Ending “No Pain, No Gain”

Exercise shouldn't be a punishment, but a celebration.

Working out has been viewed as a punishment for conventionally unattractive bodies or overeating. Engrained in our minds the only successful ways of alleviating these “issues” is to suffer through multi-mile runs, spinning classes, and burpees.  But, does fitness really have to stand by this no pain, no gain ideology? Can you move your body because you love it, not because you hate it?

Why Do You Workout?

Recently, I heard the following question posed in regard to working out: if this regimen didn’t change the way your body looked, would you still do it?

I began to re-hash memories of forced 6-mile runs, HIIT workouts, and even cycling classes all in an effort to get the “body of my dreams.” But why can’t that body be the one I’m in right now?

Appreciate the Things Your Body Can Do

The body that has gotten me through the toughest of soccer games, that has survived marathon Disney trips and concerts, the body that hugs everyone I hold dear, that keeps my heart beating and sustains my life. Shouldn’t that be enough?

I think that it’s about time to view exercise as a celebration of all these things your body can do. Not as punishment for how it looks or what you ate yesterday.

No Pain, No Gain

Image via Cardio, Coffee, and Kale

Pushing So Far That You Go Backwards

We push and push and push ourselves to achieve a body we believe others and ourselves deem acceptable. Maintaining that we will finally be happy if we have a smaller waist or washboard abs. But forcing yourself to perform workouts you hate will not only create an unhealthy relationship with fitness, but it will most likely take you farther away from your “body goals” than you realize.

If you’re dragging yourself into the gym every day to rack up miles on the treadmill, hating every minute, pushing yourself beyond your limits, how long do you think that you will be able to maintain that? Eventually you will quit in a hazy blur of treadmill-hatred and frustration.

Then, the frustration leads to stress and a need for relief. This ending in “I’ve earned it” binge-eating or releasing your anger on others. Now, ironically, one of the best stress-relievers has been warped into increased stress.

Figuring Out What’s Best for You

The act of fitness should enhance your mental and physical well-being. Constantly shaming yourself into working out only works against you in both ways. Find a way of moving your body that you enjoy! Here are some great options:

  • Walking
  • Zumba
  • Kickboxing
  • Yoga
  • Lifting
  • Running
  • Surfing
  • Rock Climbing
  • Gymnastics
  • CrossFit
  • Spinning
  • Swimming
  • Hiking
  • Join a Local Rec Sport’s Team
  • Roller/Ice Skating

Don’t settle on what the big Instagram-fitness star does to exercise or your best friend or anyone! Everyone’s body is unique to them and likes moving in different ways. Do a trial run of all sorts of workouts until you find one that you enjoy. Practice that for a while and switch it up again once you get bored! Exercise doesn’t mean dedicating yourself to one type for the rest of your life, mix it up!

Let’s capitalize on the crazy idea of exercising because we LOVE our bodies and want to take care of them. We want to thank them for everything they do for us by using them and moving and fueling them properly. Your body is amazing in all the things that it does for you and the experience you’ve shared and will share, healthily and happily.

Cover image via Glamour


Also published on Medium.

Sarah is a sophomore studying journalism at the University of Miami. She...