5:15am. Alarm buzzes. Jump out of bed and head to the gym.
That was me at a time in my life where exercise OWNED me. I did the same workouts every day. I hit the treadmill for the same amount of time. Burning a certain amount of calories. Doing the same stretches, lunge routines, arm routines and cardio workout.
Because, hello!? Body image.
Because hello?! Weight control.
I'm not writing today to talk directly about body image, but someday I will. It's an important topic for many many women. How YOU imagine your body drives a lot of the things you do day in and day out, from what kind of exercise to obsessive exercise to skipping meals to dieting to weighing, counting, restricting and indulging. Or all of them. And in my case. All of them.
The things is, exercise isn't about achieving some "size" and then happiness follows. I've been a size zero and I'll tell you just because someone is thin doesn't mean she's happy, fulfilled, relaxed or enjoying life. I certainly wasn't.
When I was waking at 5:15 every morning, exercising a certain way, I initially was motivated to do it because I truly was trying to take care of myself. I wanted to be thin, healthy and happy. BUT (and this is a large BUT) deep inside, I was coming from a place of fear: fear of gaining weight. I was coming from a place of guilt: If I don't work out, I "shouldn't" eat this or that today. I was coming from a place of shame: I better workout so I don't gain weight. If I gain weight, I am not enough. I need to be thin to be loved and to belong. Or how about this: 'I need to "work off" yesterday's indulgent eating. Exercise also became "automatic". It was mindless. I got on the treadmill, set the timer, watched a show and zoned out until it was over.
Calories in. Calories out. Right?
A profound shift came in my life about 4 years later that you need to know about. It's completely changed the way I think about exercise and, if you take me up on my invitation today, it has the potential to profoundly shift things for you too.
Whether you're exercising to reduce stress, depression, lose weight, control weight, get stronger or overall be healthy. Or you're exercising to counter-balance your eating. Or because you despise your body and you're desperately trying to change it. Or even if you're not exercising at all...
I invite you to discover a new way to view the word EXERCISE.
I want you to consider that exercise is a form of self-expression. And I want you to move your body in a way that embodies your truest self-expression.
Consider this. When you exercise, what place are you coming from?
Are you coming from a place of fear, shame, guilt, not enough, shoulds and mindlessness (let's get it over!) or pushing yourself over the edge to exhaustion and pain and wincing through injuries?
OR, are you moving your body coming from a life-giving place of self-love, strength, courage, fun, play, pleasure and empowerment? Coming from a place the honors your body's natural rhythms and needs from day to day?
Shift your thinking from EXERCISE to EMBODIMENT.
Embodiment: def. To be an expression of. Give visible form to a feeling. Another way I like to say it: Be IN and WITH your body on her own terms, as she is right now. Not in the body you had 10 or 20 years ago and not in the body you desire to have some day. As you are right now.
Allow your exercise/movement to be a natural expression of your unique & beautiful body. Her emotions, mood, desires.
In other words: find pleasure in your activities and be open to let your body and spirit speak to you day by day, season by season on how she desires to move her body.
Regardless of how many calories it burns.
Some days I want to play tennis. It's incredibly life-giving to me and I love swinging a racquet and hitting something! I love feeling out of breath after a great rally. I love the challenge. I love the camaraderie. And I only started playing 4 years ago. Other days, my body desires to stretch and do yoga because she's depleted from a busy week and needs slow flowing TLC. Some days it's a walk in a beautiful neighborhood admiring the flowers and listening to the birds and taking in the earth. Other days it's a hike along the gorgeous Lake Michigan shoreline. During the seasons when I need more accountability because I'm just so tired or busy or feeling particularly sluggish or reclusive that I'm not motivated on my own, I sign up for classes or schedule dates with my girlfriends to go for a walk or a hike; even with my out-of-state friends - we'll schedule a time to walk and talk while we each move in our own respective places.
Here's the one juicy question to ask yourself: If all movement burned the same amount of calories, what would you do? How would you like to move your body?
Here are just a few examples of movement:
- Wall Climb
- Ride horses
- Martial Arts
- Power Walk
- Soul Stroll
Shortly after we were married, my husband and I bought a Hobie Cat sailboat. I had never sailed before but always wanted to learn. Sailing was one of my answers to the question above. The wind and waves and water are my soul's home. So we found a rinky dink 16' catamaran and I learned to sail. EVERY time we took out our boat, my whole body awakened. I felt alive and the best parts of me were lit up in the best possible way. I would hoot and holler and feel so incredibly empowered on that sailboat. Our investment into that sailboat repaid itself over and over and over because of what it created inside me and for the adventure it created in our marriage.
After my first sailing adventure, everything changed in me about what it meant to "workout". I came back from our sailing excursion exhilarated and wrung out in the best possible way. How many calories did it burn? Who cares?! My arms were humming, my heart pounding, my soul singing. Did I feel any need to go for a run or a swim afterwards to make sure I burned enough calories? Absolutely not. There wasn't even room for it. Why? Because I was FULL in the best possible way.
Now you try it. Turn to embodiment. Go in the direction of awaking and enlivening your body, m'dear and let the rest unfold. Trust me.
THIS WEEK'S INVITATIONS:
1) Shift your thinking from EXERCISE to EMBODIMENT. Allow movement to be a natural expression of your unique and beautiful body. Are you coming from a place of fear and shame or from a place of love and empowerment?
2) Answer the question: If all movement burned the same amount of calories, what would I do? Write down your top 5 ways you desire to move your body for the summer months. Do this again when the weather shifts to fall. *If you're pregnant, ask the question as you are now. And after that gorgeous babe has made this outside world her new home, ask yourself the same question. Your answers will shift from season to season.
3) Remain open and seek out opportunities. A few years ago after a hip injury, my normal walking routine was getting very boring, so I asked the question, "Regardless of time and money and any limiting constraints, how do I desire to move my body?" 3 things came to mind:
- Paddleboarding (I had never paddle boarded before.)
- Tennis (I had never taken a lesson in my life.)
- Horseback riding (what?!) The last time I got on a horse, I nearly got bucked off. It was terrifying.
As out of touch as those three things felt, I remained open and curious as to what would evolve. Within ONE month, all three activities presented themselves to me. Moral of this story? Remain open. Resist the temptation to shut out possibilities even if they seem impossible. Ask the question, how can I make this happen? And seek them out.
4) *Make a plan. For years, I went through experimental mode - with food and with exercise, learning how to best nourish myself. I tried all sorts of activities to find things I loved. Summer is the perfect time of year to try out new and seasonal activities. If you're new to the exercise world, ask question #2. The best thing to do is seek accountability. Find a group activity and sign up for it. Buddy up with a friend and go together. If you're someone who is in an exercise rut or an obsessive routine you just can't break, consider letting it go for one or two days a week. ask yourself question #2 and go do it.