Reframing Your Relationship With Exercise Using a Movement Menu

We often have lots of “shoulds” and “have tos” when it comes to exercise, myself included. Many of us have been taught that exercise is meant to be this challenging, joy-free punishment that we have to do. We feel like we have to exercise to burn off our dinner, fit into our jeans or some other false obligation. It’s time to switch up our mindset around exercise. Instead of something we must do, it is something we get to do. We should want to exercise to celebrate ourselves, our bodies and what they can do. We should want to do it because it feels great and we enjoy it.

I have fallen into this trap too. I can’t not tell you how many times I have told myself I “should” or “have to” go for a run today and I end up pushing it off for a few hours, if not inevitably for the day. Every year I sign up for a running challenge where I have to run a certain number of kilometres over the course of the year, so many times I am running out of obligation or guilt.

I have decided to change that. I am taking a more intuitive, playful approach to exercise now. I am still going to move my body, but it might be in a different way and a different intensity than my usual routines. I guarantee I will end up moving my body more consistently, simply because I am doing it out of enjoyment.

I am doing this by creating a movement menu, and so can you. Here are the steps to making and using a movement menu:

Make a movement menu of 10 types of movement you truly enjoy doing. It can be hiking, biking, swimming, cross country skiing, yoga, stretching, tennis, lifting weights, gardening, or kayaking...whatever you want. It doesn’t only have to include things that are traditionally seen as exercise, it can include things like gardening, cleaning, playing with your kids, anything that moves your body and gets your heart rate up. Your menu will be completely unique to you.

You can create a movement menu for each season. This not only helps ensure you can include all of your favourite seasonal activities, but it gives you some variation throughout the year. This is a great time to create your movement menu, because as the weather gets nice, we are drawn outside more. We start to crave different ways of getting outdoors and moving our body, like hiking and biking.

Before committing to a workout for the day, check in with yourself and reflect on which activity on the menu you are most drawn to. When we do this, it’s important to ignore all the “shoulds” and “have tos” that might be swirling around in our head and simply focus on which type of movement seems most enjoyable in that moment.

Everyday check in with yourself to figure out how intense you want to make your movements. Some days we just aren’t feeling it, and we might want slower, more gentle movement and other days we might be full of energy and want to blow off some steam. Listen to and honour the cues your body is giving you.

Switch the way you speak about movement. Simply saying “I get to…” instead of “I have to…”, with regard to exercise and all things in life, moves us to a place of gratitude and appreciation rather than obligation.

This approach seems so simple, yet so few of us are actually doing it. So many of us create a workout routine or schedule and stick to it regardless of what we actually want to do or how we are actually feeling. If you try this approach, and truly forgo any “shoulds” and “have tos” it will revolutionize now only how you move your body, but also your relationship with exercise.

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