My questionable relationship with movement and how it’s evolved over the years
If you’ve heard or read about my history with food, none of this is going to surprise you. And if you happen to be one of the many people who puts nutrition, exercise, and body size in one category, then let’s bond over our similarities.
I wasn’t an active kid. I didn’t enjoy exercising. I didn’t like gym class or being on the swim team each summer. I didn’t even want to continue dancing until my voice teacher told me that I had to if I wanted to be a professional singer.
I remember always being the slow one in my family. The one that they had to tell to catch up. I even got lost at Disney World when I was six because I tended to lag behind everyone else.
I danced competitively through many of my formative years and always thought the other dancers had flatter tummies than I did. I recognized that I wasn’t as athletic or gifted in dance as the other girls, but I loved to perform, so I sucked it up and continued.
I never thought too much about exercising in general until I wanted to lose my first 3 pounds. I was 16 and remember that a boy told me to exercise everyday and eat less. So I did.
3 pounds turned into many more, but that’s another story.
So around age 16 I started religiously exercising, mostly cardio and some strength training (Total Gym anyone?).
By the time I got to college I was spending an hour on the elliptical everyday. I was exhausted. Not eating enough. But I always pushed myself to do it.
A few years later, as I recovered from anorexia, I began to gain weight. And as my weight cycled up and sometimes down, I cycled in and out of exercise. I constantly thought I should be doing more. Running more. More yoga. More classes. I would do 2-3 hours for 6 days straight one week and nothing the next week. Always propelled by the guilt that inevitably reared its head when I didn’t do it enough or stick with it. I tried to control the weight gain with exercise. And it wasn’t healthy.
And those behaviors took me into my 20s. I was never consistent. And everything had to be excessive or it didn’t count.
Then I found Pitaiyo.
Pitaiyo is a fusion of Pilates, Tai Chi and Yoga and becoming a certified instructor changed the way I moved my body. It gave me consistency, it made me strong, it got me out of the gym environment that I had always disliked.
And I loved it. I loved teaching it. And I loved practicing it.
But throughout that time I still was focused on what exercise did to my body. Whether I was getting thinner. How many classes I had to teach to make up for what I had eaten the night before. Whether I was ever going to look like some of the instructors that I admired.
This relationship with movement didn’t shift until I got pregnant with my first child. It was the first time in my life that I couldn’t do heavy exercise, because I simply didn’t feel like it. And my body was talking louder than it ever had. I couldn’t ignore what it was telling me.
I certainly tried. I bought exercise programs for pregnancy to keep my arms toned. I went for long, long walks because I thought I had to. I even bought a Fitbit, because I was certain that everything was going to fall apart if I didn’t get in 10,000 steps a day.
Postpartum with my son was full of pressure. Pressure to get my body back to where it was. Pressure to control life again (when it would never be the same anyway).
I got back to doing excessive movement and around 10 weeks postpartum I signed up for a Crossfit challenge. With the diet and everything.
But it wasn’t sustainable for me. And I was back to binging peanut butter and exercising to burn everything off.
My big shift came with the introduction of Intuitive Eating and Intuitive Movement. It was the first time that I had ever heard of these concepts and they were exactly what I needed. Part of the process was giving up on black-and-white thinking. Something I had done as far back as I could remember.
And part of that process included some good ol’ rest. If I only worked out once a week, I needed to be good with that. If I was able to do more, cool.
But the big shift was around appreciating movement for the other benefits besides shrinking or toning my body. And also appreciating that I was able to move. That my body had carried and birthed a child and that that same body was a vessel that could engage in movement in a joyful way.
I got into Pilates Reformer work and continued to walk regularly and slowly healed my relationship with movement.
I’ve played with many modalities of exercise at this point but I’m in a season of movement that feels good to my body, that focuses on strength but is also gentle. I may return to intense workouts in the future, but for the present, I feel good in doing what I’m doing.
A few months ago, I enrolled in a Pilates Certification and it’s safe to say that my passion for movement grows everyday.
Today, movement to me is about self-care. It’s about mindfulness. It’s about walking with more confidence and feeling better inside my body without expectations that the outside will change.
The truth is that the goal of changing my body never gave me consistency in an exercise routine. Nor did it give me a good relationship with movement.
If you can relate to any of this and are looking to have a healthy relationship with movement, know that it’s more than possible. You can get to a place where you move for fun and for mobility without attaching aesthetics to it.