Move Your Body!
I figured since this whole project is based on physical activity and exercise, it was about time I actually wrote a post about moving your body and what it means for me to be physically active. Growing up, I was always an active kid. Bike rides turned into horseback riding which turned into organized sports – this was modeled to me from a young age through my parents and sister. During middle school and high school, I was active in sports year-round (volleyball, cheerleading, track and field, and marching band for those interested). Once I got into college, my physical activity was no longer predetermined for me based on what the coach told me to do that day. This was the first time I was in charge of my own activity.
Others may have had a similar experience coming into college. I’ll be honest, freshman year I did not lock in a consistent habit of being active. I would go to the Rec Center on campus occasionally to go on the elliptical or something, but I did not make it a priority. I was also eating the dining hall food, which meant Root Beer Floats and waffles (sometimes they left the soft serve machine on during weekend brunch, so I could put ice cream on my waffles). Obviously freshman year of undergrad was my peak! Believe it or not, I only gained 8 pounds that year. So then sophomore year came and I was actually living in an apartment. This shift meant the first time I was given the responsibility of grocery shopping and meal planning for myself.
So now here I am, inconsistently exercising and knowing that I should figure out how to fuel my body. My apartment had a gym so I was running on the treadmill consistently each week along with my walk or bike ride to classes and work each day – which probably added up to 4 miles. I was just starting to figure it out and in the midst of this, I took a strength training class through the university. I’m not exaggerating when I say that this changed my life. Strength training is my main and preferred means of physical activity now and I love it.
So now I’m grooving – eating well, exercising consistently, and loving it. I had a friend that posted something on Instagram once that still rings true for me. It said: “the hardest thing about exercise is to start doing it. Once you are doing exercise regularly, the hardest thing is to stop”. Since discovering this way of moving my body that I loved, I could not stop and have not been able to stop since. Yes, I have my weeks of not wanting to or my random month of yoga when I didn’t pick up one weight at the gym. But I always go back to my beloved weights because it makes me feel so good. Some people have those mugs or shirts that say “don’t talk to me until I’ve had my coffee” – for me, it’s “don’t talk to me until I’ve had my workout”.
The reason I share that is because that’s what it feels like to find a type of exercise that works for you and brings joy. It feels like craving it each day and looking forward to it. Enjoying the process and what you are doing for yourself even though you are out of breath or struggle to get the last rep. I know I’ve mentioned this before (that’s how you know I’m passionate about it), but I whole-heartedly believe that there is a type of activity out there for everyone. A type that they can enjoy and look forward to. Maybe not every day because I know some days you are going to be sore or tired or busy. Most days though. Something that doesn’t fit the stereotype of exercise being ‘work’ or ‘torture’. One that makes you happy and challenges you in the best way.
Exercising regularly is one of those keystone habits. That means that when you exercise regularly, it spills over into other areas of your life and makes positive change. This is particularly present in the relationship between sleeping, eating, and exercising. I’ll lay out an example – say you struggle consistently with sleeping well at night. You are always tired during the day – too tired to exercise. Your brain is too tired to exert mental energy into your food choices so it reaches for the sugary snacks and junk food just to get that quick burst of energy. So you go through the day eating poorly and did not move your body. Guess how you are going to sleep that night? Not great! And so the cycle continues the next day and next and on and on it goes. Let’s stop that cycle – one day you decide that you are going to go for a bike ride despite being tired. After your bike ride, your body is feeling good and you want to fuel it with something nutritious and filling as to not lose out on the benefits of the exercise. You eat healthy food the rest of the day and then surprised to discover you sleep surprisingly well. This gives you more energy the next day so you get another workout in and eat more healthy foods, allowing your body to sleep well. This cycle now continues to allow you to take care of your health and optimally show up for yourself and others.
Sounds like the life right? Most people would probably say ‘no way! I don’t want to commit to that when I’m already perfectly happy now’. And my challenge to those people would be to move a bit each day – maybe 15 minutes starting out, then 20, 30, etc… and see how it makes you feel. And remember to try different types of activity! Yoga isn’t working for you? Go for a walk! Or find a dance class to participate in. Keep trying until you find something that sticks. You guys, there are so many different types of exercise out there! You can do yoga with goats, go kickboxing then have some beer, jump on a trampoline for 30 minutes! You get my point, I hope. Just take the initiative to get started! If you have an exercise you love – awesome! Keep at it and don’t be afraid to still try other exercises that you think you would like. Enjoy the process and have fun, letting your body tell you what feels good.
Have a good weekend!