What Exercise Means to Me

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Exercise is a deeply personal thing for me, in that it is an anchoring force, an emotional outlet, an open mental space, an empowering energizer. What is exercise to you? For many, it’s a chore. A chore to lose weight, or to fit into society’s standards for bodies, or to achieve the precarious “be healthy.” For others, it’s an addiction. It usually starts out, I suppose, as the former, and sometimes transforms into the latter. Though I’ve always been “active,” regimented exercise began as a method to lose weight when I was a teenager. Coinciding with it, an eating disorder. But that’s perhaps for another time. What started from a spiraling, evil voice became a somewhat healthier coping mechanism for life. And being 30 now, for nearly half my life, it’s been a regular habit. Now it’s something I do just because I love it. Maybe you will find inspiration and motivation to exercise in this; maybe you will find someone you can relate to; maybe you couldn’t give a something. Whichever way, this is what exercise is for me.

An Anchoring Force

We all have comforts, vices, habits that we continually return to for safety. Mine is exercise. I feel that, barring serious illness or circumstantial constraints, I can exercise. Every morning, whether I feel like it or not, whether it’s something light or intense, I move. It’s quite beautiful, actually. This time and space just for me. Usually I do burpees and jumping jacks, in some manner of reps and for some amount of time, along with another circuit. But waking up, meditating, and moving is my ritual –almost sacred. No matter what happens the rest of the day, I will have had at least one good thing, for me. As Rupaul says, “If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell are you going to love somebody else?” 

An Emotional Outlet

I am an emotional person, to a fault at times. I tend to let my emotions determine my state and overpower my life. I’m working on it. One thing I know: no matter my emotional condition, exercise elevates it. If I’m angry, I can let my aggression out. If I’m sad, I can lose my focus on it. If I’m happy, I can use the energy to better myself. Granted, exercise isn’t and shouldn’t be a substitute for other forms of betterment. It’s by no means the end all be all of emotional and mental health. But it helps. If I find myself stuck in a tunnel of emotions, exercise shines a light to the end (not death –positivity!). 

An Open Mental Space

Has there ever been a time you stopped to become present to all of your senses? You are suddenly aware of the position of your body, the way it feels against surfaces and in your surroundings; you can feel your breath moving in and out. You’re present, in that moment. Exercise can be a meditation of sorts, if you pause to become aware of what your body is doing. It also gives you a time to rejuvenate your spirit by listening to music. Or entertain or educate yourself by listening to podcasts. It can connect you, not only to your body, but to nature by being outside and taking your environment into your senses. It is a set time to be in your mind, observe it, or enrich it.

An Empowering Energizer

When do you feel alive? What gives you that rush of joy, that feeling that precedes the thought, “I’m so glad to be alive”? I hope it’s not too challenging for you to conjure an image, a memory, an experience that answers those questions. Those moments are special in their rareness, but I do feel a glimpse of that joy when I exercise. As most of us know, exercise produces endorphins. Getting our heart rate up gives us that pump of adrenaline. It’s not only the physical effects of exercise that energizes, but also the mental confidence it engenders. You can’t help but feel proud and accomplished when you reach a goal, achieve something you thought impossible, or see your progress. Sometimes, just doing a workout when you don’t feel like it is so empowering and refreshing. I love knowing that I accomplished something good, almost first thing in the morning, and it gives me the grit to accomplish other tasks throughout my day that I may not want to do. It gives me perspective, pride, power, and just makes me feel like a badass.

Exercise is most definitely not just for your body, but for your heart, your spirit, your mind, your life. It has become such a staple in my life that I am grateful to be able to do, every day. Whether it’s through exercise or not, my wish for you is to have something in your life, just for you, that gives you as much. But I can’t think of much better than exercise. 

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