Along with the positive impact of the popularity of fitness, comes a slightly less attractive side for some of us. In pursuit of physical health, we’re damaging our mental health by applying stress and pressure to ourselves to do better. Work harder. Be more. We’re comparing ourselves to strangers on the internet. We set ridiculous benchmarks of what success looks like. We exercise for the wrong reasons. Because we feel guilty. Or to ‘undo’ a weekend of unhealthy eating. Or because our colleague went to the gym every day this week and we only went once. A cycle of guilt, over-working and crashing out can follow. A negative relationship with exercise can develop.
Sound familiar? You’re not alone. People are becoming more vocal about their struggles with the pressure of being perfectly fit. If the thought of peeling yourself from your bed in what feels like the dead of night with a tired body and mind is the exact opposite of what you want to do, then why do it?
Everybody is different and everybody has a different version of what fitness means to them. Whilst one person may love pounding the pavement and doing multiple marathons, another may prefer group Pilates and walking to work. What works for one may not work for another.
Enter intuitive fitness. Intuitive fitness is a fancy version of the age-old phrase ‘do what feels right’. Simple, but important. Like intuitive eating, it’s the practice of acting in line with your body’s cues. It involves trusting our bodies to tell us when we can do more and when we have done enough. It sounds very basic, and that’s because it is. Our body itself is very intuitive. It’s pretty good at telling us what it needs, but we’ve become pretty good at drowning it out with the noise of societal pressure.
Whilst it’s great to understand what intuitive fitness means, it’s not as easy to wake up one morning and change our relationship with it. Figures like calories, step count, pace and kilograms are ingrained in our heads as values of success. It’s hard to forget all that overnight.
As always, Hussle is here to give some handy tips to help you get started with a new outlook on exercise that might help you have a healthier relationship with fitness.
Do a quick body scan.
Start from your head, and finish with your toes. How is your body feeling today? Notice any particular areas of pain, tiredness or tightness. This will help you figure out whether there’s a body part you should not be working out that day. It may even help you realise you’ve got tons of energy and now is the time for an intensive session of HIIT.
Forget the numbers.
Numbers can be helpful to monitor progress when working out. Distance on a treadmill or number of reps of a heavy weight. But numbers shouldn’t be what tells us we’ve done enough, our body should. Resist the urge to check the calorie counter on gym equipment and skip the last set if you feel any pain or tightness.
Exercise to feel good, not because you feel bad.
Getting straight in the gym to offset a ‘bad’ day of eating is a great way to develop an unhealthy relationship with exercise. This bit is easier said than done but hear us out. Exercise to feel good, not because you feel bad. The key here is a little bit of compassion for yourself. When your mind wanders to places of guilt, take a deep breath, regain some perspective and listen to your body not your head.
Find something you enjoy.
Fitness fads are everywhere. One friend swears HIIT can burn 1000 calories and another had an epiphany whilst doing an ultra-marathon. That’s great, for them. But maybe not for you. The beauty of exercise is that there are so many options to get you moving more. Walking is exercise. Swimming is exercise. Bouldering, breakdancing, beam balancing, body building and boxing. Find something that you genuinely enjoy. That you’re motivated to do. This will not only help you be more active but will help your mental health too.