By Katie and Larissa Beecher
If you are in recovery from an eating disorder, or have been simply working to heal from a negative relationship with food, it can be extremely difficult to return to exercise in a healthy manner. Although exercise is traditionally considered a healthy act, if you are not eating enough calories to sustain your activity level, exercising as a punishment, or forcing your body through a painful movement (real pain rather than soreness or exertion), then these activities are likely not serving you. If any of this applies to you, please continue to read on.
Exercise as self care: Exercise should not be a punishment. If you are exercising to make up for the food you ate the day before, before or after a holiday, or as a means of purging, you are only adding more stress to your body. Our bodies do not need to be taught a lesson. You are allowed to eat delicious food without earning it or deserving it.
Rest days: When you exercise, you are creating very small microtears in your muscle fibers, which allow your muscles to regrow and rebuild bigger and stronger. You can thank this process for delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS; moderate to intense soreness a day or two after a workout). But, for this process to properly occur, your body must have time to relax. Light movement and stretching has been shown to alleviate this experience. Nonetheless, your body will thrive with proper rest and active recovery techniques such as yoga and foam rolling.
Don’t exercise in a gym: As a personal trainer, I obviously spend a lot of my time inside of a traditional gym. I have a number of friends and clients who really enjoy exercising in this environment; however, I know so many others who cannot stand the atmosphere. That makes sense! Human bodies are meant to be moving outside – don’t underestimate the power of a walk or a hike. At the same time, maybe you would enjoy an exercise class where you can follow along to a coach. Don’t give up if your first options don’t feel right. There are so many options, you just have to be willing to be patient and do some research.
Just move and have fun: When we were kids, we didn’t say “I’m going to go exercise now”, we just played and ran around or participated in sports because we enjoyed it. Our bodies told us to move and we did. Remember that? I truly look forward to my current form of exercise, which is pole fitness and I attend six one hour classes per week. I don’t even think of it as exercise but it has made me stronger and more fit than ever before in my adult life. I challenge myself every class with groups of amazing, supportive people. Can you climb a pole at 50 years old and keep up with people half your age? Absolutely!
Bring a friend: Do you have friends who love to exercise, but you just can’t seem to motivate yourself to move, or are nervous to start? Make a date with a friend! If you make specific plans to move together, you are more likely to actually follow through. Additionally, having a buddy may make you more confident, and help you try something you are anxious to tackle. Personally, as someone who takes pole fitness classes, I have seen so many women come to their first classes together, and end up completely falling in love with it.
Try something completely different: When I tell people I do pole fitness, some of the responses I hear is “I could never do that” or “I have no upper arm strength”. Guess what? That’s what I thought when I started and I had no upper arm strength either or core strength. Women and men of all shapes, sizes and ages compose our classes, especially the beginner ones and I think that is wonderful. Seeing people progress and support each other is one of the things I love most about the sport. Maybe pole isn’t your thing but don’t let self doubt keep you from trying something new.