Health | Wellness | Yoga | Chicago

Intuitiveness: Part One (Exercise)

Intuitiveness is a beautiful thing, especially when it comes to our relationship with our bodies. Being able to understand and know what we need as human beings is extremely important. It involves looking inward and evaluating ourselves from the inside out. Knowing your body and knowing yourself can be challenging. Develop an intuitive relationship with your body and learn to listen to it as if it were another human being. Intuitiveness comes into play in several parts of our lives, including with our relationship with exercising.


I’m sure if you’re up to date with “fitness trends” these days, then you’ve heard people talk about intuitive exercise. But, what exactly is it?  A lot of people define it very differently, but in my mind, it means exercising your body in a way that makes you feel good. Simple as that.


A lot of proponents of intuitive exercise however, are defining in a way that means only exercising when your body is craving it, which I don’t necessarily agree with.


Everybody is different and everyone’s body has different needs. If you are someone who feels that the best option for you is to only work out when you really feel like it, then go for it!  However, I think that people are turning intuitive exercise into a way of bashing people that choose to exercise according to a specific schedule or choose to actively make time to exercise as a part of their daily/weekly routines.


I feel that if your mindset is only exercising when you really really feel like it, then you may never end up exercising. Exercising is healthy for your body and your mind, and has so many amazing benefits. Saying that intuitive exercise means only exercising when you really really feel like it, or when your body is absolutely craving it, can end up having a negative effect on your overall health.


There are so many benefits of getting your body moving, and there are serious consequences for refraining from exercise. Studies show that people who exercise literally live longer. To be exact, one out of every ten premature deaths are caused by not exercising at least 30-60 minutes three times a week. People who don’t exercise also have a higher risk of developing depression and anxiety. The Arthritis Foundation also found that people who don’t do any strength training age faster than those that do. Exercise also strengthens your immune system and can prevent serious diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, colon cancer and high blood pressure. Not exercising is a serious health risk, and the people who are viewing and promoting intuitive exercise as not exercising UNLESS you feel like it, and are discouraging people to exercise regularly, are, in my opinion, putting them at risk.


I also think that people who are just starting to incorporate working out into their lives will not benefit from viewing intuitive exercise as only exercising when your body craves it. Someone who is not used to working out at all is probably never going to WANT to get up and go workout. It is something that needs to be learned and practiced in order to find joy in it.



What does intuitive exercise mean to me?


It means waking up each morning and assessing how I feel. After many years of getting to know my body, I can tell what kind of workout that I want to do that day or that week. Some days I really really crave yoga, so I’ll go take a yoga class. Other days, I have a lot of energy and I got a really good night’s sleep so I’ll be able to take a HIIT class or go for a run outside. I know a lot of people who love to workout, but I don’t know anyone who feels like working out 100% of the time. People that are promoting intuitive exercise are often times discouraging people to challenge themselves and put in extra effort in order to get a workout in as much as they would like.


Some days, I don’t really feel like going to the intense Shred 415 class that I signed up for, or I really don’t feel like going to that yoga class because it’s snow storming outside. But instead of giving up and staying in bed, I get my ass up and I go. And guess what? I can honestly say that almost every time I make myself get to that class, I am SO SO happy that I ended up going either right when I get there, during the class, or afterwards. And if I really still don’t feel good once I get there or midway from the workout, I have no problem leaving and then going back to curl up in bed, because sometimes our bodies really do just need those rest days.


Now, there is a difference between “making” yourself get out of bed to go workout and abusing your body; and there can be a fine line between the two. If I am physically sick or exhausted in any way, I will give myself a break or a day off. It is always important to listen to your body when it’s telling you to take give it a break! Over-Exercising or Exercise Addiction is an extremely serious condition and if someone suffers from that in their past or present, then maybe exercising intuitively and only exercising when your body really wants to is healthy for you. Only you know your own body.


I am just here to express to everyone that whatever YOU feel like doing is what you should do. If you want to only exercise when your body craves it, go for it. If you want to view intuitive exercise as only working out in ways that make you feel good, I think that’s a wonderful idea. (I am also here to say that if you hate cardio… you can stop doing it and find something else you love to do) If you don’t want to intuitive exercise and you’d rather really challenge yourself because you’re training for a race, or you really want to make a fitness goal and your body still feels great, then that’s okay too! Do what you love and do what you feel like your body needs.



If you think that maybe your intuitive exercise philosophy aligns with mine, here are some tips about how to maintain an awesome, healthy, truly intuitive workout routine.



Find a workout you LOVE!


The first step in starting to incorporate working out into your life is to find something you truly like to do. If you force yourself to run everyday and you hate running, you probably will learn to resent exercising and start to view it as a chore. Maybe you really like cardio and one of your fitness goals is to run a 5K. Maybe running hurts your knees or you just simply hate running so you decide to try yoga or weight training instead. There are SO many different workouts out there, I guarantee you can find something you enjoy. Whether its swimming, HIIT, yoga, pilates, running, biking (spinning), karate, power walking, or going to the gym; there’s something out there for everyone!


However, here is my disclaimer. Give something more than one chance. If you’ve never ran before in your life, the first time you try to run a mile is probably going to suck. Don’t give up so quickly; try it out for at least 7 days (not in a row, just in general). If you still hate it after that and it doesn’t make your body feel good, then ditch it. I think it’s so common these days to compare ourselves to one another in terms of accomplishments or look at the person next to us in a workout class and feel jealous of them. How do you think they got to be so good at yoga? They practiced and they stuck with it, they probably sucked at first too! Just try to focus on yourself and really think about how the workout is making you feel, and then go from there.


Curious about my workout routine? Normally I try to do yoga at least 5 times a week, whether that’s at home or in a studio. For some days, I wakeup and do ten minutes of yoga in the morning. One or two times a week I’ll challenge myself with a yoga sculpt class. I try to make it to Shred 415 to do HIIT running and weight training twice a week, but sometime’s I only get there once, or no times at all. If no classes align with my schedule, I’ll go for a short (1-2 mile run) outside and follow it up with an at home workout using the POPSUGAR Fitness “ACTIVE” app or a workout by The Balanced Berry. On occasion I will take a spin class, maybe once a month, but it’s not my favorite kind of workout. However, sometimes I crave a challenge in a spin class.


My life is extremely busy, but I make time for exercise because I make it a main priority in my life. I do what I feel like doing and I don’t have a set schedule of what I do every week.



Do a “full body scan” several times throughout the day.


Wakeup in the morning and think about how you feel. Are you tired? Is your body sore? Do you feel sick? How much energy do you have? I feel like a lot of people never take just a small amount of time to really think about these things. Everyone is always so anxious to get to where they need to go, we forget to take a moment and assess how we feel.


One method I use to scan my body is meditating. Right now, I am testing out several different meditation apps, and I really like Headspace currently. I try to meditate first thing in the morning, and then do my “body scan” after that. It literally takes just ten minutes, and waking up ten minutes earlier to meditate will definitely benefit you more than it will hurt. If you try to assess how you feel the moment you open your eyes, you probably will not feel great or not get an accurate “reading” because you’ll still be a little tired and groggy.


Another thing I like to incorporate in the mornings is a quick yoga session. I keep a mat unrolled in my room and often times, I like to just make up my own flow for five or ten minutes. When I was first starting out, I really liked to use the Asana Rebel app (and I still do). They have a 5 minute yoga flow option that is different everyday. So if you’re in a hurry, you literally just click on the workout and someone guides you through five quick minutes of yoga. Or, if you have a bit more time, there are longer sessions available for that day (10-15 mins) that are also always different. Oh, and did I mention that the app is completely free? It’s awesome. If you have a bit more time on your hands, Jordan Younger, or, The Balanced Blonde, has a really amazing yoga ebook titled full of awesome yoga flows and even full length classes. I really like to use that when I have more time in the mornings.


Getting up, meditating, and moving around right in the morning really wakes me up and helps me tune into how my body feels. Yoga in the mornings is also so amazing because it gives me a way to stretch every morning before starting my day.


I also think it’s important to consistently go through a “full body scan” several times throughout the day because the way we feel will probably change throughout the day. Maybe we have a lot of energy in the morning, but when it comes time to go to your workout, you are falling asleep and decide to nap instead. Or, maybe, you don’t feel great in the morning, but we decide to go for a run and afterwards, you feel better and happier.


If you start to notice a pattern about when you have the most energy on most days, try to plan your workouts accordingly. Some people love to wakeup and workout first thing in the morning (me), but others like to workout at night. Find what works for you through trial and error.



Don’t be afraid to challenge yourself.


It really makes me upset when certain people make it seem like a horrible thing when you want to push yourself in a workout. If we don’t challenge ourselves then we don’t get better. It is just a matter of knowing when to stop and when to give your body a break. But, in my opinion, pushing ourselves and challenging ourselves keeps working out interesting and  helps us to make progress.


There is a big difference between challenging yourself and overexercising, and I think that one main difference between the two is mindset. Why are you doing what you’re doing? Do you feel obsessive, negative thoughts about yourself if you feel like maybe you need a rest day? If you feel like maybe you’re drifting into disordered exercise or disordered eating territory, it is extremely important to get help for yourself in order to be healthy both physically and mentally.



Stay consistent.


Although we mostly feel differently from day to day, I think establishing somewhat of a routine is extremely important. Whether that’s scheduling a workout for everyday, or having a certain workout you do once a week, establishing a routine can help us learn to love what we’re doing. I will say that if you decide to try and do the same workout everyday, it will probably get boring. But if you have a certain class or teacher that you really like to take every Sunday, put it in your calendar and make it there every Sunday! Once again though, it is never good to become obsessive about it. If you really feel sick on a day that you had a workout scheduled, it is up to you to decide what your body can handle and what it needs.



We always hear people in our lives say, “listen to your body.” I’ve heard it from fitness instructors, yoga teachers, my mom, my friends, every fitness blogger out there, but it means nothing unless you really know what it means. What does intuitive exercise mean to you? Do you listen to your body? What is it telling you today?

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