Let the heresy begin.
Starting right here, right now, I’m opening up a space where we can take a look at some of the current assumptions about exercise and ask the most basic question of all: “How’s this working for me?”
We’ll take a look at what’s true, what’s not, and find a way to make up our own minds about the idea, free from shoulds, musts and fear. Maybe you’ll end up agreeing with the party line, which is great. Or maybe you’ll take a look at the rules and realize that they don’t fit. It’s possible that those rules might even be standing between you and your chance to take pleasure in the power of your body.
This trip down Heresy Lane is going to offer you a fistful of permission slips, so be warned. If you’re used to doing everything by the book, this could get uncomfortable. I’m just reminding you that it’s possible to step back from the pressure to do all the right things and start considering your right thing.
So let’s get this party started with the most basic fitness assumption of all.
You don’t need to lose weight. Really.
Bet that set the internal critics howling. Mine, too. If you have a minute, write down a few of the things they’re yelling. Let them have their voice. Show them that you’re paying attention to what they think, and let them rail against this nutty woman in Montana with her destructive ideas.
It’s okay. I can take it. Because if they’re yelling at me, they’re not yelling at you.
I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess what they’re saying.
How dare she even breathe the idea that you don’t need to lose weight! You’ve been too heavy since high school! Or since the babies were born!
If you don’t keep up the pressure, you’ll blow up like a balloon and you’ll end up looking like Aunt Mabel. Or Uncle Ernie.
Nononono! You really do need to lose weight NOW! It’s what we’ve always thought!
With all of the obesity problems in this country, how can anyone propose this uneducated idea?!
Reassure those critics that yes, I’m looney. And you’re going to listen in just to confirm how right they are and how batshit crazy I am.
So take a breath an consider this. Have you ever looked at exercise as anything but a tool to lose weight? Have you ever gone for a walk or a run without mentally adding up the calories burned? When was the last time you went to the gym for the joy of it?
I haven’t been able to separate weight loss from exercise since high school, when they taught us how to take our pulse and calculate how many calories were burned per hour. Those teachers’ hearts were in the right place. They were doing their best to logically reinforce that exercise equaled health, and they hoped that would set up a lifelong pattern of daily exercise.
For some, it worked. For many of us, it backfired. Exercise was now removed from that place of sunshine, freedom, running barefoot through grass and spending time with friends. It became a place of performance and judgement. Another place for us to analyze and compare. It literally became a place to set ourselves on the scale to determine our worthiness.
It’s completely understandable that many of us in our busy, stressful lives backed away from exercise because it became yet another area where we felt judged or we were afraid to fail. Big hugs and a fist bump to that part of you that does its best to protect you from pain and shame.
This week, let’s give it some love. Start thinking about what kind of exercise makes you feel great. Do you love a walk through your neighborhood or local park? Would a mild winter let you take the bike for an easy spin? What’s the schedule for that dance class you’ve been quietly yearning to try?
Think fun. Think outside the usual routine.
I was finally able to break the chains between exercise and weight loss when I hopped on a bike. I didn’t check my watch or think about calories neutralized. It wasn’t about having the best technique or the fastest time. I could fly. What’s not to love about that?
Here’s your permission slip. Forget about stepping on the scale, getting in the zone, putting in 30 minutes or doing a prescribed number of reps on the weight machine. Don’t should on yourself. Don’t musterbate. Just choose something for the love of it.
If your gallery of internal critics starts a ruckus, just tell them it’s okay. Look, you’re exercising, right? Y’all can have a conference about the weight thing another time. This week, you’re enjoying where your body takes you.