Similar to how food is promoted as a way to lose or gain weight, exercise has been positioned as a way to manage your weight as well. Whether it’s a fad workout style promising to burn fat faster, or “never miss a workout” type messaging, it makes you believe you’re “good” if you exercise, and you’re “bad” if you don’t. But ironically, the added guilt and “no excuses” approach to fitness eventually causes more harm to your overall wellness and increases your likelihood of physical injury.
Prioritizing Appearance Over Health.
If your body is telling you “nope, not today,” LISTEN and honor that. Your body will never steer you wrong. Its entire purpose is to protect and keep you alive. But when we allow the guilt, I-have-tos, body composition goals, and external programming to overtake our intuition, we get ourselves into some real unhealthy territory.
When you allow weight loss, inches loss, muscle definition, etc. to rule your exercise decisions, you end up ignoring your body’s internal cues. Maybe it starts by ignoring the little voice that’s saying you didn’t sleep well last night and are too tired. But then it evolves into you ignoring a nagging injury because you “have to” complete an intense workout in order for it to count.
I remember thinking I was lazy and pathetic if I took a day off from exercising. Even if it was because my knee or hip hurt. Or my body was screaming at me not to. Or I didn’t feel like doing that particular style on the assigned day. I was more worried about losing my progress. So I either forced myself to do it anyway or dealt with severe self-criticism. Neither were good choices for my actual health.
Forcing causes resentment. Resentment causes anxiety.
When you keep forcing yourself to do something, it eventually results in resentment. And resentment breeds anxiety, anger and depression. This is important to note because mental health issues have a greater impact on your quality of life and likelihood of developing chronic disease than your behaviors (like diet and exercise) do.
For those who make the argument that a daily sweat session is a requirement for better health, it begs the question of whether they’re truly honoring their body’s needs or if they’re simply equating health to thin/strong.
Ignoring your body’s cues for rest increases injury.
When you ignore your own body’s cues, you are at a higher risk of physical injury. Your body needs consistent rest to repair and recover. And not just rest from yesterday’s workout.
Rest is needed for a variety of reasons including lack of sleep, stress/anxiety, dieting, menstrual cycle, fighting off illness, etc. And while for some, exercise may help manage stress, it’s harmful to project ‘no excuses’ messaging on others. Particularly if you are a Certified Personal Trainer or part of the health and wellness industry.
What might be the right amount of exercise for you, might not be the right amount of exercise for me. What might be the right style of exercise for you, might not be the right style of exercise for me. But, of course, our society has packaged up exercise (like they did food) and turned it into a “never miss a workout!” all-or-nothing approach served with a heavy helping of guilt, pressure and fatphobia.
Exercise can be ONE of many tools for stress management.
Some people who use exercise as their only tool for stress management, are using it as a means of distraction from the problems in their life. They’re literally running away from their problems by putting all their energy into training.
Exercise doesn’t replace therapy. Exercise doesn’t replace other coping mechanisms for dealing with issues in your life. It’s just one of many tools we can use to support our overall wellness.
So what’s the solution for a healthy relationship with exercise?
Determine what feels good in YOUR body at THIS moment. Whether that’s intense exercise, light activity, or complete rest doesn’t matter. The healthiest thing you can do is honor your own body’s cues, ignore diet culture and stop telling others to “never miss a workout” or to exercise the same way you do.
If you need help healing your relationship with fitness, schedule a free 15-minute call with me to brainstorm ways you can get started today.