5 steps to remove pressure and expectations around exercise, by dietetics student Serena


Dietetics student Serena is now a regular on the blog. To read more of her work, visit Serena posts Archives – Student Health and Wellbeing (flinders.edu.au)

How many times have you forced yourself to endure workouts you don’t enjoy just because you feel like you are supposed to be doing them? I used to do this all the time. I would create strict exercise schedules for myself, consisting of a ridiculous amount of sit ups and crunches to target my most insecure body part; my stomach. And If I wasn’t able to keep up with the workout schedule I had made for myself, I would wind up feeling either lazy or guilty.

It is not uncommon for this type of mindset to go hand in hand with restrictive eating patterns – as they both have the common goal of weight loss and body manipulation. This can not only result in unrealistic expectations on yourself to achieve certain exercise goals, but can also result in exercise being used as a form of punishment towards your body for not appearing as you desire. For me, this manifested in adopting thoughts such as ‘If I eat this cake I have to go for a run today’ or ‘I can’t eat until I have exercised’.

With everything that we are exposed to online today, it is easy to get caught up in thinking that we need to be doing perfect workouts or that we need to be a yoga guru in order to be fit. In removing the pressure around exercise that I once inflicted on myself, I have learnt that this idea is simply so far from the truth. Below is an insight into the more gentle and flexible mindset I have now adopted towards exercise.

1. Change your mindset around exercise
One of the biggest changes in my mindset around exercise came when I realised that any form of movement is good for our bodies. In doing this, I focused less on how I was moving my body, but rather made my goal to just try and move my body in any way I could throughout the day. I found this a really simple way to approach exercise. As I have always felt an imbalance in the concept of doing a 30-minute workout, only to sit on the couch for the rest of the day; I also tried to focus on creating more opportunities for movement to be incorporated throughout my day.

2. Let go of rigid structures
Many of us are made to think than unless we adopt a rigid, strict exercise schedule, then we are not doing it right. As I mentioned earlier, this can likely be influenced by social media accounts who portray this type of lifestyle. I acknowledge that some people may enjoy this, but if you are anything like me you may find this type of exercise a chore. Remember that exercise doesn’t always have to be a planned and structured part of your day. It can be as simple as an impromptu dance party in the living room, a swim at the beach with friends, or choosing to take the stairs.

3. Experiment with different types exercise
Once you have removed the expectation of exercising in a particular way, it gives you the freedom to experiment with different things. What is that thing you have been saying you want to try but never do? Go sign up, or make a plan with a friend this weekend to do it. You may end up loving it or hating it – either way you won’t know unless you try.

4. Refine it to what you like
Once you have started to experiment with different types of exercise, you can start to refine it down to the ones you actually enjoy. If you find that yoga or group fitness classes aren’t for you, that’s okay. Remove the expectation that you have to be good at (or enjoy) everything. This will give you more time to focus on the types of exercise that you do like.

5. Practise gratitude towards your body
It is such a blessing that you are merely able to move your body. Practise being thankful for all of the things that your body allows you to do in your life through movement. This can help to let go of negative thoughts that drive you to punish your body through exercise, and redirect them to a place of gratitude. Not only this, but it also allows us to better connect with the joy that moving our bodies can bring.

If you are a student in a health-related discipline and are interested in writing some health-related articles for the student population, contact me (gareth.furber@flinders.edu.au) and we can discuss how you might get your work on the Student Health and Wellbeing Blog, just like Serena posts Archives – Student Health and Wellbeing (flinders.edu.au) has done. 


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