I’ve spent most of my adult life hating exercise. But I changed my relationship with exercise and now exercise and I are in a much better place!

When I say I hated exercise, I mean I had to force myself, really force myself to do it. And it didn’t matter what I tried; Step aerobics (who was with me in the nineties), boxercise, celebrity work out DVDs, aqua fit, running, yoga.

I hated them all.

It’s only in the 18 months that I have stepped away from diet culture and changed my mindset to a body positive healthy lifestyle that I have changed my relationship with exercise. Now there is no hate involved.

changed my relationship with exercise

I blame diet culture:

Diet culture is a whole other post I need to write. But it’s no surprise really that I hated exercise when I viewed it’s sole purpose as an aid to weight loss.

If the scales didn’t reflect the workout then what had been the point in the blood sweat and tears? Exercise was a punishment for eating that bit of cake. Or it was done before a big night out purely to counteract some of the damage I might do with a meal out and alcohol. It was always done in an effort to change what I hated about myself.

It’s ingrained in most of us to see exercise this way. How many calories will I burn if I do this. Is it enough to counteract that donut? I mean we are even sold pushing the hoover round as a way to shift pounds.

Changing my mindset changed my relationship with exercise:

It’s no wonder that I hated it really. Punishing myself for eating. Something that is a fundamental part of living. That can bring great joy, creativity and social interactions. Something that we shouldn’t feel the need to punish ourselves for.

And apart from Christian Grey no one likes punishment. It’s no surprise that I had to force myself to punish myself.

After reading a lot about diet culture and the damage it does and it all resonating very loudly with me, I began to try and undo all of the things I had learnt and been told by society and view things differently.

Firstly and most importantly was to throw away my scales. Secondly was to stop associating exercise with weight loss.

Who am I?

I had to learn to be grateful for my body and what it did for me, regardless of what size it was. It requited me to start thinking of working out as a way to reward my body by keeping it fit and active, and not a way to punish it for eating food.

I had to learn to see it as a way to be strong and healthy, not as a way to be slim.

Mindset changes don’t happen overnight, but gradually I started to enjoy my workouts. It started to feel like less of a chore. And suddenly I found myself looking forward to them, and wondering who I had become! They started to have a positive impact on my mental health rather than a negative one.

Jumping the hurdles:

There have been hurdles along the way. I was doing couch to 5k. Although it was taking me a while to get to the level required before moving onto the next step, I was doing it and making progress. Then a chest infection put me out of action for a while and really set me back. When I was well enough to go out again I found it incredibly hard and demotivating that I had taken so many steps backwards. I tried to persevere, but I found myself starting to think negatively about it, and I knew if I kept doing that it would become a chore again and I would find excuses not to do it.

So I changed things up. I started doing home Hit workouts instead. And instantly felt better that I could do it and was enjoying it. I might go back to couch to 5k one day, but right now it’s not right for me.

I still have days where I don’t feel like it and excuses are easy to find. But I’m human. If you can push through those are the days where you actually feel better for doing it.

Find what works:

I’m enjoying jumping about my living room to some tunes. But I tried many many workouts with different instructors before I found my perfect match.

There were American women who used phrases like “slim and trim” that just made me feel crap about myself and I wanted to get away from the association between working out and weight loss. There was Joe Wicks who I just wanted to put in a box and walk away.

I then found workouts where the instructors didn’t speak, but they got a bit boring. I am restricted due to suffering from permanent labyrinthitis. It means I can’t do any floor work as it will make me dizzy, so I am restricted to workouts that are all standing.

Finally I stumbled across Team Body Project and I knew it was for me. It was the first time I had seen workouts done by people of varying body sizes. They weren’t all a perfect 10. And the philosophy behind The Body Plan was exactly what I needed. They are all about working out as a way to celebrate our bodies. They are very inclusive workouts that focus on movement rather than weight loss. I feel like I have finally found my tribe.

Get inspired:

Follow people who inspire you want to work out. I owe a huge credit to Emma, Sarah and Laura who have no idea how much their own fitness ‘journeys’ have inspired me and motivated me. So thank-you girls.

And there’s a ton of great people to follow on Insta in all shapes and sizes who will inspire you and just make you feel good about yourself. Fill your feed with great people.

Inclusive Brands

Finally I want to give a shout out to the brands making a difference. It wasn’t that long ago that you would struggle to find a sports brand that catered to anyone above a size 14. Thankfully that is changing and more and more brands are recognising health at every size and producing more inclusive ranges. Adidas is one of them and you can check out a few of my favourites here…

I changed my relationship with exercise for the better, and if I can do it, anyone can. Change your mindset. Find what works for you. Get inspired. And don’t be afraid to change it up. You might just find what was once a chore becomes the best part of your day.

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Claire Kirby

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