When Exercise Becomes Joyful Movement

TW:Excessive exercise and disordered eating

I feel the need to share a personal "win". After over one year, I went for a run this week. It wasn't long, it wasn't fast, but it is probably the run of which I am the most proud.

There was a time where I was easily running 20-25 km every week. This was at the height of my disordered eating, when exercising was a huge part of my life. I tracked every run, keeping an eye on my time and speed. I used to feel extremely guilty when I ran a slower or shorter race than usual, or worst, when I missed a day altogether.

After a while, I started developing pain in my knees and shins (oh hey, shin splints!). I also realized that running no longer brought me pleasure. Instead, it was the cause of so many difficult emotions. This is when I decided to hang up the running shoes and move on. It took me quite a while to accept that running was not for me anymore. It meant giving up one the last behaviours I was holding onto from my disordered eating. Even though I knew this was for the best, part of me felt afraid. 

Thankfully, after several months, I found other activities to turn to: bike riding, walking and yoga, to name a few. I worked on changing my relationship with exercise. I decided I would only do movement that felt good, was energizing and fun. 

This week, I got the sudden desire to go for a run. I had been sitting at work all day, and my body was telling me it needed to move (this is what we call intuitive movement). When I got home, my partner accepted to go for a run with me. I hesitated slightly, as I did not know how I would feel about running again, but decided to go anyways.

It wasn't at all glamorous. My breath was shallow, I was struggling to move forward, I was very, very warm. However, it felt like FREEDOM. I did not track this run. In fact, I don't know how long or how fast I ran. All I know is I RAN. After all the pain, guilt and shame it had made me feel, I felt like I was finally making peace with running. I felt liberated. And happy.

I am sharing this with you as a reminder to:

  • Choose movement that FEELS GOOD
  • Let go of activities that no longer serve you
  • Focus on reasons to move that do not involve changing your body (I wrote about a few here)
  • Listen to your body

Finally, I encourage you to have self-compassion. There are days when we don't want to engage in movement. That's OKAY. Pursuing health is a personal decision and NEVER an obligation. 

You do you, my friends. 

What is your relationship with exercise? What are ways you engage in joyful movement?