On Nutrition

Odds are that if you have a usual exercise routine, it’s been thrown into some disarray lately. For some, there’s been an upshot to Stay Home, Stay Healthy recommendations. Maybe you discovered that you really don’t miss going to the gym and prefer doing workouts at home. Perhaps less time commuting has created space for more morning yoga and more afternoon walks. For others, the evaporation of gym workouts and group classes is stressful, leading to a swirl of mental questions like: What do I do instead? Am I exercising enough? Am I exercising intensely enough?

Sometimes shaking up a routine — whether intentional or not — opens the door to trying something new. May I suggest exercising intuitively? Intuitive exercise is a mindset rather than a specific form of movement. It involves listening to your body about how it feels and what it needs, and using that information to guide you about the type, intensity and duration of activity that’s right for you — in general, or simply on a given day.

Our bodies are meant to move, but we don’t all need to move in the same way.

Often, we receive — and internalize — the all-or-nothing message that for exercise to “count,” it needs to leave you a sweaty mess. Intuitive exercise is free from these kind of external rules, as well as the arbitrary rules you might make up in your own head. If your inner dialogue says something like, “I have to exercise X days per week for X minutes,” that’s a sign you don’t trust your body to tell you what it needs. Intuitive exercise focuses not on burning calories or changing your body shape, but on how exercise feels and what it does for your physical and mental health. This makes intuitive exercise a form of self-care.

As an intuitive exerciser, you might ask yourself, “What kind of movement would benefit my body today? What kind of movement do I feel like doing?” For example, if you go on a day hike or spend the day doing intense gardening, then doing some gentle yoga or going on a leisurely walk may be just the ticket the next day, when you wake up feeling a bit stiff or sore.

Which brings me to another benefit: Because you are listening to what your body is telling you, you are more likely to notice the difference between normal muscle soreness and signs of injury (“it hurts” vs. “I’m hurt”), so you are less likely to risk a serious injury from pushing yourself too hard.

Part of exercising intuitively is choosing forms of activity that you enjoy — rather than exercise you dislike — so you exercise because you want to, not because you “have” to. Rather than leaving you tired, sore or cranky, your chosen activities reduce stress and increase your energy while helping you feel stronger, sleep better and generally feel good in your skin. It helps to have a variety of activities to select from as your mood, and energy level, strikes you.

What if your intuition tells you to lounge on the couch instead of unrolling your yoga mat or lacing up your walking shoes? Part of intuitive exercise is thinking forward to how you want to feel, not only what you want in this instant. If you know that doing some yoga, or going for that walk, will leave you feeling calm, refreshed and energized, than that’s worth breaking free of your inertia!