Exercise: Pleasure or Pain?

If regular exercise makes us feel good both physically and mentally, why on earth would we choose the sofa over those endorphins?

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I've often thought you're either sporty or you're not. The type of person who spends 40% of their salary ordering Lululemon leggings, or someone who hasn't seen the inside of gym since 2015. You either jump out of bed ready to attack a 7am HIIT class or your palms moisten at the sheer thought of a 'downward dog'.

Depending on which camp you're in, exercise, and the fitness industry as a whole, will have a different perception. Sexy, young, attractive and strong verses painful, fat shaming and well, let's be honest, a little bit sexist.

I moved to London in the mid noughties to pursue a music career and soon discovered that, regardless of talent and hard work, my size 10/12 frame wasn't going to open any doors for me in the pop world and I would have to lose weight quickly.

As a child I loved to move, I was incredibly active and always wanted to try something new. I was fortunate enough to attend dance classes, gymnastics and even a stint of horse riding, which not only gave me confidence, it kept me fit, healthy and happy. Fast forward ten years however, and the idea of movement suddenly became punishment, fuelling my insecurity around the idea of the 'perfect' body and self acceptance.

The problem with this outlook, other than being totally skewed and toxic, was that it made me dread exercise. I would attempt 45 minutes on the treadmill, only to quit at 15 due to sheer boredom and head straight for chocolate isle on the way home feeling worthless.

Exercise was no longer associated with creativity and fun, it just became hell on earth.

Like everything in life, how you choose to see something will impact how it makes you feel. If negativity is your default, what you do / what happens to you will probably suck, but if you can try to find a positive, an alternative way to look at a situation, you may surprise yourself and end up enjoying something you once hated.

That time of my life was several years ago now and I'm not sure if there was a pivotal moment or more of a gradual shift, but over time I started to change my relationship with exercise. I found joy in boxing, yoga and dance classes again. I was still working up a sweat but feeling great instead of exhausted and ashamed. I wasn't going to class for a desired outcome, only to have fun and de-stress after a long day at work. I even began working out with friends, choosing to spend a night in lycra instead of at happy hour.

The key for me was changing my mindset around exercise from a fast track way to a size 8, to a way of feeling good and a bit of precious 'me time'.

Instead of treadmill workouts or trying to wing it at the gym I now look for ways to have fun, which also incorporate fitness; bike rides, box fit and Frame 90's dance classes, with a mantra: if it doesn't make me smile, it' not worth my time.

What's you relationship with exercise? Do those daily sit ups spark joy or dread? If you're not sure how to find an exercise that makes you feel good, I challenge you to look back at your childhood / teenage years and see if there's a passion hiding there. Did you love netball, or were you best in class at rounders?

Whatever it is you choose to try out, remember that exercise should be fun and never punishment. So get out there and give those endorphins a go!

Good luck


Liz Morphew

Psychologies Magazine Ambassador and Contributor, Singer Songwriter

Psychologies Magazine Ambassador & Contributor | Singer Songwriter