For so long, I prided myself on pushing my body past its boundaries, refusing to stop a workout until I was physically unable to carry on or sweating through my clothes.
Working out was a chore. I had learned from the commercials on television and those around me that exercise was essential if one wanted to stay in shape. Internally, my diet-culture brain translated these messages to “if you don’t work out everyday and kill yourself with cardio, you’re a lazy couch potato.” Physically, this translated to “my god, I absolutely hate my life when I’m pushing myself to this level of socially accepted exercise.”
I remember on countless occasions when I was downright exhausted, I still forced myself to run, even though I felt breathless and awful when doing it. My lungs would burn, my calves ached, and the whole time I was jogging, all I could think of was an internal clock, counting down the seconds until I could stop.
Hindsight is always 20/20, and I now realize that I was probably doing more harm than good for my body at this point. Our bodies are their own gurus and if something is hurting, we should tune in and listen. Perhaps our hormones are out of whack, or crazy idea, we are just tired and need some relaxation time. This doesn’t make us lazy. It shows that we are listening to our bodies, for they have much more wisdom than they are accredited.
Sure, this was a hard realization for me. I had friends who were on the cross country team who loved the endorphin-high they got from running six miles in the sweltering heat. Guess what though? I don’t, and I’m sure not going to make myself miserable trying to get the same experience as them by running myself into the ground. Literally.
Just because I don’t like hard-core cardio though doesn’t mean that I’m a lazy bum. Other forms of movement bring me so much more joy. I love long walks around the neighborhood with an inspiring podcast. I love Sunday morning lifts with my dad and sister. I love walking around and shopping in Ann Arbor with my mom. I love Saturday yoga classes with my aunt. And I love the occasional sit-on-my-butt-and-do-nothing day, too.
Today I probably exercise about a fourth of the amount that I used to, but despite what the media tells me, my health is better than ever. I am no longer fatigued and sore every morning after a good lift. My strength has increased tremendously. And most importantly, my mind is at a stage where I can go on about my day without stress even if I do not get a sweat session in. This mental health aspect of working-out was that missing piece of the puzzle for me all of these years. Now when I do exercise, I do so in a form that is enjoyable for me, and my body thanks me for that from the inside out.
It’s a wonder what happens when you actually tune into your body. It truly gives the best advice.