There aren’t many more powerful places to shift people’s perceptions of their physicality than in the gym. It’s part of the reason fitness was so appealing to me when I first got started. I could give a shit about how many lunges you can do or if you can do them at all. I give lots of shits about your self-image.
As a leader in the space, it’s part of my job to model to you what’s called “good form.” Sure, this means I can show you how to do that proper lunge I don’t give a shit about. But more importantly, it also means I carry myself in a way I hope you’ll carry yourself too. With pride, empathy, and awareness – right down to the skin you’re in.
When I started teaching fitness classes, I was ashamed of my skin. I saw the people I admired in the industry in ads, on television, in magazines, and on social media, and I felt as if I didn’t look the part. I didn’t feel like I had the ideal body, the coolest clothes…and I most certainly did NOT have that silky-smooth skin I thought everyone else had.
And so I not only doubled down on my product use, I wore makeup to class to cover up my perceived flaws. Spoiler, wearing makeup while you sweat is a recipe for clogged pores and very unhappy skin. So obviously, it just got worse. Not to mention, I was a broke 20something to begin with, and trying to fix my insecurities just made me broker. I felt shame around my skin, I felt shame around the bank account I mismanaged in order to try and pay for the products I used to un-shame myself from my skin. There are a lot of myths around being “someone from Los Angeles”…but I can tell you the stereotype of aspirational skincare is very real. Not only could I not keep up with the facials, peels, and products I believed I needed, but I felt like a fitness industry failure for not looking like the perfect version of health.
It wasn’t until I read Adina Grigore’s book, Skin Cleanse, that I realized that the perfect skin is the skin you’re in. I’d been overloading my system with SO many products over the years and had been wearing so much foundation and concealer to literally mask my insecurities, that I didn’t even know what my skin’s natural M.O. was.
The second I stopped piling on the products and stopped wearing makeup to teach is the second I really truly found my voice and stepped up my game in the fitness world. Coincidence? Maybe. But I’d like to think it had something to do with the fact that I wasn’t covering anything up anymore, literally and figuratively.
I often think about the rise of body positivity in the fitness industry. Yes, it’s FAR from perfect, but it’s gotten so much better than when I started teaching over a decade ago. Body positivity is the norm not the exception, and the idea of working out for happiness, energy, and mental health is becoming way more mainstream.
But just like anything we spend our dollars on, fitness is an industry.An industry that all too often banks on us feeling bad in order to sell us feeling good.
I wonder, with the skincare industry being as huge as it is, and apps like FaceTune and Photoshop being as accessible and easy to use as they are…will the shape of our skin be the thing the industry banks on in order to keep us coming back?
Will “Perfect Skin” become the new “Perfect Body”?
Is Skin Positivity one of the final sneaky Body Positivity frontiers out there – too subtle to be addressed but obvious enough to make us feel badly about ourselves on the regular?
I don’t have control over an entire industry, but I have control over what I do on my own platforms, literal and figurative. I no longer wear any makeup to teach my classes or to workout on my own. I’m older now, so I’ve got a few fine lines and eye circles and hyperpigmentation.
But if I’m not accepting of myself, in the skin I’m in, how can I ever expect anyone else to be? I’m not in love with my skin all of the time, but I’m too committed to modeling “good form” to let it distract me.
If you’d have told teenage-me I’d willingly get in front of hundreds of people a week with a spotlight on my naked face, I would have shuddered. If you’d have told 14 year-old me I’d be spotlighted on The Cut (bare-faced, in a VIDEO) talking about my skin, I would have straight-up laughed in your face. But I’m so grateful to know my classes and managers don’t care, and so grateful to know there are highly visible pop-culture publications just as dedicated as I am to busting open the myth that the way your skin looks is some sort of indication of how fit you are.
Skin Shame and Skincare Privilege is a real thing – but I’m here to tell you that you do NOT need to spend a ton of money or have airbrushed-flawless skin to glow from the inside out. Take off the foundation. Let your pores breathe as deep as you breathe during a breathless push or a spinal twist. Model good form. Let’s break the skin shame together.
I’VE BEEN teaching group fitness classes for over a decade – way before it was trendy and cool, and definitely way before “fitpros” were the new It celebrities they are right now. This was back when people thought “spinning” classes meant twirling around in circles for 45 minutes, and when that one old friend of mine so casually commented, “You’re not planning on becoming the ‘exercise girl’ for the rest of your life, are you?”
The industry has changed a lot since I began, but the thing that’s remained at the core of fitness is that it’s rarely ever truly about the fitness part alone. What we do in the gym is practice for what we do out in the world – and fitness advice is life advice disguised in sweat and squat-jumps.
WHENEVER WE’RE working out, we’re shifted into a vulnerable state. Whether we’re doing vinyasas or vying for a new running PR, our breath deepens, our heart starts beating faster, and we’re thrust (or eased gently from a seated cross-legged position) into a state of self-imposed stress. And let me clarify: not all stress is ultimately BAD. It’s what we do within those moments of stress that stick with us. It’s the stress that gets us vulnerable, and the vulnerability that allows us to be open to shifting for better or worse in the long run.
And so if fitness advice is really life advice, then what we say (and how we say it) as leaders in that space matters. A lot.
Because what you hear is what you will internalize, and what you internalize will be the language you use out in the world to speak to others and yourself, way after you’ve gone on with your day.
NEGATIVE CUEING is a term used in fitness that generally describes any sort of phrasing that uses what you don’t want to happen as the main motivator. Think, “don’t arch your back.”
Negative cueing isn’t just saying “Don’t do X,” though. Negative cueing is anything that makes the person listening feel like who and how they are isn’t enough.
~ Negative cueing can look like…
It’ll be over soon(implying the current experience is worth skipping over)
I know you hate me right now(they probably don’t, but you just planted the seed that maybe they should)
Burn off that happy hour! (equates what you eat to how much you need to exercise, and that exercise should be food-motivated)
Ladies grab X weight, Men grab X weight(not everyone identifies as a “lady” or “man” and therefore you run the risk of people feeling left out – also this reinforces sexist assumptions; I know many women who can out-lift men ANY day)
You can do better than that!(um. maybe that IS their best??)
That’s not good enough, give more!(along the same lines; this might be their best work – but also shames the work they’re doing)
I know you want to fit into those new jeans / get that summer six-pack/ etc(implies everyone who works out is dissatisfied with how they look – and, moreover, probably should be)
Don’t give up(implies the person was going to give up at some point)
You know you can SMILE(omg please don’t force me to smile – give me something to smile about and I will)
I know you want to quit, but…(no, I actually did not, please don’t underestimate me)
Negative cueing can also look like self-deprecation in order to “connect.” Stuff like sharing with your clients/students/members how much you hate your thighs or how much you ate last night and need to “burn off.” Might feel cute or “down-to-earth” in the moment, but it’s reinforcing a dangerous epidemic we already fall prey to of bonding over negativity.
It doesn’t matter how “inspiring” you are or what cute tweetables you’ve got lined up to sprinkle throughout your class. If you’re not modeling self-acceptance, self-love, and what the journey TOWARD that actually looks like, your words are just words.
IF YOU’RE STILL reading this, are not a fitness professional, and wonder how or why this applies to you…think of all the times we cue negatively in our own lives. We do it to ourselves, and we do it to each other. We think we’re offering advice, being helpful, or inspiring someone else – but the hard truth is, it doesn’t matter how good your intentions are if your impact is creating a shame loop in someone else.
Anyone can study the objective facts. Anyone can teach a class or train a client. Literally. Anyone. You can buy the course online. But the way you talk, act, and live is what actually makes a difference in someone’s life in the long run. For better or worse.
Here are some alternatives for the negative cueing above:
Instead of:It’ll be over soon! Try:Can you give your all to this moment?(implying the current experience is one worth having)
Instead of:I know you hate me right now… Try: I’m your biggest fan right now(lets them know you’re their ally)
Instead of:Burn off that happy hour! Try:Literally just not talking about food. Just…don’t do it.
Instead of:Ladies grab X weight, Men grab X weight. Try:Grab a weight that feels(insert a feeling or a number of reps you’d like them to perform with said weight, so they can gage what they need for themselves). If you don’t know what that is, call me over and I can help you figure it out.
Instead of:You can do better than that! Try: If you were to give your all, what would that look like? (ask a question and have them come up with the answer themselves!)
Instead of: That’s not good enough, give more! Try:Can you maintain your work…or even surprise yourself by giving just a little more?(emphasizes the work they’re in as good enough, while giving an option to go farther if they can)
Instead of: I know you want to fit into those new jeans / get that summer six-pack/ etc. Try:How do you want to feel after this workout is over?(redirects focus to a feeling instead of a look)
Instead of:Don’t give up. Try:Keep going, you’ve got this.
Instead of:You know you can SMILE… Try:Not telling people how to react or emote – everyone processes their emotions differently.
Instead of: I know you want to quit, but… Try:You’re doing so great. (simple as that!)
NOT SURE if your cueing is negative or not? Find a mentor. Ask them to come take your class and keep their ears open for anything that could be improved upon. Not a fitness professional but want to monitor the negative cueing in your own life? Dedicate a week to hyper self-awareness. Maybe even tell a close friend, coworker, roommate, or partner that you want their help in calling out your language.
Oh…and as for that friend who asked if I was going to be “the exercise girl” for the rest of my life? That comment that made me doubt my path, my abilities, and my legitimacy as a professional adult trying to find her way in the world?
I sure hope so.
I sure hope that, in some capacity, I am up on that podium, all mic’d up, with my words out there in the open for everyone to hear. And if not, I hope I’m going to classes, keeping sweat dates with myself, or lacing up my shoes for a long run. Because what we do in the gym is just practice for what we do in life – and I want all the practice I can get.
Let this serve as your reminder that #wellness and #weightloss have nothing to do with each other. You can want (or in some doctor-advised cases, need) to lose weight, but weight is not an indication of overall WELLNESS.
Good news! Talking about diets is going out of style.
Not-good news!Dieting is being repackaged in empowering words and being called “wellness.”
It’s a classic wolf-in-sheeps’-clothing situation. Up until the early 2000s, being “on a diet” was a status symbol and a sign of virtuosity. Look at the willpower I have! Look how serious I am about losing weight! Dieting was the road to a healthier You, and a healthier You was a smaller You. A diet wasn’t just a way of eating – it was a specific thing you did, for a specific amount of time, to lose a specific amount of weight. Which, of course, became less and less specific the more you did it. If I could just lose 10 lbs, I’d be happier. If I’d just lose 5 lbs, I’d be happier. I’m not happier, I must need to lose more weight.
But now, talking about all-caps “A DIET” and all-caps “WEIGHT LOSS” like that isn’t cool anymore. It’s not a status symbol like it once was – it’s a sign of not being with-the-times or awake to cultural shifts.
So what words are being used instead?
Lifestyle. Wellness. Self-care.
Beware of diet culture in self-care clothing. Beware of weight loss in wellness language. If you’ve been told by a product, a person, or a brand you NEED said product, a person, or a brand in order to “be your best self,” it’s worth questioning. And while you’re at it, take a look at how that person or brand talks about weight loss, or if they even do at all. Do they glorify a thin ideal (which usually also includes privileged and white, which is a WHOLE other thing to unpack and I encourage all of us to mull over why this is)? Even if they try and convince you otherwise…does their language and their actions speak otherwise, over and over?
No, not every brand that talks about lifestyle, wellness, or “your best self” is just word-swapping for “diet” and “weight loss.” But enough are that it’s making a difference in the way diet culture functions.
Best Body Ever language isn’t dead. Heck, why do you think I titled this post the way I did? SEO analysis is real. People are searching. And so I wanted to sneak attack them. If you’re reading this because you were searching for the secrets to your Best Body…well, I am so glad you’re here.
What if each trick to achieving your most awesome self was simple, accessible, and realistic for the life you’re living at this very moment? What if the decisions you made, the ones that had nothing to do with calories or reps, were the decisions that actually helped you get that figure you covet? What if – just go with me on this one – your best body ever was actually the one you’re in now?
You’ve read about all the fitness trends and diet tricks. Here are seven other ways to get your best body ever:
GO ON AN UNFOLLOWING SPREE.
A wise anonymous person once said “Unfollow any account on Instagram that makes you feel like you need to be someone else.” Take a browse through your “Follow” list. Go to each individual account. Sit with it, and, Kondo-style, ask yourself: does this account spark JOY for me? Or is it so aspirational that it’s making me feel like who and where and how and what I am isn’t enough? When this account comes across my feed, is my first instinct to celebrate it, or criticize it? And then – yep – unfollow.
If it’s someone you can’t bear to Unfollow for whatever reason – say, they’re a friend of yours IRL or a family member – Mute their account (they won’t know, and you can always un-Mute them later). It’s okay. It’s an unhealthy relationship. Maybe even a toxic one. And just because it exists behind a screen doesn’t mean it’s less so.
How does this relate to anything physical? Our bodies carry the load of all our doubts and insecurities. And because those feelings are so heavy, we’ll look for a scapegoat to displace some of the weight. Our body is an easy target: We’re walking around with it, it’s tangible, it’s something concrete we can bash. But after unfollowing the accounts that make you question yourself – your beauty, your talents, your success, your worth – you might just realize your body is “Best” just the way it is.
And yes, that anonymous person said it on Instagram.
What is just as unhealthy as an unrelenting drive-thru habit? A person who is so consumed with nutritional perfection that it affects every single aspect of her life – personal, professional, spiritual. This is disorder territory, and it’s dangerous.
Even if you don’t go down the path of anorexia, orthorexia, exercise compulsion or the like, we tend to freak out if we make a “bad” food choice and use it as a way to berate ourselves. Un-perfecting yourself makes it a whole lot easier to get right back to your usual routine when you slip up and to avoid binging on what you’ve deemed “bad” when you’re stressed out, lonely – because it was never about perfection in the first place. You are not living in extreme black-and-whites, therefore the bigger picture is clear. And it’s positive. When you’re nice to your body, it relaxes and realizes it doesn’t need to be on the defense, armed for your next attack. And a relaxed body is a happy, healthy body.
DO IT FOR YOUR SKIN. OR NAILS. OR HAIR.
Fun fact: What helps one part of you helps all of you. Skin acting up? It might be time to cut back on processed sugar (my personal skin saboteur). Nails spotty? Ask your doctor if it could be a mineral deficiency or allergy. Turns out, damaged dermis, brittle nails, or less-than-luscious locks are usually the outward, obvious manifestations of an internal imbalance. Maybe you’re not taking in enough calcium, or maybe your excessive soy habit has gotten your hormones out of whack. Whatever it is, once you make a change, you’re likely to see results once you make changes. This can be a welcome confidence boost and help you stick with whatever healthy habit you’ve adopted – whether it’s a supplement routine or using more natural, hypoallergenic products. You get the picture.
SLEEP ON IT.
It’s a common health tip, getting your eight nightly hours. It keeps your metabolism in check, aids digestion, etc. But what’s more important is that eight (or seven, or nine, or whatever you personally need) hours keeps you sane, confident, and ready to conquer the world. When you feel good about the energy you’re putting forth daily, that confidence starts to radiate from the inside out.
GET PUMPED. Think about your workplace: If you have cool projects to work on, an inspiring culture and the role of your dreams, are you more likely to stick with your job or look elsewhere? No matter how hot the newest craze is, no matter how many friends you have at Pure Barre, no matter how many free passes or Groupons you’ve racked up, if you don’t like the type of workout you’re doing, you won’t see lasting results physically, mentally, or emotionally.
Why? Two things: stress and investment. Exercise gets your heart rate up, triggers your fight-or-flight reflexes, and is physically stressful enough as is. When you don’t enjoy what you’re doing, your mind actually adds to and sustains the stress by equating it with a chore. With no positivity to combat this pressure, your cortisol levels stay high and your body resists change. Moreover, when you’re not invested in what you’re doing, it’s a sure-fire recipe for burnout and you’re way less likely to stick with it, much less make it a part of your lifestyle.
THE RUB DOWN.
So often we don’t bat a lash at being mean to ourselves – not because we’re inadequate, but because we’re removed. Just like we’ve forgotten what food tastes like, we’ve forgotten what our bodies actually feel like. Take the time to practice self-massage (Massagetherapy.com offers some wonderful starting tips), or simply develop a habit of applying lotion or body oil to your skin before bed each night. When we can notice the way our skin feels, relieve a tight muscle, feel the way each part of our body miraculously fits together, we become creatures to admire instead of objects to critique.
When it comes to self-talk, have you ever heard the advice, “If you wouldn’t say it to a friend, don’t say it to yourself”? Turns out, this advice works in the positive direction as well. When we compliment others, whether it be on a new dress or on their killer smile, we are training our brains to speak kindly. And as with anything else, practice makes permanence.
When your mind practices the art of reassurance and positive reinforcement, its wires get untangled and positivity starts to become your own vernacular. Your “best body” becomes the one you are in now, because you realize that even on the gloomiest days there is something wonderful about it that keeps you shining. Maybe it’s your strong legs that can take a brisk walk down the block, or your skin that no matter how stressed you get always seems to bounce back to its radiant self after a little extra TLC. Maybe you’re feeling run-down today, but how about that time yesterday you felt like you could conquer the world (and then Mars to boot)? When you’re nice to others, you’re nice to yourself, and you will start making decisions from a place of self love instead of loathing.
Let these words serve as your reminder that #wellness and #weightloss have nothing to do with each other. You can want (or in some doctor-advised cases, need) to lose weight, but weight is not an indication of overall WELLNESS.
Your mindset. Your energy. Your stress levels. How you respond to challenges. Your self-image. Your community. Your relationship with adversity. Whether you’re proactive or reactive.
Your blood tests and BMI (an archaic + flawed way to determine health) can check out perfectly, but if your mind ain’t right, your wellness levels are on a downward spiral. Your weight could be your “ideal” weight (whatever that is) but if you’re treating yourself like crap to get there and chalking it up to “self-care” you’ve been sold, you’re not set up for long-term success.
To live well, REALLY live well, we need to look at all the wonderful information that’s at our fingertips right now, and take this opportunity to educate ourselves. Never before have we had this kind of information at our fingertips.. Let’s use it to our advantage. And then we need to listen to our bodies, open up our eyes, and take what works for us to fit our lifestyle.
Just because your meal is not food blogger material or the nutritional value of your one snack isn’t as “clean” as the trends say it “should” be or you missed a workout today or whatever it is that’s making you wonder if you’re “doing it right”…I promise, as long as you are making an informed decision based on who YOU are, not who the world is trying to convince you to be, you are doing more than okay.
As a fitness star at the top of her field, Patricia Moreno appeared to have it all, but knew she was both living and selling a lie: preaching that diet and exercise were the keys to true happiness, while inside she was suffering under a heavy spell of shame and unworthiness. She knew there was more to life, and made it her mission to find the answer and break that spell for everyone suffering the same as her.
After adventures that took her around the world studying, meditating and practicing with gurus and scholars, Patricia created the intenSati Method and began to reshape the fitness industry, and the lives of tens of thousands from the inside-out. Today she’s speaking up and calling out the very methods and mindset that she used to be a part of. She is on a mission tear down the body-shaming self-objectifying thin-ideal norms, and show what self love in action truly looks and feels like.
In this episode, we talk about Patricia’s journey from a girl whose parents put her on a diet at eight years old, to the thought leader and powerhouse she is today. We talk about fat-phobia, and the way our culture (and the fitness industry!) keeps us limiting ourselves without us even KNOWING. We talk about keeping secrets and hitting rock bottom when it looks like you’re at the top. We talk about how to achieve the changes you’re after, and how physicality is only part of making those changes. We talk about where we are, where we’ve been, and where we MUST go if we want to move forward fearlessly in our lives.
Liked this epiosde and everything WANT is throwing down? Be sure to head on over to the site and SUBSCRIBE to The (Good) Word, WANT’s monthly email love letter where you’ll get all the posts and pods delivered directly to your email doorstep…plus first dibs on events, workshops, and the stuff I’m WANTing that I think you’ll love too.
Also head on over to iTunes and subscribe to the show, and leave 5 stars and a review to spread the WANTcast love. Send me a screenshot on Instagram @katiehorwitch so I can shout you out! I apprecite it more than you know – these reviews are the EASIEST way to help WANT grow and help spread the (good) word.
Speaking of fitness…I’m now onAaptiv, the #1 audio fitness app! Use code KATIE30 for a free month + 30% off when you sign up after that. I cannot WAIT to workout with you in the way a workout should be: all about fun and fearlessness.
Subscribe to The (Good) Word + join the WANT movement:
Today’s guest is one of the coolest chicks I know (and you too, soon!), and a conversation that’s a LONG time coming: scholar/writer/teacher/activist Natalia Mehlman Petrzela.
Natalia is a historian of contemporary American politics and culture and is currently writing a book on American fitness culture. She is the author of Classroom Wars: Language, Sex, and the Making of Modern Political Culture, and the co-host of Past Present Podcast, a show that turns hindsight into foresight by examining what’s going on in America today through a historical lens. Natalia is Associate Professor of History at The New School, a co-founder of wellness education program Healthclass 2.0and a Premiere Leader of intenSati, a fitness class that combines cardio with positive affirmations to make the ultimate uplifting workout.
In this episode we talk about talking to kids about what’s going on in our country/world in an “appropriate” way, where our quest for happiness and “following your bliss” really came from and if it’s actually serving us, making wokeness more than a gimmick, locker room talk (no, not in THAT way), feminism/activism’s place in the wellness industry, and so, SO much more.
All year, I’ve been running. Literally and metaphorically. Running into my career, running into my 30s, running into huge life changes, new habits, new routines, new purpose, standing my ground with people I love, and holding my own when it comes to my worth.
Running, running, running.
Not ever running away – running toward and running through – but nevertheless, running.
Last week, as I slipped on my shoes for yet another run that felt as if it might be lackluster, just like the runs I’ve been running for the last couple weeks, I realized – I do not want to run any more.
At least right now.
It’s pre-winter in NYC, which means that the weather’s pulling bi-polar stunts all over the place. One day it’s 65 and gorgeous, the next it’s in the 30s and so cold I can’t feel my hands crammed into my own pockets. I’m throw for a loop: I don’t know what to wear, my skin doesn’t know what’s going on, and my routine gets thrown completely out of whack without me even realizing what’s happening.
And my exercise regimen – one of my favorite forms of self-care – suddenly feels useless.
Seasonal shifts can do a number on you when you live in a culture that doesn’t honor (or even talk about!) the ways our bodies and minds subtly shift throughout the year.
According to the magazines and trends, we’re supposed to act, eat, and yes, exercise the same way January through December: with intensity, with drive, with an all-or-nothing mentality that promises slimmer thighs!, better sex!, and brighter moods! 365 days a year.
So when days like these seemingly lovely cool-and-crisp ones roll around and I can’t muster up that intensity and drive – I’ve gotta tell you, I feel like a real asshole.
Everything about this time of year is about slowing down, being thankful, and cozying up with the ones we love.
So why do we still think that high-impact, fast-paced, quick-fix workouts are the only way to go, when the rest of the season encourages slowing down and shifting gears?
I agree that a high-impact workout can be a great way to blow off steam. I understand that it can help de-puff after too many pie slices (been there, done that). But for someone like me, who is highly sensitive to the energetic shifts around her, adding stress to an already stressful time almost seems like fighting fire with fire.
I didn’t realize this until the other day, when slipping into my workout clothes I realized I had ZERO DESIRE to run. I usually love to run, and for the past year, it’s been my fitness form of choice. Running, and big group classes packed with familiar faces.
But lately, I’ve had zero desire for either. It’s crazily out of character. It’s unexpected. And it goes completely against my heath credo: I am a firm believer that there are way too many kinds of fitness formats for all kinds of personality types for a workout to ever feel “forced.”
And yet I realized that I’ve been trying to force myself through my routine for the sake of routine – hopping onto the treadmill and feeling no different afterwards, or going into my usual much-loved, jam-packed yoga class and getting major performance anxiety from the lack of space. Doing it not because it brought me joy or made me feel good in the now, but because it brought me joy and made me feel good at some other point in time.
We’re all dealing with a lot – year-round. The way we exercise should compliment what we’re missing, what we’re craving, and what we want to create in our lives each season of the year.
I realized that all year, I’ve been running toward the person I want to be and the world I want to create. Running toward, fighting for. Eleven-plus whole months of RUNNING.
It gave me solace, it gave me ideas, it gave me energy.
It gave me fight.
And after all that running, that soul-opening, spirit-gratifying running – my body doesn’t want to run right now.
It wants to ground down, plant roots, and reflect on the solid foundation that I’ve built and want to build from here on out.
My body is in its winter, and to my dismay, I realized I’ve been trying to fight that.
No matter your goals, you don’t need to prescribe to one certain type of exercise year-round in order to feel good in your body year-round. Even when it comes to cross-training and mixing your week up – sometimes the run-lift-yoga, or crossfit-pilates-spin, or whatever-you-usually-do combo isn’t the combo that’s going to be the best one in every moment.
For right now, for my body to be its best, I’m realizing I need to cross-train in a different way. I need to listen to how my body is changing with the seasons.
There is no one right way to exercise this season. Because the right way is the way that works for you, and for you alone.
Need some help? Here are 3 fitness “tips” (I use the term loosely) to follow this month and beyond:
1.) Feed your cravings, not your addictions.
Ever notice how the more you do something extreme, the more your body wants the next hit? Stress is like that. And not just the kind of emotional stress we associate with bad stuff: the kind of physical stress that gets our heart rate up in the gym, feels thrilling, and/or works our body to its edge. It’s why going super-super fast on a spin bike is trendy, even though it’s not efficient or effective: it’s an easy hit for a stress junkie.
Similarly, if you’re feeling cabin fever, extremely “restorative’ or more steady-state exercises might not be the best for you right now. You might need a run, or a boxing class, or ViPR or something like that to get your blood pumping and shake things up if they’re feeling stagnant.
Net-net, you want to feed what your body is craving (in this case – actually wants), not what it’s addicted to (in this case – what it’s simply used to wanting).
2.) Enlist a friend…or not.
Maybe you’re not around family during this time of year, or you live in a new city. Working out solo can be hard, for an unexpected reason: it reinforces the feeling of being lonely-alone.
On the flipside, if you’ve got party after shindig after obligation after whatever on your schedule, you might need some alone time.
If you’re getting a little too much solo time this season, you might need to put yourself in a community-type scenario, whether that means calling up a friendly acquaintance for a gym date or popping into that team-vibey class.
On the other hand, if you’re stretched thin on the social front – don’t force yourself into a class if you don’t want to (even if it’s your normal routine), and don’t wait around for someone else to be ready for the gym (just because it’s how you always roll). This is how I’m feeling right now, and while I usually use the gym as a way to feel a sense of community, I’m currently feeling the urge to keep to myself, go solo, and use my workout time to do some introspection (my best epiphanies come when I move, after all).
3.) All hail the rest day(s)…but also, don’t blindly follow them.
There was a time in my life that I thought rest days were a sign of weakness, low willpower, and lost athleticism. Boy was I wrong. REST DAYS ARE AMAZING YOU GUYS!!!!!
But something interesting happened along the way to discovering this: I found that when I planned my rest days, they ended up being the days I wanted to exercise the most, even if I’d technically taken a “rest day” the day before. Basically, I became so tied to the idea of certain days “needing” to be rest days and certain days “needing” to be workout days that it became really hard to listen to what my body actually wanted in the moment.
What I found works for me is to “nothing” rest days. I take them when I take them. Sometimes once a week, sometimes twice or three times. But always, always when I’m feeling the need to rejuvenate.
Of course, if you’re killin’ it in the gym every single day, working through injuries, etc, it’s very important to break the addiction and de-vilify the Rest Day. Your physical health depends on it. But as a former listmaking addict – a person addicted to planning her weeks down to the minutes she’d be brushing her teeth (fact; I still have the notebooks filled with the lists) – I’ve found that planning out my rest days works against all the hard work I’ve done over the years to listen to my body and honor its needs. Granted, I did need to plan rest days along the way just to get used to them…but after that? I became able to enjoy rest days and “sweat” days equally.
So how am I exercising right now if I’m not doing my normal run-lift-yoga combo? I’m doing the exercises that make me feel grounded.
I’m going into the spin room at the gym during non-class hours, plugging in my headphones, and doing a class all for myself. It’s low impact, which means my bones aren’t absorbing force that would come from, say, striking my foot down on the ground in a sprint. Each pedalstroke grounds me and reminds me that this is my body, and it’s the only one I’ve got (in this lifetime, at least, I don’t know what comes next!). Sometimes I’ll hop into the class of a teacher I know and trust, because with so much newness this year, my body isn’t in a phase of exploration and chance. It feels good to use the music to guide me or have the teacher tell me what to do, because all year long I’ve been making decisions that sort of scare me. I’m trading my box jumps and caterpillar crawls for machine-based exercises and mat classes.
And sometimes, I just roll out my mat, close my eyes, and BE.
Yes. THAT COUNTS.
I’m feeling a need to be nurtured and supported, held up while I do the work. What that looks like? I get to decide, over and over again, every single day.
I’m sure in the new year, or even in the new month, all this will change.
But that is the beauty of fitness, and what drew me to it in the first place: it moves with you.
WANT YOURSELF: In the comments, tell me: do you also find that your body craves different forms of movement as the seasons change? How do you plan on taking care of yourself this winter? What’s one thing you can do today to honor what your body truly WANTs?
Never miss a post. Ever. Sign up + join the WANT movement: