If I had to choose one word to describe what I've learned through my fitness journey, it's balance. Without balance, physical health becomes a chore that can surely take a toll on mental health. There was a time in my life when I hated my body, and it caused me so much anxiety. During this time, exercise always felt like a chore that I forced myself into as some sort of punishment. I've come a long way and have learned to listen to my body and nourish it in the right ways. Living a healthy, balanced, life, has helped me to enjoy and appreciate my body more than I ever knew was possible. Not to mention, physical fitness helps prevent a myriad of diseases and there is growing evidence that physical activity can help improve mental health (Strohle, 2009). Here are 4 simple and intuitive tips that have helped me strike the sweet spot that has kept me invested in my physical health in a mentally positive way.
1. Remember your reasons.
One of the keys to enjoying your fitness routine is to remember why you are doing it. Be intentional about thinking about your reasons for exercising. These reasons should be reflective of a positive attitude and should not be motivated by fear or self-hate. Otherwise, a negative connotation will always be attached to the activity, and unhealthy habits may form. If you struggle with anxiety and/or obsessive behaviors related to your body, eating, and/or workout routine, there are some really great online resources for finding a professional to help you out. I'll be the first to admit it's not always easy for everyone to find positive reasons to exercise in a world where our bodies are under so much scrutiny. It took me a while to find mine and to let go of many of my anxieties related to having "the perfect body." Some of my reasons for engaging in physical activity are to have fun, to help myself relieve stress, and to invest in my future self's health.
2. Do what you love.
Doing exercise that you truly love and enjoy will help you keep a positive mindset about physical fitness, and will help you get moving more often (Jekuac, 2015). I never enjoyed my fitness routine until I started doing something I truly enjoyed. My boyfriend taught me how to lift weights when we first started dating, and it immediately clicked with me. I loved it because it felt like an activity that was meant to make my body stronger and to appreciate my strength. I also loved it because it was something he and I bonded over. Since I discovered this passion, I've been excited to get to the gym, put on my favorite music, and get my sweat on. It's also a great way to blow off steam! As you can see from the photos, on days that I'm not lifting weights, I enjoy doing yoga. I've found it to be another great way to appreciate my body's abilities.
3. Try something new.
Don't be afraid to try something new if what you are doing doesn't feel right anymore. Or, just try something new for fun! There are so many ways to move your body and get exercise that don't include hitting the weights or the cardio machines. If you hate the gym, treat yourself to the great outdoors and try hiking. If you hate weight lifting, try rock climbing. If you love to be creative, maybe try a dance class. There are so many fun ways to be active, and I would suggest checking out Groupon to find some unexpected activities.
This is one of the big tips where balance comes into play. Your body needs rest in order to recover, and rest days feel just as rewarding as a good workout. You should never feel as if you are a slave to your workout regimen. If you do, that's a good sign that you need to take a rest, and then start over at number 1 on this list. And while you're at it, treat yourself to some Netflix and pizza. Like I said, balance is a great thing.
I hope these tips can help someone else the way they have helped me along my health and fitness journey. Remember that your mental health should never be compromised for the sake of an exercise regimen. Feel free to comment and leave your favorite tips for enjoying your fitness routine!
Jekauc, D. (2015). Enjoyment during exercise mediates the effects of an intervention on exercise adherence. Psychology, 6, 48-54. http://dx.doi.org/10.4236/psych.2015.61005
Strohle, A. (2009). Physical activity, exercise, depression and anxiety disorders. J Neural Transm Vienna, 6, 777-84. doi: 10.1007/s00702-008-0092-x