My new perspective on fitness feels good

My yoga teacher said something once that struck a chord with me. So much so that it changed my perspective on fitness. 

A student was really sore from the gym and was explaining the demanding workout regime that caused his bow-legged strut. "I stopped doing workouts that hurt years ago," my teacher said to him and the group. "I just reached a point in my life when I decided I didn't want to do anything that didn't feel good."

WHOA. She doesn't do things that don't feel good. 

This notion seems like such common sense and yet I had never considered it. 

I've tried a lot of workout styles. Running, HIIT, weightlifting, boxing, boot camps, rock climbing, Zumba, spin classes, yoga, Pilates and a handful of random mixes like "Piloxing."

I was always searching for the magic pill of workouts. The one that would make me skinny. Reading or seeing an amazing weightloss testimonial would inspire me to try their workout, hopeful it would work for me, too. Oh you lost 50 pounds doing Zumba and following the cabbage soup diet? Sign me up!

Even if I didn't like it and it put me in pain mentally and/or physically (and I'm not talking the good kinda sore) I would keep trying, desperate for those testimonial-worthy results that I kept pinning as "inspiration."

Those results never came, and I'd eventually throw in the towel in defeat. Feeling like a failure of a human. Until I achieved that perfectly-thin-but-toned-and-also-somehow-magically-always-tan body, all of my fitness efforts were failures. I mean, fitness is about looking hot, right? 

REAL TALK: Looking like that hot girl I imagined wouldn't make me happy. I'm not saying it wouldn't be kinda cool, but getting there isn't worth it to me. Why? Because it would require more training and diet demands than I would enjoy. Because that wouldn't feel good to me.  (Not to say it doesn't feel good for some people. It's just not my shtick.)

Life is too short to do anything that doesn't bring you joy. Besides like, the laundry and dishes and the stuff we have to do that are less than joyful. I'm talking our free time. By the time I'm home from work and my home to-do list has been tackled, I might have two hours of true free time — on a good day. (If you're a mom, my understanding is that this free time is even more precious.) That's 1/12 of my day. Why waste it doing something I don't truly enjoy? Why would I choose to do something that doesn't feel good?

The biggest lesson I gained in that yoga class was off the mat. I don't remember how awesome or challenging my asanas were during that 90 minutes, but I'll always remember that small conversation before class. 

I made the decision that day that if a workout doesn't make my mind, body and spirit feel good, I'm not doing it. My time is valuable and I am fortunate to have choices. I alone can choose what I do with my free time, so I'm going to be picky. I'm going to choose things that feel good. 

And a funny thing happened. I started feeling great. Consistently and wholly. 

My sister wrote a blog post about exercise as self care that's along the same line of thinking. In it she says, "Exercise has a branding problem. Our culture is obsessed with objectification. Neither of those things have to keep you from honoring yourself as you are, and finding a self care practice that enriches your health and your life." Preach, sister!

Enrich your health and your life. Feel good. However you want to phrase it, the point is that working out should be a positive — not painful — part of your life. 

I challenge you to be mindful during your next workout. Ask yourself what your intention is for your activity and notice how it makes you feel. If it doesn't make you feel good and "enrich your health and your life," perhaps you should try something different.