Intuitive eating is a popular nutrition perspective that encourages listening to your body, honoring your hunger, and eating until you’re full. Basically, you listen to your feelings of hunger, and eat when and what you want to eat. It’s a great way to get away from restrictive dieting, and feelings of guilt when it comes to food.
Just like many people can develop a negative relationship with food, it’s just as easy to develop a negative relationship with fitness. When you view fitness as a form of punishment, feel guilty or shameful engaging in rest or recovery, or continue to push yourself too hard you begin to cultivate a negative relationship with exercise. Sound familiar?
Just because you’ve had a negative relationship with fitness in the past doesn’t mean it always has to be that way. If you’re ready to make peace, and approach fitness from a positive point of view it all starts here: with intuitive fitness.
What is Intuitive Fitness?
Intuitive fitness is basically staying in tune with your body and being realistic about what it can handle before and during your workout to prevent overuse, burnout and potential injury. Intuitive fitness encourages you to take into consideration how your body is feeling, rather than sticking to a workout just because it was on today’s schedule.
When approaching your fitness routine from an intuitive fitness point of view, it will require a certain flexibility to frequency and type of exercise. It’s giving yourself the grace to ask yourself, ‘will this workout move me forward, or set me back?’
In practice, this may look like skipping out on a harder workout if you’re too stressed, tired, or sore and know you can’t give your scheduled workout the energy it deserves. It’s okay to change your plans if you know it’s what your body needs.
Replace your workout with something lighter, you know will do your body good. Some lower intensity cardio, active recovery, or yoga. Or, perhaps you just need more time to warm up to ease your body into exercise. Again, it’s up to you to listen to your body and determine what it needs on a given day. Just remember that you have choices!
It’s important to note that intuitive fitness is different from just skipping a workout because you’re lazy or aren’t in the mood. There’s a difference between taking a break because your body needs the recovery or skipping a workout because you’re lazy. Here’s where it’s important to exercise willpower. Set the standard early. If you can tune into your body and know when it needs rest, have the integrity to admit to yourself when you’re just feeling lazy, and move forward with your scheduled workouts on those days!
Getting Started with Intuitive Fitness
Adding intuitive fitness into your routine can feel unstable at first, and that makes it a little daunting. If exercise is causing you stress or anxiety, it might seem scary to remove the rigidity of a strict workout plan because you may feel like you’re losing control. However, you’ll learn through practice your body can be better for it. In reality, you’ll discover a balance that’s appropriate for your body, and your fitness routine will be more enjoyable and sustainable in the long run!
The first step is becoming more aware of your motivations for exercise. It’s important to ask yourself the right questions. For example, why do I want to work out? If you’re compensating for last night's dinner or take an all-or-nothing approach to fitness - these are external motivations that don’t take your body’s needs into consideration. Intuitive fitness is all about shedding these negative mindsets and external motivations that can pressure us into working out too hard or too much.
Start each workout with a quick body scan and ask yourself a few questions.
- How do I feel?
- How are my stress levels today?
- Did I get a good night’s sleep last night?
- Have I eaten enough today to be properly fueled for my work out?
- Do I have any lingering aches or pains?
While there may be other helpful questions you can ask yourself, this is a good place to start for getting in tune with your body. Just remember each person is different and our bodies respond differently to workouts than others. It’s more than okay to listen to your body take things at your own pace!