Correction. I used to hate exercise.
How did I go from hating exercise to founding an award-winning boutique fitness studio? It didn't happen overnight. I had to fundamentally change my relationship to fitness from "I have to do this" to "I get to do this."
Like many of you, my relationship to exercise was punitive. Exercise was a tool for punishment. I served this punishment on myself as a result of a bad diet (that's another post). I served this punishment on myself for not being good enough. What wasn't I good at? I wasn't particularly good at being thin, so perhaps I could exercise my way to a better body!
I would enter the gym, those florescent lights blaring down, avoiding mirrors at the cost of my sanity. I would hop from machine to machine with the goal of burning 1,000 calories. That was always the punishment I served myself: burn 1,000 calories and then you can leave.
It isn't too hard to figure out why the gym felt like a prison and I kept repeatedly serving myself the same sentence, over and over again. The results would vary. Sometimes I'd be down twenty pounds, sometimes up five or ten. Whenever I reached a new weight goal it only made me want to lose more weight.
What was my problem? Well I had a lot of issues to unpack, but one of my problems is that I thought exercise was a way to achieve a better body and once I had the better body, I'd feel content and happy in my new skinny jeans. What I wasn't told was that once I did start to see results (if I saw them) that I wouldn't find acceptance and love for myself; I wasn't content or happy, in fact, I became more obsessed and stressed about maintaining my body.
So, what did I do? What was the shift? How did I turn the corner?
First, I invested in my mental health. I had a lot of work to do outside of the gym in order to heal and unlearn some of my behaviors inside of the gym. I realized that one behavior I needed to change or let go of was my adherence to equipment with consoles that told me how many calories I was burning (those expenditure numbers are not accurate by the way).
I decided to try moving my body in a way that didn't rely on these machines or metrics. It was then, that I found my first indoor cycling class. There were no metrics or numbers; just music to ride to the beat. How many calories I was burning was the last thing on my mind when my song was playing and I was grooving to the beat.
Suddenly, exercise (in the form of indoor cycling) was fun. It was no longer something I had to do and it became something I genuinely wanted to do. Seven years following my first indoor cycling class, I would open my own studio, with the intent to give people the same opportunity I was given: to find the freedom and fun of movement.
A key insight here is to find movement that you find joy in. Weight training isn't for everyone, neither is indoor cycling, or running or the next big fitness craze. If you can, find your why. Why am I participating? Why am I showing up? Get as REAL as you can with yourself: are you doing this thing because you feel like you have to? Or, is it because you genuinely want to? Are you using exercise as a tool? (ie. this will give me a better body and then all will be awesome). Or, might you unlock a relationship to exercise that is meaningful in itself. We won't always feel like moving our bodies, but, research shows that you are likely to stick with something if you actually like doing it. It's that simple.