How to restore your relationship with exercise and stop seeing it as a punishment

Do you dread the idea of getting fit? Find out how you can restore your relationship with exercise and stop seeing it as a punishment.

Lockdown was met with the nation adopting resolutions that aim to provide self-improvement. As a result, social media feeds were soon flooded with portrayals of personal achievements and lockdown successes. However, for many people, three lockdowns and 12+ months of unease has sparked anxiety around their personal fitness levels and exercise routines.  

In this article, Bike Rumor share five ways to restore your relationship with exercise and avoid considering it a punishing task.   

Non scale victory

Research shows that a mere 5% of those that reach their target weight through a commercial diet programme maintain their weight for 5 years or more. Many people consider scales as a tangible way to measure success however, it is important to remember that the scales showcase weight, not context.

When our exercise levels increase, our body makeup changes. We lose fat and gain muscle, which can lead to an increase in numbers on the scales. Exercising whilst watching the numbers on the scale go up can lead to resentment of the activity that is linked to those numbers. Many lay such focus on the scales that they forget the other benefits that exercise boast. For instance, an improvement in sleep hygiene, a boost in energy levels, stamina, and overall productivity levels. 

Build a list of exercise benefits that fuel the soul and not the scales. This will work to create positive associations with the exercise practice of your choosing. 

An outlet not a punishment

Slogans such as ‘new year, new me’ coined by diet culture promotes an inextinguishable link between exercise and weight loss. As a result, many have formed a concrete correlation between calorie dense food and periods of prolonged cardio sessions.

Establishing a connection between the number of calories consumed and the amount of exercise required to reverse the intake creates a resentful relationship with food and exercise. Essentially, you are training the brain to associate food with uncomfortable lengthy workout sessions.

Forming damaging associations between food and exercise is likely to build a workout routine that is unsustainable. Food is fuel for the body, and calorie focussed workouts can lead to unreasonable calorie deficits. Your body burns fat for fuel and any fat left over, it stores. Undereating and overexercising lead your body to enter survival mode, and store even more fat that it needs through fear that it does not know when it will receive the nutrients it needs again. Subsequently, injury is likely to occur, the metabolism will slow, and it will have the reverse effect on influencing your objective. 

Identify and acknowledge your triggers

Much of the UK has benefitted from social media platforms over lockdown as they have served as tools to entertain, connect, and create. However, negatives have also surfaced as memes relating to lockdown life have surfaced and users projecting their diet and fitness accomplishments have flooded our screens. Whether the memes of users poking fun at their overuse of exercise, or self-mocking their lack of activity it can existing ignite anxiety that surrounds the subject matter. 

Establish any tools or topics of conversation that spark anxiety and determine how to resolve or avoid them arising. A digital detox from social media can aid in forming a new perspective and evade any negative interpretations of posts. 

Conversations amongst friends and family that focus on diet and exercise can prompt feelings of insecurity. If this occurs, have a few changes of topics in your back pocket that you can casually use when necessary. This will ensure that you do not dread conversations or hold any apprehension throughout conversation, ultimately safeguarding your relationship with  exercise. 

Adaptor Vs dictator

If the last 12 months has taught us anything, it is the importance of structure. Many who consistently practice exercise do so at the same times every week. Often, this works to keep motivation levels high and limit avoidable excuses however, begrudgingly rejecting plans proposed by others through fear that you must keep to your workout schedule can pave the way to workout antipathy. 

‘A workout must adapt to you and your schedule, ’says Bike Rumor. ‘It should not feel like a task that dictates your day-to-day lifestyle. Diversifying your schedule, changing up times and routines, will prevent boredom and avoid resentment towards your workout building.’

What is exercise?

Resentment towards exercise can build when you consider it only as activity that leads to high heart rate, breathlessness, and excessive sweating. However, exercise is any activity that increases the heartrate above its resting beats per minute and benefits the body. 

Revaluate what you consider exercise. Walking, gentle stretching, Yoga or even a vigorous clean of the house all fall under the exercise umbrella. Any activity that is additional to your day-to-day routine is exercise and of course, a win. 

Removing any workout goals can help redefine what you consider to be exercise. Often, we implement aggressive workout goals and when they become unobtainable, we become disheartened, feel a sense of failure, and resent the practice. Initially, consider workout goals secondary and focus solely on enjoying the practice itself.

Photo by Michael Henry