Fitness, training, exercise, movement, all these physical activities are for you, not the other way around.
They are supposed to enhance and enrich your life.
They should make you healthier, but they should also make you feel more vibrant, confident and capable.
But for many of us, exercise has not historically been not a positive thing.
We look in the mirror and think,
"I need to exercise" or our doctor recommends that we spend more time at the gym, we learn that a friend of ours is getting great results with their new fitness regimen, what do we feel immediately?
Sometimes these feelings can translate to inspiration and motivation and can get us more active, more aware of our lifestyle choices, but most often the guilt and pressure-driven changes that we make don't last and we feel like we are failing, like it's not in the cards for us to be "healthy", "active" and or "fit".
But again, I think the problem with this is exercise culture.
Exercise is so often our "go-to" for increasing health.
Folks are joining gyms and signing up for classes with no sense of what they are doing or trying to accomplish.
Often the schedule or the form of exercise they are choosing doesn't work with their real life, doesn't get them lasting results and so they give up.
The truth is, exercise is a modern and poor substitute for routine daily movement and is NOT a solution to most people's health and fitness dilemma.
I hear a lot of doctors telling people to "exercise" when they should be encouraging people to move more often.
For example, how many people do you know that consider "walking" to be a form of exercise?
It's a form of transportation that humans have relied upon since the dawn of time.
We are biologically wired, shaped and formed for walking and lots of it!
In fact, we begin to have health issues WHEN WE DON'T walk.
We all need to walk more.
The average american walks less than 5000 steps a day, a lower average than most of the developed nations of the world and SIGNIFICANTLY lower than people in developing nations where diseases like diabetes, hearth disease and cancer are no where near as common as they are in the US.
Research shows that the people with the healthiest metabolisms (hormones are balanced, guts are populated with good microbes, blood sugar in check, hunger and satiety signals are accurate and fat storage is not in excess) walk 10-15K steps a day (on average) and spend time outdoors.
But walking isn't the only way to get more movement into our daily lives.
Sitting on the floor (and getting up and down), lugging the laundry outside to let it hang and dry, doing yard work, taking the stairs, walking to the grocery store or parking further away in the parking lot, biking as transportation, chopping fire wood, swimming, climbing and or hanging from trees...
The thing about natural movement is that it's something we can incorporate into our lives all day everyday, gradually and without pain.
We don't need spandex, or gym memberships or expensive equipment, 60 straight minutes of uninterrupted time on the stairmaster.
We can move more with loved ones, co-workers, friends and furry family members.
AND increasing our natural movement more accurately mimics what we as humans have been doing for all of history, long before the invention of convenient appliances, technology and automobiles.
In all honestly, exercising 30-60 minutes several times a week doesn't necessarily make up for hours and hours of being sedentary.
You often won't see strong results from doing cardio for 90-180 minutes a week IF you spend the other 10,000 minutes NOT moving.
For lots of people, moving from a sedentary lifestyle to routinely "exercising" is a huge step but incrementally ramping up daily movement practices, much much more within reach!
I recommend that all of my clients adopt a lifestyle of movement and then also learn to train for specific physical and mental goals.
Cultivating a practice of routine movement means that even when you can't get in a workout, you are still regularly moving your body, maintaining movement momentum, and meeting your body's daily movement requirements!
The most important thing to remember is that physical actives should nourish and strengthen your mind and your body.
If exercise bums you out, if gym culture makes you feel badly about yourself and your body, if Beachbody TM ads make you want to vomit, you're not alone and you're also not beyond help.
You're just a human being that doesn't embrace exercise culture.
I don't either.
That doesn't mean that I can't teach you to train and learn to love working out, feeling strong.
That also doesn't meant that you can't work to change your physique and feel pride in how you look and feel!
But it does mean that your journey might look a little different than what your fit friend or neighbor is doing.
But that's ok.
In fact, it's sort of awesome.
For my fourth and final installment in this #antiexercise email series, I will talk about how to begin to train for your desired physical and mental abilities.
If you're not on my email list, get on it now!
But until then, begin to look at your daily life and identify ways in which you can begin to move more.
If exercise is NEVER something that you've been able to make stick longterm, stop feeling bad about it and think, "Hey, maybe my biology just isn't craving exercise right now."
And that's ok.
Daily movement practices are the jam.
Don't forget to get on my email list above to learn how to start training for your goals!
Sarah Smith is a strength coach and kettlebell instructor in Raleigh, North Carolina.
She trains online and in-person to help women cultivate a lifestyle that makes them feel confident, capable and content in their bodies and lives!
Sarah lives on a small farm where she raises chickens and pigs with her husband, three sons and English bulldog, Bella.