Exercise is something that many women have a love/hate relationship with. For some of us, we’ve never enjoyed it and for others, we’ve fallen in and out of love with it as we’ve cycled through diet after diet. In coaching my clients, one of the biggest themes that I often see around exercise is guilt.

The women I talk to feel like they should exercise or they should repent for their food sins or they should go the gym as they’ve been too busy with family commitments all week… they cast themselves into these shame spirals wherein it’s nearly impossible to feel anything other than an overwhelming sense of obligation around movement. They feel guilty if they do work out (for not doing it soon enough) and they feel guilt if they don’t work out (because they really should). They’re damned if they do, damned if they don’t!

Does this resonate with you?

One of the biggest lessons I’m constantly teaching to my clients (and to myself – we all need a refresher, sometimes!) is that there needs to be enjoyment in your exercise. Part of that enjoyment comes from finding the specific movements that your body loves and adapting your workouts accordingly (no point suffering through an exercise class that you hate if you’d rather be running by yourself in the park or doing Pilates with friends!) and another huge component to enjoying exercise is tracing back those emotional ties around movement that leave you feeling guilty, shameful and afraid of working out. 

These ties can come from past experiences with exercise (maybe your gym coach ridiculed you and it scarred you), feelings of comparison and judgement to those around you (maybe you’re embarrassed that the girl next to you on the treadmill can run much faster than you) or maybe you’re new to the world of exercise and feel out of place. Whatever the catalyst behind the negativity that you feel around exercise – rest assured that your mindset can be changed! 

These catalysts all lead to negative self-talk, and it’s that that keeps us from feeling free and joyous around movement.

Your action step for today: assess your internal dialogue! Are you participating in negative self-talk? This could take the form of telling yourself that you’re fat or lazy, comparing yourself to others around you or talking yourself out of exercise out of fear of judgement. Once you’re aware if you’re engaging in this negative self-talk, you can then start taking steps to change it. Sit with the feeling, remind yourself that they’re just thoughts, and allow them to pass out of your mind at their own pace. You might also like to try counteracting self-inflicted negativity with some positive affirmations.

Remember, don’t beat yourself up for having negative self-talk. It’s okay, and it’s something that most of us have done on some level at some point! This isn’t about chastising yourself, but allowing yourself to acknowledge them as feelings and then let them go in a healthy manner, rather than internalising and dwelling on them. 

The end goal here is to make exercise a positive experience for you, so take everything at the pace that feels most comfortable for you.

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