Rose Mattson, RD

Intuitive Movement

Hi everyone! This week I wanted to talk about – intuitive movement – exercise – physical activity – working out – whatever you like to call moving your body.

I grew up in a very active household. We hiked, walked, canoed, biked, cross-country skied and generally did anything outside. As a kid, I was also very into sports. I started playing baseball, soccer, gymnastics (yes-it’s still hilarious), basketball, and volleyball at a very young age and fell in love with athletics. Over time, I ended up sticking with volleyball and basketball before ending my athletic career with collegiate volleyball. Because of my background and love of athletics, I am passionate about moving and helping others feel the same!

Sunset walk near my house – gorgeous!

However, my own activity patterns have changed over the years. The message of “no pain, no gain” was pretty much true for me for a long time. If practice didn’t hurt, it wasn’t hard enough. Any other ex-athletes relate? Even after I stopped officially competing, this mindset continued. I ran a half-marathon with severe plantar fasciitis, insisting on running the race and haven’t really been able to run since. That was 5 years ago. I fell in love with spin classes at some point, realizing how tough they were and how hard I could push myself. I made super difficult 6-day-a-week workouts which involved tons of lifting mixed with jumping, which I did diligently for 3 years. I also started going to yoga, where I learned that I couldn’t possibly do everything, so I gave my body some compassion. Now? I still lift weights, I go to yoga, I hike, and I still love spinning. But the relationship that I have with these types of movement has changed. I go to feel good. To feel strong. To feel connected to my body. To breath. To be outside in the quiet. To feel energized.

I’ve found that the relationship that people have with exercise is often similar to what their relationship with food looks like. And people often associate suffering in some form to overall health.

However, research shows that there are benefits from all types and forms of movement and if the activity is enjoyable, it will be more sustainable. We also know that performing physical activity throughout your lifetime is associated with a decreased risk of developing chronic diseases, it helps to decrease stress and improve cognitive function, and that people are generally happier.

In order to find a sustainable form of movement, it is important to try and shift your mindset and association with exercise away from pain, away from burning calories, and away from weight loss.

So how can you do this?

One of the first things you can do is start doing is being cognizant of what physically feels good for your body. Ask yourself:

What type of movement do I enjoy doing?

Am I doing this activity to manipulate my body?

Am I doing this out of love or hate for myself?

Take some time to really think about these questions. Do you hate running but insist on getting on the treadmill every time you are at the gym? Do you love Zumba classes but don’t feel like they “count”? Are you lifting weights to feel strong or to try and minimize/maximize a certain body part? Do you go to yoga classes to feel connected to your body? Or do you run to feel some sort of pain?

Some other food for thought:

You don’t need to exercise extra to make up for anything, ever.

Trust your body to take care of whatever extra you gave it. It is 100% OK to have a X food, and go about your day. Your decision to move can be independent of what you ate.

If you go to an exercise studio that has these messages, you have a couple options. You can ignore them. You can talk to a manager about why that isn’t helpful and how movement should be fun. Or, you can leave. I have been in classes where I shoot death stares at the instructor the whole time about what they are saying, and I have chosen to not go back to classes because of certain things people say. As a fitness instructor, they should know that the way to get someone back to class is for that person to have fun and be comfortable. If this isn’t happening, something is wrong and you have every right to leave/complain/never go back.

This movement doesn’t have to be every day.

It is OK to take a day off, or 4, or 42. It may actually be best to sleep, or rest! Along a similar vein, please don’t feel the need to exercise if you are sick. Being able to be flexible with your movement is really important.

All activity matters!

Weather this is a 15 minute walk at lunch-time, or a 45 minute spin class – it’s all good! You don’t have to be a sweaty mess. This includes doing simple things like: parking farther away, taking the stairs, walking to the store, and getting up and standing every hour. The best type of movement can be something you don’t even realize you are doing.

It doesn’t have to be super difficult.

It doesn’t have to be this diligent hour long cardio regiment. Get halfway through and you want to be done? Do that. Listening to your body is one of most powerful things you can do. As women, in particular, we often do things that make others happy, and put ourselves on the back-burner. But remember – you are important too! Do things that give you pleasure, that make you happy, because you 100% deserve that.

Post-workout lunch on Sunday!

Some other helpful questions to ask yourself:

How do I feel when I am doing this activity?

Does this movement feel good? What would make it feel better? It may be helpful to get rid of your Fitbit, your Polar watch, apple watch – whatever. Especially, if you find yourself looking to that number for validation of your activity, remember – an innate object should not have the power to dictate your movements. That number really isn’t important!

How do I feel after?

Do you feel energized, less stressed, empowered, do you sleep better, can you think better? This is what matters!

If I notice that movement does some pretty great things, can I make it a non-negotiable? A tool in my self-care box?

Personally, I know that moving in some way every day, makes me feel my best. I can think better, I am happier, concentrate better, and I fall asleep fast. So – I prioritize movement, in some way, every-damn-day. This was honestly ingrained on me as a child (thanks mom and dad), but I bet you will also feel better if you have a couple of these tools.

So – find a form of movement that you enjoy. Choose it out of love for your body. Check in with how you feel during and what it may do for you after. Remember that you can take days off, the activity doesn’t need to be difficult, you don’t need to exercise to make up for anything, and all and any form of activity matters. Movement enables you to really connect with your body and may allow you to further respect and appreciate its ability and strength to do the things you love to do.

What are your thoughts? How do you approach intuitive movement in your life?

I would love to hear from you!

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