Healthy Habits

5 Tips For Building A Healthy Relationship With Exercise

tips on how to heal your relationship with exercise

October 3, 2022

I’m Ryann.
A not-so-average therapist obsessed with all things mental wellness who overcame 7 years of binge eating and found food freedom. Now, I'm teaching you all my secrets!
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Building a healthy relationship with exercise is a biggie when healing your relationship with food. I LOVE training, but not for the same reasons I used to say I love to exercise. For me, exercise has become something I get to do, a highlight of my day, and a way to feel freakin strong. However, it wasn't always this way. Exercise used to be something I strictly did as punishment. Working out was a way to burn off everything ‘I shouldn't have eaten so I could finally lose weight and live my best life (which *spoiler alert* didn't work). It was never pleasant. It was never enjoyable. And it was never anything I looked forward to doing. 

It wasn't until I began healing my relationship with food that I realized I needed to heal my relationship with exercise too. So, if you relate to the above and are ready to build a healthy relationship with exercise, here are five things you can start doing TODAY: 

01. Redefine Exercise To Build A Healthy Relationship With Exercise

If we delete the word ‘exercise' from your vocabulary and replace it with ‘movement,' what does that change for you? I realized that when I no longer used the word exercise and said movement instead, it allowed for more freedom, joy, and flexibility. Because to me, movement can be anything that involves just that – movement! And when I switched this word, it felt much easier to have a healthy relationship with exercise. 

What might happen if instead of using the word ‘exercise' you replace it with ‘movement?' Might it take some of the pressure off? Might it allow for more flexibility? Might it help create a more enjoyable experience with movement? You don't know until you try! 

02. Try New Things 

I used to be QUEEN of the phrase ‘if I am not sweating, it isn't working out.' *YIKES!* 

It took me a long time to realize that maybe my problem wasn't that I didn't truly enjoy movement. Maybe my problem was I didn't enjoy the movement I chose to do (hence not a healthy relationship with exercise). Once I finally let go of forcing myself to do the things I didn't enjoy and began trying new forms of movement, everything changed. 

What might happen if you tried something different instead of forcing yourself to do the same movement you always do? Might movement become something you look forward to doing? Might you find something that you enjoy without it feeling forced? Might it help create a more enjoyable experience with movement? You don't know until you try! 

03. Ditch The Counters (For At Least A Bit)

Moving your body automatically becomes more enjoyable when we can ditch the Apple Watch or Fitbit and allow movement based on feeling rather than numbers. Sometimes it's easy to forget that movement doesn't have to be about the number if we constantly wear a counter. Ditching the counter doesn't need to be forever; however, it is important to be okay without a counter. 

What might happen if you gave yourself a little break from the counters and allowed yourself to move just because it feels good? Might building a healthy relationship with exercise come easier? Might movement be a little less stressful? Might there be less pressure when you move? You don't know until you try! 

04. Focus On FEELING For A Healthy Relationship With Exercise

One of the most helpful things I did when building a healthy relationship with exercise was starting to focus on how I wanted to feel. Putting an intention on how I want to feel allowed much more flexibility in my movement but also helped me set goals that were weight-focused. 

For example: 

  • I want to feel strong; I am going to lift weights or go to pilates 
  • I want to feel alive; I am going to go for a hike or a run 
  • I want to feel energized; I am going to take a group fitness class 
  • I want to feel relaxed; I am going to take a yoga class 

What might happen if, instead of focusing on what you want to do or look like, you concentrate on how you want to feel? Might you become stronger, more energized, more relaxed? Might you be able to allow yourself to do different forms of the moment? You don't know until you try. 

05. Stack It With Body Appreciation 

You don't have to love everything about your body to appreciate it. Still, you must begin enjoying your body if you ever want to love it. So, at the end of your movement, practice adding in ‘thank you *body part* for….' As you practice this regularly, this will become more automatic and top of mind. And when body appreciation becomes natural, bad body image days become much easier to manage. 

What might happen if you end your movement with body appreciation? Might you start to build a better relationship with your body? Might movement begin to be something you do for your body rather than because of it? You don't know until you try! 

To Summarize 

For you to build a healthy relationship with exercise, it starts with shifting the way you think about practice. When you think of exercise as a form of movement, as something you get to do, as a way to appreciate your body, the experience can become much more enjoyable! 

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