184. Movement as self-care (exercise for wellbeing, not weight loss)

I have gone from be an avid gym-avoider, unathletic, didn’t even own a pair of running shoes, complacent with my health in many ways to someone who PRIORITIZES movement as a way to improve and maintain my sense of wellbeing.  I want to share how I got here, what makes exercise tough and simple ways to get started with moving more. 


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Topics covered in this episode

  • What I learned about exercise as a kid. 1:54
    • The ideal body has shifted over generations.
    • The modern human moves around 30% less than the 1960s.
  • Learning from the culture around us. 3:50
    • Learning from culture and home culture.
    • Limiting identities and how they shape us.
  • What Is physical literacy? 6:12
    • Lack of physical literacy, lack of motivation, knowledge and understanding.
    • The importance of movement.
    • The wake-up call I had
    • Getting started with yoga
  • It’s not about the goal but about the process. 11:05
    • Challenging the lifelong belief of complacency.
  • The benefits of exercise.
    • How exercise changes the brain’s anatomy. 13:42
    • Exercise changes the brain’s anatomy, physiology and function.
    • Exercise reduces stress and cortisol.
    • How exercise can help with depression? 15:07
    • Exercise can provide temporary anxiety relief.
    • The benefits of prolonged exercise for over 20 minutes.
    • Exercise can be a form of meditation.
  • What will keep you from experiencing the benefits of exercise
    • Perfectionism, all or nothing, using exercise as a distraction
  • How exercise helps you care for yourself better
    • Increasing capacity and showing up better. 19:19
  • Why exercise is hard
    • Our relationship to our bodies
    • The resistance and excuses our brain gives us when we are faced with potential pain (hard work)
    • Building a dopamine pathway for exercise 
  • Strategies for incorporating movement into your life. 21:40
    • Consistency is key to long-term motivation.
  • Consider yourself 20 years from now

Exercise, with a toddler at home


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Hey friends it’s Shawna, your nerdy girlfriend and counselor from simple on purpose.ca Welcome back to the simple on purpose podcast. And if you’re new here, welcome to just give you like a quick nutshell about simple and purpose. I am Shawna, I’m a mom of three kids, I’m a counselor. And over the years, I have shared my journey online at simple on purpose.ca. With simplifying my home, decluttering my home, how it brought me face to face really with the complacency in my life in all areas of my life, really. And that led me to the strong urge to take control of my life, put myself in the driver’s seat of my life, and do my life on purpose. And that’s where it symbol on purpose comes from. And so I really like to talk about ways that we can simplify our home, our heart and our life and just show up for this whole thing on purpose. We’re continuing on with our series on meeting our needs. And over the episodes, we’ve talked about how we’re raised and what we’re taught about meeting our own needs and meeting the needs of others. We talked about the cultural expectations on moms to take care of themselves. And we’ve been through some of the basics of self care, I’m really sharing my experience and kind of my thoughts on these different topics we’ve covered and nourishment and rest. And now we’re talking about movement. And as I open up each of these topics, I talk about the importance of about reflecting back on what we’ve learned in our upbringing. And I don’t think I can overemphasize how important it is to reflect back on what you’ve learned growing up, even if you don’t logically agree with it. Unless we do some intentional work to address those core beliefs underneath it all, then what we learn in our early years really tends to become our default response response we have when we’re not being intentional, it can also be a default response that we struggle with opposing. When I think of what I learned growing up about exercise, I think I’ve learned a lot of things similar to many other 80s babies out there, I learned that exercise was how you manage your body to ensure it looks acceptable, and acceptable was what was defined by our culture at the time. I think for my era, I was born in 82. And I think about the boys my age, and the posters they had on the wall, the things they talked about, and it was definitely the Pam Anderson look was the ideal image of womanhood at the time. That really isn’t an interesting how the ideal body what it looks like has shifted over generations what was attractive 1000 years ago, 50 years ago, or even 20 years ago, it’s different than now it’s different than what society tells us is the ideal body, which just goes to show you, the whole thing is made up. It’s just made up. Anyways, exercise was what you did to lose weight or keep weight off, it wasn’t viewed as something you would do for self care, like our grandparents were never been like, take care of yourself, go to the gym. Well, maybe they would have, because they got to that age where they realize they had to keep moving their bodies. But it also makes sense because we see stats that say, the modern human moves around 30% less than our counterparts in the 1960s. That’s a stat from the book moved by Carolyn Williams, I’m going to have a lot of references, I’m going to make sure to link them all in the show notes move by Carolyn Williams was one of my favorite books that I’ve read on movement. And just getting back to what we’ve grown up, I think some of us still have this lingering belief that exercise has to be tied to weight loss. If you hear another mom talking about working out, does your brain immediately go to the weight loss aspect of it? Or do you think about working out and immediately go to the weight loss aspect of it, I think we would ultimately do well to unmarry weight loss and exercise and let them be their own things that may or may not overlap, really. So we learn from the culture around us. And we also learn from our home culture. And I think for me on my family story level, the family story that was adopted was I was born early, I was very small. And even my dad reflects to me now that my mom was so cautious about me texting my heart, I had a hole in my heart when I was born. So she was so cautious about it. And they were very gentle in that regard and gentle in terms of not encouraging or pushing me to exhaust myself in any way. So that was kind of just something I adopted. I didn’t really think about it. If you pair this with my general lack of coordination and strength. I think I wasn’t that kid that was attracted to team sports because I wasn’t good at it. I didn’t really see my role in it all. And I’ve even been sharing with my kids or my husband. This experience I had around grade five or six or seven where I was in mini ball and I was excited at this idea of learning basketball. I thought I can be one of those teenagers who plays basketball in high school and learning how to do a layup and attempting that there was a situation where there were some older boys who were helping out Teenage boys. And they were making fun of me and my attempts. And I was so discouraged, I just tapped out, officially, didn’t even open the door again. And all of these little things add up. And I, it almost was also the family joke that I lacked athletic ability. I really did live from that identity, I didn’t question it. I nurtured it, I never challenged it. And this really shaped my view of my body myself my abilities for decades, decades before I decided to challenge that. I’m going to link a poster and an episode in the show notes because I talk more about this, I call them limiting identity, limiting identities. These are the things we believe about ourselves. So we don’t challenge your question, we just assume they’re true. I’m gonna make sure to connect that because I do unpack this one a bit more in there. From these experiences from this place of programming upbringing, I had a general disconnect with my body. And over the years through experiencing autoimmune diseases, pregnancy, just realizing where I carried stress and trauma in my body, and going through different learnings and writing out journaling and insights. I can see how long I’ve lived with this disconnected my body. And it’s it’s created a lack of physical literacy, which is a term I learned later in life. And Physical literacy is the motivation, competence, physical competence, knowledge, and understanding to value and take responsibility for the engagement in physical activities for like, what a mouthful, but it’s really like, I know my body can do it, I believe in it, I’m going to try it. It’s important to me and I see my kids doing that it makes me so proud, especially to see my daughter doing that, trying out different sports and being in her body, paying attention to how she’s using her body and feeling confident in that that’s physical literacy. So if you are someone like me, who never developed physical literacy, who viewed exercise as a form of torture to achieve weight loss, or maybe you are someone who has disconnected from their body because their body hasn’t always felt like a safe place, who has nurtured and unathletic identity for decades, or maybe you’re at the point that you’ve just decided that athletic version of yourself from the past is she’s just gone, you’ve just decided she’s gone forever, I can’t get her back. Well, these are all going to be something to address as we aim to add more movement into our life because movement is a form of self care. It is a way we can take care of our bodies take care of ourselves. And I want to share a bit about my journey. And some steps I’ve taken along the way. Because there is a version of me that is about eight years back, and I couldn’t jog a block without dying. And now there’s a version of me who exercises about four times a week and actually craves it and enjoys it and is build up stamina so that I can feel real, genuine impacts from it. After my second child was born, and she was a VBAC, by the way, I had a lot of hip and back pain. So I started going to an osteopath and a pelvic floor physiotherapist. And as they were asking me questions about my body and where I’m feeling things, I realized I wasn’t even paying attention. I wasn’t connected to my body, I was just a head floating on top of a body. And it was taking chronic pain for my body to get my attention. And just in those few sessions with these practitioners, I had this huge realization, it was like a wake up call, that I was so disconnected just living in my head. So the first thing that I started doing at that time with two toddlers, or a baby and a toddler at the time, as I started doing yoga, it was gentle, it was soothing. It was increasing mobility. And I was doing it in my living room in my pajamas with that baby and that toddler crawling around jumping on me watching me from the floor, I’m going to, I’m going to look for a picture my sister snapped at me one day doing this and see if I can add it to the simple Saturday’s email, or in the show notes even because it wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t how it was supposed to look, it wasn’t you know, the gym and the outfit and all this stuff. But I had to do something. And as I was doing it, I really came to enjoy it. I was feeling more connected to my body. I was feeling healthier and more in control, specially at that time of my life where things really felt out of control. And I enjoyed continuing on with yoga yoga was a really great practice for me to get back into my body and and do it gently.

Then after the third was born, a friend asked me to run a five kilometer with them. And I said yes, because there was this idealized version of me in the back of my mind. I think I shared a bit about it last time. She’s a morning person. She was getting up early, she’s going for a run. She’s journaling. And I hadn’t let yet let go of these idealized version of who the culture told me I needed to be. So I was still looking for all the hacks and all the motivation and discipline to make me fit into this mold. So I said yes. And I started to run. And when I say run, I mean jog, don’t get that confused. And I could not run a block. I was like, I’m going to get there, I’m going to train and I’m going to run around the neighborhood. And if there was someone on the street that I knew, because you’d kind of know everyone in small town, I would feel so silly if I stopped running. So I would push and push and push, turn the corner, and just be like, dead. That was the ultimate for me to push myself. And I can also remember around the same time going snowshoeing, with my sister in law around Christmas. And it was something I enjoyed in the past. And I thought it was going to be this really beautiful experience. But I was so winded the whole time, I had to keep stopping, taking breaks. And I think I even teared up at one point, and just said, like, I didn’t realize I was this out of shape. So I felt kind of motivated, I felt kind of this big realization, I’m really disconnected from my body. I can’t snowshoe and do this like hobby that I enjoy in the winter with someone that I enjoy. And so I was pretty motivated. Oh side note about the 5k run. Long story short, we all in my whole family got norovirus, the week of the 5k run, and we never, I never got to read it. But it did leave me with this realization that it wasn’t really about the goal, it was about the process. That’s what we learn. When we start working on our goals. Hey, it’s about the process. It’s about who we become in the process. And for me, I was challenging this lifelong belief about myself, I was learning how to connect to my body even when during a run, it felt like my ankles were turning to shards of glass. And then after the run, it felt like someone had beat me with a bag of rocks in my sleep. But I was challenging myself. At that time, it was really important to me to push myself out of complacency. I’m gonna go back through the archives and share some posts I wrote during this time, because running was just a big wake up call for me. And it was something that I would run while I was doing. Because as my feet pounded the pavement, all I could hear was complacency, complacency. It was really cathartic, really. But it wasn’t this simple. It wasn’t me realizing that I needed to do it. Having some friend motivate me along the way to do something together. I also needed to do a lot of research about why I should even bother with exercise beyond the reasons that we heard growing up of it being for weight loss. And as I’m going to talk about exercise, I don’t mean an hour at the gym every morning. I mean moving your body more moving your body intentionally. A lot of the research I’ve read says three times a week for 30 minutes. But there’s also research that says sit less move more often throughout the day, just doing your routines and walking across the parking lot, taking the stairs that something is better than nothing. It all has benefits. So I’m going to give you a quick run through of the list. And I’m going to link a lot in the show notes about the resources for this. On the benefits of exercise. We know the basics. We know the basics. Benefits of Exercise is strengthens our heart, our muscles or bones, it helps our lungs, our joints, it lowers the risk of health conditions, we’ve heard all of these things. Ultimately, it helps us keep using our bodies for the things we want to do with our life. And you know, that just wasn’t motivating to me, I don’t know what I think at the time, I was also exercising from a place of fear, where my mom’s dementia diagnosis was really prompting a lot of fear in me to take better care of myself. And that was a big motivator for me to start exercising because I was researching how it helps our brain health. And there is a lot of research around how it helps our brain health I’m going to link a really great TED Talk into here. And what Wendy Suzuki who is hosting this TED talk shares is that exercise actually changes the brain’s anatomy, physiology and function. Exercise actually produces brand new brain cells, new brain cells in the hippocampus that actually increase its volume as well as improve your long term memory. Isn’t that crazy new brain cells like shouldn’t our all of our brain cells be dying at this age is crazy. In the book move by Carolyn Williams that I mentioned before she outlines a molecule called osteo Kelson which is produced by the bones and as the bone tissues regenerate during and after exercise they release osteo Kelson which has an improvement on memory function so like everything’s working together even our bones like this is crazy. Okay, the next one that was really impactful for me because I was a stay at home mom with three kids is it reduces stress, it reduces cortisol. If you’ve read the book burnout, you will learn that it helps us also complete the stress cycle. Rather than letting that stress keep piling up and turning into a chronic situation. We can address it earlier on with a healthy, healthy coping mechanism that actually changes our physiology for the better. And for me, I have felt firsthand that exercise allows me to process and more motions through my body, a motion means to move. And when I am moving that emotion can complete its cycle. And there’s been times of my life where things have felt really heavy and really hard and I’ll be crying on the treadmill. And there have been times where I want to just experience some joy and I put in some great music in my headphones and I’m singing, or there’s been times where I need to unhook and need to let this all melt away. And I’m doing some yoga and letting myself melt through the poses that that is a processing of emotions. Intentional movement can also feel like a sense of control in even just moving forward, walking, moving forward. Taking intentional movement is really important, especially for those with anxiety to have a sense that we’ve accomplished something to check something off, to feel like we have done something with all of this energy in our bodies, to feel a sense of control or mastery, which is also where we get serotonin come into play. If we want to nerd out even a little bit extra year. It has been shown that exercise can provide temporary anxiety relief because exercise releases a neurochemical called neuropeptide Y. And this is known as a resiliency factor. And it essentially quiets down the amygdala, which gives you anxiety relief on a biochemical level. Exercise can also help with depression, it is one of the tools you can have in your toolbox. For one, it’s taking you out of yourself out of your thoughts out of your daily routine and into something physical. Also, there’s a lot of research showing that when muscles contract they secrete chemicals into the bloodstream. One really great episode I heard on this was on the art of manliness, and it was about inflammation caused depression and research around how exercise creates cytokines that clean up the inflammation. And along those lines, there are mio kinds, and they’ve been referred to as the hope molecules. And the small molecules are proteins that travel to the brain and act as an antidepressant. I’m going to make sure to link references to both of those in the show notes. Exercise also reliefs, releases endorphins. We’ve heard this a lot. Endorphins are the body’s natural plank painkillers. And they also are a field good transmitter. You’ve heard of the runner’s high to write I heard about it, and for years, I thought it was just a myth. Because I probably wasn’t running just that extra little bit longer for myself to experience it, which isn’t like hours and hours but more about just over 20 minutes pushing yourself past 20 minutes. And recent studies show that this prolonged exercise, it doesn’t have to be running. It can be other things where you are doing prolonged exercise for about that 20 minute mark. And in they don’t call it a runner’s high exclusively Now they call it a persistent high. That is when we have a release of Endo, cannabinoids, dopamine, endorphins and noradrenaline. And a couple other bonuses exercise can be a form of meditation for some of us, it can help us shut our brain off be in a flow state. It can also increase a person’s sense of resiliency and capability. This was really important to me, I want it to feel strong. When you feel strong, you feel more resilient and you feel more capable to handle you’ll handle your life on a very basic level. I will say though, some of us aren’t getting all of these benefits from exercise, you can be a devout gym goer and still struggle. And I noticed the struggles and people who might use exercise as a distraction, maybe even that becomes an addiction. And they’re kind of letting go of other parts of their life that need attention, maybe not addressing other sources of anxiety or stress in their life that need their attention. Or they’re still using other unhealthy coping strategies in

their life. It’s also true for people who come at exercise as just another way to work on achievement and perfection and checking off that to do list. Maybe coming at it with all or nothing thinking or a lot of rigid rules around what they will permit their bodies to ingest or do kind of using it as a way to earn other things in their day and for their bodies. And maybe there are people who are not listening to what their body needs and they’re doing more damage, when rest might be what is needed. I hope in those lists of benefits, there is something that is striking a chord for you there is something that you that you are drawn to that you feel like that is what you want more of in your life. In the past episodes, I talked about capacity and having that sense of capacity being within our window of tolerance, and feeling capacity to handle our day in our lives and our just whatever is going to come up for us. And I really think that exercise when we start to do it intentionally. And with the purpose of releasing the stress and processing emotions, and helping us feel in control then like we’ve taken care of our bodies and ourselves and therefore we are more equipped to take care of our lives that we are increasing our capacity and showing up better as mums. If we’re talking about self care for mums, we’re showing up better as a parent as a mum And I want to acknowledge that of all the aspects of self care. I think this might be the hardest one, I think exercise is hard. It is hard. It’s hard because of the cultural stigmas that we really don’t know how to unpack and let go of yet. It’s hard because it takes time, it takes effort, it’s going to be hard. We don’t want to do it. And whenever we’re faced with a situation like that, our brain is not excited about it. So we instantly counteracts the idea of exercise with a long list of excuses not to do it. And we often listen to those excuses, we often don’t challenge those excuses. Some of my favorite excuses where it has to be an hour it has to be at the gym, it has to be in the right clothes, I don’t want to get sweaty, I will I should just rest instead. And rest was actually code for scrolling on my phone for 15 minutes. It’s hard because we have so many cheap and easy sources of dopamine in our lives. And dopamine is that great motivator. It’s that neurotransmitter that motivates us to invest energy in seeking a reward. And we have reward pathways for reaching for our phone, or a favorite snack. But maybe we don’t have a reward pathway for exercise yet, we haven’t taught ourselves to get dopamine from exercise. So we have to generate that with out that dopamine pathway already been there to motivate us. And it can really be hard because it brings us face face to face with our relationship to our bodies, whether we don’t want to really think about how we have treated our own bodies, how we’ve talked to our own bodies, what we have done to our bodies, or if we’re upset at our body, if it has limited us in some way, with an autoimmune condition with a physical condition that we haven’t been able to do the things we wanted to do. So I want to talk about some strategies that have helped me incorporating movement into my life and making it a form of self care making it something that I want to do regularly that I enjoy doing. And I do want to say that I am not a weight loss coach, I am not here to hold you accountable this shedding pounds and appalling like uprooting your whole life. And I don’t think that’s bad. I think there is a place for that. And I think it can change lives. It just hasn’t been my experience or my approach. And some women even choose not to work with me, because that’s not my approach. I do things sustainably. Because over the years of working on this, I find that small things matter. I have looked for ways to integrate movement into my life. And sometimes that means, at this point blocking up 40 minutes for exercise in the shower three times a week. It’s given me also less pressure so that I can try new things. I don’t have to buy into all or nothing thinking I can really bring my mindset along for the ride and pay attention to how I’m motivating myself. And I think it was also a factor of the community I was in at the time I wanted to start this there was no consistent gym classes. There was no gym with childcare, as a stay at home mom with a husband working shift work like things happen in my living room or going for a walk with kids crawling around me at weird times and movement happened for me in ways that weren’t considered a quote unquote workout, but it was still movement. So let’s get started. Let’s start with a list of ways that you can move more. Observe what you’re already doing, and ask where you could add it in. Another strategy is to think about ways it would be fun, you don’t have to go to the gym and toil and do things you don’t think are fun, go for a hike, have a dance party. I like YouTube videos that are quick and change up a lot. Have it stuck here. I would listen to podcasts while I jog. Or if I’m on the treadmill at home, which I bought for $30 on marketplace by the way, you don’t need to spend a lot of money, I get to watch my favorite show on the iPad while I run. And don’t underestimate really good music to put music right in your ears. Something really good with a great beats per minute look up cardio or workout music because those beat beats per minute are usually aligned with you having your body move just a little bit faster and more consistently. And you don’t think about it, you’re just kind of moving to music. A great focus to start with can be sitting less. put a timer on during your day to remind you to get up to move around to I don’t know, do some squats or walk down the stairs and back up again. Get up move around, do some work standing just avoiding being sedentary can make a difference. When you are stressed What are you turning to can you add movement into this? For me, I think going for a walk is one of the like real good tools in my toolkit. It’s such a great way to help because for one you’re moving so that helps complete the stress cycle to go out for a walk. If you’re leaving your house, you’re probably leaving where all the stress is back with the people in your house. And you can really be separate from that you can calm down your nervous system. Intentional thinking can come back online. So I think a walk getting outside for a walk when you’re stressed. Whatever kind of movement you can bring into to help you complete that stress cycle. And even I just like to go for a 10 minute walk on my lunch break. We have more time than we let ourselves think we do. So if you are having to be back at your desk at 12 minutes, just get up right now and go for a walk for 10 minutes. Pay attention to the narrative you have around exercise in your body. For some women I work with, they don’t even want to go there. And they never address moving their bodies from a place of empowerment, because there’s just so much heaviness there. If it helps you write out your motivation on why you want to move more. Your reasons for wanting to do this are really going to determine the emotion you approach this from, which will change your whole experience. Remember, because we act based on how we feel, I personally find a lot of value in my Fitbit. If you’re someone who feels discouraged by seeing the data, this is not for you. But if you are someone who won’t take it personally, when their Fitbit says they’ve been very inactive in a day, then maybe this data can just be a little bit empowering. Because there are some days I can look at my data and I can say, oh, I should make time for a little bit more movement. And there are some days I can look at it and say, okay, I’m good, like, call it a day, put my feet up. It’s also really humbling if your kids have Fitbit or some kind of trackers. Because before I brought exercise into my regular week, sometimes my kids would triple me in steps and active minutes was very humbling. And finally, I want to leave you with this one, which is be consistent even with something small, whether it’s 10, counter push ups in a day 10 squats while you make dinner, or starting to park a block away and walk into work each day are the kids to school. Consistency matters. Consistency, consistency, is what helps you shift your lifestyle, develop new habits, it helps you shift your identity around who you are and what you can do. It helps you develop self trust. And it helps you just bring attention to the whole mindset you’re showing up with things with consistency matters. And you really ultimately have to believe that this is worth that it is going to make a difference in your life. That’s really important just to have that long range motivation. Oh, I’ll leave you with one extra bonus final strategy because thinking of this long term motivation. One thing that has helped me is to consider myself 20 years from now and 40 years from now, and what she would thank me for and when I’ve taken time to do that, and it wasn’t like fitness based or like exercise based at all when I’ve just taken time to think what would 60 year old Shawna or 80 year old Shawna be happy with me for? It was movement, it was getting strong, it was being stronger. So consider long term what your future self would thank you for doing today. Start small, pay attention to what you’re thinking about it, and just show up for yourself with compassion and consistency. All right, friends, I know we went a little bit longer today. I really hope there was something of value to you in this one. This was one of the more meaningful topics for me to cover because I feel like Exercise and Movement has changed my whole relationship to my body and really changed how I feel. I do it because I never regret it. I exercise because I never regret it. And I don’t say that to be like cliche and like this is the only solution for your whole life. But that’s just been my experience from someone who hated exercise who would never go to set foot in the gym who would consider yourself totally on athletic that I’ve just experienced that I feel better when I do it. Unfortunately the data is out there to say you’re gonna feel better if you keep doing it. So I hope you found some encouragement in bring any questions and ideas you have to Instagram at simple on purpose dossier, or email me anytime through the simple Saturday’s email. Alright friends, have a great week.


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