135. [Ry + Lisa] on Breaking Up With Fitness Culture

Written By:


Ryann Nicole

Connect with Lisa

📲 Instagram: @thoughtfullyfueled

🖥 Website: www.thoughtfullyfueled.com

🎙Podcast:  The Fully Fueled Life Podcast

Episode Transcript


Hello, everybody. Welcome back. I have Lisa here and we are going to be doing another two parter. You guys know the drill. We just chatted on Lisa’s podcast about fitness culture, how we experience fitness culture, just you know, a good old conversation on the reality of fitness culture, staying through fitness culture. And now we’re gonna switch gears a little bit and we’re gonna chat about breaking up with fitness culture and how to have an actual healthy relationship with movement, what that looks like and how to cultivate that without guilt. 

So I am curious to hear from you from having that element of being wrapped into fitness culture and then being a personal trainer, how did you, for lack of a better term, chill the F out?


I was forced because COVID happened. Like I was forced to reevaluate and be like, what the heck am I doing? Is this sustainable? Because before COVID, I was in the depths of my disordered eating. I was so wrapped into fitness culture. And then COVID happened and the gym that I worked at closed. And I had this like, okay, what am I doing? How do I keep up with the intense amount of movement that I was doing before? Plus just being on my feet most of the day walking around training clients.

 And I had this realization probably within two weeks of the gym closing because my body started changing. In two weeks, my body started changing. So that just shows you how unsustainable my routine was. I was holding on by a thread to what I had, what my body looked like, because I was just essentially pushing myself into the ground with everything that I was doing. So I was forced because of COVID to kind of take a step back and look at my routine. And that’s when I realized like, okay, I need to do something else. 

I need to find this balance that I’ve been kind of thinking about and it’s been like lingering in my mind because I was so exhausted. I was cranky. I was not seeing my friends, like I was just not a nice human being at that point. And I kind of forced myself to find a different approach to movement, which was really hard because of everything that I had done up until that point. And I still had this love for movement, like I truly do love being able to move my body and seeing all these amazing things that it can do, that I really had to take a step back and say, it’s not as much about the movement as it is my mindset. 

And I need to work on how I think about this stuff, what I want my relationship with these things to look like, because I saw these women in the gym who are in their 50s, 60s, 70s, still talking about calories, still talking about the back-to-back HIIT classes that they did, still talking about how they wanna lose X amount of pounds before so-and-so’s wedding. And I’m like, I don’t wanna do that. Like, I don’t wanna be that 60-year-old who everyone at the gym knows because she’s on the treadmill at the same time for the same amount of time every single day. Like, I don’t wanna be that person. So COVID was a little blessing in disguise in that way. And it made me just come to a complete stop and reevaluate things.


It’s funny that you say that because I feel like mine is very similar. I had a two parter. I feel like it was COVID first and then pregnancy second. So just a little bit of backstory. I was a competitive swimmer growing up. So as a competitive swimmer, my normal practices were two hours long, and on Saturday it was three hours. I was working out a lot. And then when I started having disordered eating, I would exercise on top of that. So exercise has always been like a really, really big thing. I never had a problem not exercising.

 It was… is that right? Yeah. No, I always had a problem not… Anyways. Getting myself to exercise was not the problem. It was not exercising that was the problem. I do feel like when I went through treatment, I chilled out a little bit. I feel like I got sucked back in, not to the level where I was necessarily fully obsessing over my food, but just to the point that we talked about on Lisa’s podcast where it was like, I’m just looking at this as like fitness, and improving my health. And I’m seeing all of these different Instagrams of these girls that are getting really strong and I want to be really strong. 

And the red flag was that, but I would feel guilty if I didn’t work out and I would feel guilty if I was taking a rest day and that was always really difficult for me. Then I moved to Jackson Hole and Jackson Hole has a whole other different kind of movement culture. Everybody there and it’s not necessarily like working out and gym obsession, but it is just movement obsession. It is I run you know X amount of miles a day and then I go on a bike ride like everybody there is doing all of these crazy crazy fitness things and so when we were there it was exciting in a sense that we were going on these amazing incredible hikes but like a normal hike there is like a 13 mile hike. 

We’re not talking about like a baby three miler and then it is I’m working out on top of all of these different things that I’m doing. Not to mention I at the time was working as a barista and then I was working as a server and so I was doing doubles so I would start my barista shift at 7 and work there until 3 and then I would work at the restaurant from 4 to 10. So I was on my feet more than 12 hours. Did I count that as movement? Absolutely not. I was like I have to work out. How am I gonna fit in my workouts? 

So I was just telling Lisa on her podcast, I definitely had an Orange Theory obsession. They had just opened up an Orange Theory there. I was going to Orange Theory before this. I would wake up at 430, I would go to Orange Theory, shower, go to do my barista stuff, and then go to my serving job. Thankfully, I had a healthier relationship with food where it was like at least I was fueling myself enough, but I still had a really hard time being okay with not organized movement, with being like, oh my gosh, I probably did walk 15,000 steps between both of my jobs today. 

But that’s work. Like that doesn’t count as movement. And then COVID happened. And I feel like that was the first taste that I got of I can’t go into the gym, and I can’t have this organized movement. And so I’m finding different things. And I had a really hard time doing them for longer than 20 minutes, 30 minutes. At the same time I was living in Jackson still and so COVID happened in what March? So it was still snowy so it wasn’t like I could go outside for a run and it wasn’t like I could go outside for a walk. So I was confined in my home. 

You guys remember that time you couldn’t get weight to anywhere and I remember being like oh my gosh like I don’t even have weight. Like, what am I gonna do? And having these days go by where I didn’t work out and I didn’t work out and I didn’t work out where I did 20 minutes, I started to realize, okay, like I’m okay. 

Nothing is happening. Nothing is changing. And that was what I needed just like you to be like, wait a minute, maybe I don’t have to work out to this level. And then because I was forced to do that for a little bit of time, I started to feel the benefits of like, wait, like I actually feel better. Like I feel more energized. And then when I do go do movement, I’m a lot more excited to do it. And I am stronger in my workouts and I really

like that feeling. 


Yeah, and that’s like, you know, before maybe when we were more in our like fitness culture days, like the fear of taking a rest day and like a true rest day, not an active recovery day, a rest day, you know, before COVID, I’ve been like, absolutely not like no rest days to me are walking or a hot yoga class or like something along those lines. Where now I’m like, a rest day is awesome. I feel amazing. 

Sure, I might stretch on the ground for 10 minutes or something if I feel like, ooh, you know, this is still a little sore, or I’ve been sitting all day and I’d love to give my hips a little bit of love, but I’m okay now taking a rest day. But that took so much time, and it really took me figuring out, like, what do I want my relationship to look like? How do I redefine what movement is? What a workout is? And there was a lot of work around that, like, topic until I got to the point where I am now, where I’m like, a rest day? Heck yeah, like, sign me up. 


100%. And then in COVID, I mean, that’s when I started my Instagram. When did you start your Instagram?




Yeah. So I started my Instagram then, and for me, it almost started as like a digital diary where it was kind of healing in and of itself, where I was not only now teaching everything that I believed in, minus the fact that we were still working on exercise, I felt like the more that I shared and posted and connected with other people and started changing up my feed, it was really, really healing for me.

So when everything started opening back up, I guess I should probably mention that I was also an Orange Theory coach. 

So I had my membership for free. And then I did feel that pressure, like you said, of like, my body is my business card of being like, if I’m a coach, like, what does that mean? And like, how quote unquote, should I look to be a coach? And when COVID happened, I stopped coaching. And that’s when I went into therapy full time. And so when I came back, it was like, now I have to pay for a membership. And I remember going back to Orange Theory and being like, I am really struggling to get through this workout. 

Like not physically, but mentally. I’m like, I hate this. Like I hate this. I like feel so burnt out. Like no part of me wants to be here. And then the one coach that I really loved, like his classes were legitimately fun. And I really enjoyed just like going to be with him. They let him go. And it was like this huge deal. And so it was like on bad terms. So a lot of people left that gym and went to another gym that had Pilates. And I had never tried Pilates, because I totally had the mentality that doesn’t make me sweat. It’s not hard enough. Like you don’t burn enough calories. Like why would I waste my time doing that? I did it. Kicked my butt. 

I was so sore and I was like, I love this. Like I love this. It feels so good. I enjoy going and that was almost like the way that I feel like I found just lower intensity movement and then started noticing again, like I feel really strong. I’m able to show up and know I’m not doing Pilates five days a week because now I’ve gotten a taste of not working out because of COVID. So I’m having walks here, I’m having rest days. And what was so interesting is I was getting stronger than I had ever been doing all of these high-intensity workouts.


It’s crazy and eye-opening when you have that happen because there was probably a tiny piece of you that was like, why the heck wasn’t I this strong when I was grinding and doing all this stuff and like pushing myself to the limit? And then you take a step back and you’re like, oh, because I was completely wearing out my body, probably wasn’t feeling enough to make up for all the work I was doing, plus provide my body with the energy it needed to repair my muscles. And I wasn’t waiting enough time between each movement, each, you know, exercise, day after day, that my body wasn’t able to fully recover.

 I always think of it as, if we don’t allow those rest days, we go from being 100% on that first day, and then we drain our battery, and then if we don’t allow for proper recovery, maybe we’re at 85, and then we drain our battery, and then we’re at 75% and you are just constantly playing catch up. And it’s so, so hard to get back to that like full tank or where you feel like you’re your strongest and you’re ready to go without taking planned rest days. 

Like it’s almost impossible unless your job is to be a professional athlete and all your time through the day is fueling and recovery and mobility and all the things that us everyday athletes really don’t love to do. Like how many of you actually stretch after your workouts? How many of you like actually take planned rest days? Like things like that. And I think when you take a step back and be like a rest day can make a huge difference on achieving the goals that I have because we’re not saying you can’t have any of these goals. 

Like now when you’re breaking up with fitness culture, I feel like your goals look, maybe they might be the same actually, but the way in which you achieve them is going to look very different. And I think when you realize the power that rest day has to get you to hit those goals, that’s when that mindset shift can really happen because you’re like, oh, if I just my body recover, I can get that pull up or I can get that, you know, whatever it is a little bit maybe faster, a little bit easier without just digging my body into the ground and feeling like an absolute noodle every time I work out. 


And it also made me start to think of everything that I’m doing in here, the strength that I’m building is no longer about creating this aesthetic body. It is about how far I can hike, like how far I can run, like how many groceries I can hold at one time, like all of these little things. And I remember doing this, like it was a little hike behind one of the places that I was living at in Jackson, but it was like a good one where it was like 45 minutes up and it was up and people used it just as like a quickie workout kind of thing.

 And I remember after just Pilates and walking, doing that hike and being so nervous and being like, I am going to die on this because it’s usually really hard. And I was doing Orange Theory before, and I feel like, you know, I haven’t been doing a ton of endurance training. And I remember doing it, and I was like, this isn’t as hard as I remember it being. And then again, back to the point of like, I am literally building strength in a whole new way, working out less and doing different things. I’m not sweating. I’m not sweating at all. The strength that I’m building is there.


And I think that’s such a good reminder that when it comes to movement, we know and I said this earlier, and you know, part one, like, yeah, we know that movement has benefits for our body. Like we know there’s benefits to strength training, we know there’s benefits to cardiovascular training. But when it comes to movement, more does not equal better. It’s not like, oh, well, if the recommended is X and I do X plus 100, that’s gonna make me so much better. No, that’s not the case. 

You’re just wearing your body down, breaking your body down, and unless you are really aware of how much recovery and how much time you need to take between those really intense workouts, you’re probably doing too much. And that then relates to that cortisol talk that we had earlier too. 

The more and more you’re doing, you’re never letting those cortisol levels come back down. Our cortisol levels are supposed to ebb and flow throughout the day. And if you’re doing so much that you’re constantly in that fight or flight state with elevated cortisol levels, elevated adrenaline, again, you’re just doing more harm than good, but we have it drilled into our minds that if this is good, then this plus whatever is better, and that’s how I’m going to achieve the body that I want, and taking time to slow down. For me personally, it sounds like U2 has made the biggest impact on my relationship with movement, the strength that I have in and outside of the gym, and just the overall joy that I get from moving my body. 


What was your mom’s relationship like with movement? What is it like now?


So this is interesting because it’s probably not what you think. My mom was that mom when we were little, like elementary school. She’d get up and do like a 5 a.m. boot camp to come back to be home by like 6.15, which is when we were like getting up, she’d make us breakfast, blah, blah, blah. And she would do that Monday through Friday when we were in elementary school. And then when we got older, and she didn’t really have to like get us up out of bed and, you know, just had to kind of be awake when we were awake. Her relationship with movement totally changed. 

And then my mom has never been one since probably being in middle school to do consistent movement. And she struggles with pain in her knees. She’s had a full knee replacement. So now her movement relationship is damaged because there’s a lot of pain and a lot of trauma and a lot of fear around, you know, her joints and the pain that she has, the pain that she could have, the potential surgeries that she could have. So her and I actually, we work out together. I train my mom virtually two times a week. And-


So cute.


So now that we’ve started doing this, like after her knee replacement, I was always someone, she like knows I’m a personal trainer, obviously, but I never pushed my beliefs on her and was like, we have to do this and you need to do this and blah, blah, blah. 

Even when I was at my worst phase, I let her come to me and was always like, I’m here if you ever want it. She had a couple of personal trainers before. She was like, I’m just going to work with you. But now, you know, she has more consistency, but she still struggles with that knee pain and the fear around moving. And we know if she tweaks something or if she has a day where she’s on her feet a lot, her mobility is compromised. 

Her abilities to just move. My mom will say this, you never take these things for granted until you can’t do them. She’s like, the things that I took for granted, like getting in and out of a car, getting in and out of certain chairs, getting off the floor. She’s like, I never took those things for granted until my knee didn’t bend the way I was used to it bending. 


I so appreciate you sharing that because it just shows that, I mean, it can come from family. It doesn’t always come from family. My mom was the total opposite. Growing up, she rode the bike at the gym. That was her thing. She would get on one of those bikes and she would just ride it at the gym. Then we moved to Hawaii when I was in sixth grade, and when we moved to Hawaii, she started running and instantly fell in love with it and that became her thing. 

And I was probably 13 around that time, and so that’s right when I started my disordered eating, right when I really started comparing myself to her. So I always felt like there was this competition in my brain I created it, she never created it, of there is no reason why my mom, who is 25 years older than me, should be able to do more than I can do physically. And creating this pressure on myself of if she ran X amount of miles, then I should run X amount of miles, or if she’s running this fast, like I should run this fast. 

I remember that that was something too that kind of sucked me in for a long time of just the comparison of she’s older than me there is no reason why that she should be able to do these things that I can’t do. The comparison, the comparison, the comparison, and Lisa and I are gonna have another episode of the comparison, we’ll probably bring that up then. But I do think part of my healing was really, really letting go of comparing myself to her fitness routine and being like, this is me, that is her. 

I am never gonna be a runner like she is a runner. Like I’m just not gonna be, and there is no point of me trying to force myself to become one just because I have this insecurity within me that she is able to do more than I can do. And I do feel like in those moments when I started slowing down and being around her and being able to go visit her and be like, she just ran seven miles this morning. I didn’t. And I have to be okay with that. Like that was healing too. And that was tough. Because for a long time, it was well, she just burned this more many more calories than I did. 

And that means that I need to work out, you know, all of the mental games that get you sucked back in, but also brings it back to, why are you actually moving? Like, is this something that you enjoy, or is this something that you feel like you should do? And now I can say it’s something that I genuinely look forward to. My mom and I do workout classes. 

Well, I live in Arizona now, we moved back after I found out I was pregnant, and we do workout classes together. And let me tell you, she kicks butt in those. And every single week I’m slowing down and I’m doing less and I’m lifting way less than her and old me would have freaked out over that. Like I would have left angry.

 Like legitimately angry it would have ruined my day. And now it can be as simple as she can lift this weight, this is what I’m lifting today, she can do that much. This is how much I’m doing. I don’t need to make it mean so much.


Yeah, and like, what a cool way to look at it because you can see how much your mindset has shifted to having that comparison with your mom to now being able to move with her and probably next to her and just be like, this is where I am and that’s where she is and that’s okay.


Yeah, earlier I said I had like two phases of this. So my first phase was COVID. My second phase was getting pregnant because I could not work out first trimester. As I tell so many of my clients, as I’m sure you do too, so many of our normalized behaviors that we do so innocently, we genuinely do innocently. And we may think that some things are still healthier, we’re fine until we get an obstacle and we realize, wait a minute, maybe I still have some more work to do around that. I remember going into pregnancy and being like, I have a healthy relationship with exercise. 

Like, look at the fact that, you know, I’m working out less, I’m just doing Pilates, I’m walking. Well, that changed when I realized I’m going on two weeks, three weeks, four weeks without doing any movement. And then the guilt started coming in and the thought started coming in where it was like, wait a minute, I can’t not work out for this long. Like what’s going to happen? I’m going to lose everything. Like what does that mean? And that was my second element of mental healing that I feel like has finally got me to the place where it’s like I surrender. And I’m so completely detached from exercise right now. 

And every time that I do go do movement right now, it truly feels like a blessing where I’m like, any day now, this could be taken away from me. I’ve also seen a lot of other people in pregnancy that I’ve been like, I am not allowed to move. And I know for me, like now it’s such an important thing for my mental health. Like the classes that my mom and I go to are so fun. Like the guy blasts music, we’re dancing around. Like it’s just fun. And just thinking about it as something that adds to my life rather than something that is being taken away. And I truly feel like it took this pregnancy for me to get there.


And if you’re listening and you’re like, I’m not pregnant, I don’t know if I’m gonna be pregnant anytime soon, how will I ever have, that it’s the same if you’re like injured or even sick. Like smaller scale, but same thing. If you’re sick and on the couch for four days, what are you thinking? What’s that relationship with movement look like? Are you okay being horizontal for four days? Or are you having that anxiety rise up?

 Because before I would have been like, I need to go out and walk and like sweat it out. And now I’m like, please do not bother me. I’m going to lay here until I feel better. And then I’m going to take those first couple workouts when I get back into it really easy because my body was just sick. 

And it was trying to fight off whatever I had. But before I would have probably, you know, gone back to the gym too early, made myself feel worse, made that sickness like linger, or same with an injury, you go back too soon, you get re-injured, like we all know that story. So I think that’s a great way to take what you just said and all the good little pieces from that and apply it to really whatever situation maybe you currently are dealing with, might deal with, are dealing with, like it’s such a good reminder.


It is. And it is a journey. I don’t know what is going to be the next phase after I have this baby and I’m bombarded with ‘bounce back’ culture.

 I’m sure that’s going to be a whole other element of healing, but needless to say, I also want you guys to hear that because it’s not perfect and it’s not even that I’ve done all of this work and I don’t have the thoughts or I don’t have the guilt like it comes you just get better at managing it and calling yourself out for it where I was like okay like the fact that you’re starting to feel guilt over not working out for two weeks and now three weeks we gotta work on that 


Right and I think too that happens when you’re not pregnant sick injured anything like if Like if you just have a crazy week, or maybe you just don’t feel like moving your body. I feel like there’s so many instances where you can let that mean girl voice creep in and be like, you should have done that. But I think both you and I now are, one, constantly being challenged. 

You going through a new phase of your life being pregnant and me working in a gym surrounded by women who are really still stuck in that fitness culture mindset and they know I don’t put up with any of that bullshit because I will just look at them and be like, mm-mm, we’re not gonna talk to ourselves that way or just like look at them, give them that look and walk away because I’m not gonna like contribute to that conversation.

 But constantly being kind of tempted or poked to kind of like test where’s your relationship at? How secure are you? Can you deal with this? So if you feel like I’m not going through this big life change but I’m still having these thoughts, that’s okay. You might have that thought. It’s not I should feel bad because I have this thought. It’s oh I have this thought let’s see what that means. Let’s see what I need to work on. Let’s see where else I can give myself some love because this is coming up. So I don’t want you to ever feel bad for thinking that because it happens to everyone.


Totally, and likewise, that doesn’t mean you can’t have goals and that doesn’t mean that you can’t be excited about movement and that doesn’t mean that you can’t have a regular movement routine, right? Like that’s not what this is about. This is about what is your intention behind all of these different things. 

And I know that I have just made a little rule for myself that if the intention is ever along the lines of I need to burn something off or I feel like I should go, I will literally be like, that means I’m not going today. Otherwise, let’s go and let’s kill it and let’s have fun and a great time. And let’s just make sure that our heads are in a great place.


I love that.


That is all for this episode. Thank you so much for listening. Again, hop over to Lisa’s to hear part one on the before the fitness culture and we will talk to you guys soon. 

Ryann Nicole

Licensed Therapist, Certified Nutritionist, and Virtual Wellness Coach

Ryann is a licensed therapist and virtual wellness coach who has assisted individuals worldwide in establishing a healthier relationship with food and their bodies.

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Ryann is a licensed therapist and virtual wellness coach who has assisted individuals worldwide in establishing a healthier relationship with food and their bodies.