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Joyful Movement: Making Peace with Exercise

Body Image

September 13, 2018

Not sure if you have a joyful relationship with movement?


Take a quick second to answer the following questions:

  1. Do you exercise to “burn off” something you ate?

  2. Do you exercise as a way to punish yourself for overeating?

  3. Do you HATE exercise but feel that you HAVE to do it?

  4. Do you exercise with the “no pain, no gain” mentality?

  5. Are you pushing through pain and risking injury because you feel that you have to?

    If you answered “yes” to any of the above questions it’s time to step back and take a good hard look at your relationship with exercise. Finding yourself bored, frustrated, or intimidated by physical activity, is usually a good indication that it’s time to make a change.

Here’s the good news: cultivating a healthier relationship with exercise doesn’t have to be daunting. With practice and a helpful shift in mindset, you can learn to engage in exercise that is enjoyable and good for you - mind and body.

Let’s get started!


How Tuned Into your body Are You?

Often when we exercise we find ourselves only focusing on external cues such as calories burned, heart rate, pace, and distance.

We allow these external factors or cues to dictate our workout: how hard we push ourselves, how long we exercise for, how far we end up going, etc.

While these external cues may be beneficial in some capacity, such as training for an event, overly focusing on these cues may interfere with our ability to connect with our working muscles before, during, and after exercise. Ask yourself: How is your mood? Your energy level? Do you feel physically different? It’s important to check in with yourself!


Experiment with joyful movement first

Here’s what to do:

1. Choose an activity that is not very strenuous.

Whatever you choose, focus on connecting to your body in a way that you may not typically be used to. Examples include:

    • Walking
    • Stretching
    • Leisurely bike ride
    • Restorative Yoga

2. Before you begin, check-in with your body.

    • How does your body feel?
    • How is your energy? Are you tired?
    • Do you feel any discomfort at the moment?

3. Then, check-in with your intentions.

    • Is the choice to move your body coming from a place of body respect?
    • Are you moving in an attempt to change or micromanage your body?
    • Does the idea of movement add more stress to your day?

4. As you begin moving, continue to focus on how your body feels.

Think about these questions:

    • Do you feel each muscle working?
    • Do you notice your lungs inhaling and exhaling?
    • Can you feel your feet on the ground?
    • What about your butt in the saddle of the bike?
    • Can you feel the wind blowing your hair back?
    • Are you noticing the water you’re sipping on as it moves from your mouth to your stomach?

5. Write down your thoughts if you can.

It will help you to remember how you felt before and during physical activity and will help guide you the next time you decide how you want to move.


How tuned in were you during your workout?

  • Did you maybe notice that your legs felt tired so you slowed down your pace?

  • Or, maybe you noticed your energy levels were high and you were enjoying the breeze on your skin so you extended your activity a bit longer?

  • Did you hold one stretch longer than another because it felt good?


The idea here? Place your focus on internal cues

Instead of the external ones such as distance, calories burned, pace, etc, think about the questions listed above, and after you’ve finished your activity of choice, ask yourself:

  • Did you notice a difference?

  • Did you feel physically different?

  • Notice a change in your mood?

  • Did you enjoy it more? Less?

Just like with food, we need to be tuning into what works best for our body and responding to it appropriately. Love to run? Run! Prefer yoga on the beach? You got it, do yoga on the beach! Enjoy rolling through trails on your mountain bike? Go! Love to lift heavy weights? Amazing, do it!

Some people respond well to track workouts, some prefer stretching or swimming. LISTEN to what it is that makes your body happy as this is the activity that will best support your health.


Remember, joyful movement looks different on all bodies!

Don’t forget, exercise looks different for every human body. All bodies are different and therefore prefer different types of movement. Avoid putting yourself on the next fad exercise program because you want to have a body that looks just like the celebrity that endorses it. Just like with diets, it’s easy to fall into this trap and feel the need to have to follow a specific prescription for exercise to look a certain way.


What works for one person may not work the same way for another 

Just like all of us have different genetic combinations, how our bodies respond to exercise is also going to look different. Plus, you don’t want to choose an exercise program that makes you feel miserable. Physical activity as a conduit for punishment or pain is NOT what we hope to accomplish here.

Joyful movement is about finding pleasure in how we move our bodies. We can’t argue that regular physical activity is good for us. It boosts mood, increases energy, decreases stress, and improves sleep. Joyful movement is not about compensating for food that we’ve eaten the same way it is not to be done to earn the right to consume certain foods.



There is no such thing as “good or bad” physical activity. Any movement is good movement!

Finding movement that you truly enjoy is key, which is where that sensory experiment comes into play. We live in a society where working out at max effort in a HIIT class is seen as superior to taking a walk. No movement is more superior to another. If you enjoy doing it, you are more likely to stick with it.

Let’s be real. If you don’t look forward to a particular exercise, it’s not going to happen. Or, if it does happen, you’ll be doing it in a rather miserable mood, which doesn’t sound like a good time.


Find an activity that you love doing

What if you looked forward to that movement? What if that movement involved seeing and spending time with the people you care about? What if it didn’t seem like such a task but something you were eager and excited to do in your day? Yes, this is possible!

If moving more is a goal of yours, the best recommendation is to find something you truly enjoy.

Here are some suggestions to help you get started:

Swap the treadmill for running on the beach/outside or signing up for a local 5k. Walking counts here, too!

Swap the Stairmaster for the mountains. And by that, we mean hiking. Bring a friend, take your pets. Breathe in the fresh air and take in the nature around you.

Try yoga in new sceneries by trying paddleboard yoga… or even goat yoga!

Swap the rowing machine for kayaking or canoeing.

Can’t do another spin class? Take cycling outside for a bike ride in the fresh air.

Instead of a boot camp or HIIT classes, play with your kids (or your friend’s kids) or just embrace your inner kid on the playground. The monkey bars, the swings, climbing up the equipment can be a ton of fun! Bring a friend too!

Trade kickboxing for dancing. Any kind of dancing. Maybe you blast your music loud in the privacy of your room or you have a few friends over for a dance party. Either way, get up and move, twist, and shake!

Looking for a place to get started with movement? Try out the NourishRX Movement PATH. Inclusive, online videos that walk you through ways to connect with your body and have fun!

Cultivating a joyful relationship with movement takes time, be gentle with yourself. And if you feel that you need a little more, reach out to us and let us know how we can help.

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eating disorders

intuitive eating

diet talk

meal planning


parent support

work with us

tell me more!

I'm Ryann. Founder of NourishRX, mom of three and a certified eating disorders registered dietitian. To us, you're a unique individual with a story that led you to where you are today. Welcome, we are thrilled to have you here!



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