Why Move: The Benefits of Moving Your Body for YOU

Last year I did a thing. It was a goal of mine, but not at first. If someone would have told me I'd be signing up for this five years ago I would have slanted a smile and said, "very funny."

On October 2, 2016 I ran the Diva's Half Marathon at Eisenhower Park in 2 hours and 13 minutes (to be exact).

Side note: I even did it with a sprained ankle. Yup. You heard that right...13.1 miles with a bummed ankle. I know, I know. That doesn't sound smart. Why would anyone do such a thing?! Don't worry, I took about three months off after that to let my ankle heal.

Well, check me out, here!

I was a competitive gymnast for years. Sprained ankles happened on the regular, hard falls were inevitable, rips from the uneven bars were congratulated, and if we didn't split the beam we weren't working hard enough. This probably doesn't sound very enjoyable, but I loved every single second of it. 

What I realized later on, when my gymnastics days were over, was that not moving my body and being physically active only pronounced the aches and pains and after effects of the demanding sport. This is why I'm determined to spread the word that finding movement you love is important for your health and quality of life.

Bottom line: when you do activities you enjoy, it doesn't feel like exercise or "work."

Every day we're bombarded with stresses and tension. Relationship issues, job problems, kids, family disturbances, car trouble, allergies, financial havoc, sickness, you name it! Unfortunately, we live in a world where turning to external sources like alcohol, drugs, and bad habits is praised and natural, more affective methods are swept under the rug.

DID YOU KNOW?

Tons of research suggests that exercise is one of the top players for managing stress, anxiety, depression and, according to the CDC, people who engage in regular physical activity "helps improve your overall health and fitness, and reduces your risk for many chronic diseases."

Welp.

People tend to associate exercise by doing activities that only leave you feeling exhausted and maxed out. When you hear the word exercise, are the first few things that pop into your head things like running a half marathon, CrossFit, and weight lifting? That's usually me too.

Spoiler alert: exercise can be what ever makes your body feel amazing and loved.

It's super important for you to understand that you are a bio-individual who has unique needs that only you can satisfy. Basically that means do what you enjoy, not what others think you should enjoy.

When I first started "exercising" I didn't know the first thing about it. I was a gymnast. 'Exercise? Physical activity? Going to the gym? What the heck is that?! I can do conditioning (which is all I knew at the time) and flips. The gymnastics gym? Oh. You mean a real gym with treadmills and stair masters and weights. Yea, scratch that.' Serious thought process.

What I learned: 

Start with what you know and listen to your body. For me, it was gymnastics, playing never ending games of man hunt outside with my siblings and neighbors, attempting to play football with my brothers because I knew I was as strong (maybe stronger :P) as them, climbing trees, playing volleyball and frisbee at the beach or in our backyard with family and friends, riding my bike and/or walking in the park and finding trails that led to little places only "the local kids" knew about (or so we thought). Because of my background and the activities I loved, it served me in finding a variety of different movement patterns that either worked or didn't really work with my body type and I'm able to use these patterns to create balance where I need it.

It doesn't have to be hard. I resort to things like playing with my dog outside or taking him for a walk, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, parking a little bit further away from the store or work or an office. Finding movement in simple forms can be just as easy and effective, as long as it feels good for you. 

Determination pays off. I wasn't going to let my sprained ankle get in the way of my goal of completing a half marathon. Now, simmer down, I'm not telling you to go run a half marathon with a sprained ankle or continue to work through an injury. I still made sure I listened to my body and didn't ignore the fact that I needed to rest and ice my ankle after every training session and give it a good three months rest after the race. When you find exercise you love, it won't feel like you're pushing yourself too hard. Gymnastics gave me serious drive and determination, but that's what helps me keep moving because I'm determined to nourish my body with movement that makes me feel amazing. To be honest, I never even felt like I had a sprained ankle. Partly because I'm no stranger to sprained ankles, but the other part was it actually felt better for me to keep moving. 

You know when you're all gung-ho about starting a new exercise regimen, you're amped up, determined and before you know it you're on a roll for a solid month? And then suddenly you hit a brick wall and start resenting the workouts and even start skipping?

Totally have been there. 

You will get the best results when you do what makes your body feel good as opposed to forcing yourself to make time for a daunting exercise you're hoping you'll like midway through. I enjoyed running. Even though it was hard to train regularly for 12 weeks before this race I knew I was about to accomplish an awesome goal. I felt so good about myself that every day I trained I looked forward to it. The results were far better than I could have imagined.

Moving your body at least 30 minutes each day in addition to eating nourishing foods will provide you with amazing benefits. And yes, that includes Yoga too. Again, different types of movement will give you different results but when you do something you absolutely love the results will be amplified! 

Aside from the obvious reasons why movement is important - including weight management and loss, increase in energy, decrease in anxiety and stress, improvement in mood, digestion regulation, reduction of joint pain, helps circulation, lowers risk for chronic and acute illness - some of the benefits can be unique to our particular lifestyles. Developing a routine that suits your unique lifestyle and needs will have great rewards and leave you feeling energized NOT depleted. 

The challenge: finding the type of movement you enjoy and building it into your life in a way that works best for you.

Some of my favorite ways (just to name a few) to move and exercise my body includes:

  • Running, outside or on the beach
  • Riding my bike 
  • Yoga + Hot Yoga
  • Kettlebells
  • Body weight training
  • Kickboxing
  • Walking in nature with my boyfriend
  • Playing with my dog
  • Chasing around my niece and nephew
  • Hiking (a new found love)
  • High intensity interval training
  • Gymnastics
  • Dancing
  • Kayaking + Paddle boarding

Having a variety of different movement styles opens the door for so many opportunities to find something you absolutely love. It certainly doesn't have to be running a half marathon once in a while, but it most certainly should be things you are interested in trying.

So, why move? 

Movement is a great way to nourish our bodies and improve our health naturally so we can live a higher quality life. Not only is movement an optimal solution to our mental and physical health, it gives us the opportunity to express ourselves creatively and out of love for the body we've been given. It also bridges the gap between body and mind, re-establishing the strong relationship between the two for optimal health and performance. Once you find the type of movement that you love and start to notice all the benefits, exercising will become second nature and you will eventually thank your body for it! 

Well, are you ready to get your move on?