE HATE THEM.
Do you know how many conversations I’ve had with friends who hate going to the gym, yet drag themselves there most days to do a class they don’t actually like? It doesn’t make sense. So many of us have boxed ourselves into thinking there is a right and a wrong way to move our bodies when really there’s neither. Aside from performing a move correctly to avoid injury, there is no right or wrong way to move your body – only the right or wrong way to think about it!
The two most empowering steps I’ve taken towards regular exercise are changing the language I use to describe movement. I choose to partake in activities or movement, rather than ‘exercise’, which sounds punitive and gruelling. And I ask my body how it wants to move. Rather than creating rules for myself about how I should move my body, I listen to what my body feels it is capable – and excited – to do. If you set up rules around body movement (for example, ‘I must go to the gym five mornings a week and do a spin class’) there might be mornings you don’t want to be around people or even get out of bed. Therefore, movement becomes a chore.
My old rules around exercise included the following:
- I must be dripping with sweat to call it exercise.
- I must exercise for a minimum of an hour.
- I must be puffed and exhausted.
- Exercise is hard, fast and loud. Exercise is not gentle, soft or quiet.
Sound familiar? The old me felt trapped by exercise. It was something that I ‘had’ to do. And not for the gains (a positive mind and improved health), but to lose weight and change how I looked.
The new me allows my body to decide if and how it wants to move. I’ve made the decision that I want to move my body every day because I know it makes me feel good, gives me more energy and provides mental clarity, but how I go about this changes as frequently as I change my underwear!
Some days I feel going for a gentle jog; other days I feel like lifting heavy weights. Some days I feel like thrashing around in a group fitness class, and on others I feel like walking barefoot at the beach. Occasionally I go to the gym, and sometimes I do get into a routine, but it’s never a set objective – and there are no rules.
I’ve been on the endless transformation road that I imagine many of you are on now. I understand that constant desire to change your body for the ‘better’ – to make it thinner, hotter, lighter, curvier and more toned – and to be frank, it’s exhausting! However, it doesn’t have to be that way. If I was able to shift my mindset and move for pleasure over punishment, you can too!
So how do you make the shift? I implore you to take a li’l advice from Young MC’s classic ‘Bust a Move’ and do just that – bust all the myths you have about physical activity or exercise and, instead, just move!