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How to Build a Healthy Relationship With Exercise

Are you in an ‘it’s complicated’ relationship with exercise? Do you want to get moving but struggle with motivation, energy or building a routine? Or are you worried that you’re too active?

Whatever it is that’s impacting your relationship with exercise, you may be wondering what a ‘healthy’ consistency is or if it’s even achievable in your busy, day-to-day life.

Although exercise is all about moving your body, the first step is to move your mind, and getting through your mental barriers may lead to new ideas, new attitudes, and a fresh drive to getting active. Aiming to make working out less daunting, this article will list five ways to build a healthy relationship with exercise.

1. Do what you enjoy

It’s quite simple really. Think of a time when you last enjoyed exercise, and note what it was, where it was and what you liked about it. This does not necessarily refer to a ‘traditional’ workout, such as an hour in a gym, a plethora of pushups or a lengthy jog — it can be anything that gets you moving. This could be a hot yoga session, a cheeky pole class, or even just simply galloping after your pooch in the dog park.

Once you understand what you enjoy, it will be easier to incorporate the activity into a routine. However, perhaps you haven’t discovered what you like yet — and that’s okay! Now is a great time to sample the huge variety of options available — at home, a gym, or in the great outdoors.

Experiment, take time to work out (if you pardon the pun) what is fun, achievable and delivers results. If you prefer the idea of working out at home, try an online class. There is an abundance of options available. How about gettin’ rockin’ to an indoor walking session, set to classic 80’s headbangers? Or, if you’re looking to try something truly different, try this full body program — with a fun twist (hint: you’ll finally get to channel your inner ballerina).

2.  Find your ‘why’

You already know why exercise is important for the body — it can reduce stress, the risk of major illnesses and supports a healthy metabolism. However, why is it important for you? It could be to improve your mental wellbeing, increase your energy levels or lose weight. Perhaps you want to challenge yourself, and have aspirations of running a 5K, a triathlon or improving your deadlift. Moreover, you should consider what exercise means to you, other than a strategy to lose weight or increase muscle. What value does it provide aside from your fitness goals? Take time and patience to keep asking ‘why’ until you find your true motivation for achieving your goal.

Once you understand your ‘why,’ your ‘how’ should become a little clearer. Create a realistic, sustainable routine around your goal, and practise an activity best suited to your needs. You may be more motivated when in the company of others, such as in a walking group, a dance class or simply enjoying a solo yogathon in the comfort of your own home.

3. Boost your self-belief

Have you ever experienced a time where you planned to work out, but didn’t — because you just didn’t feel like it? Skipping a workout can often feel catastrophic and make you feel lazy, guilty or even depressed. However, an exercise routine (or lack thereof) should never give rise to feelings of ‘failure’ or reduced self-belief.

Consider how much time and energy you have per week to dedicate to exercise — but also take into account your hours spent at work, your social life, and those-all important Netflix commitments. Start your regime with smaller, significant steps that are both achievable and enjoyable. Then, if you feel confident enough, increase the amount of time and energy you give to working out.

4. Don’t work out to ‘earn’ food

Have you ever exercised to earn extra fries? Moreover, do you ever work out purely to reverse the ‘damage’ and calories of a sweet treat? This is very common, especially so for those looking to consume a particularly unhealthy meal or following a strict diet.

However, exercise should not be an arduous task to be compensated with a reward — nor should you validate what you eat by way of working out. By doing so, you can quickly create an unhealthy relationship between diet, exercise and your self-worth. Additionally, you may even find yourself putting on weight — if the calories you burn are less than what you consume.

If this sounds at all familiar, please ensure that you speak to your doctor or mental health professional. Your fitness should never come before your health and happiness.

5. Take rest days

Rest days are as vital as active days and are essential to a healthy exercise plan. By taking deliberate, regular pauses you enable your body to repair, recover and prevent injury. Skipping rest days, on the other hand, might lead to overtraining or burnout. From a psychological perspective, taking a break may revive your desire to exercise and help you avoid lethargy. Mental exhaustion may be just as damaging as physical fatigue, and taking a day off helps to rejuvenate your mindset.

However, do not confuse rest days with cheat days. This controversial notion allows a dieter to ‘cheat’ for one day a week (normally with lots of high-calorie or unhealthy foods) as long as they follow their plan for the other six days. For some people, this can lead to uncontrollable binge-eating, then purging of calories through over-exercising. This is known as compulsive exercise and can create a harmful mindset and disordered eating habits. If you have any concerns about your relationship with exercise you should consult a doctor to discuss the best treatment plan.

Pay attention to what makes you happy and keeps you coming back for more, then do more of it! If you can do that, you’ll be one step closer to having a positive relationship with fitness.