Taking the time for exercise can be challenging with so many other things on your to-do list! I wanted to share my journey with you about how I learned to look at exercise in a healthier way over the years and how I learned to accept my limits and find joy while doing it. I used to beat myself up if I didn't clock in enough hours at the gym, or enough miles pounding pavement. I used to force myself to skip meals and foods I enjoyed because in my head I was "rewarding" myself, and I would give myself a mental pat on the back for losing more weight or running more miles. I was my own prisoner who would take these little punishments and congratulate myself for my good behavior. I would skip parties or hanging out with friends because I didn't want to miss my runs or be tempted to eat junk food. I missed out on a lot of good times because I was so strict on myself and didn't accept myself for who I was. I thought, if I was skinny people were more likely to accept me and if I was a good runner than at least that was something I was good at.
I learned to cope with stress, anxiety and anger by exercising and still use exercise as a way to accept myself. One thing I've come to realize over the years is that, with this mentality, I will never be "okay" with myself. If I put conditions on myself, my focus is spent on what I'm doing wrong, rather than what I'm doing right. I wondered why I wasn't able to run a marathon, even after 20 years of running, or why I hadn't reached that professional or relationship milestone while others far exceeded it. But here's what I've come to realize... maybe I'm not meant to run a marathon. Maybe I'm just supposed to continue to do what I love every day by spending time hiking, doing yoga, and running a healthy 3 miles. Honestly, I don't think my body could take running a marathon, and I needed to program myself to be okay with this limitation. I grew up with people who talked about cutting calories and killing themselves at the gym, but healthy living is about doing something you enjoy and doing it at your speed. You don't have to count calories or miles, you just have to find that thing you enjoy and do it to the best of your ability. Exercise comes in many different forms, as long as we are getting out and moving our bodies we don't need to get hung up on the nitty-gritty details of what we think it should look like. If you love to dance, bike, do yoga, hike, swim, run, walk, play sports, take an exercise class like Barre or Zumba than do those things. Find that thing you love to do and stop thinking about exercise as that mind numbing hour on a treadmill that you do after a mind numbing day at work. We can enjoy things in life that we've trained our minds to believe are punishments. Once I become a massage therapist I want to focus on the different ways we can relieve the stress, anxiety and pain in our lives without resorting to unhealthy methods and unhealthy mindsets. What's that thing you enjoy that energizes you and keeps your body healthy? What struggles toward acceptance have you faced over the years and how has your mentality changed in the process? Share your story, thoughts, and ideas in the comments below 👇