by Jenna Gigliotti
I recently read an article (stop right now and read it!) in regards to the attitudes and culture that surround working out. The message the author conveyed captured a really important philosophy of exercise that deeply resonated with me, and that I wanted to share. Especially in light of the upcoming New Year’s resolution fitness craze, her message of fitness as a healthy and joyous lifestyle opportunity instead of a burden, punishment, atonement, or merely a means to get thin is an important one to keep in mind.
I believe the viewpoint of embedding activity into your whole life — instead of forcing some sort of workout just to “fit into a dress” or get a beach body for a certain occasion — is the most healthy, rewarding, and fulfilling approach to exercise. The human body is truly amazing. Be thankful for what you have and honor your body by using it every day. No matter what you choose, find something that you love and enjoy. Embrace an active lifestyle, have a positive body image, be adventurous, and always have fun.
Living actively can open so many doors. Moving your body, no matter how you choose to do so, is a great way to experience the beauty and wonder of nature and the world around you (whether that is your backyard or exploring someplace new). It can also be a time to yourself for thought and reflection or a social time to meet new people or catch up with old friends.
If you’re stuck in a rut, try something new and different! This winter I’m looking forward to cross country skiing for the first time (weather depending.. we’ve had a warm spell here in western PA lately), maybe ice skating for the first time since I was a little girl, and even trying some rock climbing with friends. Or simply incorporate more movement into your life — depending where you live, try walking or bicycling to work/the store/running errands/etc; take the stairs; park in the back of the parking lot. If you’re feeling tired, in a rut, or experiencing a bad mood, try a short, brisk walk, jumping jacks, a mini dance party, or anything to get your blood flowing. Don’t be afraid to expand your horizons and do something adventurous, fun, or just plain silly.
It is not about perfection or rigid exercise demands, rather it is about getting out there and enjoying yourself and the world around you. I do activities that I love every day and feel countless positive side effects. Running is a mental release. Yoga is rejuvenating and energizing. Going for a walk is peaceful. Bicycling is one of the best ways to explore the streets around you and feel the wind in your hair. Dancing around my house lets me be silly. I could go on and on… Living actively gives me confidence, strength, peace, adventure, competition, endorphins, and sanity in the midst of a crazy, beautiful, busy, and sometimes stressful world.
Even though I am a competitive athlete and run cross country and track for my college team, I do it because I fundamentally love to run. It is my favorite way to move my body and running is just a part of who I am (it doesn’t define my worth but it’s a part of what makes me, me — although I can’t say this has always been true about my relationship with exercise). And I hope to exemplify this healthier and happier relationship with running. Even though I’ve certainly had many ups and downs, I will never give it up because I enjoy it too much. It is my release, it gives me so much joy, it helps me think more clearly, it lets me explore and experience new places/scenery/wildlife, and it has allowed me to meet and connect with others and share in some awesome company.
This doesn’t mean that I don’t still set goals for myself, am dedicated to running, and like working hard, because I do. But I don’t have such a perfectionistic viewpoint about working out. The day isn’t ruined if things don’t go as planned, because there is always tomorrow to get back out there. So despite all the negative and degrading imagery and motivation tactics that sometimes surround our work out culture, remember to stay positive and do what you love. Instead of using exercise just as a means to a beach body or fitting into a dress, keep the focus on doing the things that you enjoy and incorporate activity into your everyday lifestyle, along with having a positive body image and healthy attitude too. Embrace a happy and healthy active lifestyle and you will be sure to reap countless benefits.
Here’s to 2014 being a year full of doing what you love every day!