Is your timeline swamped with January fitness fads and new year quick fixes? Ignore that advice and instead use these tips to fall in love with exercise.
“I remember thinking that being healthy was something that had to be really hard, very miserable and completely disordered,” says influencer and powerlifter, Meg Boggs. “I was reading things that were preached as health and just absorbing it, such as chugging water, doing 12 workouts a week and just eating one onion for dinner. I thought that the journey had to suck, but that there would be happiness when I reached my goal.”
These ideas about health might sound familiar to you and these quick fixes are most popular right now, at the start of a new year. But they are so far from what Meg now believes in. The author of Fitness For Every Body, you only have to look at her Instagram account to see the joy in her face as she exercises. She posts videos of her smiling and laughing at the gym, lifting heavy-plated barbells overhead and pressing her bodyweight while suspended by resistance bands.
“I loved sports at school and it was actually my dream to become a coach. That disappeared when I realised that in order to be recognised in the sporting world, you couldn’t be my size, you couldn’t look like me, and that I would have to change. So, I let go of it,” she says. “I never really came back to anything physical until I was in my mid 20s when my gynaecologist told me that I needed to lose 7 stone before I start trying to conceive. That scared me so from that moment, I started obsessively exercising and counting the calories in everything I ate.
“I hated everything about exercise. Every time I would put on any sort of active wear to work out it was triggering because I knew I didn’t want to hurt myself anymore but I felt like I couldn’t stop,” Meg says.
Her breaking point came after she had her daughter and suffered with postnatal depression and suicidal thoughts. “I had two choices: either go back to the same thing I was doing before, which was doing exercises I hate and eating nothing in order to please other people, or to start making my own choices about what healthy is.”
She chose option two, deciding that rather than focusing on workouts that were designed with weight loss in mind, she would try something she’d always admired – weight lifting. “I was eight weeks postpartum and I just said, ‘I’m going to try this’. I showed up that day and I never stopped going back. My confidence, strength and stamina has completely changed, and the way I navigate through the world is very different. I feel like I walk proudly now, which is an interesting change.”
How to enjoy exercise
Many people have been where Meg was – hating exercise but doing it anyway because of guilt, social pressure or fear. But, as Meg proves, movement can be something that brings joy. The key is to step away from what you’re being told to do and think more about the things that make you happy. It sounds easy but it can be difficult to avoid the noise. Here are Meg’s five steps to finding the joy in movement
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1. Reframe movement
Believe it or not, there’s more to movement than running or gym classes. “Our bodies crave movement, so whenever someone tells me that they have to hate their exercise, they’re actually saying that they’ve only ever tried one form of workout. More times than not, all they’ve done is force themselves to run on the treadmill and then decided that they hate all forms of exercise. They need to know that there are definitely other options.”
2. Think back to younger years
Finding a type of exercise that you enjoy requires thinking a little outside the box. “When I was at school, I did shotput and I always look back on that and remember loving it. When I was deciding how I wanted to move my body, I thought of things that were similar and lifting heavy weights felt right.”
Think back to the natural movement that you loved when you were a child - before you had been led to believe there were ‘good’ and ‘bad’ ways to move. Perhaps you loved dancing, hiking, horse riding, handstanding or something else completely different - all of these are still valid ways to move.
3. Consider who is profiting
“Look deeper at why fitness fads or the newest eating trend have become really popular out of nowhere. Is it really because it’s healthier, or is somebody somewhere profiting?” asks Meg. “If you’re doing something out of an insecurity, know you weren’t born with that worry. You were taught it throughout the years; that’s a societal issue, not yours. Reframing those things is so important because trends are just false promises and they don’t work.”
4. Do it for you
“I found lifting liberating because I chose it whereas before, I was always doing things a trainer told me to do to lose weight because that’s what other people told me I needed,” says Meg. That doesn’t mean you have to train alone; just make sure that you remain in control and are doing things because they make you excited or happy.
5. Focus on the gains
“We’re always so focused on everything there is to lose, and I’ve never understood that. Why aren’t we thinking about all the things that we can gain?” says Meg. When you start focusing on that, you’re better able to notice progress. “I never knew what it felt like to improve my performance in fitness without it being a metric on the scale. Seeing improvements such as the weights that you are putting on the bar and applauding something other than your jean size or the number on the scale feels so much more thrilling.”
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Images: Meg Boggs
Chloe Gray is the senior writer for stylist.co.uk's fitness brand Strong Women. When she's not writing or lifting weights, she's most likely found practicing handstands, sipping a gin and tonic or eating peanut butter straight out of the jar (not all at the same time).