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  • Writer's pictureJenny Henderson

What is Intuitive Exercise?

Updated: Aug 10, 2021

I hadn't heard of this term until very recently, I'd seen plenty of quotes that suggested its intentions and they have always struck a chord with me, I've used plenty of them through my instagram posts, and I often discuss many of its key attributes with my clients, unaware that they came under this umbrella. But the term "Intuitive Exercise" or "Intuitive Movement" was new to me.

Essentially, intuitive exercise/movement is the practice of connecting and listening to your body to figure out how it feels and what type of movement it needs that day.

While out walking last week, I was looking for a podcast to listen to and came across the Train Happy Podcast, I love to think of exercise as my happy place so the name itself was enticing, I listened to an episode while I happily plodded along in the sun and what she was saying resonated with me on so many levels!

I've been through phases in life where I've been obsessive about my use of exercise. I've eaten too much and rushed off to the gym to do an extra spin class, I've exercised to earn extra Weight Watchers points so I could drink them at the weekend (laughing so hard at those life choices right now). Back in my triathlete days I HAD to do what was on my training plan, even if I'd had a crappy nights sleep, an absolute arse of a day at work and my legs were sore from yesterdays long run, my plan said I had to do 90 minutes on the bike at a certain pace and include some hills - UGH! My mind and my body certainly didn't want do it, but I'd make myself because it was on the plan! In all honesty I'd usually feel better for it afterwards (good old endorphins can do that to you) but perhaps I should have listened to my body and done some yoga or a walk and some stretching, instead of beasting myself doing hill climbs on Mount Victoria!

On the subject of Yoga, and this further confirms for me the validity of intuitive movement, I have an apology to make. I poo-pooed yoga for a very long time, I thought it wasn't really exercise, that I wouldn't feel like I'd worked out, wouldn't get hot and sweaty or feel like I'd really worked hard, got my heart rate up or burnt mega calories (many of the key players often used in determining a 'good' workout). That was until we hit lockdown. My gym went online, offering multiple classes per day that you could do live or in your own time and it was my perfect little escape, for 45 minutes in the middle of the day, I'd slide off to my studio and do an online HIIT class, even if it was just me and the instructor on a screen, I felt like I had a little escape and a little bit of normal in this crazy time. When I realised that the Friday lunchtime class was to be a yoga class I was a bit 'blah' about it, but I liked my 45 minutes of me time, so logged on and joined in...... IT WAS AMAZING! AND it was clearly what I needed both physically, mentally and emotionally (I actually cried in my first session) Now I'm not very good at switching off but I managed to filter enough and got on with it, and at the end, I felt lighter, longer, energised and so much less stressed, less cluttered, relaxed and happy and my core was on fire! It worked muscles in ways I never have before! Now I find that mat time has become a regular thing that I can dip in and out as I feel I need it. THIS is intuitive movement. Thank you Global Pandemic.

I've always exercised because I love moving, I love how I feel while I'm exercising and how I feel afterwards. I know when to stop and I also now know when I shouldn't even start. I now have a healthy relationship with exercise, its certainly never food or alcohol related. I honour my body, I respect it, I listen to it and I give it what it needs. I love variety in movement, sometimes that's a HIIT class with 100 Burpees in the mix, sometimes its lifting heavy or going for a swim, and sometimes its a walk in the fresh air just enjoying the day, and sometimes it's saying "actually I need to rest", "I don't want to do it today!" and that's ok! Exercise should be enjoyable, it should make you feel good, it isn't all about burning calories, loosing weight, working out because you feel bad about what you ate, or working hard to earn the wine you are going to drink later. It should be about the moment, it should be enjoyable, not stressful and something you look forward to rather than dread.

Exercising intuitively can help nurture a healthier relationship with exercise and your body. I've always used the hashtag healthyhabits, and for me with many of my clients, that is what we are trying to create, a healthy relationship with exercise which becomes a healthy habit. It is self care. It is choosing to move your body for the sake of self care rather than self punishment. So when a client turns up for their PT session and just wants to stretch and do some core work... that's what we'll do, THAT is intuitive movement, that is them listening to their body, caring for their body and giving their body what it needs. I LOVE that.

This blog post has been a bit of a brain dump, a bit of a ramble and I apologise. Exercise is my happy place, and these days I come at it from a different place, its no longer extrinsically motivated, it's all about how it makes me feel and should the day ever come that it's no longer enjoyable, I'll find another way to move my body that I enjoy.

Side Note: I highly recommend the Train Happy Podcasts by Tally Rye, I also have her book "Train Happy" winging its way to me.

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