If spending X amount of time on the elliptical at the gym sounds like the most mundane joyless experience you could do, THEN WHY ARE YOU DOING IT??? That's right. Why are you doing it?
We often get so caught up in the cosmetic idea of exercise and health that we prevent ourselves from having the opportunity to actually explore and find what joyful movement looks like for us as unique individuals. Yes, joyful movement. Aka moving our bodies in ways that we enjoy.
You as a human being have the right to move, or not move, your body in a way that feels nourishing, good, enjoyable. That's right. You don't have to spin if you don't like spinning. And if you hate running, don't do it.
When it comes to movement, everyone has a different amount of access, availability, and ability.
While a $25 spinning or boxing class has become the norm for some of us, it is not possible for the majority. Investing in our health in this fashion is a privilege that isn't accessible for all. This topic deserves a separate, dedicated article. Stay tuned. Additionally, all of our bodies are created differently. Some bodies are made to run, others to dance, others to lift heavy things.
Despite these differences in access and ability, our cultural idea of health has narrowed so much that we often feel massive amounts of pressure to move our bodies in a very particular way that holds up to certain standards. And if we don't, we feel unworthy or not good enough.
Please know, that your worth as a human being cannot be increased or diminished by how you move your body or how much or how little you move your body.
Yes, there are absolutely amazing benefits to movement, but those benefits should never be to the detriment of your overall sanity or mental health, and should ALWAYS add to your life, not take away from it.
What is joyful movement, you ask. What does it actually look like to find joyful movement? It looks like allowing yourself to remember what types of movement you liked in the first place. Maybe when you were a kid. It’s about letting go of your ego and the mean girl voice trying to tell you one type of movement is better than another. It's about putting weight loss or gain aside, and letting yourself find a little bit of fun, connecting with your body and others in a way that doesn't feel shameful or demeaning, but nourishing and embodied.
So how can you get started?
Get curious!! Ask yourself some of these questions.
What types of movement did I enjoy as a child? What types of movement bring a smile to my face? What types of movement make me feel energized when I'm done? What types of movements help me feel connected to myself and my community? What types of movements help me know that I am caring for and respecting my body?
We all have unique likes and dislikes that make us who we are, and we all have the ability to learn how to respect and care for our bodies in a way that feels nourishing, not controlling. The moment exercise becomes stress-inducing, is the moment it’s time to take a step back and reassess the situation. We can get stuck in thinking there is only one way to do things. We see our best friend or someone we follow on social media get excited about “the next big thing” when it comes to movement, but that doesn't mean YOU have to like it, or do it 30 times a week, or even do it once.
Remember your body is unique.
We can so quickly get into the game of comparison. The minute we do that, we lose the ability to be attuned to our own wants and needs. This is where I remind you, that over-exercising, is a thing, and it’s very important to listen to your body and remember that days off help your body repair in a very important way. Being realistic about what you can handle when it comes to the amount and timing of the movement is just as important as finding types of movement you enjoy.
Set realistic goals for yourself and remember that this should be done on an individualized basis. Somedays this might mean compassionately saying no to the run you had planned because you know it won’t serve you, and opting for a gentle yoga class instead. You are allowed to make decisions for yourself based on how you’re feeling while checking in with the driving force behind your decision making
Allowing some flexibility and curiosity with movement can allow us to explore what types of movement actually light us up. If you love getting crushed under a barbell in a community environment, AMAZING!!, Crossfit might be just the thing for you. If you love being outside and can’t imagine being stuck indoors for longer than necessary, SWEET!, go for a hike, a walk, or hop on a red bike. There are a plethora of options to try different types of movement around the city.
Try new things until you find your right fit
I know it can feel intimidating to try something new especially in a workout setting, but there are some amazing studios around town who are really trying to bump up the inclusivity so everyone feels welcome. These studios want to help each of us feel empowered, supported, and able to find a community where showing up just as you are is 100% encouraged.
If you have access to studios, go try them out! Most studios do a great discounted intro week or month as a way to get you in there and see if it would be something you’d like. Low on income? Cincinnati constantly has classes going on during the summer all around the city that are donation-based or free. Don’t get bogged down by the idea that you have to be in a gym for x amount of times and do x amount of things to reap the benefits of joyful movement for your health (if that’ something that’s important to you). When I let go of the idea that movement had to “look” a certain way, I opened myself up to this crazy idea that I could actually find things that I enjoyed doing and it was incredibly motivating and exciting.
Shift your perspective and drop the pressure
Movement does not have to be an obligation with a box that gets checked when completed. Movement can be an opportunity to increase your energy, feel connected to your body, connect with friends, get outside, and explore the city! When we open ourselves up to the possibility that movement can be enjoyed and doesn't have to be based on making ourselves smaller, we remove the morality and the need to feel like we are doing it “perfectly”.
YOU ARE ALLOWED to find pleasure in movement. You are allowed to find movement that feels enjoyable and fun and if you want, a challenge.
Life is short, we should enjoy as much of it as we can. There are so many options for movement that have nothing to do with stepping foot on a treadmill, if thats not your thing. Find what feels good for you! CincyStateofBeing aims to provide different options for all kinds of movement for all kinds of bodies. The ultimate goal of CSOB is to show what’s available, not to make people feel obligated to do it all, or feel limited to just one type of movement.
So get out there and let yourself explore with joy, compassion, respect, and a side of curiosity!!
To read more and learn more about Kaitlin's work visit her website here.