There are many other reasons, but often fitness apprehension is based on fear surrounding old stories, shame, body distrust, or fear of failure.
But what if you could rewrite your fitness story? What if exercise was fun? What if it was joyful and rewarding and had nothing to do with how we looked or our body size? What if we could let go of all the harsh expectations we have for ourselves and stopped caring about the expectations of others, or at least stopped giving them so much primacy in our own thoughts and decisions?
What if we just move like many of us did when we did when we were kids—without reservation?
Well, we can.
That’s what I coach women to do: reframe their relationship with fitness and rewrite the story so they can make it a joyful part of their lives for the long term.
Here are some things to remember when you are approaching exercise after a long time—or for the first time—that might help you transition to movement. They are simple but powerful truths and, in my experience, exactly what anyone who wants to exercise but is having a hard time following through needs to hear.
1. Fitness is for everybody, including you.
Not only is this true in the macro-sociocultural sense, but nowadays it’s starting to be true in real, practical ways. Despite what we see in a lot of fitness media and advertising, the fitness industry is getting better at making fitness accessible to more people. In fact, this is a trend right now (lucky us) and we are starting to see more options and classes for people of all walks of life and interests. There’s never been a time in fitness history where there were so many options: Tons of kinds of dance, Pound classes where you use drumsticks to air-drum, all kinds of yoga, water Zumba, and more. Even with gyms and fitness centers still closed, there is a lot of variety offered online and classes that you can do in the comfort of your own home. The options to match your interests, body type (like these fat- and body-positive workouts you can do at home), or preference, are endless.
2. You are doing this for you.
Some of us feel fear of judgment or failure and that stops us from getting started at all. We have to remember that we are doing this for ourselves and no one else. Most often, people at the gym, park, in your online workout class, are focused on what they are doing, not on you. I know some people have had negative experiences with others when working out (heck, I have!), but even if that is your story, we can’t let negative people take away our joy of exercise and feeling good. Of course, if you’re working out in a place that feels unsafe or is a hostile environment, that’s a different story. But if what you’re up against is feeling self-conscious around other exercisers, I encourage you to create your own pep talk before heading into an exercise space, perhaps something like this: My mission is to be the healthiest and/or happiest version of myself, I won’t allow myself to miss this opportunity. I am doing this for me!
The only person whose opinion that matters is your own.
3. Fitness can be fun.
I want you to abandon what you think or have been taught fitness needs to be in order to be doing it “right.” Explore activities that make you laugh and feel good but also bring in some challenge and get you to sweat. Maybe it’s dancing, pickle ball, or Barre class. It doesn’t have to be conventional fitness activities like lifting weights, running, or high-intensity workouts. It can be whatever you want. Take some time to explore—try out different activities and if something doesn’t feel right, that’s cool. It doesn’t mean you’ve failed forever at fitness. It just means it’s time to move on to the next thing.