Joyful Movement: Making Peace with Exercise

Take a quick second to answer the following questions:

Do you exercise to “burn off” of something you ate?

Do you exercise as a way to punish yourself for overeating?

Do you HATE exercise but feel that you HAVE to do it?

Do you exercise with the “no pain, no gain” mentality?

Are you pushing through pain and risking injury because you feel that you have to?

If you answered “yes” to any of the above questions it’s time to step back and take a good hard look at your relationship with exercise. If you find yourself bored, spiteful or intimidated by physical activity it may be time to make a change.


Here’s the good news: cultivating a healthier relationship with exercise doesn’t have to be daunting. With practice and a helpful shift in mindset, you can learn to engage in exercise that is enjoyable and good for you - mind and body.

Let’s get started!

How Tuned In Are You?

So often when we exercise we are overly focused on external cues such as:

  • Calories burned

  • Heart Rate

  • Pace

  • Distance

More often than not we allow these external factors or cues to dictate our workout: how hard we push ourselves, how long we exercise for, how far we end up going, etc.

These external cues may interfere with our ability to connect with our working muscles before, during and after exercise. How is your mood, your energy level, do you feel physically different? Check in with yourself!

Just like we did with the Intuitive Eating Sensory Experiment I’m going to challenge you to do the same with physical activity.

Here’s my challenge to you… Choose an activity that is not strenuous. Maybe it’s a walk or gentle stretching. Whatever you choose I want you to work on connecting to your body in a way that you may not typically be used to. Are you able to each working muscle? Do you notice your lungs inhaling and exhaling? Can you feel your feet touching the ground? What about your rear end on the saddle of the bike or feet making circles with the pedals? Can you feel the wind blowing your hair back or are you noticing the water you’re sipping on as it moves from your mouth to your stomach? How tuned in are you?


Maybe you notice that your legs feel tired and sore so you slow down as a result. Or maybe you noticed your energy levels are high, your body temperature comfortable and the gentle blowing of the wind on your skin made you want to extend your activity a bit longer.

See what we did there? We focused on INTERNAL CUES instead of the external ones (distance, calories burned, pace, etc.) identified above. Did you notice a difference? Did you feel physically different or notice a change in your mood? Did you enjoy it more or less?

Just like with food, it’s important for us to be tuning into what works best for our body and responding to it appropriately. Love to run? Run! Prefer yoga on the beach? You got it, do yoga on the beach! Enjoy rolling through trails on your mountain bike? Get after it! Love to lift heavy weights? Go pump some iron!

Some people respond well to track workouts, some prefer stretching or swimming. LISTEN to what it is that makes your body happy as this is the activity that will best support your health.

And don’t forget, exercise looks different for every body.

All bodies are different and prefer different types of movement. Avoid putting yourself on the next fad exercise program because you want to have a body that looks just like the celebrity that endorses it. Just like with diets, it’s easy to fall into this trap and feel the need to have to follow a specific prescription for exercise in order to look a certain way.


You do not have the same parents that celebrity has. Your genes are different, so you are going to look different. Plus, you don’t want to choose an exercise program that makes you feel miserable. That’s what we’re trying NOT to accomplish here.

Insert >> Joyful movement.

Joyful movement is about finding pleasure in how we move our bodies. We can’t argue that regular physical activity is good for us. It boosts mood, increases energy, decreases stress and improves sleep. Joyful movement is not about compensating for food that we’ve eaten the same way it is not to be done in an effort to earn the right to consume certain foods.

Just like with food, exercise is not a moral issue.

There is no such thing as “good or bad” physical activity. Any movement is good movement!

And finding movement that you truly enjoy is key. We live in a society were working out at max effort in a HIIT class is seen as superior to taking a walk. No movement is more superior to another and if you enjoy doing it, you are more likely to stick with it.

Let’s be real. If you don’t look forward to doing it, it’s not going to happen. Or if it does happen, you’ll be doing it in a rather miserable space, which doesn’t sound like a good time.

But what if you looked forward to that movement? What if that movement involved seeing and spending time with the people you care about? What if it didn’t seem like such a task but something you were eager and excited to do in your day?

Yes, this is possible!

If moving more is a goal of yours, the best recommendation I can give you is to find an activity that you find pleasurable.

Here are some suggestions…

Before and After Movement Activity

Treadmill Running >> Running on the beach or signing up for a local 5k or Walking

Stairmaster / Stepmill >> Hiking. Bring a friend, take your pets. Breathe in the fresh air and take in the nature around you.

Yoga >> Paddleboard Yoga >> or even goat yoga!

Rowing Machine >> Kayaking

Spinning >> Outdoor Cycling, Bike Riding

Bootcamp / High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) >> play with your kids (or your friend’s kids) or just embrace your inner kid on the playground. The monkey bars, pumping your legs to swing, climbing up the equipment can actually be a ton of fun!

Kickboxing >> dancing. Maybe you blast your music loud in the privacy of your own room or you take up a local concert with friends. Either way, get up and move, twist and shake!

How is your relationship with exercise? Comment below and let us know!


Welcome To Our Blog


We're a group of non-diet, balance seeking, cupcake consuming, quinoa loving, registered dietitians. 
By sharing our expertise, favorite tools and services, we want to help you heal your relationship with food and body and find your own balance amidst the diet culture chaos.

Search Our Blog

Keep Reading