By Emma Hesse, Intern & Dietitian Student
Life as an athlete is hard, but life as an athlete when your time of competing is over is harder. For most, everything you do is to get better at your sport. Every time you step into the weight room or run a mile you usually aren’t just doing it for yourself. You are doing it for your sport and your team. But what happens to exercise when you are no longer an athlete that competes? What happens when you aren’t required to lift weights in the early morning hours or practice for hours in the afternoon? No one teaches you how life is supposed to be without your sport. It can take a long time to find the balance your body and mind needs. Below are some things to explore on your journey to intuitive exercise.
What ways do I like to move my body?
There is no right answer on how YOU want to move your body. You no longer are forced to do what your team, trainers, or coaches are requiring you to do. Just like intuitive eating, intuitive fitness is all about listening to your body and what best serves it in the moment. This will take some time to really figure out what you like and it might not be what you thought you liked. Take your time to explore the following… What feels good to your body? What are you itching to get back to? What is serving not just your body, but your mind too?
How long do I want to move my body for?
Something nice about not being on a team anymore is you can start working out whenever you want. You no longer have to practice the whole time or finish the workout in the weight room. You can leave workout classes halfway through or stop running on your run if your body is telling you to. You are the only person that knows how long your body wants/can work out for and you are no longer being forced to push past that limit. You can now do your workouts on YOUR TERMS, and your terms only.
This will, of course, be a hard adjustment initially. You have spent YEARS following the guidance and instructions of others. Our recommendation? Start small. Leave class 5 minutes early or take the opportunity to rest during a set that you’re just not feeling. Practice short bursts of flexibility at first and it will get easier as you go.
Does my body need a rest day?
No longer belonging to a team means you can pick your rest days. Instead of being on a strict schedule and working out when your team is, you are able to ask yourself, how do I feel today? Does my body need a rest day? The key to intuitive movement is creating trust between you and your body, which helps build more enthusiasm and sustainability when it comes to exercise in the long-term. Taking rest days might feel wrong at first but keep in mind that this may be because you and your body aren’t used to them, not because they aren’t necessary.
Why am I working out?
Now you can ask yourself, why am I working out? Is there something I would prefer to be doing more than working out? Am I working out to manipulate the shape of my body or because I like the energy it gives me? Being a former athlete, the pressure one can feel to fit the “body of an athlete” is strong. There is often this need and idea that you need to work out to burn the most calories, reach your step goal daily, or push yourself past your limit, but the main goal of exercise now is NOURISHING and MOVING your body in whatever way feels good for you. When you shift away from that “win at all costs” mindset, exercise becomes enjoyable. It no longer feels like you are being forced to move and you can finally receive the mental, emotional, and physical benefits and discover joyful movement.
Navigating your way to intuitive exercise is HARD. There is no right or wrong way to get there and you will probably make mistakes along the way. Think of this time as throwing spaghetti against the wall… what sticks for you and what doesn’t? It will take some trial and error but being able to work out for yourself is a great feeling. Don’t be afraid to try new things and step out of your comfort zone. It will be worth it!