Connie’s posting today again – I hope you guys enjoy!
I haven’t always had a healthy relationship with exercise. Not at all. Maybe some of you can relate?
In fact, I used to be a compulsive over-exerciser in my eating disorder days and then I became a fitness instructor in college. Both of those points in my life were points were I used exercise in an unhealthy manner. Eating disorder Connie used the hill next to her house to sprint off food she felt guilty for eating and fitness instructor Connie used exercise as a way to perpetuate the people pleaser in her. It was only once I realized exercise was something that only had to please me, not diet culture or a room full of people, that my relationship with it began to heal.
Don’t get me wrong, I loved teaching fitness for a while and still love bringing out the old Zumba songs for my campers every summer. Having been a dancer my whole life, wearing a full blown smile is my favorite accessory and I love people, a lot. Zumba was calling my name. I was actually good at it too. I enjoyed it so much the first year I got a AFAA group fitness certification to also teach strength classes. For the most part people enjoyed my classes (thankfully) and they were something I looked forward to doing too. It wasn’t until about 3 years in that I realized it became more for other people and not myself. That’s where things got messy.
I would feel personally responsible if someone didn’t have a smile on their face or even worse, if they walked out of my class. The student in me knew it wasn’t my fault when that happened but the people pleaser was crushed. It may sound silly but I totally had a few times where I cried after class because I felt like not enough people filled the room or I felt like I had messed up. Talk about PEOPLE PLEASER PROBLEMS. I was carrying this weight and burden that wasn’t mine to carry.
So near the end of my senior year I knew I had the option to continue teaching at the YMCA in LA like I had been during the summers at home or I could just call it quits. Thinking of trying to make up new Zumba dances while studying for nutritional biochem my first summer in grad school sounded revolting. I called to cancel the monthly payments I made to stay a member and said a polite no to teaching at the Y. I felt a mix of sadness, relief, and confusion. Hard no’s even when you know they’re the right thing are still hard.
Sad because I had closed a fun part of my life for the time being. Relief because the PRESSURE WAS OFF! Confusion because being a fitness instructor was part of my identity and I didn’t know how to be a student again…or I thought I didn’t.
I took my new found freedom to the Y, looked at the schedule, and decided on trying different class in the spare time I had from school so I could find my new favorites again, even if they were outside my comfort zone. I found that I loved step aerobics, yes, that thing from the 80’s… I took a total break from Zumba for a while because I swear if I heard one more Latin pop song my head would explode. I also found a new yoga teacher that slowly taught me how to flip upside down and hold myself up on my forearms while balancing. That was fun. To be honest, I had no idea my body could even twist like that and yoga really helped me calm my anxiety and all the newness with grad school and leaving a city I loved.
Aside from the Y, I fell in love with walking. Now I take a walk almost every day and have found that fresh air helps ground me into my values and realized that moving my body has benefits that have nothing to do with calories or changing my body. I move to sleep better, to appreciate the beautiful California mountains, to thank my body for supporting me, to help my energy levels, the list goes on.
Back in the day walking wasn’t considered “working out” for me because I thought a workout equaled sweat. Once I made the perspective shift from exercise to movement I was able to give myself permission to consider walking a sufficient form of movement. I think we often look to others, especially social media fitness influences/health gurus for permission as to what’s “acceptable” exercise or body shape or food choices when the only permission we need is from ourselves. You are an expert of yourself and your body is the expert of your shape and size.
Now, if what I want to do in a day is take a stroll, so be it. Moving gives me a lot of happiness and grins now and it feels effortless. It doesn’t feel like an obligation. That is so FREEING. And I owe a lot of the happy grins to the place where I get to spend a lot of time moving. The Y is more than a gym, it’s a community – a very generous community. The Y is where I grew into a confident public speaker, where parents trusted me to watch their children every summer for 8 years and counting, where I found friendship and mentors, and where I continue to feel at home. I only started to realize how special the Y was when I made that perspective shift from exercise to movement because I could appreciate the community surrounding me when I stopped with all the rules around exercise.
I get to look over and see an 80 year-old woman dancing next to a 13 year old girl dancing next to a middle aged man who is dancing next to me in the SAME Zumba class all with the biggest smiles across their face and THAT makes me feel all sorts of happy + grateful. How cool is it that movement without judgment can bring such diverse people together to enjoy something? That’s cool.
So, who knows if I’ll decide that teaching is right for me again. For now, I’m enjoying moving for myself and enjoying watching others move alongside me in my group fit classes or enjoying the peace and quiet that a walk gives my soul.
What is your favorite way to move?! Please tell me some of you enjoy step!
I can 1000% relate- I became both a Zumba instructor and a Registered Yoga Teacher with good intentions- to share movement I love with other people. But it definitely quickly turned into an identity and a source of stress. I wanted that label to help me define myself. I never thought about the people pleasing aspect but that certainly came into play too. Thank you so much for sharing and I am so glad you are starting to find joy and ease in movement again!
Hey Megan! Oh my gosh YES! I know how that goes and I hope you have found some peace with that too 🙂
Erin m. says
Nice post! I just wanted to let you know that I’m seeing a couple weight watcher ads on my phone.
Thanks! Oh no- I know Robyn and the ad company work hard to prevent that. Hopefully you no longer see them.
Amber @ Bloom Nutrition Therapy says
I love this post! I was very much the same way with exercise. For a while, I couldn’t remember the last time I had just taken a simple walk instead of making it out to be so much more with rigid exercise and running. The first time I made myself walk it was because I wanted to reinforce the idea that walking IS healthy movement. That first time I can remember how clear my head felt, how ENJOYABLE it was and it wasn’t something I even dreaded doing that day. That’s when I knew that I could keep it up. I sometimes still enjoy a run here and there because my body is craving something more on those days. But most days now I love enjoying a walk around my neighborhood while listening to a podcast or music and taking in all the sites around me. It leaves me feeling energized and loving life!
Hey Amber! Thank you for sharing your experience with me 🙂 You are making me want to get up and WALK now! All of those reasons the reasons I walk too and I’m so happy you found peace in movement too!
It’s crazy how many of us really enjoy walking but don’t consider it “exercise”. This distinction between “exercise” and “movement” is SO important and I love this post. I share an office space with an anthropologist and one day before I went downstairs to our gym, I mentioned I was “going down to *just* walk on the treadmill” because I was tired. She looked over and said “walking is one of the best things we can do for our health as bipedal humans. it’s not *just* a walk, it’s great”. And while I instantly felt validated, it also made me wonder why I NEEDED that validation.
I’m still on my own slow journey toward not feeling guilty when I *just* take a walk. I really needed this post, thank you!!!
Hey Mary! Yes I agree we have some pretty rigid views of exercise as a society. Can I be friends with this anthropologist?! I’m glad you are beginning to make that shift between exercise and movement and hope it only gets easier and more fluid from here 🙂
Megan @ A Continual Feast says
You’re so right that once movement isn’t an obligation anymore it becomes so much more joyful. I love walks and yoga, and the occasional gym workout with my husband!
Yes! Glad were on the same wavelength 🙂 Thanks for reading!
Hannah Liistro says
Okay, I LOVE this Connie. Your story is so relatable and I am grateful to you for sharing it with us! I’m very happy that you’re in such a good place with MOVING now. It’s so true — movement when done for ourselves can bring us so, so much joy. ILYSM. Proud of you!
LOL getting to these comments a tad late but THANK YOU HANNAH! YOUR post is amazing- expect a comment form me soon 🙂
Meghan Dillon says
I love this and it resonates so much with me! I used to equate a workout to being out of breath and red as a tomato by the end. Nowadays taking a walk or stretching does it for me – especially in terms of mental clarity! PS – you are absolutely glowing in the first pic!
I’m so happy this post resonated with you 🙂 That’s amazing how you have been able to shift your perspective and thank you for your kind words and for taking the time read!
I love step!! Can’t find it many places anymore though 🙁
YESSS have you checked out your local YMCA if you have one near you?! They usually keep that around!
Daniela Hamann-Nazaroff says
Wow. Exactly something I am struggling with! I was an over exerciser for many years. And accepting movement over exercise has been a long and slow transition (it’s still a work in progress!) I am currently a fitness instructor on top of my 9-5 job and while I LOVE my class (and students) I’m feeling stretched thin. I know that quitting the gym job will help free up my schedule /reduce stress but I haven’t had the courage to do it. My students love my class and I don’t want to disappoint them!
Ugh I know the pressure you are under to make your students AND you happy. Maybe cutting down on your class load? I know its a really hard decision but I’m happy this resonated with you- thank you for taking the time to read!
I love this! I’m a few weeks away from taking my personal trainer certification exam, and one of the reasons I’ve been so inspired to go into fitness professionally is that I’m convinced that there is a way to coach individuals to finding balance with fitness (especially those coming out of an ED and/or overexercising), and seeking movement that elicits and inspires joy. I’m on a mission to change how “fitness” is viewed in our society! This post is a valuable resource <3
Hey Kaitlyn! What a wonderful mindset to go into getting your certification with 🙂 I think you are going to be a wonderful change force in the fitness industry!
“I get to look over and see an 80 year-old woman dancing next to a 13 year old girl dancing next to a middle aged man who is dancing next to me in the SAME Zumba class all with the biggest smiles across their face and THAT makes me feel all sorts of happy + grateful.” —–> This. I’ve experienced this a few times when I’ve gone to some sort of beginner dance or fitness type class. When I see people who are just there because moving their body in that way brings them JOY and they could care less what they look like or what they can or cannot do, I feel SO inspired. So moved. It’s always a huge lesson for me to step back and reevaluate what is important. These people are my heroes.
YES! It makes my heart feel all warm and fuzzy inside when I see that and reminds me of why I move 🙂 So glad you can relate and thank you for taking the time to read and comment!
Emily Swanson says
CAN NOT TELL YOU HOW MUCH I LOVE THIS!! Can I just step in and hug you and say ‘thank you?’ For so long I ran and ran long distances because people would be amazed at how far I had run; but I always dreaded those really long runs or those really hard runs. I craved gentler runs, shorter ones, and the more I realized that exercise was about the movement whether it be a walk or a low impact workout or HIIT or a short run, the more i felt free to say no to a certain workout or yes to another one. My favorite way to move is still definitely running, but I don’t love it all the time. I love doing a walk with the dogs and most of all some good weight lifting.
HEY EMILY! Hug accepted and thank you back 🙂 I love that you were able to allow yourself to have more gentle movement in your life despite other’s expectations. That takes courage. Thanks for taking the time to read!
Nicole @ Laughing My Abs Off says
OMG I love this post so much. Especially this part. ” I think we often look to others, especially social media fitness influences/health gurus for permission as to what’s “acceptable” exercise or body shape or food choices when the only permission we need is from ourselves. You are an expert of yourself and your body is the expert of your shape and size.”
Yes yes and YES. As someone who’s definitely been to extremes with exercise, I feel like I’m finally in a place where I do it only when it feels good and only when my body is truly craving it. I actually have long toyed with the idea of becoming a group fitness instructor but I think I needed to be entirely free of my unhealthy relationship with exercise to take that plunge.
Thank you for taking the time to read and comment! So glad this post resonated with you and happy you have found your peace with movement too 🙂 I think if being a group fit instructor is something you feel ready for you can totally take that on when the time is right. Have fun with it!
I love step! I actually teach it and I’m only 28 haha so I wasn’t around for it in the 80s. The kind I teach is a little more dancy and it’s so fun! It is pretty hard to find these days which is sad. I hope it makes a comeback!
I love that you teach step. I know some young instructors and they love it! I hope it makes a come back too 🙂