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Why are you running (or doing burpees or hill sprinting, or [insert regimented, high intensity workout here]) if you hate it? Is it because you think you “have to” or it’s what is required to be “healthy” and “physically fit”? It’s time to dig deep and take an honest look at your reasons for engaging in a particular type of movement, even if you strongly dislike it.

Fitness culture promotes toxic sayings such as “no pain, no gain” and “no days off” that are both unrealistic and detrimental to mental and physical health. Despite what fitness culture may promote, movement does not have to be formal or “painful” to be helpful. You don’t need to sweat for it to “count” and it certainly shouldn’t be used to “earn” or “make up” for your food. This relationship with movement can easily become punishing, disordered and unsustainable. 

If you think your relationship with movement may be hinging on disordered, it can help to ask yourself the following questions: 

  • Why am I choosing to engage in this specific form of movement? 
  • What meaning do I attach to this form of movement?
  • Does this feel good in my body?
  • Am I doing this with the goal to change my body?
  • What are the messages I’m told about this type of movement?
  • If I could be doing any sort of movement right now, without focus on outcome, what would I choose to be doing? 

Unpacking your motivation and the messaging surrounding specific types of movement helps to deconstruct the narrative about having to carve out very specific blocks of time for very regimented forms of high intensity movement, even if you don’t enjoy doing so. If more traditional, recognized forms of movement bring you joy – great! Keep doing your thing. If not, just know that you’re not “wrong” or “broken” and other less formal movement can be just as great for your mental health.

What does this more spontaneous movement look like? It can be dance parties in the kitchen, taking the dog for a walk, going for a hike, stretching after a long day of work, etc. Instead of forcing your body to engage in the movement you think it “should” be doing, try to bring curiosity and gentleness to your approach, instead honoring your body for what it can do. Also, if you are in eating disorder recovery, sometimes a break from movement altogether (including the different forms mentioned above) can be best.

You are allowed to question the role of fitness in your life and ask yourself if it’s feeding into obsessive behaviors. Movement can be great and it can also become a disordered relationship. You were made for more than a life of dreading going to the gym. If you find yourself in a disordered relationship with movement, there is hope for change and you’re deserving of a healing relationship with movement versus a punishing one.