Why exercise isn't about punishing yourself | Level Up Nutrition | Brighton
6 weeks to your perfect summer body sorta shit is flying around a lot at the moment and we’re being urged to ‘earn’ those margaritas. Head’s up - exercise isn’t about punishing yourself, burning off that donut or reaching that ‘perfect’ weight.
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Welsh wanderings and intuitive movement

Welsh wanderings and intuitive movement

6 weeks to your perfect summer body sorta shit is flying around a lot at the moment and we’re being urged to ‘earn’ those margaritas. Head’s up – exercise isn’t about punishing yourself, burning off that donut or reaching that ‘perfect’ weight.

If you think about it, it can’t ever really be to get that perfect body. Is it healthy to be fixated on reaching that physical ideal? What happens when we inevitably age? What happens when your genetics mean that you can’t have that six pack or that your hips will never look like that?


Positive movement

There’s definitely many pros to getting moving in the long-term that don’t revolve around 6 week summer boot camps: from improved mental health, reduced risk of type two diabetes, improved cardiovascular health and bone strength, reducing risk of falls in the elderly, the potential for improved self-esteem and self-efficacy plus the social benefits of getting involved in group sports.

See – there’s loads of reasons to get a wriggle on.


Welsh wanderings

A bit of surgery has meant that I haven’t been able to put my own shoes on recently, let alone move as much as I want to. My first thought is almost always to panic and freak out a bit, I love being able to run, swim, jump around and lift heavy things. It makes me feel good.  

Years ago that would have definitely led to me restricting what I was eating, to help ‘balance’ it all out. Thesedays, I’ve worked hard to be more in tune with my body and what it wants, to be able to rest and give my body time and nourishment to heal. Not gonna lie, it took time to get here – but it was totally worth it.

We went for a break up to Liverpool (my home town, la) and then came back via a night in gorgeous Wales and a sweltering drive through the Cotswolds. We made the most of the scenery; pottering around the incredible lakes and hills, drinking local whisky and trying out the local ice cream.

Daydreaming up on the hills (ice cream in hand) brought me back to the movement part of Intuitive Eating. In that moment there was no way I could run far, but I’d been on my feet for hours, almost busted my stitches from laughing with the boy and life was fucking grand. Years ago I’d never have counted that as movement, I’d only have counted the run I’d make myself go for to ‘burn off’ the ice cream or the sit-ups I’d do before dinner.

If you have an eating disorder – all of those habits represent a disordered approach to exercise. Yet when you’re a ‘normal’ weight those habits are praised as ‘disciplined’ and ‘you’re SO good’. How messed up is that?

wales rocks trees Brecon

What counts?

Walking, stretching, dancing in front of the TV, yoga, wheelchair basketball, a 6am HIIT class, Zumba – it all counts. Any movement that works for you; any movement that makes you happy and that you want to do again and again – why not try those things?

Sure, being active might be trickier to fit in compared with planning eating, but if you can schedule in a bit of time and know you’ll feel better for doing it – why not try it out? If it’s killing you to do it at 6am and the cons outweigh the pros – why not think of something else you’d enjoy doing at a different time.  

wheelchair basketball sport England

Inclusive movement

Unfortunately it can be pretty difficult to find activities and sports facilities that are well-adapted for all abilities. A recent survey by Parallel London showed that 83% of people with a disability wanted to be more active but most had difficulty accessing services. In Brighton and Hove, there are a range of activities and clubs available which provide inclusive services. Check out your local council webpages to find out what’s available in your area.

For those whose gender identity has stopped them from enjoying swimming, every fortnight Brighton trans-swimming group also offers a safe space for people to come and swim.

But what about that charity 10k?

If you have goals you’re going for – running a key club race time or completing a charity event, you do kinda have to get those sessions in and you’re not always going to want to do them. If that feels okay for you the majority of the time and you’re still buzzing from it – it’s not always a horrible punishment for your body, go for it. It just has to be what works for you.  

Rachael Hartley has a great blog post on intuitive movement while training for an event here.



The lowdown

Punishing yourself with exercise might not be the greatest idea – you’re more likely to want to get moving if it brings you joy. You know – like you enjoy it. The benefits of regular movement are plentiful, you’ve just got to do what’s right for you.

There’s so many things that you can try out there and all movement counts; that walk along the pier, the trek back with your shopping, a bit of a stretch in the morning. Just try some stuff out and see what fits.

Stay curious, we’re all shit-scared to try out a new class and we all got it wrong the first time (yes, you did!) and if you hate it you never have to go back there. Plus, remember that no-one’s thinking about you, they’re usually more worried about what they’re doing…


Further reading

I also fully recommend reading (this is an Amazon affiliate link – see disclosure policy) Louise Green: Big Fit Girl. It’s an awesome book that looks into how the fitness industry is failing people in bigger bodies and give tips on how to find activities you’ll love.

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