I saw a writing prompt the other day that asked me to answer the question, “what do you believe about exercise?” I thought about that for a while. I think it’s an interesting question and one that is probably worth answering one day. Today is not that day. What it got me to thinking about, though, was what are some of the things I used to believe about exercise that no longer ring true. Below are five of them. I wonder if you believe/d them too?
It should be everyone’s number one priority, always. I used to say this, or some variation of it quite often. . I’m not saying I don’t believe that eating well and moving your body is important. Self-care, of which exercise is a component, is critical. I just mean that I know that sometimes other things take priority. Sometimes those things only temporarily take priority (think crisis or acute stressful event). But for some people, exercise isn’t ever going take the top spot, or if it does it’s not going to be anytime soon. There’s too much going on and too many other things they want to be doing. And that’s okay. Life evolves and what appropriate self-care looks like for each of us changes accordingly.
It’s not supposed to be fun. If I wasn’t suffering through a workout, I didn’t think it “counted.” Now, if there’s nothing about it that I look forward to, I find something new. A new piece of equipment, a new playlist to listen to, a new format, a new class, take it outside, etc. If I don’t, I’m not going to stick with it.
It’s a means to an end. My relationship with exercise was instigated at the age of fifteen when a doctor told me I was fat. He encouraged me to exercise, and this married weight loss and exercise in my mind for the next couple of decades. I do exercise to change my body. But now it’s to make it stronger. I exercise because I like the feeling of it. I exercise because it improves my mood and my sleep. It makes the rest of my life easier.
Strength training is not for me. I took a weight training class in school and failed the final exam, which was to bench press the bar. You’ve seen a bench press, right? It’s a long bar with circular weights added to the end of each side. You lay down on a bench with the bar over your chest. You lower the bar toward your chest and then push it back up so that your arms are straight. I couldn’t do that, even with no weights on the bar. So, for many years I only did cardio. But what I’ve learned is that strength training is important. I’ve learned that I like feeling strong. I like lifting heavy things. And I can train to do almost anything. I could have pressed that bar back in high school. What I lacked was the knowledge, training plan (and motivation, if I’m honest) to learn how to do so.
I will always love barre/Pilates/rocking out on the treadmill. I thought that once I found a form of exercise that I loved, I would always love it. I haven’t. As with many things in life, you can go through phases. When you connect with something, its an amazing feeling. But I have taken breaks from certain kinds of exercise, sometimes for financial reasons, injury or just plain lack of access to classes. And when I’ve gone back, I have sometimes found that the exercise I was evangelical about isn’t the same. Or, to be more accurate, I changed. My body changed. What I needed or wanted from exercise had changed. Or the spark was just gone and who knows why.
There you have it—what I no longer believe about exercise. Are there things you’ve changed your mind about as you get further along in your own fitness journey?