Working out Isn’t Worth It Sometimes
Maybe you’re a gym queen with no history of disordered eating and an amazing relationship with your body. If so, great, get them gains (or whatever).
But if you’re like me, the gym might not be your happy place, and that’s okay, too. Here’s why you’re more likely to find me turning cartwheels on a trampoline than running imaginary laps on a treadmill – and why I think you should consider ditching the gym, too.
A Brief History of Why I Don’t Work Out
14 years ago, in sixth grade, I did 1,000 crunches a day after I got home from school, marking each set of 100 crunches with a small line on a piece of scratch paper.
I was so weak from starving myself I could barely make it up the four flights of stairs to my apartment. But, without fail, I did the crunches, anyway.
8 years ago, I took a once-in-a-lifetime cruise to Europe with my family. I didn’t eat much, but the food on the ship still made me nervous, so I spent an hour every evening “working it off” on the treadmill, listening to 8-minute-long Broadway songs to pass the time.
I couldn’t tell you much about the view from the ship or exactly what we did at each port. But I remember I was losing weight.
4 years ago, I had gained a few pounds while studying abroad (and getting drunk every other night at the campus bar.) While my friends were busy taking trips or hooking up with European men, I spent my time at the gym, punishing my body for taking up space.
Staring through a foggy window at an empty swimming pool, I pushed my tired body harder and harder on the treadmill. I listened to old Britney Spears and Backstreet Boys songs to make the whole thing more “fun”. (It didn’t really help.)
Treadmill? I don’t know her.
Yesterday, I took the little girl I nanny for on a long walk in the sun (and flirted with a landscaper!) We played on the swing set in her backyard, swinging so high we could kick the little trees taking root in the garden. I jumped on her trampoline, practicing my old gymnastics leaps to the sound of her giggling loudly, “Bounce me! Bounce me more!”
Our hearts pumped. Our endorphins rushed. We rested when we were tired.
Movement should be fun + freeing.
In my post-eating disorder life, I try not to use the word exercise too often. I don’t really like working out either.
I like to say that I love movement. Movement is joyful. It reminds me of acting camp, tumbling classes, and sticking a landing in gymnastics. I think about flowing through yoga poses at home with my dog running around madly around me, or wrapping my limbs to scale 30-foot tall fabrics in my aerial class. Movement is walking by the waterfront or doing a cartwheel in the sand if no one is watching.
Movement is fun and freeing.
Ditch the gym, dance in the rain, do whatever you want.
It’s not news that movement is one of the best things you can do for your body and brain. But that doesn’t mean you have to live at the gym.
If the whole concept of “working out” is entangled with old patterns of self-harm for you, give yourself permission to try something new. No pressure, just patience and space to experience joyful movement in your body.
What do you think? Do you love your gym time, or does some other form of movement have your heart? Let me know in the comments!