A Farewell Letter to Exercise Guilt
I don’t 1000% understand my relationship to exercise. Do I do it for toned arms and a tight booty, or because I know it’s so important — for my mind, for my muscles, for my heart, for my circulation, for my detoxification processes, etc. — to move my body after sitting in front of a computer for nine hours straight?
There is no doubt in my mind that I walk out of a sweaty workout class on cloud nine-trillion with endorphins swimming throughout my body and the complete certainty that anything in the world is possible — I’m going to clean my entire apartment today, it’s time to enroll in a marathon, I should start a novel.
But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t look in the mirror the morning after a hard workout hoping to see a little more definition and a little less flab…Or that I’m desperate to try that boxing gym Gigi Hadid swears by, not because I think it’ll feel so good, but because I think it’ll get me results...Or that when I don’t workout one day and feel that awful I-sat-on-my-butt-all-day guilt, it’s just because I’m craving a release, and not also because I’m sitting there convincing myself that I can feel my body getting softer (and not in a good way) by the minute...
Life is crazy and busy and exhausting and thrilling and unpredictable and, as a result, there are most certainly times when I don’t make it to the gym when I feel like I SHOULD (<--worst word in the english dictionary, no?), and the result is I feel like crap. I feel lethargic, I feel uninspired, I feel soft, and I can’t stop thinking ugh I really should have worked out, I can’t believe I ate that, okay I’m going to do X class tomorrow, Y class the next day, and Z class the day after that — I’ll be better.
And maybe the worst part about this entire hamster wheel is that I know (I read, I write, I learn, I talk about) how good it is for the body to take days off from exercise! That an evening of relaxation, human connection, and quality TLC is just as good, if not better for my health, than forcing myself to make it through a pilates class. The effects of stress and anxiety on the body are extremely detrimental to one’s health overtime. According to Dr. Robin Berzin, stress (like the type created as I hate myself for not going to class) “increases cortisol, the primary stress hormone, which if chronically elevated suppresses the immune system, causes sleep disturbances, increases blood sugar, contributes to abdominal weight gain, and even increases blood pressure.” It also messes with your hormones, speeding up “the enzyme aromatase, which converts testosterone to estrogen, increasing hormonal imbalances like PMS." The result? Weight gain around the hips and thighs.
Relaxation, meditation, and other forms of self-love, on the other hand, can help lower inflammation, improve digestion, and reduce cortisol (and all those lovely symptoms along with it).
So I've made a commitment to myself - my anxiety levels, my health, and my soul - that the next time I find myself, for whatever reason, in a period of stillness, I am going to lean into it. I'm going to NOT fill my body with the guilt, stress, and self-hatred that is literally poisoning me from the inside out, but instead fill my life with relaxing, delicious, healing self-love, and reap all of the lovely benefits.
Here's what I have in mind:
As much as I'd love to be one of those people who stretches every morning immediately upon rising, the most time I spend stretching is in those mandatory five minutes after class. Stretching aids in muscle recovery and fascia detoxification, helps improve flexibility and elasticity, and is just what your body needs after sitting at your desk all day. I think of it as sending sweet, sweet "I love you I love you I love yous" to the body.
2) Take a bath
And make it a detox bath for extra points by adding in high quality epsom salt and some organic essential oils (my favorite thing to indulge in after a long day or flight is a Pursoma detox bath!). Leave your phone in the other room, but on some soulful music, and feel that cortisol melt away...
3) Make Love
It’s exercise, you sweat, and orgasms have some serious health benefits.
4) Go for a walk with a loved one
This one combines the best of a few worlds: gentle body movement + fresh air + human connection.
5) Touch mother nature
I'm not sure if there is anything in the world that relaxes me as much as grounding does. Sit with your toes in the grass or in the ocean and allow the fascia webbing on the bottom of your feet to soak in mama earth’s electrons, helping boost immunity, increase circulation, and reduce inflammation.
Bonus: Do all 5. Go for a walk with your loved one to a park and sit with your toes in the grass and stare up at the sky and kiss each other and roll around in the dirt and laugh and play and thank mama earth for the dirt for the air for the sun. Then go home and take each other’s clothes off as you stretch your body and stretch each other’s body, slow, gentle. Make love and make it sweaty, so that your heart is pounding and beads of sweat are dripping into your nooks and crannies, and so that after you lay there for a few minutes with your hearts pounding in synchronicity and your skin melting into one another’s, you slowly walk your naked booty to the bathroom — enjoy the show, hunny — fill the tub with salt + lavender oil, quickly dry brush your body, light your favorite candle and dip your being in inch by inch. You breathe, you listen, you feel, you melt. Pretty sure that SoulCycle class you skipped will be the last thing on your mind...