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Balancing Joyful Movement & Intentional Outcomes

A term has come blissfully on my radar: “joyful movement.”


Now I admit the phrase is a little woo-woo and kind of evokes the same feeling in to as when someone refers to their “lover” or talks about raising their vibrations. BUT I assure you joyful movement is a wonderful thing….as are lovers and high vibrations, I guess.


The concept of joyful movement is that you should do exercise that you enjoy and makes you feel great. And I don’t just mean the Prancercize lady. OMG or Jessica Fletcher living her BEST DAMN HEALTHY LIFE in her seminal 80s fitness video. (Can I buy that outfit plz?).

Joyful movement. It’s not just for old white ladies anymore! It's the idea that if you like playing basketball, do that. If you like running, do that. If you like LARPing in Central Park, do that. If you like square dancing, do that. You should move your bodies in ways that you enjoy instead of ‘UGH, I have to go work out!’


The most widely accepted research from the American College of Sports Medicine and CDC, states that that 30 mins of movement 5 days per week is positively linked to health outcomes. And if you LIKE what you’re doing, you’ll do it consistently. If you don’t, you’re more likely to be irregular with it, associate exercise with punishment, or putter out on it all together…thus not getting that regular 30 mins.


Consistency is key for positive health outcomes. AND we get just one life (like always, my obsession with reincarnation podcasts aside), so let’s please have that 2.5 (or more!) hours per week that we exercise be something that makes our lives better instead of something that we dread and watch the clock thru.


Naysayers gonna say nay. Many fitness professionals will tell you that joyful movement is BS, you gotta do things XYZ way. That’s because the fitness and diet industry is a $70BILLION per year industry and they’re (ahem, we’re) afraid if you know you can just prancercise or play tag with your kids, we’ll all be effed.


But that’s not really true for 2 big reasons. First, the thing you love to do might just be kickboxing, spinning, personal training etc. I think those are some of the MOST FUN things and they’re all things done in fitness settings. Secondly, doing whatever feels great for 30 mins a day will bring you general health, but often times we’re looking for specific results.

Maybe the thing you love is running, but you have knee pain and need to strengthen your glutes to be able to get back to it. Maybe you just had a baby and your back is really sore from losing core strength. Maybe tight muscles are keeping you from living your best trekking dreams and you need to incorporate flexibility training. These are all specific outcomes that we may want and are accomplished by specific fitness programs. In exercise science, we call this The Principle of Specificity because there aren’t awards for creative names in our field.

Additionally, the American College of Sports Medicine recommends strength and flexibility training for all healthy adults. Strength training is important for increasing tendon and ligament strength, maintaining a healthy metabolism, increasing bone density, endurance, and well, being strong enough to carry groceries, grandkids, potted plants, and so on! Flexibility Training is important for preventing injury, relieving joint stress and muscle tension, and increasing coordination. There's also a possibility that we don't enjoy those programs.

I’ve spent hella time with my head buried in health/fitness/nutrition books in the last few years and have worked many diverse clients. I’m gonna say something controversial based on all that. Most of us would do best to ONLY (only!) do exercise that we enjoy and/or makes us feel great. Borrowing from Tribole and Resch's framework for ‘healthy eating’ as defined as “having a healthy balance of foods and having a healthy relationship with food.” ‘Healthy fitness’ would be having a healthy balance of different kinds of movement and having a healthy relationship with movement.

If you move to atone for something you ate. If you move only to achieve aesthetic results. If you force yourself to do movement you don’t enjoy (and/or that doesn’t make you feel great), that’s probably a negative relationship with exercise and worth some reflection. Because otherwise it probably won’t last.


Our best results (physically, mentally, and emotionally) seem to come from balancing joyful movement for general health and intentional exercise programs for the specific health outcomes we want.


BuT SaM YoU SaId I sHoUlDnT dO anY exErcIsE I dOn’T LiKe.


And I stand by it. So what happens if we don’t enjoy our intentional exercise (specific results) program?


Get creative and find a way TO enjoy it. It is out there. Everything is out there. If you think running is THE WORST, but you really want to gain more cardiovascular endurance, try a few different running apps, or find a running group. You could look up different free cardio workouts on YouTube or try a group fitness cardio class. If you would rather watch paint dry than lift weights, I know a great personal trainer and I swear she makes resistance training and corrective exercise fun. (Hint: it's me).


“I don’t hate exercising as much anymore” - glowing review from ieFitness client, Mi.


There are also all kinds of non traditional ways to build strength…I personally love the GMB program.

Could you make stretching more enjoyable by locking the door, lighting some candles, and watching your favorite show while you do it - some honest to goodness you time?


Or maybe you're not so much a yogi and DDPY is your thing. It’s 2021 and I PROMISE that there is something out that you will enjoy AND that will give you the specific results you’re looking for. You just have grab your magnifying glass and find it, Gumshoe.

This quest is one of the reasons I started teaching Zumba. I love to get my heart rate up and sweat and that used to come from running. But running (especially since I left NYC), just isn’t really doing it for me. With a couple days of resistance training and the Strong Nation classes that I teach, on the other days I wanted something that could be intense, but without a lot of impact and level changes. I tried some cardio yoga online and other programs that weren't the right fit and that's ok! This is all an information gathering quest and my sleuthing got me to Zumba!


And lover, I will tell you, that my vibrations have never been higher!



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