Thank you so much for all your brave and vulnerable comments on Wednesday’s post! I haven’t seen a response to a post that incredible in a while so seeing all your comments and conversation made me really excited. I hope we talk a lot more about this stuff. And I’m trying to answer as many comments as I can by the end of the weekend 🙂
Exercise for me has ebbed and flowed depending on what season of life I’m in. If you’ve been reading the blog for a while you know back in 2013 I was training for marathons and running with the Charlottesville track club. I’ve done some long distance running since and also higher intensity boot camp style classes and yoga and barre…and what I’ve realized through all this exploring is how my body loves to move best.
And I think that is at the core of choosing mindful movement best for you. What feels best for your body? What kind of movement nourishes your mind + soul in addition to feeling good physically? And what kind of movement leaves you feeling free?
Do THAT movement.
Sometimes that does mean a higher intensity form of movement that leaves you refreshed, proud of what your body can do (function over form) and in touch with how you feel in your body. But sometimes that’s walking or yoga or swimming or jogging or stretching. Sometimes that gentler movement is exactly what your mind and body needs to associate rather than dissociate with your body. And sometimes what you need is a break from movement so you can heal body and mind. Movement should make you feel alive and in touch with your physical body and mental + emotional wellbeing rather than numbed out from your body and your feelings.
If exercising for “stress relief” means numbing out from the world and burning calories….that’s a temporary dissociation from your problems which probably isn’t beneficial or healthy physically or emotionally. Perhaps reconsidering the type of movement you choose to do would be a good thing.
For me, 90% of the time I hate HIIT classes. All the jumping and rah rah rah don’t stop till I say just isn’t for me. It’s too hard on my body and (at least for me here in New York) those classes tend to be filled with body preoccupation instead of celebration. There are times here and there I do enjoy it if I go with a friend and the instructor is fun and not annoying, but that’s on the rare occasion.
I also hate spin most of the time. I haven’t been to SoulCycle so maybe that’s a different story but most spin classes I’ve been to include being stuck in a dark room with zero air flow peddling on a bike that goes nowhere with an instructor that wants you peddling intensely for like 90% of the time. It’s just not my jam. I feel out of my body more than in it and my mental game is like, “when is this torture over?”
I also don’t like heavy lifting. There are a lot of other movements I can do to keep my bones healthy that don’t involve dumbbells and squat racks. A lot of people enjoy this, I just don’t. And it’s a myth that you need to throw around really heavy weights to keep your bones and muscles healthy. I’ve found other weight bearing movements that keep my bones just as healthy. Side note to dispel myths about needing to lift weights to build and keep good bone mass –> any movement that creates a small, gradual overload reaction on the muscles and bones strengthens them. And that includes using weights, resistant bands OR simply your body weight.
The above are forms of movement I know are not mindful for me most of the time. That doesn’t mean they aren’t mindful for YOU. Ask yourself these questions I mentioned above. What feels best for your body? What kind of movement feeds your mind + soul in addition to feeling good physically? And what kind of movement leaves you feeling free?
I’ve learned over the past few years that my body prefers a rhythm of yoga, barre type movements, running a few days a week max, and active living — so things like walking, biking around the city, and outdoor stuff like hiking, cycling etc when that’s available. Anything outside I’m way into versus inside. Here are some of my favorite mindful movements..
I don’t live near a Yoga to the People studio…which is the best because it’s so affordable and welcoming. Every other studio in New York is expensive so I usually do podcasts in our apartment which isn’t the same vibe, but I do still enjoy them. I can’t wait to belong to a studio one day. Yoga makes me feel and connect to every inch of my body, calms my mind, teaches me slowness and to be okay with still discomfort. Doing yoga mentally challenges me in a good way because I have to turn off distraction and slow down.
I’ve done several forms of barre and Barre3 is what I enjoy the most because it includes bigger, more dynamic movements in addition the small movements and my body likes that. There is only one studio in the city and it’s way out of budget (maybe when we move from the city it will be more affordable and I’d loveeee to join a studio) so for now I do the online workouts. The 30 minute videos are my favorite. Short and sweet and leave me feeling so strong mentally and physically. I feel so IN my body and feel like YES, I can do hard things after a video. But not in a “I just ran hard for 30 minutes way” but like a more centered, peaceful way if that makes sense? It’s that same still discomfort I talked about in yoga. You hold a pose and it starts to burn so you experience stillness and discomfort all at once. Which translates into so many areas of my life and teaches me how to tolerate discomfort and press into that feeling instead of run because I’m afraid to feel. It’s also done incredible things for my posture. I’m noticing that I hold my shoulders back and stand up straighter and that feels really good.
I’ve ran in years past and it has been far from mindful. In college I ran purely to burn calories. After college I ran for the community aspect and because my mind wanted to but it didn’t always feel good in my body. I know for some people running will never be mindful and that is okay. You don’t need to like running. Maybe one day I will hate it or it won’t feel good and then I’ll stop doing it. Over the years I’ve found my sweet spot. My body feels best when I run 2 to maybe 3 times a week max and runs are spontaneous. If I plan the night before, “oh a morning run sounds nice” and then wake up and don’t feel it…I don’t go. Slow running and jogging are what feel best both in my body and in my soul. Gently breathing in fresh oxygen, taking in my surroundings, feeling my body move across the pavement. So I always start slow and if and when my body feels like moving faster, I do that. If I feel like I want to stop and walk, I stop and walk. And when I go about running in that way, it feels really free and fun.
Walking with friends or while listening to a podcast is one of my favorite, go to movements. As a whole, I feel like we totally underrate the mental and physical benefits of walking. It’s such a natural movement.
I think we forget that our day to day life involves movement. I live in a city so my legs act as my car much of the time with walking and biking to and from places. Whether you live in a city or not, walking and biking and carrying groceries and walking up the steps and playing with your kids and cleaning your house and dancing and cooking are all forms of movement. And sometimes the most unintentional movement can actually be the healthiest because we don’t think much about it. It’s one less thing to fit into the day or worry about – you don’t have to make time for scheduled movement if this season of like is busy or stressful.
There’s so many fun and mindful ways to move. I also tried Zumba a few times in the spring and LOVED IT. Share your favorite mindful movement in the comments – I’m always looking for new ideas!
emily vardy says
I’m sure that yoga is what keeps me sane most days.
Walking is also good, whether it’s alone and just some time to think, or with my mom and we’ll have some of our best conversations.
Abby Jensen says
Swimming! I’m a water person. I don’t swim speed laps, but I do lazy laps and tread water. I don’t have a gym membership right now, so I can’t go as often as I would like. I also love sports that are somewhat competitive. I am hardly a serious athlete, but casual games of tennis with a friend or meeting up with a group for ultimate frisbee are two things I really enjoy.
Active living/ Walking is my absolute favorite movement. Every day, the husband and I take our pup for a walk around sunset and it calms me and makes me feel like no other. During the mornings, I like short and seeet movement sessions with a couple of dumbells and my resistance band. Love your comment on seasons of life that change your exercise. I’m currently commuting about 3hrs round trip for my clinical DI rotation, where I’m sitting in front of a computer most of the day. It makes my mind noisy not to be up and moving, but it’s another type of discomfort I’m learning to tolerate. This too shall pass. Have a good weekend, Robyn!
I used to go to spin classes religiously and loved them, but at some point, I realized that if the calorie counter (which I know isn’t accurate) suggested I wasn’t burning as much as I did my last class, or if I couldn’t hit the same gear/rpm, I would get so down on myself and felt like it didn’t even count. Don’t even get me started on the instructors mentioning calorie burn. I realized it wasn’t good for me mentally, even though my body liked it, and I haven’t been to a spin class in about 4 months! I feel so much better choosing other workouts where calorie count and “pushing yourself” aren’t thrown in your face so much. I know I can still work hard without facing such an emotional roller coaster!
thank you for this! I’m all about joyful/mindful movement, but also struggle with the fact that typically it’s portrayed that mindful movements only equal gentler movements. I love those forms, but I also find that pride in what my body can do through mixing in some higher intensity movements! I’ve had times where I felt like I was doing mindful movement wrong if I wasn’t just doing yoga-like options. Thanks for the perspective!
Love this post so much! I did crossfit 6 days a week for 3 years and 2 months ago I quit! While I miss the community, I do not miss feeling beat up after every workout. I have found that going for a walk with my dog is just as satisfying now. Also, I am not working out to burn calories anymore so intense workouts just don’t appeal to me.
Ellen @ My Uncommon Everyday says
Oh, I love this. It changes for me a lot, but a few of my favorites:
I adore walking outside with a podcast, a friend, and even my dog. Over the years, I’ve (mostly) let go of my annoyance when my dog is slow and wants to sniff every tree. I used to be like, “Come on, this is my walk, too, and I’d like to go faster/farther,” but now I try to enjoy the air and sun and relish the slowness.
I love running, but only when it’s good for my body. I definitely can’t do more than 3 days a week, but when I’m not injured, a long run outside or a quick sprint session on the treadmill leaves me feeling SO GOOD.
Spin classes used to feel too competitive for me. One day, I was talking to an instructor after class and feeling discouraged and she told me to set my own goal at the beginning of class, whether it was a mileage or a feeling, and ignore anything she said that got in the way of my goal. That really changed the way I think about all fitness classes. I’ve always liked the in-it-together feeling of group classes, but it made it hard to listen to my body. Now, if my goal is to go for the fun and some movement and take it a little easier, but an instructor urges us to work super hard, I just do my thing (respectfully). So, I’ve been really loving that lately. It’s its own kind of freeing.
And yoga. Always yoga, since I was 10. I don’t always practice as much as would be good for me, but even a quick flow or working on one pose really centers me.
Laura Carr says
Once again your posts are right on time for what I’m going through. I used to do yoga twice a week and weights twice a week. Then I was working at Olive garden almost every day and just didn’t have the energy to work out. Now I started a new job where I sit all day and I have a puppy to take care of all the only exercise I’m getting is from the walks with the pup. I’m struggling with this because I’m usually go go go but I’m trying to reassure myself that my body needs a break sometime and I will be starting weight lifting, rock climbing, and yoga again when the pup doesn’t need my attention 24/7.
Robyn you must check out the app “Down Dog” for awesome yoga flows at your fingertips. It’s completely free and customizable! So if you feel like an hour practice one day but a 15 minute stretch the next day, it’s available! Lovely music on in the background too! Love it! Hope you check it out.
Also, a great post as always! I typically stick with yoga, walking, and resistance weight workouts for my mindful movement!
This is wonderful. I love how you encourage people to do the movement that works for them. I really don’t like swimming or biking most of the time, but I do love running now that I have a healthier relationship with it. I’ve heard great things about Barre3. 🙂 And I just love your encouragement about not lifting heavy if you don’t like it. I love that there’s so much freedom with working out; some women LOVE lifting heavy, and others love running or a bit of lifting or HIIT classes. It’s just so one to important to find the one that works.
I just tried Barre3 for the first time at a studio and really loved it for exactly the reasons you said — discomfort and stillness at the same time–so much so that I’m re-jiggering my budget spreadsheet to hopefully accommodate doing it at a studio. I find that other than the occasional yoga video in my room, I feel weird doing it in my apartment since I live with roommates, so I end up in my room feeling cramped and it becomes less mindful/fun/relaxing.
I will say, I was a big anti-spin class gal until I found a studio whose vibe suited me (SoulCycle seemed a little too culty for me, but I do know people who like it!). This studio in Boston that I go to is all about “good vibes only” and you ride in the dark to these little LED candles to fun music, so there’s little room to focus on comparison with others. Other than the occasional “Earn that avocado toast after class!” comment from a couple of instructors that I’m learning to tune out or simply just not go to their classes, overall the message is about setting an intention for every class and the idea that “it doesn’t get easier, you just get stronger.” I think that resonates with me because I’m loathe to give myself credit for things a lot of the time…I’ve been trying to remind myself of that message in everyday life ever since hearing it in class!
Anyway, thanks for sharing, as always. You and I have very similar feelings about what exercise genuinely feels best and I’m learning to be okay with not doing all the things the world thinks I *should* be doing.
I WANT to love Yoga but I just don’t so I’ll continue trying free classes here and there bc occasionally a stretch feels good but I am not going to force myself to go anymore! I have been LOVING weight lifting recently (used to be solely about cardio and HIIT) but weightlifting makes me feel so empowered, and I look forward to lifting heavy and seeing what my body can do. I love your mindset when it comes to movement. So many days, or weeks I will feel no motivation to go to the gym or to a class but since I bike to work and enjoy walking it never stresses me out and I don’t push it!
Love this! I practise karate, which is great movement for me because it’s not *about* being active or burning calories, but about improving my skills. I also started lifting heavy a few months ago to support that, and I have to say I absolutely LOVE it; I’ve always been pretty weak, physically, so it’s amazing and empowering to me to be able to deadlift 115lb or do negative chin-ups. I also recently discovered, when we did some conditioning at the end of karate class, that I love sprinting; I always thought I hated running, because I never enjoyed jogging, but sprinting, especially racing or trying to tag a partner, is just downright FUN.
Essentially, what I’ve found works best for me is movement that challenges me in a fun way, where I’m not focussing on losing weight or some nebulous, long-term “avoid osteoporosis in 30 years’ time” aim, but on improving my skills, getting stronger, and enjoying myself.
Karate! Love that. I use to do that as a kid I think but haven’t even thought of that – sounds like an awesome form of movement !
I ADORE reformer pilates and jumpboard on the reformer. It’s exactly what you described, it makes me feel really present in my body and it just feels GOOD. I also tried Bodypump recently, not sure if I would like something with higher intensity (aka an instructor with a microphone), but I’ve actually REALLY been enjoying it!
I have never done the reformer but would love to try!
Hey Robin, I have a question. I used to be exercise-addicted, then I kind of stopped it all and kept only walking a few times a week. But this summer I went on a day hike and was so disappointed on my physical strength. So should I go back to running? How do I know when I’m listening to my body and taking it slow or just being lazy?
I have a similar question …is it possible to be mindful AND want to increase muscle tone? I know this is a slippery slope but I just wonder if the two concepts can ever be compatible. In other words, is it ok to enjoy an activity and also like how it tones your body?
This is a great question and something I think CAN be healthy. I tell all my clients that’s its not about the behavior…it’s about your intentions and mental/emotional health that surround the physical activity. This is a great post idea
That’s a good question Isa…I think one thing to ask yourself is “how do I want to FEEL?” Sometimes once we get going we realize we feel really good! Sometimes we get going and find that we actually feel worse. I think it’s all dependent on your relationship with exercise and your body right now too. Hope that helps <3
This is insightful! Thanks <3
amanda @amanda-isms says
Yes! I’m starting to itch to run again But 2 years ago I called it quits because it didn’t feel good at ALL any more and I was having serious blood sugar issues. I was a major cardio junkie and high intensity junkie and had to stop any type of exercise like that for a good year to stop having these attacks of low blood sugar. Aside from that, it just wasn’t feeling good to me any more but people knew I was a runner and I identified with that so I was so afraid to give it up. Now, I see my body go through seasons. I usually love to lift for 6-8 weeks mixed with walks/sprints and then jazz things up and do something different for a few weeks. I also went through a season where 3-4 of my ‘workouts’ every week were 40 minute walks and my body and mind did a lot of healing in that time. One thing I’ve learned to love recently is biking! And I’m moving into the city so I’m getting so excited to be walking everywhere. Thanks for a good post and have a good weekend, Robyn!
I love biking outside so much too Amanda. It feels so free!!
I always walked at least five miles a day and biked a lot, but when a bone density test showed osteoporosis, I started lifting heavy-ish weights. The scan three years later showed thar I’d increased my bone density 11% and now have osteopenia. I’m a firm believer that you need to lift enough weight to gain some strength if you want your bones to be healthier.
Thanks for sharing Susan! I think it’s encouraging for others to know that osteoporosis IS reversible!
As a part-time HIIT fitness instructor (on top of my office job) and someone who is working in more intuitive eating and fitness (breaking those fitness ‘rules’), I am super conscious about what words I choose while teaching my fitness class. My goal is to always be positive, always present people with different levels of intensity and encouraging everyone to do what feels good for them depending on how they feel that day, and I NEVER NEVER NEVER mention ‘burning calories’ or ‘losing weight.’ I think that the motivation for movement/exercise should come from a place of feeling good/feeling strong/feeling energized. Find the combination of things that make you feel those things (and sometimes this may mean running stairs and sometimes this may mean taking a nap) and do those things. I also think trying new things is also good for the mind/body. So switch it up sometimes just to challenge your brain-body connection.
I admire that you are aware of your language Daniela! LOVE THAT. I’d try your class 🙂
Which yoga podcasts do you like? Would love to try!
I second this!
yoga to the people has podcasts and I really enjoy Dave Farmer!
I love this philosophy! My favorite form of exercise is playing soccer. I love the camaraderie and the mental aspect of playing the game. So much of it is surveying the field and making decisions not on time/calories/reps.
I am currently a member at Burn Bootcamp. 99% of the time I love the atmosphere as it’s not competitive at all and focuses on YOU doing YOUR best. It also emphasizes building each other up and encouraging one another. For instance you finally do your first pull up and every celebrates with you. However, there are some times that a trainer will make mention of “burning calories” or what not, but for the most part they encourage whole foods and to eat enough (they do offer nutritional counseling but it’s not mandatory). For me I have made some good friends and the pros out way the cons.
Let those comments bounce right off of you Amanda – as long as you aren’t affected. Hope your weekend has been great!
I love this post! This is something that needs to be talked about more.
I love to move, but it has been a long journey discovering movement that is right for me. I struggled with severe overexercising and had to take half a year off of formal exercise. I totally recommend that if someone has struggled with overexercising. It was the best thing i ever did (and i didn’t “blow up” like I feared), but I still have to moderate my exercise. I have ADD, but have found that a hard 30-40 min weight/circuit session in the morning before work keeps me focused. I love rock climbing with friends or going to fun workout events on the weekends. I teach yoga as well and that has profoundly changed my relationship with my body/movement. Oddly, yoga has also made me fall in love with dance as well. But, please don’t make me run more than 2 miles or take a Spin class–I’ll be miserable the entire time. It’s SO freeing to finally realize I don’t have to do anything that makes me feel awful.
I love that you have experienced the freedom Caitlyn! I know others will read that and relate. Thanks for sharing 🙂
Summer Rae says
Your posts are always so amazing, inspiring, encouraging… and so well timed! I just decided after a year of doing yoga (a.k.a stretchy class) three times a week to take a break… I absolutely loved it! Some nights i still do but, I noticed that I was starting to get frustrated with the “same” routine and sitting out of certain postures when my back would be hurting, making me not quite as excited to go to class as I was when I started. Awhile ago I tried to do both stretchy class and lifting but it was a lot of stress on my body so I stopped. But I loved lifting (no crazy numbers or reps just enough to work my muscles and joints)! The energy it gave me and the feeling it brought to my body was the best! So a few days ago I told my workout-buddy (my mom) that I thought I needed to take a break (though I will definitely still be joining her for the occasional class, probably once a week) she understood completely and encouraged my new decision. I am so excited to start my new form of healthy movement! Your posts have helped me to push past the feeling of being stuck and just changing it up to do what’s best for MY body. Thank you for this timely encouragment and confirmation!! You are such a blessing to all who get the joy of reading your words. (: I pray you and Nick have a wonderfully blessed day!
This side of Heaven,
I’m so excited for YOU summer! Thank you for reading and I am so glad the posts have resonated <3 Thank you for the prayers, means so much. xo
What yoga podcasts are your go-tos?
I came from an HIIT and running background and my body did not like it at all. I have been doing yoga/walking/lifting weights in the gym which are all really calm movements from my years of high intensity. It feels good to know that right now my body does prefer calmer movement.
yoga to the people has podcasts and I really enjoy Dave Farmer!
Megan @ A Continual Feast says
“Active living”- yes! So glad you talked about that. That is probably my favorite movement, followed by yoga. My husband and I have also been doing some rollerblading lately which is fun!
I was thinking the other day how I wanted to get some roller blades!
Yoga and walking for me! They both clear my head and make me feel so refreshed! What yoga podcasts do you recommend?
yoga to the people has podcasts and I really enjoy Dave Farmer!
I will always love walking. It’s my favorite form of movement, but I’ve also come to enjoy yoga and pilates. I feel the same way as you do about HIIT. It’s usually not what my body craves, and even when I do it, I’ll only do a short 3-7 minute session and I’m done. As for running, I used to do it multiple times a week purely to burn calories as well. Now, I’ll only spontaneously run up a hill or a couple of blocks if I feel like it. Thanks for sharing your wisdom with all of us!
Yes to short 5 minute bursts!
Nicole @ Laughing My Abs Off says
Robyn, you hit the nail on the head here! I’m currently in a phase of my life where I’m really trying to tune in to what my body likes in terms of movement, and it’s definitely been a journey. Prior to this summer, I had a set workout schedule that I didn’t like to deviate from and I never really stopped to ask myself if I felt like doing a particular day’s workouts that day.
This summer, I’ve been taking advantage of various free workout classes in NYC (Athleta and some boutique fitness studios’ first classes), and I realized barre feels incredible for my body, (I also experienced that crazy posture difference!) as does yoga. So I’ve introduced both into my workout schedule by finding videos online. I still love my HIIT though, and I will say that I am VERY turned off by many of the super intense hiit classes in the city (they definitely take the fun out of working out and make it some kind of hunger games type thing), but what I adore is the free Fitness Blender workouts on Youtube that have awesome hiit workouts (and some weight stuff and pretty much everything else) which you can do in the comfort of your own home. Just be sure to apologize to your neighbors when you see them 😉
I enjoy the free exercises classes too if they aren’t a pain to get to – and they are usually less intense than the paid ones which I like. haha you are so right with the hunger games analogy!
Hi Robyn, another great post as usual! Thank you for your honesty. Being honest with myself about what forms of exercise I actually enjoy (versus those that I feel like I *have* to do, even if I don’t enjoy them) has been a real point of personal growth for me lately. On that note, I’d really like your advice on something…I have borderline osteoporosis due to past damage from HA and know from all the scientific research that strength-oriented training is one of the best ways to rebuild bone mass. The problem is, I really don’t enjoy going to the gym and doing formal weight training or working out with the machines (I find it very isolating, tiring and just plain not enjoyable!). Do you have any suggestions of strength-building forms of exercise that I could try instead? I’d like something a bit more fun and social that still helps strengthen my bones. Thank you in advance!
Hi Emma! Like I mentioned in the post – strength exercise that help keep bones healthy and strong can involve simply your body weight. I hear you on not enjoying weights at the gym! Barre and yoga like I mentioned are good for building strength in addition to any sort of movement where you are working against your own body weight!
Thanks for sharing Robyn! I still struggle with mindful
Movement, and it’s something I hope to improve on. I love trying out new gyms and going for walks with friends. Have a great weekend!
Hilary Jones says
I have been really enjoying running again. It took me awhile to get back into it, and signing up for a half marathon awhile back to get my interested, but training with my future husband, and learning to slow my runs down and really take my time enjoying just a slower pace has really made a huge difference. I am usually all about intense workouts, but I have noticed with more stress than usual the slower and laid back workouts have been my favorite.
I can so relate to slower runs with husband 🙂
You must check out the app Down Dog for awesome vinyasas at your fingertips! It’s completely free and customizable. I love it!
Amber @ Bloom Nutrition Therapy says
This post resonated with me so much! Over the past 6 months, I have definitely been working more on incorporating intuitive movement rather than structured movement. In the past, I was very regimented with my running and it literally depleted me. It became something I hated and was in fact, something that was ruining my entire day. I have now been practicing more so to limit myself to 3-4 days of movement and have definitely loosened this up to be jogging maybe a mile or to just walking and listening to podcasts. I have noticed how much more I truly love to get out and move doing one of these activities rather than something that is so violent on my body. I think I read this post at the right time today, because I was seriously thinking about going to a Spin class this evening (even though it didn’t sound good.) Now I think I’ll just go for a walk instead. 🙂
I love my yoga too! Have you heard of or tried Yoga with Adriene?! Highly recommend, she has a free online yoga channel, seriously love her so much. She teaches form and poses that have really supplemented my progress in the public classes I go to! I can relate to this post on so many levels though. I’m a night shift ICU nurse who runs around all night during my 12 hour shifts and often feel so guilty for not getting up early on my days off or even the nights I do work because I have coworkers who do. It works for them but definitely doesn’t work for me. I’m learning to let go of the guilt and let my mind and body rest. Then I actually feel rejuvenated by my work outs the rest of the time!