How to make peace with exercise and find joyful movement
April 3, 2024

How to make peace with exercise and find joyful movement

Lauren Littlewood

Are you tired of hearing people talk about exercise with statements like, “Cardio training is good for your heart. You should run more and seek the health benefits that come from endurance training. Building strong muscles is an important training workout for a healthy body. Yoga and stretching are ideal ways to reduce stress and be more flexible.” Cringing already?

The word exercise has become almost synonymous with obligation and punishment, or sometimes it feels that way. 

You weren’t always like this. You used to move your body for fun because it made you happy, not because you ate one too many tacos (as if there was such a thing as too many tacos). 

What if you could make peace with exercise and find joyful movement— checking off all the boxes on your “reasons to exercise” list and actually enjoy doing it?

With some helpful tips for working out, a positive mindset shift, and some fun ways to exercise, you'll learn how to start working out in a way that makes you feel empowered and happy! 

Positive mindset and making peace with exercise

Exercise is defined as an activity that requires physical effort and is carried out to sustain or improve overall health and fitness. Sounds simple enough, right? Then why does it seem so challenging and exist with so many negatives surrounding it?!

Diet culture and what is considered “exercise” has poisoned your mind against the idea of moving your body in a way that feels good, i.e., joyful movement. Instead, you’re jumping on exercise trends or recommendations because society says you “should” do those things. 

This negative mindset creates internal conflict and turns what could be a fun addition to your life into a chore or, worse, a punishment. 

By changing to a positive, or neutral mindset at the very least, and by making peace with exercise and movement, you open up a whole new world of enjoyment (and fun!) with the added benefit of health and vitality. You'll also come to find that the earlier myths around exercise aren't always true, and you can shift your mindset to be one of excitement. For example, cardio training doesn't have to equate to running - you can jump rope, dance, cycle, or even swim. You can increase muscle strength through weight training or resistance training, and find exercises that make it enjoyable for you.

When your chosen and intentional movement is done to create joy and isn't used as a punishment for the slice of cake you had last night, it’s not only easy to start working out. It’s also sustainable, and can help improve your mental health too!

The shift to a neutral or positive mindset comes from reframing the purpose of exercise from one of obligation to one of pleasure. This change in mindset helps you choose your more joyful movement and find fun ways to exercise. It helps you disconnect from the obligation of what you should be doing and connect to what you can do and want to do. 

Joyful movement and fun ways to exercise

When you were a kid, do you remember jumping on the trampoline until you could barely breathe? Or how about spending hours playing with your skip-it because you were trying so hard to max out the numbers on the skip counter?

You never once thought about how many reps to do or how many calories you burned. You did it because you loved it and you were having fun. You were playing and moving with joy that just happened and exercising your body at the same time. 

Finding fun ways to exercise is the best way to make peace and discover joyful movement again. 

Is there something you have always wanted to learn but thought, “I’m not fit enough to do it?” Well, do it anyway! The only way you will ever be “fit enough” for rock climbing, belly dancing, or soccer is to get out there and try it. 

Sure, you might miss a rock, a step, or a goal, but you're not doing it to be perfect or even to look remotely graceful. You are doing it to have fun, and for the pure joy it provides. 

Disconnect from the idea of being thinner or more fit. Forget about the outcome or how you will look. When your only focus is on joy, fun, and play, your movement becomes a getaway, release, and reservoir of happiness you can tap into whenever you please. 

How to start working out and tips for working out

Whether you are new or a yo-yo gym-goer, the best way to start working out is to find something new and exciting that you want to try. You don’t have to stick with it. Because if you don’t like it, you won’t stick with it anyway. 

Start slow 

Don’t expect yourself to climb Mount Everest after your first hike. Do what feels good, give yourself a gold star, and then do it again another day. 

Be creative 

Find fun movement to do. What do you consider fun? Sports, dancing, having an adrenaline rush? If you get no joy from lifting weights, don’t lift weights! You can strengthen your muscles with so many types of movement. So, pick one that is fun to do instead.

Have you secretly always wanted to learn pole dancing? Find a pole fitness studio and try a few classes. You don't have to go to the gym to build those booty muscles! You can build that booty while you twerk it out and feel hot AF while doing it. 

Listen to your body 

No pain, no gain is B.S. If something hurts, stop doing it. You are doing this for the joy of it, and if you aren’t feeling joyful, then it’s time to kick it to the curb. Plus this is a recipe for disaster and often leads to injury and setbacks in your fitness journey. Unless you are a professional athlete and it’s your job to push the limits of your body, do whatever feels good. 

Be flexible with your routine 

Scheduling your workouts or joyful movements is great, but don’t let the schedule run your life. If you didn’t sleep well the night before and your body is telling you that it would rather stick a fork in your eye than go rock climbing that day, listen. You can go another day or find something less intense to do instead. 

You don’t have to stick with the same movement either. You can mix it up. Maybe one day you go for a hike and the next your go to a yoga class. Who cares! As long as you feel good in your movements that day because that is all that matters now. 

Buddy up

The final tip for working out is to have a buddy. Life is so much better when you share it with someone. Having a friend join in the fun makes a good experience even better. You can make new friends in a running group or pole fitness class or bring your bestie along! 

Your buddy doesn’t have to do the movement with you or even live near you. They can simply be someone who is along for the journey. Someone who wants to hear about the new class you tried and cheers your on throughout your exploration to find joy in movement.

Wrap up

If you need someone that can give you more support through your discovery of joyful movement, trainwell (formerly CoPilot) can literally be your co-Pilot—offering support and guidance for movement, nutrition, and mindfulness and helping you find your version of health and happiness. trainwell personal trainers will work with you to find the training routine and movement approach that is best for you!

With trainwell's 14-day free trial, you can try it out with no commitments. Meet your trainer and start building a plan that will help you create lasting change, build healthy habits, and change your life for the better. 

Click here to find your trainwell trainer!

Written by Lauren Littlewood

Explore more trainwell articles