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Are you Exercising for the right reasons?

I often wonder why people choose to exercise. In the times we live in and what I have come across working in gyms I've found most people exercise for detrimental reasons. The majority of people exercise to change a part of their body in which they don't like or to punish themselves for something they ate or drank. Doesn't it defeat the objective of why we exercise in the first place? Our body responds to the thoughts our minds send out. It can be hard to break the cycle. So let's get into all the nitty-gritty reasons you exercise and hopefully I can change your mind. 

Exercising for the wrong reasons. 

I don't particularly want to class these as 100% 'wrong' however I thought it was the best way to classify them. It's the reasons I've found to create an unhealthy relationship and approach to exercise.

Self-hate/Body hate. I have totally been here, and I will admit sometimes I still fall into that habit. Exercise for punishment due to my feelings. While yes, exercise is a natural mood booster, using it as a way to compliment self-hate isn't the answer. Over the years I have worked with many women who really dislike not just their own bodies but themselves in general. They think the key to fixing their self-hate is by punishing themselves through exercise (usually to lose weight, we'll get onto that later). It's upsetting to see and to know for so many years I was doing that exact same thing breaks my heart. Let's also ass self-hate is DRAINING. It drains your brain, constantly filling it with negative thoughts, which is going to impact your body and performance. You're constantly tired and really can't be bothered. That god damn vicious cycle. 

Punishment for what you ate or drank. This is a very common reason why people choose to exercise. Placing their bodies through an intense workout to 'burn off' last night's meal and cocktails out (or something like that, you get my gist). I love this quote, so obviously I am sharing it with you: 'Exercise is a celebration of what your body can do, not a punishment of what you ate'. I used to exercise simply to burn off every calorie I had placed in my mouth. I feel like this quote represents everything I try to tell other people now (and myself). It shows by focusing on the wrong reasons sometimes we forget that being able to move our bodies and exercise is a wonderful thing. One in which we should be grateful for, not using it for hate. I see this as a vicious circle once again. For example, you've been out the night before had a few drinks and some good food. You feel guilty, wake up the next morning a little hungover, and little to no energy, yet still, continue to push through high intensity, calorie-burning workout that day. I am guilty of it. However, I've learned how detrimental that can be physically and mentally. For one, you haven't got the right amount of energy in the tank to push out a full-on, heart racing workout. This means you are clearly unable to perform your best which leads onto you feeling like you have failed, beating yourself up and feeling even more exhausted than you did before. By not listening to your body, simply enjoying the food and drink you consume, and giving yourself time to rest... what was the actual point in the workout? 

Weight loss/body changes. To some extent, all of these points mix with one another. Like I mentioned above people take their weight as a measure of their self-love/self-worth. It's hard to break that mindset of the belief that we exercise because we want to change something about ourselves, especially when it comes to things such as weight training. Through this, it's like our minds become tangled and lost in the thoughts of hate and things want to change. We forget the amazing benefits exercise actually has for us. 

Calorie Obsessed. Exercising with the fixation of how many calories you have burned or how many you've burned in conjunction with what you ate. Especially when it is viewed as an achievement. It can become an unhealthy competition with yourself (or other people). You may not agree but I don't see it as particularly helpful. By fixation of calories, you are only letting yourself down if you don't reach the target set in your head and once again losing the other amazing benefits in which exercise gives you. 

Exercising for the right reasons. 

Following the idea for this blog post, I asked you guys on Instagram - 'Why do you exercise?'. To my surprise, there were many positive, uplifting ones, away from everything I have just mentioned above. 

For how it makes you feel. There is no denying that exercise is naturally good for your mental health. A number of people claimed they exercise for headspace, anxiety relief, to pick up their mood with the release of endorphins. By exercising we increases serotonin levels and endorphins, it helps with sleep patterns, helps improve concentration and focus, and also helps lower stress levels. Walking is a brilliant way to get some lower intensity, yet effective exercise while increasing your mood. Being outdoors also gives you extra benefits such as vitamin d, extra light (I always find this helps boost my mood), time away from technology, and getting out in nature. All in which could be great contributors to better mood and wellbeing. 

Things you enjoy. I think we can all agree that doing something because you feel you have to or don't enjoy it... sucks! Nobody wants to feel like they have to drag themselves to the gym or for a run when you simply aren't going to enjoy it, your mind won't be in it and your performance will suffer. Find new things you enjoy, ways to move your body you've never even tried, or classed as exercise even. The place I am at now if I don't fancy a hard, sweat-dripping workout. Guess what... I don't bloody do it. It's that simple. Instead, move your body in various ways such as walking, yoga, dancing around your kitchen, gardening, swimming, even sex counts as great cardio. So fill your boots! 

For Peace. Exercising to feel a sense of peace I find incredibly interesting. Not so much a distraction but I a way to connect and ground yourself with who you are and the world. I find yoga really makes me feel connected with myself and my body. It has helped me heal and find a peace I never knew I could have with it. I believe exercise shouldn't always be about burning loads or sweating but sometimes slow and restorative. Exercise can be medicine. 

A hobby/sport. Getting into hobbies or sports can be a great way to get moving without actually thinking you're exercising. By joining a team such as a football, netball or tennis or something like a running group, not only are you exercising but you are socialising too which can be a great help with adherence to exercise. it doesn't have to extremely serious athlete level playing sports teams but something that makes moving and exercising fun! 

Healing. Obviously, as a training Sports Therapist, I see movement and exercise as pretty much medicine, in many cases. With a sedentary lifestyle with very little movement, we are placing our bodies at a much higher risk of illnesses and injury. Exercise can not only help heal injuries but can help prevent them too. Along with many other illnesses and diseases. The more we view exercise as one thing with one purpose we forget how many other reasons and ways it can help us. 

Let's try and move away from exercise as an equation of self-hate.


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